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Campus Improv Eats - Conor 9/25

I went over some nutrition stuff with Conor about two weeks ago. Last Thursday I texted him in school to have him send me a picture of his lunch. Here's what I got back:

And here's the p/c/f breakdown.

  • Protein - meat in that sub thing, meat and cheese in the sandwich thing, milk
  • Carbohydrate - apple, apple sauce, bread on sandwich thing, bread on sub thing, chocolate in milk, sugary glaze on sub thing
  • Fat - milk... oh wait... fat free milk. Never mind.

Ah, the old high school lunch room - the perfect place to sit by yourself and wonder why people enjoy socializing. From the looks of it, Conor is one of those social butterflies and his lunch is probably a product of his burning desire for people to like him and his feelings. We know how sensitive he gets.

Anyway, this meal is all over the freaking place. Protein is pretty well represented here in different forms of the remains of couped up and slaughtered mammals. Also the non-chocolate portion of the milk. The carbohydrate side is where things get a little bit lopsided, and judging by my eyeballs, I would guess there's about 19 blocks(!) of carbohydrate in comparison to roughly 5 blocks of protein. In other words, Conor had his entire day's supply of carbohydrate blocks lying in front of him at his cafeteria lunch table. Considering he probably did not eat breakfast, I would prefer him to eat more food than less of it, for the immediate time being, but lord have mercy Conor!

I have inside information that the sandwich on the side is from his mom, bought from a local store. Putting two and two together tells me Conor took the time to pack this from home, which means he's perfectly capable of bringing his own lunch. That will be a point of discussion along the line.

Final verdict: I count this as a loss, Panic. No fat. Bushles of carbohydrate. Apple and applesauce combo is sure to cause a rushed trip to the nearest restroom, Paul Finch style.

Next time: Try regular milk instead of chocolate milk. Tip the applesauce on Crawford's head and fill the cup with peanut butter. Keep the apple, figure something out with the rest of the bread.

New Graduates: Kids Climb the Rope

This afternoon at the babies session (half of which aren't really babies any more), three of our athletes got their first rope climb all the way to the top:




Jacqueline has been talking about climbing the rope for the past year and a half, and today she finally got it! Miranda is Murley's cousin who just joined this month; she has a gymnastics background and found that useful today. Finally, JT is like 4 and surprised everyone in the gym by pulling his way up.

Great job kids! Especially Jacqueline, this was a long time coming!

New Graduate: Shannon

This is a different kind of graduation for sure, but as most of you know Shannon Marchant is from Canada. And as such, her residence in this country was not permanent; first, her college status allowed her to temporarily stay, then her job after school let her extend that out a few years. She's had a few close calls for reasons unbeknownst to me, but now it is official.

Shannon Marchant got her Green Card and is officially here to stay!

If my assumptions are correct this means she will not be limited to the work she does, and can allow her to have a permanent residence. Most importantly, Shannon can go about her days without having that little doubt in the back of her mind. Of course, she will be missing out on Terrence & Phillip - seeing as America hasn't broadcasted that show since Canada went on strike - but hopefully the tradeoff is still worth it.

Congradulations Shannon and we're all glad you take time out of your day to spend with us at the gym. I hope it will stay that way for a long time to come!

Mel's Musings Episode IV: Omega-3 - What it is and what it isn't

Omega-3 Fatty Acids are Important for Health

So if you haven’t been keeping up with major health trends, let’s first discuss why omega-3 fatty acids are important.  There are two main types of polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 (“n-3” from now on), and omega-6 (“n-6”).  (We won’t be discussing omega-7 or omega-9 fatty acids today.)

Both n-6 and n-3 fatty acids are important and essential to humans (“essential” meaning we must eat them, because we cannot make them).  A balance of these fatty acids is recommended, because they exert opposite effects physiologically.  n-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory, and n-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory.  Pro-inflammatory sounds bad, but we do need inflammation for things, so n-6 fatty acids have their place.  But too much inflammation can lead to various health problems.  The recommended dietary ratio of n-6 to n-3 is generally considered to be 1:1 or 2:1.  Most Americans are believed to have ratios much more weighted toward n-6, on the order of 10:1 or 20:1.  This is largely due to the fact that we consume a lot of nuts, seeds, and grains (rich in n-6), and not as much fish (rich in n-3).  There are additional reasons, including the fact that most of our dietary meat sources are raised on grain instead of grass.  As they say, you are what you eat.

