So three months ago, I wrote a (sort of) takedown of the lack of anthropological data in many popular Paleo/Primal books and information in general. My view on this has not changed and I still will be looking into other data as I said I would, I just don’t have the time to write right now…I’m doing enough of that for school!

But recently in the last month or so, the whole paleosphere has basically blown up due to (thanks to?) the publication of Marlene Zuk’s new book entitled Paleofantasy… in which she basically says everything paleo is bunk, based on made-up garbage science, et cetera. So this sent pretty much everyone into a tizzy on both sides of the debate, something I’d frankly kept out of because I’ve been doing something more important than keeping up with a trend: reading books. Anyway, her book sent many people either into body-twisting shit fits or lots of finger pointing and sneering, depending on what side of the fence you’re on. I’ve read enough now to know that much of her book is written as a smear attempt, based on factually incorrect data that she, a evoltionary biologist, should have known better than to use. Kind of like Derek Freeman’s attempt to takedown Margaret Mead’s Samoan data by using his own heavily biased data, which was summarily ripped apart by the anthropological community. Zuk attempted a hit on the scene and she’ll sell a lot of books, convince a lot of people that eating meat and veggies (and other real foods) are a “fad”, but I don’t think she’ll be writing an update to the book in the future, her credibility will have suffered too much.

However, I did read a pair of great posts by Miki Ben-Dor of Tel Aviv and one by Paul Jaminet, author of the Perfect Health Diet (still the best Paleo diet book I’ve read to date) that go heads and shoulders above nearly everything else everyone has written. Not because they try very hard to maintain a neutral bias, but because they do one thing: stick to facts. Nikoley has a great post full of piss and vinegar, as anyone would expect, but it’s not something I would point someone to if I wanted to say “this will explain in detail why Zuk’s wrong”, whereas Ben-Dor and Jaminet nailed it on the head. One thing I read that I can really agree with is that Zuk’s book “should have been a blog post in 2012, not a book in 2013” (Sisson, natch!). And he’s totally right. She mostly covered stuff that the community figured out about two years ago and summarily left behind.

All of this back-and-forth only proves one thing: paleo’s hit the mainstream and it’s having some real growing pains. Prominent TV talking heads have been talking about it for the last year or two, numerous news outlets have run articles on it (pro and con), and it’s even crept on to The Biggest Loser. This book will be both good and bad for the community as a whole, but it certainly will do little to stop its progress forward.

In addition to all the anthropological, political, and strength-related information I read every week, I also read lots of nutritional-related information, much of which is based around fresh research or newly-released papers. I don’t always read the papers — I typically do not have direct access to them, even through my University…and most are god awful long — but I do tend to listen to field experts who do. So when this post from Glen Matten popped up about antioxidants, his recent book The Health Delusion and a new paper on the efficacy of antioxidants, I took note. It all boils down to something very easy to digest: antioxidants are good for us on a cellular level, so ousting them isn’t always a great idea. Honestly, just go read the whole thing, it’s short but quite informational.

But I do have one nitpick with a nitpick of Glen’s, albeit a small one that I think is a misunderstanding. Glen takes issue with Dr. Watson’s take on why we should eat antioxidant rich foods such as blueberries.

Secondly, Watson doesn’t quite grasp contemporary thinking about why fruits and vegetables are good for us when he writes “blueberries best be eaten because they taste good, not because their consumption will lead to less cancer.” It’s horribly reductionist to think that fruits and vegetables could be good for us solely because of their antioxidant content.

My interpretation of what Watson said is “eat blueberries because they’re delicious, not solely because they can help stave off cancer, that’s just an added benefit.” Who knows, we may both be wrong and Dr. Watson meant something else entirely. But seriously, blueberries are delicious and you should be eating them whenever they’re in-season. I buy pounds of them when I can.

Vitamin infographic

Vitamin infographic

Well this is a neat little display of the essential vitamins and how to easily obtain them from real, whole food sources. If one was determined enough, they could use this to help them dump a multivitamin and remain determined to get all the daily vitamins from foods rather than a pill.

