Monthly Archive: August 2012

Do high protein diets cause kidney failure?


Extensive studies have shown that high protein diets do not cause any kidney failure. Articles on the topic have been published in everything from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition to JAMA, and they all say the same thing: high protein diets will not cause kidney failure.

First, let’s look at what it means to be in kidney/renal failure or to have kidney/renal disease. In order to see the first signs of kidney malfunction (PU/PD) 66% of your nephrons (the little tubules that work to concentrate your urine) must be damaged. In order to see further clinical signs, and to fit the actually classification of “failure,” you have to lose 75% of your nephrons. Your kidneys have incredible mechanisms for compensating for renal losses.

So where does this myth come from?

In those patients who already experienced some sort of kidney failure, switching to a low-protein diet was shown to decrease the acceleration of damage. Many made the false connection that this meant that the byproducts of protein metabolism are causing actual harm to the kidneys. In reality, it’s not so.

Let’s take a parallel argument.

A healthy, young person approaches you and says, “I would like to run a 5k.” Exercise is good for you, so you tell that person, “Yeah, go ahead!” The person runs the race with no adverse effects. Now say someone approaches you with a broken leg and says, “I would like to run a 5k.” Exercise is still good for you, but for this particular person running may not be a good idea. Running could cause further damage on the already broken leg. If anything, you’d recommend decreasing the use of that leg. Does that mean that exercise is bad? No. It’s just that it’s not a good idea for this particular person.

What a lot of articles fail to mention is what constituted as a “high protein diet.” Protein intake requirements are highly individualized based on type and amount of activity. In some of the studies done people were measured at 2-3x the recommended daily amount (10-30%) of protein and saw no adverse effects. Without being able to pin-point what constitutes as a “high protein diet” there’s really no merit to any claim of its ill effects.

If you are a healthy person with no history of kidney disease there’s no need to be concerned about high protein causing any disease. However, like any medical illnesses, if you’re a person with a compromised kidney then you should always seek medical advice before making any changes to your diet or routine.

Is it really 80% diet and 20% exercise? Or is it 70/30?

We hear it all the time – 20% exercise, 80% diet. Or, wait…is it 30% exercise and 70% diet? Aren’t abs made in the kitchen, but you won’t get definition without some heavy liftin’?

It’s not that these sayings are untrue so much as they’re misleading. No worries, I’m here to clear this up for you.

There is no mathematical way to break down whether exercise or diet is more important for your goals. If you want to run a marathon, changing your diet isn’t going to help you with endurance. Exercise, specifically running, will. This goes the same for any goal – gaining muscle isn’t achieved by just increasing protein consumption, it’s gained by exercise. Sure, the two go hand in hand, but is it really as simple as an 80/20 or 70/30 ratio?

So what are these numbers trying to tell us? If you’re falling short on your goals – fitness or weight loss – you need to look at your diet. If you don’t appropriately fuel your body you’re not going to get anything out of it. Additionally, if you’re trying to lose weight, falling into the “exercise your pizza away” trap will lead to a vicious cycle. Exercise should never be a compensatory tool for any meal you just ate.

The truth of the matter is that diet is very important, and much easier to tailor than exercise for weight loss. If you want to lose weight, you must create a caloric deficit (you can read about this here). Creating a calorific deficit by switching out high calorie foods with low nutrient density for low calorie foods with high nutrient density (see: trading pizza for chicken breast) is much easier and takes all of 1 minute. If you wanted to burn those calories off, you’re committing yourself to miles of running or hours at the gym. It’s easier to rein in your diet and make small changes here and there than to spend surplus time at the gym to “make up” for a bad diet.

Additionally, people tend to underestimate what they eat and overestimate what they burn. The science behind burning calories is not exact. The science behind the caloric content of your food an estimate. Watching your portions is easier, and more effective, then plugging away on the treadmill for 4 hours every morning.

Diet is important because your body requires fuel to function. It also takes less time to swap out high calorie for low calorie than exercising “off” excess calories.

Exercise is important because without challenging your body, you’ll never see results. Lifting weights, running, swimming, etc. is how you increase muscle mass, strength, endurance or cardiovascular healthy. Diet alone cannot do that.

It’s not x% vs. x% – it’s a good balance between fueling your body and making it work hard.

What weighs more – a pound of muscle or a pound of fat?

A pound of feathers and a pound of bricks both weigh a pound – it’s not a trick.

The idea that a pound of muscle weighs more than a pound of fat is a misunderstanding. A pound is a pound is a pound. The difference is how much space they take up. Since muscle is more dense, a pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat. That’s why two people of the same weight and height can look so different – muscle mass can change your appearance drastically.

It’s also important to remember that fat does not become muscle. You lose fat, you gain muscle – they’re two completely different things. So when you’ve gained weight but lost inches you’ve LOST fat and GAINED muscle. Your fat didn’t become muscle.

Approaching Women At the Gym

Contrary to some belief, I think it’s totally possible to talk to women at the gym (with or without the intention of picking them up) and not be seen as terrifying.

Terrifying? Why would anyone find me terrifying?

Let me put you in our shoes: from day one we are taught certain behaviors to decrease our likelihood of assault. Plain and simple. Imagine spending your entire life bombarded with “How not to get raped” or “How not to get assaulted” etc. We live in constant fear that certain group of people (namely men) are going to take advantage of us at any given point and time, so we better be hypervigilant and not wear certain things, go certain places, etc. We’re also taught not to be “too mean” to guys when we let them down, because they may actually retaliate with violence. Additionally, if you’re in the gym, chances are you’re fitter than our average non-gym-going suitors. That puts us at higher risk of injury should you decide to act on any impulses we’ve been taught you have (despite the fact they’re ingrained via rape culture and social construct).


