Tag Archives: health

Diet Reboot with the Fast Mimicking Diet(FMD)

A month ago my wife told me about this fasting diet that Dr. Joel Kahn had mentioned on a recent episode of the Rich Roll Podcast. It is a bit ironic since I am typically the one that listens to the RRP. Anyway, it perked my interest. I had done some fasting in the past and found it left feeling quite good and with a decrease in appetite. I usually do this for a day or two prior to starting a diet to get a good kickstart. My weight has increased a bit higher this season due to the off-season and struggling a bit during the first few months of the year with the sickness and loss of my Mom.

Dr. Kahn had mentioned the numerous benefits from this fasting and how it had really made a difference for him. I started to dig in and find out more about this thing called the Fast Mimicking Diet, or FMD for short. The diet was developed by Valter Longo, Ph.D. who is a professor of Gerontology and Biology at USC and has been studying fasting for the past 30  years. He has published a book called The Longevity Diet that outlines his principles of the FMD and the diet that accompanies it. The FMD fast has been studied to help cure cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease in addition to overall health and longevity. The FMD also ties in to close association with some of the principles of the Blue Zones, where people live much longer than most places on earth.

So, after reading all the benefits of this I decided to jump in and give it a try. The FMD diet is a 5-day fast that includes specific foods provided by a company called ProlonFMD that you take according to their outlined schedule. Dr. Longo does not profit from this company and all profits are donated to a CreativeCures.org, which is a non-profit to find inexpensive cures for serious diseases. The 5-Day plan costs about $200 USD and provides food that helps alleviate some of the symptoms of a total water fast while still making the body think it is fasting. After the 5-Days you then gradually resume a normal, hopefully healthy, diet.

I purchased my first 5-day plan a couple weeks prior to my starting date of May 7th, so I could look it over and prepare myself mentally. I am currently in the midst of training for my sixth consecutive year of participating in an Ironman Triathlon, so I was a bit apprehensive how I was going to fit this in with my heavy training. The plan highly recommends minimal exercise during the 5-days due to the reduced caloric intake.  I picked May 7th because it was the Monday start of a recovery week for me, which is where I cut back on the training volume to allow the body some rest before ramping up training again.

Along with the fasting food kit, you also get a 15-minute consultation with a counselor from Prolon. During the call, they go over the details of the fast and answer any questions you may have. They also recommended that I do the fast once-a-month for the first 3 months and then once every 4 months thereafter. Not sure if that is a general rule or particular for my situation.

Day 1

Morning Weight – 191 lbs

The night before starting the FMD I had a bit of a restless night sleep. I think I was a bit anxious about the severe reduction in calories and how it would be. It felt like I had a race in the morning. I was fairly confident that I could do this, but I was a feeling that it would not be easy.

Prolon FMD Breakfast Day 1

I started out the morning with what they call an “L-Bar” which consists of some ground up nuts pressed together with some coconut oil and little sweet taste to it. I was surprised at how good it was. I found myself savoring every morsel of it since this was all  I was having until lunchtime except for a cup of Spearmint-Lemon tea and couple Algal Oil supplements, which were all provided.

The rest of the morning went pretty well without too much issue. They allow you to have one unsweetened, caffeinated beverage/day if needed. Since I am a coffee drinker, I had started to taper off my multiple cups of coffee per day the week prior to starting the FMD so it would not be such a shock and avoid the headaches. I saved my one cup of “joe” for when I got into work so I could settle into my day. Ahh!

Work has been pretty busy so before I knew it it was time for lunch. I had to let my dog out, so I went home to prepare and eat my lunch. The lunch consisted of a dehydrated Tomato Soup, Kale Crackers, a few green olives and a couple supplements. I thought the soup was just going to be like watered-down marinara sauce, but it had some nice seasonings and things in there. It got quite thick too, so it felt a little more hearty than I thought it would be. The Kale Crackers were really good and filled in any hunger void in my stomach. The olives were a nice treat too. I took my dog for his walk and headed back to work feeling surprisingly satiated.

The afternoon went even better due to another “L-Bar” as a snack. This helped to curb that afternoon hunger that always hits. Really didn’t feel any issues or side-effects of hunger this day. Full speed ahead!

Dinner was a Minestrone soup which was a bit heartier than the Tomato Soup and also took a little longer to prepare.  It didn’t look like much, but it filled that void. For dessert, a Choco-crisp bar which reminded me of some rice crispies bound together by chocolate. Not real sweet, but a nice little after dinner treat.

So Day 1 was done and I was feeling pretty good. The total calories for Day 1 is around 1100 which would be the highest of the 5 days. Tomorrow it would only be 774 calories and continue for the next 4 days.

