Category Archives: Science

THE ANAL LOCK– THE KEY TO LIFTING!

Yeah, I know, my bad punning habits die hard, but the Anal Lock is an important maneuver every gym-goer and lifter should know perfectly.

But, first, a test. Push or pull a heavy object (a heavy box, your bed, or a dumbbell). Now, repeat the same move after blowing out the air in your lungs through your mouth. In other words, at this point in the test, you have no air in the chest. See how difficult it is to move the heavy object? 

Valsalva

The difference lies in the fact that when you blew out the air in your chest, your intra-abdominal pressure is low. Any muscular effort in such a situation is doomed to be weak and futile. Watch any experienced lifter during a squat or a deadlift: at the beginning of the lift, he fills in air inside his chest, and his belly goes out (lifters mistakenly call this as “filling your stomach with air”). He holds his breath, and lifts. The breath is expelled at the end of the lift. 

Among the various muscular events resulting in a successful lift is the Valsalva Maneuver. The entire body becomes rigid and in a state of high muscular tension, with the breath held inside a closed glottis (larynx) and the anal sphincters tightly clenched along with the glutes. The abdominal muscles are also braced as if for a punch.

During the Valsalva, the intra-abdominal pressure becomes very high, and the nervous system excited. Indeed, the phenomenon of hyperirradiation is evident– when all the muscles are tensed by the nervous system, the ones responsible for the actual lift are more efficiently and strongly stimulated. Try lifting a weight with one hand while clenching the other hand strongly, while also tensing your glutes and tightening your anal sphincter. Then try to do the lift with all the muscles relaxed. The difference will be clear and evident. 

The difference between a good lift and a failed one is often the lack of hyperirradiation and failed maintenance of the anal lock. Clearly, a Valsalva maneuver is essential to lift a heavy load. Concentrate on this technique of forced expiration against a closed throat (often the breath escapes in a grunt), and you will be able to lift more. 

One could do something like a Valsalva while not tensing the glutes and locking the anus. Why not do that? It is commonplace for untrained people to forget the glutes and anus while focussing on the technique of the actual lift. This has the disadvantage of a less efficient nervous system stimulation (less hyperirradiation) and on top of that the creation of a complication.

There is not much mention amongst trainers and coaches about an important consequence if you fail to maintain the anal lock during a heavy lift. The raised intra-abdominal pressure translates into raised intra-rectal pressure. The pressure in the anal veins increases and they prolapse out of the anus, leading to an internal tear of the veins under the perianal skin. This results in a perianal hematoma, also known as thrombosed piles/hemorrhoids. This is a painful condition that will stop you lifting for a few days, and may even need hospitalisation for evacuation of the blood clot (a surgery). However, most cases are self-limiting and resolve in a couple of weeks. Cold and later hot  Sitz baths are useful, as may be the application of anesthetic ointments (like 5% xylocaine/lidocaine) and the intake of oral pain-killers.

Trainers and athletes need to be aware of this complication, and remember the importance of the anal lock.

An important pointthe Valsalva maneuver may be dangerous for certain people. For example, people with hypertension or a propensity for strokes may have intracranial bleeds because of sharply raised blood pressure. A physician’s help should be sought in case there is any doubt if you should do the maneuver or not.

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WHEN IS A DIET BOOK FICTION?

kareena-kapoor-yogaI had heard of some nutritionist who had become famous because of actress Kareena Kapoor who had lost weight and allegedly become more attractive. I had also heard that this lady had written a book on the subject of nutrition and weight loss. Even better, I thought. Then a couple of patients asked me about the book and what I thought of it. It was then that I chanced upon the book by accident at a bookstore. I bought ‘Don’t Lose your mind, Lose your weight’ by Rujuta Diwekar and proceeded to read it.

To say I was disappointed would be understating the truth. I was dismayed. Shocked. Nauseated, even. Not only was the language atrocious (the author tries to act cool by using Mumbaiya slang liberally, and gleefully discusses acts normally referred to discreetly by polite society), but the substance was horribly false and unscientific.

She adds weight to her deliberations by name dropping. Astonishingly, she credits Anil Ambani with the quote “Common Sense is Uncommon”. I was impressed by that—how shallow and hypocritical does one have to be to do that bit of name dropping and eminence-by-association? Of course, the lovable ‘Bebo’ is freely referenced. The whole credibility of the author and the book seems to rest on this one case of weight loss and health gain. 

The author makes amazingly dumb claims like “laddu can be as wholesome a breakfast as omlette”, “pasta does not make you fat” and many more. I am getting irritated to even continue this critique of this most unworthy piece of nutritional fiction. 

I thought I would point out the scientific fallacies freely thrown about in every page. I thought I would underline to the reader and show that the blanket truisms she spouts every other line as if they are beyond question are almost all fake and false at the least, and fraudulent at the worst.

However, so numerous are these, so wild and outrageous the claims that I am already tired of rebutting them one by one. 

