Monday, October 27, 2014

Life without Caffeine

We have been heavy coffee drinkers for over 40 years and always believed that we could not function without our daily mega-dose of caffeine. That changed this summer when we started taking supplements of iodine in the form of Lugols Solution.  The iodine gave us so much energy that we had to cut back on our morning coffee to keep from being too hyper. Even our daily square of dark chocolate ritual started feeling uncomfortable from the caffeine and sugar rush.  We were astonished that we no longer needed caffeine to get out of bed and keep going during the day.  We drank less and less every week and after a couple of months the coffee started tasting awful, so we stopped drinking it entirely.  Now we are living without caffeine.

Life is very different without caffeine.  The days used to rush by us so fast that we could not keep up.  Now it feels like everything has slowed down and is in slow motion.   We notice everything; the sun rise, the wind, the saturation of colors in the ocean, and the changes in the spectrum of light during the day.  Caffeine constricts the blood flow to the brain and causes people to focus on more immediate tasks.  The extra blood flow we are getting is making us more aware of our environment.

Our daily coffee kept us going but it also made us jumpy, nervous and hyper.  Caffeine increases the stress hormone cortisol in the body.  All that cortisol made the news  much more upsetting. We are more calm.  We are focused on our own life and not as distracted by the global conflicts.  It is wonderful to have our minds working on making good things happen and not focused on how bad things might go.

Our workouts in the gym are easier.  Caffeine constricts the blood to the muscles. With the additional blood flow, weights feel lighter.  Caffeine can also prevent you from building muscle and although we may be imagining it, it does feel like we are getting stronger.

At night, we really notice the lack of caffeine.  We used to be hyped up in the evening and drank wine to help us unwind and relax.  Now, when the sun goes down we feel ourselves winding down quickly.  We used to struggle to get up in the morning and now we wake up early, before sun rise. 

We would have never have guessed that life without caffeine was possible let alone so enjoyable!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bread, Gout, and Breathlessness

We recently read The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance by Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney and it gave us a new insight into how bread and other carbohydrates cause gout attacks and make us short of breath.

Eating carbohydrates causes glucose (blood sugar) levels to rise and the body to produce insulin to store any excess glucose as glycogen in the liver.  When the insulin level goes down, the stored glycogen is broken down into glucose for energy.   The process of glycogen breaking down produces CO2 which is released through breathing.  Exercise uses the stored glycogen faster and increases the concentration of CO2 in the blood making it more acidic. The increased acidity can cause Uric acid in the blood to start precipitating out into the needle like crystals that cause gout.   Exercise causes rapid breathing to rid of the body of CO2 and can make you breathless.

However, there is a form of fuel other than glucose.  If there is no glucose available, the liver will convert fat to ketones for energy.  Ketones are burned differently and produce much less CO2 than glycogen so you can exercise more before you are out of breath. There are other benefits to ketogenic energy including better efficiency of the muscles, like the heart.  The average person can only store about 2000 calories as glycogen and although it can be quickly converted to energy, once it is gone the muscles and brain stop functioning.  We have seen this happen to Ironman athletes in Kona. When the body is using ketones for fuel, it can convert up to 40,000 calories a day, 20 times more than from glucogen.

We have been on the ketogenic diet for almost 6 months.  After the adaption period, we are feeling more energetic than ever.   We love not being hungry all the time and have made great progress on our weight loss.   The best part is no gout attacks, even though it has been very hot and humid this year and we have been exercising more. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How a Clock Changed Hawaii

Harrison's H4 in National
Maritime Museum Greenwich
We sometimes wonder why it took ships from the west so long to find the Hawaiian Islands. European ships had reached China in 1517, hundreds of years before Captain Cook found the remote islands in 1778. Some of the mystery was solved for us when we recently learned about how John Harrison’s clock assisted Captain Cook.

Longitude is an entertaining  movie about John Harrison who invented the marine chronometer in the late 1700’s. At the time latitude (the distance of a ship north and south of the equator) could be determined from the sun or stars using a sexton, however, there was no method to determine the ship’s longitude (the east – west location) in the ocean.  Ships navigated by following the coastline, which worked when exploring Africa and Asia, but was not helpful when crossing the Atlantic to the Americas or crossing the Pacific Ocean.
So many ships were lost at sea or destroyed by crashing into reefs, that in 1714, the British Parliament offered a huge prize to anyone who could find a method to accurately determine a ship’s longitude.

The Royal Observatory at Greenwich, England was the reference longitude of zero degrees, called the Prime Meridian. The sun moves west from the Prime Meridian at a rate of 15 degrees each hour. If the time in Greenwich is known at exactly noon on a ship at sea (measured using a sextant to determine the exact moment that the sun reaches its highest point in the sky) the number of degrees of longitude the sun has crossed from the Prime Meridian to the ship can be calculated and the navigator can determine the ship’s longitude.  The problem is easily solved by having a clock on board the ship with Greenwich Time, however, in the 1700’s no clock existed that could keep accurate time over a long period or deal with temperature changes and a ship’s movement.

John Harrison was a carpenter and clock maker.  Before starting on the longitude challenge, he had already made several inventions that improved clocks including the "gridiron pendulum", which kept clocks from losing or gaining time due to temperature changes  and the "grasshopper" escapement which was a device for the step-by-step release of a clock's driving power which required no oiling. 

Harrison started working on a marine clock in 1730 in hopes of winning the prize.  “Longitude”, based on the book, Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel, tells the fascinating story of John Harrison and his son who spent decades working on perfecting a marine chronometer and proving it at sea.  Harrison’s first creation, called H1, was a monstrosity weighing almost 100 pounds.  In 1759 he finished his fourth version, called H4, which was a complete redesign and the size of a large pocket watch.  Harrison was eventually awarded the prize by the British Parliament in 1773 and recognized for having solved the Longitude problem.

In 1772, when Captain Cook sailed from England on his second voyage he had aboard a replica of Harrison’s H4 chronometer made by Larcum Kendall called the K1. Cook was able to navigate the Pacific Ocean using the K1 and discovered new islands including New Caledonia.  Cook was a superstar on his return to England in 1775 receiving honors, appointments and a promotion.  The K1 clock was exceptionally accurate during the entire voyage and Cook referred to the watch as  “...our faithful guide through all the vicissitudes of climates”.

John Harrison died in 1776, the same year Cook left for his third voyage to explore the Pacific.  On that voyage, in January 1778, Cook found the Hawaiian Islands where he met his demise.  When the ships returned to England, their report made the Hawaiian Islands and its longitude in the middle of the Pacific Ocean known to the rest of the world.

Having an accurate pocket watch, invented by Harrison, on board may have been partially or even completely responsible for Cook finding Hawaii.  It certainly allowed all the other Captains to navigate to the islands after learning the location. 

It makes us wonder what small inventions are in the works today that may alter our world in ways we may not be able to grasp.