The underlying premise here is that, unless you’re an Inuit and eating fish every day, you likely need a better balance, so you should consume more n-3 fatty acids.  So how do you get more omega-3?  Let’s take the various sources one by one: in fish, in other meats, in flax, and Jacob’s favorite, in supplement form.

Omega-3 in Fish

Fish have a lot of n-3.  But not all fish.  Cold water fish.  Why cold water?  Partly because they make a lot of fat – they need to keep warm in that cold water.  I’m only half-joking.  Partly because of their diet.  If you go to the bottom of the food chain, algae are the original source of n-3.  If you’re a sardine, and you eat algae, you get n-3.  If you’re a tuna, and you eat a sardine that has eaten the algae, you get n-3.  On and on, up the food chain.

Some of the best sources of n-3 in fish are: mackerel, herring, trout, salmon, tuna.  Most of the more common white fish (grouper, flounder, halibut, cod) do not have much n-3.

Omega-3 in Meat: A Red Herring

Let’s focus on beef for now.  You may have heard that grass-fed beef has a better n-3 profile than grain-fed beef, which would make sense given what we know about the n-3 content in grass vs. corn.[1]

Grass-fed cattle can have n-6:n-3 ratios from 2 to 6 times better than their grain-fed counterparts

The ratios in the table above are striking.  But focusing on the ratios instead of the total quantity can be misleading.  An ounce of grain-fed beef has 167 mg of n-6, while an ounce of soybean oil has over 14,000 mg.  (Think of this next time you slather on the salad dressing…yes, Chris, I’ll wait while you go verify that your favorite ranch dressing’s main ingredient is soybean oil…)

Similarly, grass-fed beef has around 100 mg of n-3 per ounce.  An ounce of tuna fish can have as much as 780 mg of n-3.  So yes, you are getting a better ratio of n-3/6.  But 100 mg is not very much.  Beef is simply not a rich source of polyunsaturated fatty acids (be they n-3 or n-6)!  You’d be better off to just eat good ole American grain-fed beef and then supplementing with a can of tuna fish every now and then.

Omega-3 in Flax

Plenty of n-3 in flax.  But not all n-3’s are created equal.  You want EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which can be used by the human body right away.  Flax contains ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which is n-3, but can’t be used by the human body in this form.  It first must be converted to DHA or EPA, and sadly, the conversion in humans is low, on the order of 5-10% (depending on the study)[2],[3].

So, flax – or any source of ALA for that matter – will not supply you with your n-3 needs.

Omega-3 in Supplements

Omega-3 is not the same thing as fish oil.  Why not?  Fish oil is just that – fat from fish, in oil form.  It could be any fish.  It could be any fat.  If you want omega-3, you must look at n-3 content – and even then, it needs to be EPA or DHA content (not ALA).  Flax seed oil supplements, as you might guess, are next to worthless.

Red Krill Oil: Marketing at its Best

I have been trying to get my parents on the n-3 supplement train.  And they listen…sort of.  As I get older, I realize it’s very hard to tell your parents…well, anything.  Maybe because they were the smartest people in the living room for a long time.  Maybe because it’s hard to take advice from those closest to us, our friends and family.

Anyway, my mom says, “Yeah, we take fish oil.  But it’s better – it’s red krill oil.”  So I look it up, and sure enough, it is made from red krill.  And the n-3 content?  About 100 mg per capsule.  (As a baseline, I take well over 1 gram of n-3 daily.)  So, I tell my mom she would need to take a dozen of these pills just to get the effects I’m getting from 1 super-concentrated fish oil pill.  “But it’s red krill…”  Sigh.

The Horror of Light Tuna

Also at my parents recently, they were making sandwiches.  Tuna fish sandwiches.  I’m excited, because I like tuna fish and this is a food I can also get behind nutritionally, given its high content of n-3.  Then I grab the can – it says “light tuna”.  Huh, wonder what that means?  Um, it means they took out all the fat, including the n-3’s that made it healthy…and tasty![4]

Sorry, Charlie. With only 0.5g total fat, “Light” tuna just doesn’t have much omega-3 content.

I guess it’s not a total loss – there is still fish flesh (protein) in there.  But this is what we’ve come to as a society – so paranoid about ingesting fat that we eliminate the best kind of fat from a can of tuna fish.


Sushi – good, and good for you!