Day 2

Morning Weight: 189.8 (-1.2 lbs)

Day 2 consisted of similar foods. L-Bar for breakfast, Vegetable soup for lunch and Mushroom soup dinner. This day was a bit of a struggle for me. I felt really hungry and tired. I was wondering how I was going to make it to Friday. I was working from home this day too and not sure if they had something to do with it. It was just me home alone with my thoughts and every time I walked by the pantry it was calling out to me. I had originally planned to do a light bike workout on the trainer but nixed it cause I wasn’t feeling great. I stayed on track with the plan though.

The Prolon FMD kit provides you with a bunch of tea bags(hibiscus, spearmint, and spearmint-lemon) to help keep your stomach feeling full and also keep you hydrated. I tried keeping some liquids going in as much as possible. This really helps, but you will be peeing a lot!

The kit also introduces what they call L-Drink on Day 2. It is a sweet glycerin mixture that you add to the provided water bottle based on your weight. The more you weight the more you get. You then fill up the remainder of the bottle with water or even better tea. I really liked the Hibiscus tea with this and then cooled it in the fridge. This is supposed to provide you more calories throughout the day.

Day 3 – Hump Day!

Morning Weight: 187.7 lbs (-2.1 lbs, Total: 3.3 lbs)

On Wednesday, Day 3, it was a different story. I felt really good on Day 3! My mind was clear and I didn’t have any hunger pains. I had a lot of meetings at work too, so it didn’t give me too much time to think about it. I ran home at lunch to prepare my soup. I could have taken it in a thermos or something, but I thought the break in the day would be good.

Day 3 also happened to be a gorgeous Spring day. Since I was feeling so good, I decided to go for a short bike ride(~8 miles) at a very easy pace. So glad I did too. I needed to keep my muscles activated a bit. I also felt more energized by it too. I saved my evening meal for after the ride to replenish some of the calories lost.

Day 4

Morning Weight: 186.0 (-1.7 lbs, -5 lbs Total)

Day 4 was pretty much the same as Day 3. Still felt really good and the plan food was enough to satiate me. It was actually kind of refreshing to not have to prepare such big meals like usual. I also noticed that I was savoring my food much more and eating slower. Definitely, something I need to do more.

I decided to go for a short twenty minute run with my pup, Bentley. I kept the pace easy and didn’t push it much. Felt really good too. One more day to go!

Prolon FMD Tomato Soup

Day 5 – Vacation Time

Morning Weight: 185.3 (-0.7 lbs, -5.7 lbs Total)

The final day of my FMD fast was the start of our vacation to the Carolinas and a couple days in Savannah, GA. I made my lunch soup in the morning and poured it in a good thermos. The fast was great for driving since we didn’t have to stop for a long lunch like we normally would do. We stopped for a pee stop where I also had my soup and kale crackers. Unfortunately, the traffic was awful the first half of the trip until we got past Richmond, VA. Due to the stress of stop-and-go traffic, I didn’t really have much time to think about eating anyway.

We finally got down to Wilmington, NC around 8:30 PM. 11 hours later! The owner of the place we stayed didn’t provide instructions on how to get into the lock box, so we never got into the condo until about 9:30 PM. I ended up eating my last soup at ~10PM. FMD DONE…vacation time!

Summary

Overall the fast went amazingly well with the exception of Day 2. I have been feeling pretty good since. It also seems that my appetite has decreased a bit and I feel full more quickly when I do eat. I don’t have as much desire to snack like I usually do. I forgot to bring my scale along with me on vacation so I am not sure if or how much weight I have regained. I have been pretty active too, so that may keep my weight down.

I severely decreased my training during the fast but felt like I picked up right where I left off when I got back to it again. My hope is that it will pay for itself in recovery in the long run. I am going to try the fast again next month, probably after Eagleman 70.3 race, so stay tuned.

 

 

My 2016 Year in Review – Topping My Charts

I have just returned from another fabulous Winter weekend in the Adirondacks to celebrate the New Year. While I was there I had gotten in some ample cross-training time skate-skiing, hiking and some photography. This outdoor time gave me a good amount of time to reflect upon the last year. I keep hearing others saying over-and-over how 2016 was such a horrible year, but for me, not so much.

Cascade Moutain – Lake Placid, Adirondacks, New York

You would think that as one gets closer to the big 5-0 that PR’s and things would become less frequent. But my 48th year was full of them. What is up with that? Perhaps the fact that I had well preserved myself well during my 20’s and 30’s may have something to do with that.