It’s totally possible to come up to a woman (or any person who identifies as a woman) and speak to them without making them feel awkward, uncomfortable, frightened, etc. Here are some tips from a female who gets approached often and has made friends and enemies based on those interactions. I want to stress that this does not work for everyone, especially since people are so diverse. However, I think I hit the main reasons women HATE being approached so you can avoid them.

  1. We are not Sweetie, Honey, Sugar, or any other perversion of this pet name. You start a conversation like this you sound like a condescending asshole. Please make sure the first thing you ask us is our name, and then use it.
  2. Make eye contact. Do not creepily sweep my body with your eyes, blatantly stare at my ass while I squat or deadlift, try to look up my shorts while I bench, nor down my shirt while I do bent over barbell rows.
  3. Do not ask to spot us. Unless we are doing 1RM (and it’s fucking obvious that we’re doing 1RM) do not ask to spot us. Most of the time spotting us involves putting your junk in our face or your junk into our ass (I mean, someone once asked to spot my squat while I was warming up about 100 pounds LESS than my 1RM. No no no no no) You’re right, I will eventually need someone to spot my bench. When that day comes I will look for a familiar, friendly face…not some creeper always asking to push his man parts into my personal space.
  4. Respect our personal space. If you want to talk to us after a set, do not stand awkwardly close to us while we’re finishing up. It’s distracting. Imagine if some bro stood inches from you while you were doing preacher curls and just stared.
  5. If you’re going to compliment us, be sincere and not superficial. I’ve made a great friend at my old gym because of this. One day I was benching and he came up to me and said, “Hey, I saw you squatting yesterday, you had fantastic form.” This is a sincere, non-threatening compliment. You’re appreciating my strength and/or skill, not some physical attribute. After you’ve known me for awhile it may (or may not!) be appropriate to say something like, “Wow, you’ve really sculpted your calf muscles nicely!” But to approach a woman with, “Girl, your quads are fine” is the best way to get a dirty look.
  6. If you want to talk to us, make sure we’re not busy. Resting between sets, before/after a workout (sometimes neither of these), etc. are all appropriate times. Pretend we’re some random guy you asked to spot you, when would YOU want to talk to them?
  7. Don’t be a fucking know-it-all. There’s an “off-duty trainer” at my old gym that would interrupt me to correct the most mundane, stupid things ever that weren’t relevant or just downright wrong. If your first conversation with a girl is you telling her that her arm needs to be at a 90 degree angle, not a 89 degree angle, she’s going to fucking hate you. Go away. Unless we look clueless, lost, about to injure ourselves, etc. do not put your two cents in. Even then, don’t do it. Ask a personal trainer or staff member to do it – that’s their job.
  8. Don’t be condescending. This ties into #1 and #7, but sometimes you guys do it and don’t even know it. “Sweetie, you’re doing it all wrong” or “You know, if you do this and this you’ll be more explosive” or “you can lift more than that!” You don’t know our training program, goals, if it’s a deload week, if we’re injured, etc. Don’t be condescending and act like you’re teaching us something to drastically alter our routine. What I’ve learned from other lady lifters is that we’re usually uber paranoid starting out. We don’t want to be the idiot at the gym who doesn’t know wtf is going on, so we google and youtube and Tumblr until we have a clear understanding of what we’re doing. This is in direct contrast to a lot of men in the weight room. Obviously this doesn’t apply to all/most men/women at the gym, but still. Don’t be a douche.
  9. Don’t waste our time trying to have a 45 minute conversation. Once you’ve started a conversation, keep it short. 5 minutes max, maybe. I like to do circuits, and if my heart rate drops for 5 minutes it’s 5 minutes wasted. A quick hello, introduction, etc. is sufficient. After you’ve made first contact start to incorporate waving, nods, smiling, etc. when entering/leaving the gym and you see the other person. If they return them, are the first to smile/nod/etc., or openly seek conversation then you’re golden. Most women who feel threatened (or just aren’t into it) will smile, nod and act friendly but will reply with one word answers and not seek you out again. Does this annoy you? See the disclaimer above.

These are pretty straight forward, but how can this be implemented? Let me share some great conversations I’ve had with people at the gym that have lead to friendships or just gymships.

“Flag Nor Fail shirt? You’re a DLB fan too?”

“Hey, I saw you squat yesterday, I just wanted to say you have amazing form.”

“What’s your name? My name is ______. I see you here all the time and damn, you go hard/your squat is insane/etc.”

“I saw you were doing this exercise I’d never seen before. What’s it called? What muscles does it build?”

“How are you today?/Some anecdote about the weather/How about them Cowboys?”

Likewise, there are some inappropriate or just downright wrong things to say. Like…

“Hey honey, do you need a spotter?”

“You lift heavy for a girl”

“If you do that in the Smith Machine it’s safer”

“You have really pretty biceps/hair/face/you’re really pretty for a lifter”

In conclusion, the best way to approach someone at the gym is to be courteous of their time, space and routine. Do not interrupt sets, do not give out free advice, and do not act like you’re a judge at the Hooters International Swimsuit Show. First and foremost people are at the gym to exercise, and not everyone finds the gym an appropriate place to socialize and/or make friends. Do not get mad or offended if women don’t respond to your advances at the gym – they may feel uncomfortable or are just plain not interested in meeting someone (at the gym or otherwise).

I hope this addresses some fears women have with being approached by men at the gym and helps to correct them at the right level – where men can see it.