So I’ve plumbed further into Eat to Live by Dr. Fuhrman and I’ve now decided that I cannot read it any longer. Not because it’s rather misleading, which it is, but because it’s a 400 page book that can be replaced by a Google search for “how to be a vegetarian” and reading the first five links. That saves you from reading 400 pages and $9 on Amazon. While never flat out saying it’s a vegetarian diet, that’s exactly what Dr. Fuhrman has designed his diet as. It’s also full of misleading information, numbers tricks, and just enough vague language to land on the sane side of dietary preacherhood. I’m 17% through the book — I’m reading a Kindle version so I don’t have page numbers — and I can find a logical or factual fallacy every few paragraphs, so it’s not worth my time to read something so willfully misleading. Let’s look at some quotes that I’ve found interesting. I’ve tried my best to not take these out of context to say something they otherwise do not.

Refined or extracted oils, including olive oil, are rich in calories and low in nutrients.

Olive oil and other salad and cooking oils are not health foods and are certainly not diet foods.

Both of these are quite true, most oils are high in calories, but they’re hardly evil foods. Proof? The hundreds of generations of Italians, Greeks, Romans, and Spaniards who produce this stuff and have eaten it for millennia. There’s a reason that study after study have found these populations to have some of the lowest incidence of CVD in spite of their heavy consumption of oils. Why? Olive oil contains high amounts of oleic acid which has been widely proven to lower chances of cardiac disease. Did Dr. Fuhrman mention this? Of course not, because he’s afraid of oils. Rather than linking to one or two studies, Wikipedia links to over two dozen, including many conducted by Fuhrman’s favorite go-to doctor, Dr. William Willet, who loves the diet (but Fuhrman says that Dr. Willet hates). Fuhrman tries to say this diet is healthy (sort of) but then says that Cretans are just fat and lazy like Americans.

In the 1950s people living in the Mediterranean, especially on the island of Crete, were lean and virtually free of heart disease. Yet over 40 percent of their caloric intake came from fat, primarily olive oil.

Today the people of Crete are fat, just like us. They’re still eating a lot of olive oil, but their consumption of fruits, vegetables, and beans is down. Meat, cheese, and fish are their new staples, and their physical activity level has plummeted.

Emphasis is mine. See the tricky writing? He correlates two things: Cretans eat more meats (meat and fish), cheese, and less veggies, so that’s why they’re fat. That’s not really true, they’ve always eaten a lot of all of those things. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be absolute staples of typical Greek and Cretan cuisine since…forever. He also says that they’ve always eaten a lot of olive oil, so that must clearly also be a problem. Why? He’s oil-phobic, period. They’ve been making and eaten the stuff for thousands of years. The reason they’re fatter is the lowered consumption of vegetables, fruits, and a lack of physical exercise, not an increase — imagined or otherwise — of animal products. All quotes can be found between locations 783 and 818 in the Kindle version (again, no page numbers).

The same studies that show the anti-cancer effects of green leafy vegetables and fruits and beans suggest that potato-heavy diets are not healthy and show a positive association with colon cancer.

(location 976)

The studies he’s referring to are here1 and here2. Both links are the full text. The first study concludes that a high consumption of a potato-heavy diet only had a positive uptick in their white participants — they studied both white and black populations. This correlation between potato consumption and colorectal cancer was not shown in the black study group. Its study case was comprised of 1904 participants in North Carolina and North Carolina only, therefore confounding the findings to a single population area. Results were gathered via diet history questionnaire. Funny enough, Richard Nikoley has been hitting a potato-only diet hard and heavy for the last few months and has noticed very positive results, namely he feels fucking awesome. So why does Richard and this first study not stack up? He’s a healthy, middle-aged white guy. Coincidentally this takes a huge dump all over study number two which states that heavy potato consumption bumps up colorectal cancer occurrence in men and women across the board, based on diet history questionnaires of 492,382 participants of those old enough to be in AARP, aka middle-aged Americans. Both studies relied on the same survey technique, the diet history questionnaire. Since both included population sizes of more than a dozen people, this was more than likely a food frequency questionnaire combined with a health history questionnaire, because an actual diet history consultation is a length interview, typically an hour or more. Do you think the NIH/AARP interviewed half a million people? Hell no, they sent out 3.5 million surveys in the mail and relied on the honesty of people for their answers. So the results depend on how honest people wanted to be.

These next two are my favorites that I’ve come across so far, only because it shows how Dr. Fuhrman manipulates the data towards his agenda: animals are bad, plants are good.