December(2015) was full of Winter cross-training in Banff National Park in Western Canada. They had gotten a good amount of early season snow there and Lake Placid had none. We hit the downhill slopes at Lake Louise and Sunshine Village, got some snowshoeing in on the Bow River and a ton of photographing the beautiful Winter scenery on the Icefields Parkway leading to Jasper.

Business, Canada, Company, Corporation, SmugMug, banff, feature, lake louise, mountain, rockies
First Light on the Icefields Parkway

In January, we had plans to spend a week in the warmth of Sedona, AZ but that was cut short due to a blizzard that delayed flights for several days. We still ended up with an amazing, activity packed long weekend there. We got out for some amazing hikes and photography some beautiful scenery. I replenished my vitamin D store with the clear skies and bright sunshine. It was a great reset before turning my attention back to the long Ironman training season that lies ahead.

Chillin’ on the Bell Rock Vortex

In February I started up my official Ironman training season with Todd Wiley. I had gotten to know Todd over the last year or so through some of his workshops and Lake Placid training camp and really like his personality. He was a prior pro triathlete and has had a lot of success with some pretty high-level athletes over the years, so I thought I would see what he could do with this old, average dude. My goals for the season was to increase my IM run performance while maintaining my bike and swim and finalizing that with a sub-12 hour Ironman.

In March, I had my first official race of the season, The St. Pat’s Allentown 5k. While it is only a 5k, this would be the first test of my fitness to see what I had accomplished during the last two months. I would also use this as my Lactate Threshold(LT) test for my training. It did not disappoint. I finished with a 1 sec PR of 22:45(chip time) over my prior PR from 2013. 3 years older and getting faster.

St. Pat's West End 5k 2016
St. Pat’s West End 5k 2016

In April, I took things up a notch and competed in the local St. Luke’s Half Marathon which I hadn’t run in since 2013 when I ran with my wife. I was planning to run it in 2015, but got a stomach bug the morning of and had to bail. My current PR for this race, and half marathons in general, was from back in 2010 when I finished with a 1:46:41(chip time). I also had challenged my co-worker Steve, who is what I would consider more of a “runner”, to a duel for this race. It was a bit of a stretch, but I thought the extra competition would bring out a little extra in motivation for me. Although I didn’t come close to beating him, I did manage to eke out another PR for myself finishing in 1:45:10 after 6 years. 2 races and two PRs…not too shabby a start to 2016.

Next up was my first triathlon of the season, the French Creek Olympic Triathlon. I had never done this race before, so I didn’t have anything to compare it to. I knew it was a pretty brutal race with a very hilly bike and run, so you could not even compare it to any other Olympic Distance race. I obviously did not PR this race, but I did end up on the podium by taking 3rd in my age group. This was the first podium since my very first multisport race, the Belleplain Duathlon, back in 2008 where I finished 1st in my age group. So now 3 races and 3 top outcomes.

French Creek Tri Podium
French Creek Tri Podium

In June I traveled up to Syracuse, NY for the Ironman 70.3 Syracuse triathlon. Another race I had never done before, but was hoping for a good finish here given the prior results so far this season. The race started off well with one of my best half-iron swims and a decent bike leg where I felt I hadn’t “burned too many matches.” The run leg was a different story. The sun came out and the heat turned up towards the end of the bike and my body turned to mush. Reminiscent of the Ironman Couer d’Alene run I fell into a walk-run for the very hilly run course. Ok, you can’t have them all! So with no PR to be had this time, I took my setbacks here and turned it into motivation for the true goal “A” race of the season at Ironman Mont-Tremblant.

Finish Run Ironman 70.3 Syracuse 2016
Hurtin’ for Certain – Ironman 70.3 Syracuse 2016 – High Temps on the run left a little to be desired for this race.

July turned out to be a pretty hot month, so I gained some pretty good acclimatization to the heat while training. If Ironman Mont-Tremblant (IMMT) was going to cook me like Syracuse, I was now prepared. Well, as much as someone who does not like the heat can be.

August came around quickly and tapering was in full swing as we made our way up to Mont-Tremblant for the peak race of my year. When race day came I could not have asked for better weather conditions. It was very cloudy in the morning as I prepared to hit the water. A fighter jet buzzed us so close it brought tears to my eyes. Then the cannon blasted and we were off. The rain started during the swim and poured down all day! For me, that was perfect conditions. I was like a pig in the slop.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 Bike Rain
Terrential Downpours on the bike leg of Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016

Due to some choppy lake conditions, my swim was not as fast as I thought it would be, but still one of my faster IM swims. My bike was one of my fastest so far but yet I still held back as I planned to save something for the run. The run was my best ever Ironman run. The rain came down and kept me cool while cranking out some 8:30-9:00 pace miles. I felt amazing the whole time. I blew away my sub-12 hour goal by about 14 minutes and coming away with an Ironman PR of around 50 minutes! I chopped off almost 30 minutes on my IM run time alone. Mission accomplished!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Finish

So now 5 races completed for this year and 3 of them were PR’s and 1 podium. What more could I ask for? A fabulous end to an epic season for sure. Proof that aging does not mean you get slower. At least not yet. Maybe by the time I am 50 I can qualify for Kona? 🙂

Usually with the last race of the season comes a little depression that it is all over for another year. I like to schedule something big for after my last race that keeps me on the up-and-up. Just when you think things can’t get any better we headed to Iceland for a two-week journey around the island in a camper.

