Archive for the 'beer' Category


Supplement roundup, revisited

(Previously, previously.)

Let’s play this game again.

  • Protein powder — yup, still on the whey isolate train.  Lately I’ve been making two kinds of protein shakes: two scoops of whey isolate and 5g creatine for workouts, and the same plus a teaspoon of Metamucil and a teaspoon of Greens+ for the rest of the time.  I don’t have any direct evidence that the latter does me huge amounts of good, but the opportunity cost is negligible so I figure it can’t hurt.
  • Creatine — still cheap as hell, still silly effective at maintaining strength during glycogen depletion.
  • Beta alanine — ditched it over the summer, don’t miss it.  I’ve been doing a bunch of conditioning lately, and it turns out that “doing a bunch of conditioning” is better for increasing lactate-threshold performance than beta alanine.
  • L-carnitine l-tartrate — still great.  My pre-workout lately is 20mg ephedrine, 200mg caffeine, 1.5g LCLT.  It’s super effective!
  • Melatonin and ZMA — I’m pretty well convinced that these two help me sleep longer and better.
  • Waxy maize — dropped it.  Rather than drinking sawdust shakes for my carb-ups I’m eating sushi.  More expensive, but I actually enjoy it.
  • BCAAs — picked up an “off” bucket of these (smelled sour and foamed on contact with water) and haven’t bothered to replace it.  Looking back I think pure leucine was more effective.  Gonna see if I can find some of that when I start bulking again.
  • Liv-Tone — the Greens+ people make this shit, and it is an honest to Jesus hangover preventative.  I take two caps of this and two grams of time-release Vitamin C before I go out drinking, and if I get really lit up (and have the presence of mind to remember) the same when I get home.  As long as I drink a reasonable amount of water, not only does this leave me with nearly no hangover the next day, but my sleep quality actually seems decent (rather than the usual unhelpful drunk-sleep).  I mean, it doesn’t make chronic heavy drinking magically okay from a physiological perspective, but it sure makes occasional shitfacery a lot easier to fit in, even if it’s the night before leg day.
  • Fish oil, D3 gelcaps, glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM — still.  They are cheap and easy.

Gettin’ shredded: Boozeaholin’ for fun and profit

It’s kind of a slow night in the NFL, so I’m half-assedly digging around the internet for data on alcohol metabolism and ketogenic fat loss.

Basically, my premise is that alcoholic ketoacidosis is a thing, and is both related to ketosis and physiologically different from other forms of ketoacidosis, so maybe there are ways to use it to my advantage.  I had a vague notion going in that alcohol consumption — in particular, the hard stuff, rather than maltose-laden beer — somehow speeds up the transition to ketosis after a carb load.  If it does so by depleting liver glycogen, a few stiff drinks would act as a cheat code to get deep into ketosis after a depletion workout.

Unfortunately, most of what you get if you google up “alcohol metabolism” is variations on the theme of “OH WOW YOU GUYS, DID YOU KNOW THAT DRINKING TOO MUCH IS BAD FOR YOU?  SOME VERY SMART PEOPLE IN WHITE COATS SAID SO, BECAUSE SCIENCE!  (No, we won’t tell you the science.  You’d never understand it.)”  I did, however, come up with some hits.

Recall that the presence of liver glycogen inhibits ketosis, so after a carb load we want to get rid of that nasty hepato-starch as quickly as possible… ideally without soaking up too much intramuscular glycogen, which we’ll want to have around next time we lift.  From this remarkably non-histrionic article, we discover that alcohol inhibits gluconeogenesis in the liver.  It does this by inhibiting the conversion of lactate to pyruvate; it’s been a while since I’ve done any skill-grinding on ketogenic diet physiology but this doesn’t strike me as directly relevant; it removes a pathway for the liver to generate glucose, but if the liver’s stocked up on glycogen that pathway would be too much effort.