Steak has only 6.4 grams of protein per 100 calories and broccoli has 11.1 grams, almost twice as much. (location 1185)

Earlier I compared 100 calories of greens with 100 calories of meat. I did not contrast them by weight or by portion size, as is more customary. I compared equal caloric portions because it is meaningless to compare foods by weight or portion size. (location 1276)

Using weight instead of calories in nutrient-analysis tables has evolved into a ploy to hide how nutritionally unsound many foods are. (location 1303)

Just think about those three statements for a minute, really think about them. The emphasis is mine. It’s a bait-and-switch, basically, and he admits it. This is because dieters think of food in caloric quantities because they’re terrified of eating more calories than they “should”. Americans have been conditioned to fear calories and hold them up as a sacred cow. This is because it’s easier to get them to eat anything that’s calorically-dense and push them to lower calorie foods, mostly grains-based processed products such as breads and pastas. Do you know why foods are actually measured by portion size or weight instead of a calorie? It’s because a portion and a weight are physical things you can actually measure in a store, a calorie is an arbitrarily assigned number. You cannot go to your grocery store, pick up an apple, and measure off 89 calories of it. But what you can do is pick up an apple and weigh it to find out if it’s half a pound or just a few ounces. Let’s look at each statement.

The first one is absolutely true, 100 calories of broccoli has nearly twice as much protein as the same amount of steak. But what Dr. Fuhrman doesn’t talk about is that 100 calories of broccoli is exactly 385 grams or 13.6 ounces (0.85lbs) and 100 calories of steak is only 36 grams or 1.26 ounces (0.08lbs). He uses chopped frozen broccoli and broiled porterhouse (I had to choose a generic one, there’s actually 8 different ones). So to get the exact same number of calories, you have to eat 1070% more broccoli than steak. So this means that as a woman who is eating 1600 calories a day (as he suggests after this quote), you would need to eat about 6150 grams or 13.6lbs of broccoli a day. Thirteen pounds, are you insane? You have to be, but that’s the type of stuff he’s suggesting. Again, I’m only using his numbers and his suggestions to convey the insanity of this supposition. This is because he suggests eating a nutritionally-dense diet versus one that’s calorically-dense (or even calorically-smart), which achieves the effect of eating less (so you lose weight, duh) and eat lots of nutrients. Basically, you spend all your time eating.

The second and third quote actually illustrate why his selected measurements are a farce. You can’t buy 400 calories of spinach and 500 calories of kale in the store. But you can buy anything in grams, ounces, milligrams, pounds, and even kilograms. I can pick up a half-pound steak and tell you the approximate weight because that’s how humans weigh things. No one in the world can pick up that same half pound and tell you it’s approximately 626 calories, because calories don’t weigh anything at all, it’s just a number. He says it’s meaningless to compare portion sizes or weights because it would clearly illustrate the difference between nutritionally-dense and calorically-dense foods, it’s not any ploy — as he says — to hide anything. People have been weighing things by grams, ounces, pounds, etc. for hundreds of years and before that, things got weighed by comparison to real-world objects (i.e. a bushel, a bale, etc.) because these things had a measurable and finite size. A calorie doesn’t. A kilogram is the same no matter what, a kilo of broccoli and steak are the exact same thing: one kilogram. It’s just that there’d be armfuls of broccoli to make the same weight. Your body doesn’t actually care at all, it’s going to burn the food either way to make energy.

I forgot to mark this but he actually says proteins are nothing special and shouldn’t be held in high esteem. I’m sorry, but WHAT?! Every muscle and organ in our body is built by protein. Our bodies cannot function in any way without protein, at all. If we had zero protein ingestion, our cells wouldn’t replicate or repair, our muscles wouldn’t exist, we would have no blood vessels, simply put: we wouldn’t exist. After all, our DNA is built by amino acids which build proteins. This statement is what got me to stop reading the book because it’s simply factually incorrect and quite correctly, a lie. If our bodies are deprived of any of the three major macronutrients (fat, protein, carb), it is all out of whack and things stop working. No carbs? Expect your brain to turn to mush because it’s powered by carbs. No protein? You’re non-existent. No fat? You’re screwed in a lot of ways. This is quite literally why I’m not reading any longer, proteins are probably the most important macronutrient we ingest and to say it’s nothing special is simply lying.