Kirkjufellfoss – Iceland 2016

I let my body recuperate a bit and broke out my camera for an incredible trip. It was the perfect diversion for someone who has only thought about training for the last year. The scenery was out-of-this-world and it was a great end to all the hard work that was put in over the last 8 months. I have been working on a full report blog post on this trip which I hope to be published very soon. Stay tuned for that.

While you would think that was all for this year, I had to do one more race. I signed up for the local South Mountain 10-miler run which was kind of a birthday run for me. I had never done this race before, but it looked to be quite challenging. It starts not too far from the Lehigh Univesity’s Goodwin Campus fields and a makes it was up to the very top of South Mountain, turns around and heads back down again. It is very steep and a big slog. I ended up 40th overall and 6th in my age group. Not a great result really, but I maintained a 8:12 pace which is just a bit off my half marathon pace. It was more for fun so I am not too worried about that.

I concentrated on my photography a bit for the remainder of the year, which tends to play 2nd fiddle to my training. I made a couple trips to Lake Placid and a short trip to Salt Springs State Park(PA) for some photography sessions. I came away with some keepers and also started getting more active with my Instagram feed. I dug back into my photo archives and found some great pictures I had taken in the past that never made it off my laptop.

So now as we head off into 2017 and I set my sights on Ironman Boulder and the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid this year, I have great memories looking back on the amazing year that was 2016. Despite what many others have felt. I have so much to be thankful for. I can only hope that 2017 is even half as good as last year.

I can only hope that 2017 is even half as good as last year. Although, it is already shaping up to be a pretty full one. I have several races on the docket and plans are already being hashed out for an amazing trip to Croatia and Slovenia during post-race season. As for goals, Ironman Boulder should be a challenge in itself given the altitude so I am not putting any time goals on myself for that. Perhaps working on pacing myself would be enough. I think Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid may be my A race for the year and I would like to shoot for a half-iron distance PR there.

My other goal for 2017 is to get back to regular blogging here. I have fell off the wagon a bit over the past year so I hope to pick that up again. I have just “cut the cord” and cancelled my cable TV subscription, so besides saving money I plan on spending a little less time in front of the tube.

If you are reading this, I hope you had a great 2016 and a even better 2017 as well. Thanks for reading!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Feeling pretty relaxed after finishing and just coming back from my post-race massage.

Swag Bag-October 26, 2015

Training Wisely

Some good words of wisdom from Joe Friel on Training Risk. You cannot train at high intensity all the time and if you are in zone 2 all the time you will never improve. Finding the right balance of intensity without overtraining or injury is the key to improving performance effectively. Note: The background image on this page makes this really hard to read. I would suggest copy and pasting the text to a text editor for reading.

Universal Sports Gone
Universal Sports Gone

No More Free Rides…

So my favorite virtual reality game-like training riding app, Zwift, will no longer be free. 🙁 They will be starting their subscription model on October 29th, just in time for the Winter training season. If you don’t sign up you will get a 30-day free trial at first, but then you have to pay up. Pricing is $10/month.

One new addition is a new workout mode which should give TrainerRoad a run for their money. Although from what I can see so far, TrainerRoad should be fine for sometime. DC Rainmaker did a nice review of the workout mode here which you should check out if your are interested.

No More Universal Sports Network

I have been bugging my cable provider for ages to get this channel which broadcasted many athletic endurance events. Well, I guess they are off the hook now. Bummer for those who were able to get this channel.

Carb Up!

Despite all the recent low-carb fad BS, this recent study provides additional evidence to further back up our need to for carbohydrates for performance. Check out the tables for key guidelines and formulas for calculating your carb needs.
Carbohydrates for training and competition

Not all Fats & Carbs are Created Equal

There has been a lot of BS in the media about how butter and animal fats are supposed to be good for us. Most of the study’s that these ideas were based on were severely flawed. Well, here is more sensible article on some of the fats that really are good for us. Hint, butter is not one of them. Also, a nice explanation about glycemic index which is a good inidicator of the carbs we should eat and the ones we should save for the aid stations during an Ironman.