If she really believes all she wrote, she knows no actual nutritional science. If she does know the science, she has written fiction. Let her decide what she has done.

I do understand that I need to substantiate my comments on the book. As tiresome as it is, I will merely list a few, and only a few:

* “Because alcohol raises estrogens in the body, drunk men giggle like girls”. Does this need any rebuttal, you think?

* “In the absence of carbs, fat cannot be burnt” (a more idiotic statement that this would take some doing!).

* “Bread, biscuit and alcohol are all bad carbs”. Yeah, I wonder she didn’t say beef was bad carbs, too!

* “Carbs reduce bloating and improve metabolism”. And my name is Janet Jackson.

* “If you eat sweets during your festivities without guilt, you won’t put on fat. Take your body into confidence.” Where will the calories go, you ask? Probably gets burnt off by all the smiling and shitting (her favorite word) that the guiltless binge must induce.

* “Animal proteins are difficult to digest”. Really? I thought they were easily digested, absorbed and had a high biologic value (the BV of eggs is nearly 98% or so).

* “Protein by itself leads to muscle breakdown (catabolism), irritation, constipation, etc.” Powerlifters and bodybuilders who eat proteins obsessively are clearly victims of the muscle breakdown, huh, Ms. Diwekar?

* Fasting is bad. Eat every two hours for fat burning.” Evidence? “I am Kareena’s nutritionist”, she seems to say.

Enough already. Dissecting trash is not really a good utility of one’s time.

Does this book have some plus points? It does, a few, but they are unimportant.

LEARNING ABOUT IF

Coach Adam Steer, who teaches an incredible brand of exercise/fitness (called Circular Strength Training) was kind enough to ask me to share my thoughts on Intermittent Fasting with the readers of his blog.
You can get the post by clicking this link.

UNDERSTANDING HUNGER

As many of my readers are discovering, trying to bring in some semblance of control and balance in eating brings with it a sense of strain, a sense of doing something stressful and abnormal.
One of the reasons is the fact that we are largely culturally attuned to eating at regular hours and any change in that brings forth mental stress. Does that mean we are condemned to eating more and staying fat?
Hunger is a feeling that needs no definition. It is of two types: somatic hunger (the deep-rooted need for food felt when one is famished) and limbic hunger (the cravings for specific foods or an emotional food craving that occurs without starving).

the-hunger-hormone-is-it-really-that-easy-to-control-obesity-or-anorexia-2

If we recognize these two types, we can learn to pay heed to the former and ignore or downgrade the latter. In other words, recognize only true hunger, and ignore and crush those cravings which stem from some emotional disturbance or other.
Only when one does this can one eat sensibly and lose fat. Knowing when not to eat helps us to eat those treats we really cherish. If we ignore that temptation to eat a couple of slices of that cake going stale, and stay focussed on other things in life, we could actually eat a scoop of butterscotch icecream or have a Lindor truffle. We may be taking in 200 calories, but we saved ourselves more a few hours back. How? By downgrading one craving, and giving primacy to a superior one.
Once you start fasting, you begin to recognize the true signals of your body vis a vis hunger. Often, a glass of (lemon) water and a cup of liquor tea quells a hunger pang for a couple of hours. Even a chewing gum in the mouth keeps hunger at bay for some time, though sometimes it may momentarily exacerbate the hollow feeling in the belly. When the hunger pang becomes severe, it is wise not to ignore it. We are not trying to tear the mind apart in an exercise of self control. We are merely training the mind and body to behave the way we were evolutionarily designed to.
In medicine, a number of drugs have been tried to kill hunger and appetite. These anorexogenic drugs include sibutramine and the newer cannabinoid receptor blockers like rimonabant. These drugs bring a 5-10 percent fat loss but cause a lot of side effects, including suicidal ideations, clearly underlining the relationship between hunger and emotions.
Various hormones in the body act to drive hunger (and are called oroxogenic agents), chief among them being ghrelin, a hormone secreted from the stomach. Removing a large portion of the stomach in the operation called sleeve gastrectomy causes loss of appetite and major fat loss. This is one of the hottest bariatric procedures being done worldwide.
Insulin, the hormone that controls blood glucose levels, is also responsible for hunger. A large carbohydrate intake (following a meal that contains rice and potatoes, or pasta and pizza, for example) leads to an insulin surge. This brings down the blood glucose (which is largely stored in and as fat and glycogen), leading to the brain, which preferentially consumes glucose, thinking, “Oh, where is the glucose? I am starving!” This leads to a fresh pang of hunger, leading to more caloric intake. It is for this reason that cutting carbs may be the best way out in a fat loss program for a lot of people. However, for those people who are insulin sensitive, this may not be true.
Other hormones that play a role include leptin, Peptide YY, incretins, obestatin, amongst many others.
On a later date, I will outline how this may be of benefit in clinical fat loss programs.