This coupled with his dietary guidelines are just crazy. I think he should have called the book Live to Eat because that’s basically all you’ll do: eat pounds of food to live and attain a caloric sufficiency. He even brings this up by saying if you ate like an ape and consumed 80% of your calories per day from vegetables, you’d spend 6-8 hours a day eating. I can think of something easier: three eggs, three slices of bacon and I have enough calories for 6 hours of activity. No doubt Dr. Fuhrman’s diet has helped people but he should call it exactly what it is: raw vegetarianism, nothing more. It’s not a new diet, it’s not a new idea, he just put a new sheen on it.

Back in November, I got my hands on the Timex Run Trainer and I’ve been using it everyday since then. And not just for its functionality as a GPS-enabled fitness watch but as an everyday watch as well. So now I’ve got over five months of experience of using this and I want to provide an update to the previous review, which was only based on having it for about a week.

DISLIKES:

I still think the watch is literally huge and at least 20%-25% of size could easily be shaved off to make something less unwieldy. Again, my Garmin FR210 has 90% of the same software functions and is half as large. Just to give you an idea of the size difference, here’s a shot of the FR210 on top of the TRT itself.

Size comparison: Garmin FR210 on top of the Timex Run Trainer

Size comparison: Garmin FR210 on top of the Timex Run Trainer

If they make a 2012 or 2013 version of this watch, they need to seriously shrink it down. Size aside, the weight is hardly noticeable once you wear it after a while, I hardly ever notice it on my wrist unless it gets caught on something because it’s so damned large; I can barely put my motorcycle jacket on without either taking the watch off or undoing the cuffs to their largest diameter first. But enough about its mammoth girth.

This thing seriously needs a new strap design. The stiff rubber doesn’t conform to any wrist shape I’ve ever seen in my entire life, but it’s perfectly round enough to fit around a bottle with no issue. Conversely, the Garmin FR910XT makes use of an ingenious design: make one arm of the strap swing freely like an actual watchband. Imagine that, a technology company using a piece of design tech from a regular watch, something Timex has made since 1854. Seeing this literally blows my mind, they got scooped at their own game. I cannot decide if Timex designed the Run Trainer to fit bicycle bars or bottles, but it wasn’t made for a human wrist, that’s for sure.

Indiglo still sucks horribly but I’ve learned when to use it most effectively. It’s truly only useful well into the night, it’s pointless at or around dusk. Fiddling with the contrast helps some but I still firmly believe that a color inversion on the display would work better, something Suunto has done with success. The actual brightness has taken some getting used to as well, but it’s usable. Not great but not bad, but not really good either. It’s there, so you use it or you don’t.

While its functionality is still designed by engineers — you can tell a UI or UX designer never came close to touching this thing — getting acclimated to how it works does not take very long, especially if you read the manual. It still has operational or design quirks that I think would have been normal 5 years ago but should never occur today (e.g. all sensors stay on until you manually turn them off, I don’t know of any fitness watch that doesn’t turn those functions off after X minutes). Luckily, this is 100% fixable through a firmware update but getting Timex to actually fix that is another point altogether. Their support on their Facebook page is extremely responsive but does not always follow through.