On Not Finding Your Passion…

Funny but interesting dose of reality if you are seeking out “your passion” from Mark Manson.

I Won’t Say It. But I …

I can’t pass this one up! The World Health Organization announced today that processed meats are on the same cancer-causing level as cigarettes and formaldehyde. Yeah, not to mention that they are the biggest cause of climate change and an extremely inefficient use of resources. I would highly urge you to also check out Cowspiracy movie which is now available on Netflix.

Well, that’s all for this week. Things kind of went in a nutritional slant this week, but hope to balance things out a bit here, but that was just what I came across this week. Enjoy!

 

 

Heart Rate Variability iOS App Comparison

I decided it was time to reassess my Heart Rate Variability(HRV) iOS application of choice. I was very surprised when I did a recent search of “HRV” in the iOS App Store to find a bunch of new HRV apps out there. I have been using the Sweetbeat Heart Rate Variability(HRV) iOS app ever since I started measuring HRV. There have always been a few shortcomings of this application that annoyed me, but there were no other options at the time. So, now I decided to pick a couple and compare them with the Sweetbeat app.

What I was looking for was a iOS app with following requirements:

  • Price – reasonably priced(<= $10)
  • BT HRM – Works with a Bluetooth HR Monitor strap(Wahoo)
  • Quick – Be able to quickly measure HRV/HR once-a-day before getting out of bed.
  • Consistent – Consistent HRV measurement with my previous Sweetbeat historical measurement.
  • Export – Export of historical HRV/HR data to text/csv/Excel format for further analysis.
  • Tag/Comment – Ability to tag(multiples) and/or comment each reading.

Armed with this criteria, I ended up choosing the iThlete and HRV+ apps from the App Store and comparing them to the existing Sweetbeat app. I will start with my assessment of the Sweetbeat, since that is my baseline app which I had been using previously. Keep in mind that I am not going into every detail of each of these apps in a DCR style, but more looking at how each app meets my requirements and use case. If you have different requirements then I do, then may have a different outcome.

Sweetbeat Life

(www.sweetwaterhrv.com)

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Price

When I first started using the Sweetbeat app, it was $4.99 in the Apple App Store. A bit pricey compared to most apps at that time, but if my training could benefit from it then it was money well spent. They eventually came out with a totally new version of the app, Sweetbeat Life, which was basically same app with a few enhancements. They also doubled the price, now $9.99 with no option to upgrade from the previous app either. I tried to continue using the older app, but it appeared they were no longer maintaining it and it became very buggy. I was forced to purchase the new version despite their enhancements not providing me any real value. So, for long time, loyal users $14.98, new users $9.99. Ok

Bluetooth HRM

The Sweetbeat iOS app works with either a Bluetooth Smart HR monitor(i.e. Wahoo) or a VitalConnect Healthpatch monitor. The VitalConnect Healthpatch monitor is a HRM that is constantly stuck to your chest and allows you to measure HRV anytime. Not sure who would want this functionality 24×7, but it is one of the new features they added. It does work with Bluetooth HRM. Pass

Quick Measurement

Sweetbeat recommends that you create a baseline HRV reading the first time you use the app. To take an HRV measurement, you tap the start button on the main screen , which then presents you with a dialog of 3 types of HRV tests: Monitor Stress, HR Recovery and HRV for Training. For me the last one is all I am interested in. You are quickly presented with another dialog stating that your “Bluetooth Smart Chest Strap is not Detected” which you have to hit ok. You are then presented with another “Bluetooth Smart Chest Strap is not Detected” dialog warning before you can do anything. The first time I got this had been after using another HRV app which I had used my BT HRM strap so I knew it was connected. I eventually realized this is a bug which requires you to start the twice just to get to start measuring your HRV. I thought they would have fixed this by now, but it has been there for some time now.

Once you get passed the plethora of screen prompts and messages it finally starts measuring your HRV. By now, my HRV has probably dropped numerous points due to the stress of all the screens I had to go through to get started. The test sampling time is 3 minutes after it receives a certain amount of readings. Based on what I have seen over that time it is a bit of overkill since the readings pretty much flatten out after a minute or so. Most of the other apps are only a minute. Once the test is complete you are presented with a graph of your readings over time and your reading today, previous and last week. Once you accumulate a bunch of readings this trend graph is pretty much useless and there is now way to filter out the amount here. In order to get your resting heart rate(RHR) for the session, you have to flip through multiple screens to obtain that value from a very odd graph page. I don’t understand why they could not put all of these values on one dashboard style screen and be done with it. Instead you have to scroll sideways through seven different screens, many of which have a large amount of wasted “real estate” on them. Stephen Few and any UX expert would have a field day with this app. So I would have to say that this was the most cumbersome of all the apps regarding speed of measurement. Fail