Don’t simply take my word for it.  Zone diet pioneer, Dr. Barry Sears, said of fish oil, “It’s as close to a miracle drug as I’ll ever see in my lifetime.”  So, eat fish and take your fish oil!  Or, as I hopefully illustrated in this article, that things are a little more complicated: eat fatty fish, and take high-dose EPA- and DHA-containing fish oil.


[1] Daley, et. al., A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutr J. 2010. Vol 9 No. 10

[2] Gerster, Can adults adequately convert alpha-linoleic acid (18:3n-3) to eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3)? Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1998;68(3):159-73.

[3] (multiple studies cited).

[4] Nutritional review: Light tuna generally contains 0.2g omega-3 per 100g serving.  Albacore or yellowfin tuna can contain 5-10 times as much.

Campus Improv Eats: Alyssa 9/21

Alyssa sent me this meal picture last week of the dinner option she chose:

First off, this plate looks absolutely delicious. Grilled chicken and broccoli/cauliflower combo are good enough as is, then add the gooey goodness of mac-n-cheese... man! Here's the macronutrients breakdown:

  • Protein: chicken, some cheese-type substance
  • Carbohydrate: cauliflower, broccoli, noodles
  • Fat: n/a

Two major things of note. First, on paper it might look like the carbohydrate way more represented than the protein, but this is where having a basic knowledge of density can help. The veggies are technically in the carbohydrate category, yes, but they also are not very dense in carbs. In fact, I doubt there is even one full block (9g) of carbs in those veggies. The macaroni, on the other hand, is very dense in carbs. Off the eyeball test, I would guess it's a little more than 4 blocks. Assuming the chicken in 4-5 oz., it is safe to say the carbohydrates and protein are pretty well-balanced.

The category that is missing completely is fat. Alyssa did not include any nuts and seeds on the side (as far as I know), and it appears the chicken is a very lean cut. While I'm sure there is some fat in that "cheese" I think it would do better to add some extra, then take a little bit of mac-n-cheese off the plate. Just a tiny bit, though!

Win or loss: I'd call this one a draw. If I recall correctly (and assuming gravy is as I thought), this is the second time I wanted to see Alyssa add some fat to her meal. But her good balance of protein and carbohydrate makes me happier.

Fix for next time: Buy a small jar of peanuts or something and take a tiny handful for the meals.

Quote of the Week vol. 209

It has been a long time since Mel came out with one of his periodical guest posts. His new one will be posted tomorrow at 5 pm. It is about fat, and other synonyms.

If you were up here earlier, I had a different quote from Bill Self. But I hate Kansas basketball, and I just heard this one from Carl Paoli as I was watching a video that I like better.

"So many people say 'Leave your ego at the door'... but if you don't have your ego, you can't actually make decisions. Your ego is the axis on which your moral compass spins. You just can't become your ego."

- Carl Paoli. Barbell Shrugged podcast.

Body Language pt. 2: A Case Study

I want you to think about something that is really obvious, but also really cool if you let it sit for a minute: an overwhelming majority of communication between one another happens visually, not verbally.

Body language is used more than spoken language.




In a lot of cases, decisions need to be made within a matter of seconds. Some examples can be:

  • Play this guy or that guy
  • Keep him in or pull him out
  • Am I safe or am I not
  • Am I liked or am I not
  • Move up in weight or stay the same
  • Does this person want to talk at the moment

Coaches, teachers, bosses, and teammates are often put in situations where all they really have to act on is what you look like. I mean, everyone says the right things, right? But the tone they say it in, or what they look like while they say it often gets interpreted more than the actual words, and rightfully so. Remember, your actions reflect your thoughts on a subconscious level.

Here's a few examples. What do you interpret from each person?

1. Iverson on the bench


2. Dick Butkus at linebacker

Hello Mrs. Quarterback3. Baker Mayfield, OU quarterback

4. Tom Crean, former Indiana basketball coach


6. LeBron and coach Ty Lue

Coach... I'm LeBron7. One of twelve living Florida football fans

Really coach, a Shark?8. Kobe Bryant

9. Harbaugh, spring game 2015

10. Mr. Wonsil, rack position

11. Katie Bromm texting, Sept. 2013

I think it's so cool how we can communicate through poses and movement like this. Imagine how different Kobe's vibes would be if he gave Lamar Odom a high-five looking like Katie Bromm? Or what if the soccer dude forced himself to be upright like Harbaugh, even though he was tired? And how does Tom Crean ever expect his players to keep composure when he acts like a threatened Orangutan on the sideline. Keep your body language in check, kids!