To get the data off the watch, you have to use Training Peaks’ Device Agent, which isn’t bad, but it’s another engineer-designed app, just like their website. It’s all about getting data in front of your eyeballs, regardless of format or how it looks. Besides the fact that TrainingPeaks’ website is god awful confusing for most people to use, locking users into using it is a very poor choice, especially for first time users. I’m not saying Timex or TP should debut a site as easy to use as Garmin Connect, but they do need to make strides to make the site (and software) far more usable for those users that aren’t high-level athletes with coaches. Or they need to do something else: allow easy export (in part or whole) of your data into a .FIT file or similar file format. I’ve searched their forums and tried everything in TP’s site but there’s no easy way to export your data to any other service such as Garmin Connect, RunKeeper, Endomondo, or anything else. Instead, you have to rely on exporting the .PWX.GZ file generated by the Timex Run Trainer and then using a 3rd party site to convert to .FIT, .KML or another format for use on other services, which tends to not be the most reliable data output you’ll get. These results tend to be hit-and-miss at best, with data points getting dropped, munged, or other data left out altogether. The worst fun part about this is you have to export each workout data set one-by-one and TrainingPeaks have no plans to offer any type of mass export. They want to keep your data in their analytics package and do not want to let you have data portability. And if you want any type of advanced analytics, you have to pay for their premium package, all to get the same results from other services that offer it for free. While this isn’t necessarily a problem with Timex, it is their problem in that they only allow you to have one single data output format and analytics dashboard, but the other problem lies with TrainingPeaks to make getting your data out of their walled garden difficult, much to the dismay of their own users. I have a feeling this partnership came to fruition because Timex has a share in TrainingPeaks and making sure its use grows. Companies need to realize, as end users, we like choice and options to view our data and forcing us to use a single application to view that data is not a wise decision. If I’m paying over $200 for the Timex Run Trainer, the least they could do is pair it with a free year of premium TrainingPeaks access — I realize there is a “special” Timex-branded dashboard account you can get but it only offers up a few free training plans (all of which are only useful for marathoners or triathletes) and one or two extra analytics options, none of which is any use to me. The upside to getting the branded dashboard is that it removes TP’s annoying ads.

If you like using a footpod, just get yourself a Forerunner 210 or a much more expensive watch. For whatever reason, Timex decided that if you use both the GPS and a footpod at the same time, the watch needs to trust the footpod over the GPS for distance and speed data. That’s right: it uses the footpod over the GPS…BY DESIGN. That’s great if you’re running on a treadmill but then, you don’t even use the GPS anyway, you’re inside. Every other watch will combine the data from both to give even more accurate results or will switch over to the footpod for distance and speed when there is weak or no GPS signal. With the Timex Run Trainer, you get the choice of using the GPS or the footpod, not both. Timex designed it this way on purpose, which is why I’ve never even synced my footpod with the watch.

The watch has different activity modes for stuff like walking, hiking, running, cross-training, and so on. But the manual doesn’t talk about them at all so there’s no explanation of why these modes are there, why you can configure them, or if they calculate the data slightly differently. The only reason I can see for them being in the watch is so that when you import the data to TrainingPeaks, it can be automatically color-coded for that particular activity. Other than that, I’ve found literally no difference in how ‘run’ and ‘crosstrain’ are used or calculated. They could excise this “feature” altogether and use the extra bits to make the backlight time out configurable.

Honestly, most of my complaints 5 months down the road in owning this are almost identical to the ones I had after using it for a week. I’m used to them now, but that doesn’t make them any less annoying or boneheaded. If Timex doesn’t fix such rather simple issues in their next iteration of a GPS-based watch, they should seriously consider not making them any longer. This is a crowded field and is getting more crowded by the year, and while Timex has only made two GPS watches (three if you count the soon-to-be released Marathon GPS T5K638 which removes HRM functionality), they’re getting beaten by everyone else, including the Soleus 1.0 which is the first GPS-based watch from Soleus and pretty much everyone loves it. If Timex is getting beat by someone as small as Soleus, they have little chance of stealing market share from Garmin or people armed with smartphones and Wahoo Bluetooth dongles.

LIKES:

After my first week of using the watch, I hated the mushy, crappy buttons. Well, my mind has changed a little over time, but only a little. I still hate the mushy feedback and the fact that I hit them randomly from time-to-time with the back of my hand, but I’ve come to enjoy the feel of them. They’re huge buttons, that’s a definite plus. The mushy action does help prevent accidental presses sometimes but doesn’t always succeed, it’s a very mixed bag. But this mushiness is a champ when you’re slogging through a mud run or heavy rain and the waterproof rubber under those buttons keeps the watch running. Timex gets an A for the idea, B- for effort. They could have rubberized the outside of the buttons and made them 100% waterproof with a really good functional amount of button travel. Maybe in the future. Perhaps they’ll poach some of Garmins design engineers to do this since they’ve done it for a few generations now.

Last time, I thought the backlight timeout was too short and by default, it is. But I recently discovered that if you hold the INDIGLO button down until it beeps three times in succession, the backlight stays on. WIN! On every night run I do, I leave the light on the entire time now. I just wish it mentioned this in the manual. By measure, you need to hold down the INDIGLO button for about 8 seconds before it beeps three times.