The article also indicates that alcoholic ketoacidosis usually happens after “starvation” (that is, a day or three of fasting), and while we’re going to take advantage of the acute fasting response and its increase in growth hormone and catecholamines that’s going to happen after we drop a few fingers of whiskey.  We would like to lift, then eat, then drink, then fast for sixteen-odd hours; and we’d prefer to spend as much of the fast as possible in ketosis.  Drinking at the end of the fast, while pleasant, isn’t the operative variable.

This “helpful” little thing reinforces the idea that alcoholic ketoacidosis results from inhibited gluconeogenesis after glycogen depletion.  Glycogen depletion’s what we’re after, so about the best we can hope for from inhibited gluconeogenesis is that a drink or three will shut down some of the complementary glucose-releasing processes in the liver and put greater demand on hepatic glycogen stores.

(This blog post has been interrupted by the Patriots remembering that there’s a football game going on in the second half.)

However, all is not lost.  This abomination, aside from the quality of the reporting giving me cancer, suggests that… well, I’ll let the paper title speak for itself: “Ethanol acutely stimulates islet blood flow, amplifies insulin secretion, and induces hypoglycemia via NO and vagally mediated mechanisms”.  It sure looks like acute alcohol consumption can trigger insulin release, leading to hypoglycemia, which would presumably lead to hepatic glycogen release into blood glucose.  Which, y’all will recall, is what we want.

If it’s relevant, which is a big “if”, this’d play right into the Carb Backloading strategy of a big but short-lived insulin spike right before bedtime, disposing of any blood glucose left over from the carb load (or, presumably, liver glycogen if you don’t carb-load the night before a non-lifting day) and setting up a prompt growth hormone spike once you get to sleep.  On the other hand, recall that my research methodology is “dick around on Google Scholar until something interesting happens on Sunday Night Football”, so take this with a pillar of salt.


Gettin’ shredded: Insulin, ketosis, and carb loading

Here we’re getting into some good crunchy sciencey stuff.  Given that human energy metabolism is fiendishly complex, I certainly won’t pretend to know everything about what I’m writing about, but this understanding has been good enough for me so far.  I got most of it from Lyle McDonald, Kiefer, Silverhydra, Prof. Dr. Andro, and Martin Berkhan.  They (and their sources) don’t always agree, and odds are excellent that I’ve made mistakes in trying to understand their writing, too.  Take this with a pillar of salt.

I repeat: I am going to simplify outrageously and not cite my sources (except as I’ve done above).


Let’s start here.  In metabolically healthy people (fixing diabetes is not part of the game plan), insulin is a storage hormone.  It encourages cells to take up nutrients from the bloodstream and build stuff with ’em.  Insulin levels are elevated by three things: Carbohydrate consumption; protein consumption; and high blood sugar.  Eating protein will cause a short, sharp jump in insulin levels; eating carbs will cause a similar jump, and then a longer second jump as the sugar or turns into blood glucose and gets shuttled away to wherever it’s going.

For the purposes of losing fat specifically, which is what we’re after, insulin is not our friend.  It inhibits lipolysis (the breakdown and release of fatty acids from fat tissue) and encourages fat storage.  We want to keep insulin levels chronically low (again, please don’t do this if you’re diabetic) in order to support as much lipolysis as we can possibly manage.  We do that by cutting out carbs and going ketogenic.


Tissue burns glucose preferentially.  Deprive the body of carbs, and the liver will release glycogen (“animal starch”), which gets broken down into glucose.  Muscle cells have their own stores of glycogen.  In general it takes the liver about a day, maybe less, to burn through its glycogen supply if you’re starting from a normal carby diet.  Once it does, provided that blood triglyceride levels are sufficient, it’ll start producing ketones from those trigs, which can be burned in place of glucose by most tissues in the body.  (It’ll also start producing small amounts of glucose from fat, which is good because parts of your brain really need it.)

Ketone uptake and metabolism is sufficiently different from glucose uptake and metabolism that it takes a few days for your body (in particular, your brain) to adapt to burning ketones instead of glucose, so you feel like shit for a little while.  This is the “low-carb flu” you might’ve heard of, although I’ve never found it to be nearly as bad as actually having the flu.  In any case the solution is to embrace the suck.  After a few days your cells will have adapted to uptake and process ketones, and you’ll feel fine again.