Consistent

Since I am using this app as my baseline, I guess I would have to say it fairly consistent. Although after I had been using the original app for some time, the folks at Sweetwater decided to change their measuring algorithm, which basically made all of my previous data history useless. The whole reason I use this app is to identify trends and when they go changing things it basically makes it unusable. They haven’t changed their algorithm for some time and it appears that the old app and new app seem to be similar now, so hopefully that was a once and done thing. Ok

Data Export

I believe any application that is measuring your personal health data should provide some mechanism for you to extract or export that raw data for your personal use. It is MY data, therefore I should be able to access it in raw format. I also like to take that data and join it up with other training or health data to look for patterns using something like QlikView or other data analysis tools. The Sweetbeat application provides no such functionality. You can only view your data within the confines of their iOS application or on their website, which provides nothing but a calendar showing color-coded entries for your readings. Nothing really useful. In fact, to gather the data for this comparison I had to scroll through the multitude of screens for each day to get the raw data and enter it manually in a spreadsheet. Why they cannot provide a link to download a CSV of your data is beyond me, but they don’t. The graphs in their application are so poorly laid out, that it is hard to get any information out of them, especially when you have a lot of readings. The graphs do not even change when in landscape mode to take advantage of the extra space. Fail

Tag/Comments

The ability to add some commentary or tagging to your readings is very helpful when analyzing the data and looking for outliers over time. The Sweetbeat app allows you to tag your reading with one tag only, which you have to scroll to the 6th(of 7) screen after your reading to set. You are basically forced to tag it with “HRV” though if you want your data to show in that set. So there is no possibility of setting other things like “Poor Sleep”, “Tough Training Day”, “Too many beers”, etc. So, you might as well not even have a tag here. There is no ability to comment either. Fail

I have been a user of this app from the beginning and have participated in their beta testing for their new app too. I had given them a bunch of feedback before the launch of their new app about the items mentioned above. They never implemented any of them. Instead they focused on the VitalConnect monitor that is constantly stuck to you and a Correlation screen that I still cannot garner anything valuable from. It links up with some Withings, Fitbit, and MapMyWhatever devices, which I use none of. Perhaps it is more useful if you use those. I still don’t know who would want to voluntarily have a monitor stuck to their chest 24×7 to read HRV. But hey, there must be some other use cases out there if they are putting that much effort into it. The user interface/experience(UX) on this application is in great need of a facelift. The amount of screens and poor use and layout of graphs really takes away from the usability of this app.

HRV+

(www.hrvplus.com)

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Price

It’s free! You cannot get much cheaper than that. Pass

Bluetooth HRM

The HRV+ app says it requires the Polar H6 or H7 Bluetooth heart rate monitor. I am using a Wahoo Bluetooth monitor and it seems to work fine. Pass

Quick Measurement

This app connect pretty quickly with your HRM monitor. There is a “HRM Not Connected”(in red) or “HRM Connected” (in white) at the top left of the main screen that lets you know if it is ready to go. I love the fact that there are no pop-up dialogs to tell you it is or isn’t connected.

After pressing the start button, your measurement takes 1 minutes and you then presented with a screen that gives you all your reading information in one clear, concise screen. You even have the ability to enter comments 🙂 and TRIMP value. Not sure why I would have a TRIMP value first thing in the morning though. Fast and simple. Pass!

Consistent

This HRV readings for HRV+ seem to run several points above what I get in the Sweetbeat app. I had run side-by-side comparisons for a week and this apps’ HRV value averaged about 10 points above, with the exception of my first reading being extremely higher than SB. I later compared the rMSSD(“root mean square of successive differences“) values of Sweetbeat and HRV+, which is more of a standarized measurement, and those were different as well, only not as much.

It is really difficult to do an apples-to-apples comparison here, since the measurements are taken 1 to 3 minutes apart. I have already taken several repetitive HRV measurements with the Sweetbeat app and gotten very different results only a few minutes later.

On average, the HRV+ app ran about 11.4 points above the Sweetbeat readings.

 

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I would say if you have never taken HRV measurements before or are not looking to compare to other results, then this app is fairly consistent by itself. The price may also dictate leaning this way too. Ok

Data Export

Yes! Not only does it have a CSV export, but you can also import and/or sync any other older data in the same format. They even go one step further and allow you to connect it to your Dropbox so you always have your data sitting there in your online folder. Very nice feature. You can also email yourself the csv export.

