If you are unfamiliar with CrossFit, your cable package clearly doesn’t include ESPN3. About a year ago, ESPN3 dumped its 24/7 uninterrupted coverage of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in favor of endless reruns of the CrossFit Games. Increased publicity has led, predictably, to increased criticism.
We have been CrossFitting for nearly five years. We decided that it was time to add our voices to this contentious debate.
There is no shortage of “diet” experts who delight in pointing out that half a bottle of wine with dinner adds roughly 300 to 325 calories to your day; a couple of pints of microbrew can add even more. The calories in alcohol, they argue, are too high and therefore incompatible with any form of dieting.
The two most frightening words in the English language are “extra crispy.”
We were reminded of this on a recent visit to the Hopkinton State Fair in New Hampshire. Some of the foods available from the vendors could rightly be described as homicidal. They had taken the least healthy foods that science has ever produced and found a way to more than double the calories without adding even a single useful nutrient.
All of those bright colors and food additives sheathed in oily breading got us wondering: exactly how many calories does deep-frying add? We knew that frying was bad, but we wanted to know how bad. That question turned out to be far more difficult to answer than we imagined.
Anthony Arendt is a glaciologist in the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska. His work defines the leading edge of glacial research. By combining cutting edge technologies like satellite gravimetry and airborne laser altimetry with old fashioned drilling for ice core samples, Arendt is pushing the envelope on our understanding of how glaciers work and how they are affected by our warming climate.
He pursues this knowledge at great personal risk. He was recently stranded on a glacier when his helicopter crashed during a winter storm. Last year, one of Arendt’s colleagues fell 75 feet into a crevasse while snowmobiling across a remote glacier. Forget all of the stereotypes of scientists isolated in underground laboratories. Picture instead the X Games with older athletes, less safety equipment and more math.
We didn’t contact Dr. Arendt to discuss climate change or any of his important work. We asked him about cocktail ice.
We do not promote binge drinking. We do not binge drink. We have, however, occasionally gone beyond our own healthy drinking guidelines. It is far from a regular occurrence. When it has happened, it is almost always following a particularly long and intense workout. On the theory that “we earned the extra calories,” we allow ourselves to call for one more round.
We recently came across several new studies that forced us to rethink our behavior. It turns out that the aftermath of a killer workout is exactly the wrong time to indulge. The days when we hit the gym the hardest are days that we should be the most restrained.
Don’t take this wrong. We still believe that alcohol is fully compatible with serious athletics. In fact, in lesser quantities it may benefit recovery. The key appears to be dosage. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. We will let the research tell the story.
We once again find ourselves at odds with the United States Government on the subject of food recommendations. We have already laid the blame for American obesity at the base of the old Food Pyramid. We reviewed the new MyPlate website and recommended that the name be changed to Carb-O-Matic. Recently, we have become aware of something even more distasteful.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture the perfectly grilled hamburger should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160°F. This is a travesty. We tried it. Andrea described the taste as, “like bobbing for apples in a bag of charcoal.”
Walking and running burn the same number of calories per mile. It is an oft repeated mantra that we have all heard thousands of times. This idea is rooted in eighth-grade physics, specifically the equation “work = force x distance.” For those who were distracted or otherwise missed that lecture, the point is that it takes a defined amount of energy to move a body of mass over a measured distance. The speed of the object is not taken into account. Therefore, running and walking should require the same amount of energy to cover the same distance.
This is usually presented as great news for walkers. “Take a stroll around the block,” the thinking goes. “It’ll burn just as many calories mile for mile as if you sprinted it.” The only problem with this doctrine is that it is absolutely not true.
Years ago we lived next door to Dave Elger, star of the low-budget TV Show Hot Mixology. The show’s concept is simple: Community Theater meets Leaving Las Vegas. When Charlie Sheen embarked on his post-meltdown comedy tour a few years ago, he was stealing Dave’s act.
One weak-minded on evening, Dave convinced us to join him on camera in the role of bar patrons. The moment a stranger dragged us into a lighted hallway and began coating us in layers of hairspray and makeup, we realized that we had made a terrible mistake. Andrea’s hair was teased to Debbie Harry perfection. The layers of CoverGirl on Steven’s neck and face were so thick that he felt like he was wearing a rubber Nixon mask. We saw the video the following day; our onscreen personas can best described as somewhere between Kardashian and rodeo clown.