Fat metabolism, both directly and through ketone production, is significantly less efficient than glucose metabolism.  Since we’re trying to burn as many kcal worth of fat as possible, that’s a good thing.  But we don’t want to stay in ketosis absolutely forever: Liver glycogen levels act as a metabolic regulator, so if the liver’s out of glycogen (which it has to be in order to produce ketones) your metabolism will slowly drop, which is thoroughly counterproductive.  If you try to ramp up your workouts to compensate, you’ll find that without muscle glycogen you can’t lift for shit.  Also, when you’re in ketosis your pee will probably smell funny; maybe stay away from asparagus.

Carb loading

The solution is to carefully and selectively reintroduce carbs.  We can be clever about this by timing our carb-ups right.  General insulin sensitivity is highest in the morning, when the government and the food lobbies want you to be eating Cap’n Crunch and drinking orange juice, and lowest in the evening.  But muscle is most sensitive to carbs right after a good hard workout, particularly if it’s empty of glycogen.  So by lifting in the afternoon and slamming a bunch of carbs and protein immediately thereafter, we can ensure that the majority of those carbs go right into muscle glycogen, which is right where we want ’em in order to promote muscle protein synthesis.  The remainder will get turned into glycogen by the liver, giving metabolism, thyroid function, and &c. a bit of a kick and probably getting burned up overnight, so we’ll wake up the next morning in ketosis again.  This is the general approach taken, to various extremes, by Lyle McD’s targeted ketogenic diet, SilverHydra’s Cheat Mode, and Kiefer’s Carb Backloading: A one- to four-hour (…ish) carb load after each workout.

Another option is to drive the body into deep glycogen depletion over the course of several workouts and low-calorie low-carb days, say over the course of a workweek, then after one final workout to raise muscle insulin sensitivity carb-load like a motherfucker for 30-48 hours.  The idea is that any glucose you consume won’t get stored as fat until your liver and muscles are packed full of glycogen, and any small amount of fat you put on from fructose and dietary fats will get dealt with during the next week’s low-cal glycogen depletion hell.  While you’re carb-loading you hit the weights as hard as you goddamn can.  This, in vastly insufficient detail, is the method behind Lyle McD’s Ultimate Diet 2.0.

About the only downside to carb loading is that you probably shouldn’t drink during the carb-up.  The idea is that, if your liver’s processing alcohol, it isn’t doing anything with carbs — it’s not clear to me whether alcohol uptake and conversion to acetaldehyde and acetic acid in the liver actually inhibits glucose uptake; if it doesn’t, it’s plausible that you’ll be burning alcohol (really acetic acid) for energy while you’re storing even more carbs (like the maltose and maltodextrin in your favourite beer) as glycogen.  Alcohol does accelerate ketosis, so separating a few glasses of whiskey from your carb up by an hour or two might be a good plan.  Kiefer has some interesting things to say on the topic; he’s more sanguine than I am.  Clearly this calls for some n=1 experimentation.  Anecdotally, when I was running UD2.0, I timed the end of my carb-load for Friday night, wherein I ate tons of chips and popcorn and drank beer and whiskey, limited more by having to squat the next day than by dietary concerns, and I still managed to lose a good pound or more of fat per week.


Drinking is good for you

(Sorry guys, this isn’t a nutrition post; I’m just quoting Korpiklaani.)

Eric Crampton leaves us with an entertaining anecdote and a fascinating statistic:

There’s a longstanding alcohol wage puzzle: drinkers earn more than non-drinkers even after correcting for a bunch of stuff. Chris Auld found that moderate drinkers earn 10% more than non-drinkers and that heavy drinkers earn 12% more than non-drinkers; plenty of other studies have found similar effects.