I can now say that this thing is certainly water-resistant to 50 meters just like it says. Between a million showers (both in rain and in my bathroom), gallons of sweat, some beer, gobs of mud, and even slogging through saltwater, this thing hasn’t quit and died on me from water exposure. Even when I press those mushy buttons covered in mud, they still function and my watch continues to live. Although, a thorough cleaning of the watch after any activity involving something other than water or sweat is highly advised. So far, it’s built tougher than I am. The thick plastic face doesn’t hurt either, it’s extremely well sealed on my watch.

I know the watch is huge but the biggest upside to that is you get huge numbers on that display. During a run, I have my heart rate displayed in the middle on a 3-line display and there’s no mistaking or mis-reading the numbers because they’re huge. I would say that in a 3-line configuration, the middle data display is approximately one-half inch, absolutely HUGE compared to other watches. Definite plus. This large face translates well to running a 4-line display as well and I use that as my main display during non-running workout sessions. If I could configure it to a 2-line display, I probably would.

Certainly lending to its large size and tough outer plastic face, this thing is built tough. I’ve slammed it countless times against counter tops, bars, barbells, my kettlebell, and other tough surfaces and the body itself shows little to no signs of wear. Let’s just say I think it’s built like a plastic tank, tough but by no means indestructible. When I ran the Georgia Spartan Sprint a week ago, my watch face finally fell victim to a massive 400 foot long mud crawl, it’s now covered in scratches. The face is still readable but the plastic is no longer shiny and scratch-free, but matted and dull. Granted, I think just about any other watch would have given up the ghost, but the Timex Run Trainer is still working. Now I just hope getting a new screen replacement is easy.

I love, love, love the EAT and DRINK timers because, well, they’re super helpful. When I use them, I have them set up for every 15 minutes or so because I know in a 5k race, that will be about the same time we hit the first water/aid station so I can train in a nearly identical atmosphere to an actual race (they’re useless in an obstacle course race though unless you have a hydration belt or pack). But I’ve also used them as alert timers for doing drills such as push-ups or dive bombers during runs, just to kick things up a notch. Really, not much to talk about here since it’s just a timer that goes off at an interval you set.

Conclusions
Now that I’ve used this watch nearly everyday for almost 5 months straight, I’ve got a considerable amount of experience with it, as you can see. I’ve used this watch as both my daily to-wear watch and for every exercise I’ve done since I got it, the only time it has left my wrist was either to charge or after cleaning it from race-related debris. While it’s not the most fashion-forward watch, it’s not a garish eye sore either. The watch is in a tough field with a ton of choices and for the price, it does everything $400-plus watches do at half the cost, which is a definite plus. But the real question is this: would I ever recommend it to my friends as their first GPS-enabled fitness watch?

No

I’d just tell them to get a Forerunner 210. Why? Now, I love the fact that I get most of the functionality from Timex’s own Global Trainer and Garmin’s 400, 600, and 910XT series for under $250USD, but there are drawbacks. It’s rather confusing and daunting to use at first and I think that even my technology-savvy programmer friends would find this tough to use. It’s built-to-last but that makes it big, bulky, and ugly and ill-fitting. I know for a fact that this thing will last me a year’s worth of swimming and mud crawls before it dies unless I do something stupid with it first. INDIGLO could be great, but it’s not, it’s 20 year old technology that functions like it did 20 years ago. The display could use some design enhancements (ref: Suunto’s new Ambit, its display is gorgeous) but it’s infinitely more readable than others on the market. Once you get used to TrainingPeaks and how it works, it provides an excellent way to analyze your workout data, just don’t expect to use that data in RunKeeper. If this watch were Timex’s first foray into the GPS-enabled watch world, I’d say they did a good enough job and have a very stable platform to build on but since this is now their second watch released since 2010, this second generation watch should have been a vast improvement over the Global Trainer rather than acting as an incremental upgrade at a lower cost (albeit, minus much more advanced features as well). If they want to stay in this market, they’re going to have to really step up their game to come close to gaining traction.

Right now, I’ve got my complaints but the Timex Run Trainer serves nearly all of my needs without fail and until something super-ridiculous-amazing comes out to replace it (from any company), I’ll keep using it because its function in obstacle course racing is unparalleled in its price range.