Additionally, there is a raw R-R HRV export capability. I believe this is a standardized format that some heart rate variability analysis programs use(Kubios?), but I am not real familiar with that. Pass

Tag/Comments

As I stated before, you can easily enter comments after each reading. If you need tagging you can come up with your own tagging scheme in the comments for searching later. Pass

Summary

Overall, I would say this is a great app for someone looking to start out measuring HRV without spending any money. It is a simple design that works. It has all the features I am looking for and the data export to DropBox is a bonus.

 

 

iThlete

(myithlete.com)

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Price

$9.99. Same as the newer Sweetbeat Life app and at the top of the range.

Bluetooth HRM

Yes. It paired up with my Wahoo HRM very quickly. They also sell a CardioSport Bluetooth Smart HRM on their website. It also works with a Finger sensor or ECG receiver on their website as well. Pass

Quick Measurement

When you first go into the app it takes you directly to the monitoring screen. It does pop up an annoying dialog to tell you that your “Bluetooth Smart Sensor connected” which I feel is a bit annoying and unncessary. Once you tap ok then you have to wait 10-15 seconds for a little green start button to enable. Then you can take your 1 minute reading. There is a little breath rhythm coach that guides your breathing if you are staring at the screen. There is a little countdown timer to let you know how much time is left which is very readable compared to the other apps.

Once your measurement session completes, you are presented with a screen showing your HRV colored appropriately to match the level of your reading(Green is good, grey is in the neutral, and red is bad). Your heart rate is not displayed anywhere on this page, which was a bit of a disappointment. There are a bunch of sliders to let you set ratings of how you felt. More on this in the Tag/Comments section. You can set your slider values and hit save and you are done. Pass

Consistent

The HRV values for this app seem to be a little more on par with the Sweetbeat values from what I can tell. The graphs above seem to indicate this although Ithlete does seem to show higher values as overall HRV increases. On average, iThlete runs about 7.8 points above the Sweetbeat app.

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Data Export

Yes. There is an “Export Data” option on the main menu. From there you can either email or download a csv export of all your data to DropBox. The export also includes all the values from the ratings scales post measurement. Pass

Tag/Comments

The iThelete app far surpassed the other apps in this area. After each measurement you can quickly rate the following items using a slider for each: sleep quality, fatigue, muscle soreness, stress, mood, and diet. This is great and may alleviate the need to even type in comments. There is also a comments box and a Training Score box too. PASS(with flying colors).

Summary

Despite the $10 price tag and the one pop-up dialog, I really like this app. The data values are close to my early Sweetbeat data and I love the ratings sliders. This has been my go-to app since doing the comparison. Price wasn’t a huge issue, since I had already forked out the money for it so I could compare it.

Conclusion

Here is my rating of all the apps on the categories I mentioned using a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being meet or exceed my requirements.

Price

BT HRM

Quick

Consistent Data

Tag / Comments

Export

Overall

Sweetbeat Life 3 4 2 5 1 1 16
HRV+ 5 5 5 3 4 5 27
iThlete 3 5 4 5 5 5 27

Pocket Favorite: Industry Influence on Our Dietary Guidelines

The story behind the first U.S. dietary guidelines explains why, to this day, the decades of science supporting a more plant-based diet have yet to fully translate into public policy.

via Pocket http://nutritionfacts.org/2013/10/22/big-food-wants-final-say-over-health-reports/

One Year Plant-Based…And Why I Am Not Changing…

It is hard to believe that one year ago I was first posting my experiment with a whole foods, plant-based diet. Now here I sit one year later and I am still doing it with the same, if not more, fervor that I did back then. Many things have changed during that time which I can firmly credit to this change in lifestyle. I have no intentions of going back to my old ways of eating. Here are the reasons why…

  •  Weight Management. I have been able to more easily maintain a healthy weight and body fat % throughout the entire year. I have been at same weight I was in high school for the last year. This is regardless of whether I am training a lot or taking it easy in the off-season and over the holidays when I typically gain back about 20 lbs.