Correlation not being causation, I look for upstream connections.  Way back when, Psychology Today noted that intelligent people drink more, and it doesn’t take Bryan Caplan to deduce that intelligence is a half-decent predictor of income.  I’d lay 90% odds on smart people not being able to get through a day surrounded by nattering nihilistic nabobs without the promise of getting soaked at the end, and 10% on an eerie Harrison Bergeron-style conspiracy in which normals are made to feel better about themselves because they can be almost as productive as I can when I’m murderously hungover.



Wrote about 800 words on the topic of “why increased access to postsecondary ed isn’t going to do a fucking thing about income inequality” before I realized that the argument to which I was responding existed only in my imagination.  Alas; I was having fun.

Beer note: Howe Sound’s come out with a Super Jupiter Grapefruit IPA.  It is tasty but unexpectedly diffident.  Recommended if you like the “aftertaste you can time on a sundial” aspect of most IPAs but don’t particularly enjoy being beaten about the palate with a sledgehammer of hops.  Otherwise, Total Eclipse is apparently now a year-round offering rather than a seasonal, which is to say FUCK YEAH!

I plan to write a bit more about autoregulated lifting — one can call it “cybernetic periodization”, which sounds cool to this child of the Cyberpunk era — in the near future.  I should probably do some more of it before I sound off.

Here, have some metal:


Dumbest thing I’ve read in a while

Baylen Linnekin writes in Reason about hard-drink nannyism patterned on the New Hotness of soft-drink nannyism:

Put on some fresh nitrile gloves before you handle these dumbworms, folks:

I think sometimes people forget completely that alcoholic beverages have calories,” lead study author and public-health theologist Samara Joy Nielsen toldThe New York Times.

(Emphasis added.)

I think that happens approximately none of the time.  Remember when everyone was freaking out about drunkorexia?  C’mon, folks, try to be at least self-consistent in your hand-wringing hysteria.


Beers of Vancouver, vol. 31

Today’s pleasant surprise at the local liquor store is Howe Sound’s Megadestroyer Imperial Licorice Stout, a limited-run beer normally only brewed for the downtown beer-nerd spot the Alibi Room.  It’s pretty fucking good.

Megadestroyer tastes very much like Pothole Filler, Howe Sound’s seasonal stupid-thick Imperial Stout, only with a rich but subdued anise taste.  The licorice flavour is clearly present but not overbearing, making for a beer that’s slow-drinking but not hard to drink.  In fact, the stuff’s rather dangerously tasty.

It’s an interesting beer, possibly an incremental improvement over Pothole Filler, possibly just something different and no worse.  If it commanded much of a premium over the other Howe Sound beers I’d be hesitant to spend the extra money, but as it stands it’s definitely worth your money.


Relics of bureaucracy past

Aaron Carroll responds to comments on his response to the “regulate sugar” op/ed:

The first thing I noticed was this juxtaposition:

We regulate alcohol by making it illegal to use it before the age of 21. Period. […]

We regulate tobacco by making it illegal to use it before the age of 18. Period.

Looking just at those numbers, rather than at the legislative process that imposed them, one could be forgiven for thinking that government thinks that tobacco is less harmful than alcohol.  But of course the regulatory histories of alcohol and tobacco are vastly different, so one should hardly expect to be able to compare their results.

The second thing I noticed was this line of argument, on the subject of a “sugar tax”:

In fact, I’ve often thought that we should subsidize things we want to encourage in society and tax things we don’t, so I’m not sure why we’re so fixated on subsidizing sugar and so loathe to tax it.

Reg-you-lah-tor-ee capt-cher, of course.  But come to think of it, we subsidize the living fuck out of corn production, and to no-one’s surprise that cheap subsidized corn gets fermented into beer and distilled into grain alcohol… which we then tax. Mixed signals much?  (I would not be shocked to discover that tobacco growers receive generous subsidies, but I can’t be arsed to google it.)

Funny how public choice informs so much of the policy we’d prefer to take as normative.

anarchocapitalist agitprop

Be advised

I say fuck a lot



Statistics FTW