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  • No Calorie Counting. Maintaining a healthy weight has also been done without the need to log all my food eaten and counting of calories as I have done in the past to maintain weight. This had always been so time-consuming and as soon as I grew tired of doing it, the weight came back instantly. Now I just eat. As long as it is healthy and as close to possible to its original form and not processed I can eat and be happy.
  • Food is More Nourishing. Eating food closer to its original form provides you with the most essential nutrients you can get. Now eating until you are satisfied takes on a new meaning. Now it is not just that your stomach being packed  to maximum density to indicate being satiated, it is more of your body feels properly nourished by all the essential nutrients to properly function. It is a different kind of “full” feeling. One you will never get eating over-processed foods devoid of the essential nutrients and abundant with chemicals.   
  • Consistent Energy Levels. I used to have the usual afternoon crash around 2-3pm and the trip down to the company café for a afternoon caffeine jolt was becoming far too routine. This was mostly due to all the over-processed carbs and sugar which would spike insulin levels causing the lethargy of the afternoon. Now without these types of foods and more whole, vegetables and legumes for lunch I am able to keep an even keel through out the day.
  • High Volume Training Performance. Last summer I trained from 8 up to 17 hours a week of training until September when I completed my final race. This year I have been consistently training from 10 up to 16 hours(so far, more to come) since the end of January(~5 months). I have been able to do this training without any issues or major fatigue and still perform at my best. I have logged 3 personal best times at races at one Olympic and half-iron distances.
  • Post-Training Energy.This is somewhat related to the High Volume Training Performance above, but after training daily for anywhere from 2 to 6 hours I am still able to function normally with the day-to-day tasks.Previously going for a 4 hour bike ride or a 2.5 hour run on the weekend would put me down napping on the sofa napping for the rest of the afternoon. Now I come home and can be out cutting the grass or other household chores, then out for a some dinner with friends. I do have to admit though, when 10pm rolls around my head is bobbing.
  • Daily Workout Recovery. Despite long, intense workouts everyday, I am able to get up the next day refreshed and ready to take on that days workout. This is especially evident on the weekends when after doing a 4 hour or longer bike ride and brick run on a Saturday, then follow it up on Sunday with a half-marathon or longer distance run. Looking at my weekly average Heart Rate Variablility(HRV), which is a measure of autonomic nervous system, shows that I am actually increasing my HRV as my training volume increases getting closer to Ironman Lake Placid. HRV is a measure from 0 to 100 with higher score means you are adapting better to whatever stress you are placing on your body. For more on that, read this previous post on HRV.

 

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  • Race Performance Improvements. In 2012, I improved my time in the Half Ironman distance by just over 5 minutes on a much more difficult course(Ironman 70.3 Muskoka) than the previous years race(IM Miami 70.3). This year, I was able to once again improve all other previous results in the Half-Ironman distance again on a even more difficult course at Rev3 Quassy by another 8 minutes. This adds up to over 13 minutes in improvement overall. Hopefully this also translates into my 1st full distance Ironman Lake Placid results in July.
  • Biometric Testing Improvements
    • Cholesterol
      • LDL: 48 point drop(-30%)
      • Triglycerides: 37 point drop(-40%)
      • Total Chol: 59 point drop(-25%)
    • Blood Pressure
      • Systolic: –12 mmHg (136 –> 124)
      • Diastolic: –14 mmHg (94 –> 80)
  • Cooking More. Since I am eating less processed foods, I am now forced to do more cooking. It seems that in today’s too busy culture no one cooks anymore. This is pretty sad, since cooking is a therapeutic activity that increases your creativity and your knowledge. 

I am sure there is more advantages to this lifestyle change that I have overlooked, but this are the biggest ones in my mind.

Race Week Update: Swimmer’s Ear Gone, Sinus Cold is Here

Well the good news is that my Swimmer’s Ear actually healed up pretty quickly. Bad news is that some sort of allergy-induced sinus cold came on just as quickly. Yesterday(Wed) I had runny nose and sneezing and now this evening I am started to develop an annoying little cough. All this heading into my first race weekend of the season too.

I have managed to keep up with all my workouts this week, which were a lighter than normal with the upcoming race. The weather this week has been gorgeous too. It is a shame I cannot enjoy quite as much as I normally would had I felt better. The progression of this little cold is moving pretty quickly so hopefully it goes away just as fast.

Tomorrow will be a full day of packing up my gear and making any last checks on my bike before heading down to South Jersey for the race. Can’t imagine what the temperature of the water in the lake will be since it really hasn’t been that warm until the last couple days. Good thing I got my wetsuit to keep me toasty.

Will try to get some posts from the Jersey Shore before the race.

Thinking of Food as Fuel by Pushing Your Bodies Limits

Fresh Fruits and VeggiesOne of the best side effects of becoming a triathlete for me has been the dietary changes it has prompted me to make. For years I have always struggled with “yo-yo” dieting and the weight fluctuations that come with that. Counting calories and cutting out macro nutrients(fat, carbs, protein) works for a little while, but they are not sustainable over the long haul. The fact is your body needs a balanced intake of all of those nutrients to properly function. By pushing your body’s limitations through triathlon or any endurance sport, you are eventually forced to take a new perspective on the food you eat. Food is looked at more as a fuel to get you through those long or intense workouts and less as some short-lived taste.2013-04-14 13.44.29
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