Much like my current aversion to smartwatches I’m equally disinterested in the idea of a fitness tracker. As a man of science I do like the idea in principle as anyone looking to better themselves should track as much data as they can to ensure what they’re doing is actually having an effect. However all the devices on market don’t appear to be much more than smart pedometers with nice interfaces something which doesn’t really track the kinds of things I’m looking for (since most of my exercise isn’t aerobic in nature). I don’t discount their value for others but if I was going to invest in one it’d have to do a lot more than just be an accelerometer attached to my wrist.
I may have found one in AIRO, a rather Jony Ive-esque device coming from a new 3 person startup. For the most part it sports the same features as other health trackers, presumably through the same method of an incorporated accelerometer, but its real claim to fame comes from its apparent ability to detect metabolites in your blood, without having to cut yourself to do so. AIRO also claims to be able to detect the quality of the food you’re eating as well which, from what I can tell by looking at their website, seems to be related to the macro-nutrient breakdown. As someone who regularly struggles to get enough calories to support their goals (yeah I’m one of those people, believe me it’s not as great as you might think it is) and really can’t be bothered to use a calorie tracker this is of particular interest to me, something I’d consider plonking down a chunk of change for.
Of course the sceptic in me was instantly roused by the idea that a device could non-invasively determine such things because such technology would be a boon to diabetics, not to mention any research program looking at monitoring caloric intake. Indeed something like this is so far out of left field that most of the mainstream coverage of the device doesn’t go into just how it works, except for referring to the fact that it measures calories and macro-nutrient breakdown based on light. It sounds like a great theory but since there’s no source material provided to show how their method works, nor any validation using standard means like doubly labelled water or even short term experiments with strictly controlled caloric intake.
I was going to leave it at that, and indeed not even write about it since I wanted to see some validation of the idea before I said anything, but then I stumbled across this article from ScienceDaily which links to a German study that has been able to measure blood glucose with infrared light. The function of their device sounds different to the one AIRO purports, instead using the infrared light to penetrate the skin and cause a resonance in the glucose within the bloodstream which their device can then pick up. Their device sounds like it would be anything but wearable however with a “shoebox sized” device planned to be released within the next few years. This doesn’t validate the idea behind AIRO but it does lend some credence to the idea that you’d be able to extract some kind of information about blood metabolites using light pulses.
So I’m definitely intrigued now, possibly to the point of shelling out the requisite $159 to get one delivered when they come out, but I would love to see some validation of the device by the inventors to prove their device can do what they say it can do. It’s not like this would be particularly difficult, hell if they send me a prototype device I’ll happily engage in a tightly controlled caloric diet in order to prove it can measure everything, and it would go a long way to convince the sceptics that what they’ve made really is as good as they say it is. Heck I bet there’s even a couple other startups that’d love to do some testing to prove that their products also work as intended (I’m looking at you, Soylent) and having that kind validation would be extremely valuable for both involved.
Even though I’ve dedicated a whole category on this blog to Fitness I’ve only ever posted a couple things directly relating to it. For the uninitiated I’m not what you’d call an expert on these matters, I know many more people more qualified than myself to give proper health advice, but would consider myself an informed individual. I’ve read countless numbers of journals, scientific news sites and rafts of forum posts to figure out the secrets to getting fit and staying that way. Of course in my research I’ll also come across some of the lesser known benefits of exercise and to me they make for some of the most compelling reasons to start exercising regularly.
I mentioned at the end of last year that you can see some pretty amazing benefits if you just stopped sitting for half an hour a day. This came hand in hand with another study that showed as little as 15 minutes worth of moderate exercise per day could add another 3 years to your life with the benefits apparently scaling linearly with more exercise. The effects of exercise appear to get even better if you manage to stay fit between your 30s and 50s, significantly reducing the incident rate of chronic illnesses as you age:
For decades, research has shown that higher cardiorespiratory fitness levels lessen the risk of death, but it previously had been unknown just how much fitness might affect the burden of chronic disease in the most senior years — a concept known as morbidity compression.
“We’ve determined that being fit is not just delaying the inevitable, but it is actually lowering the onset of chronic disease in the final years of life,” said Dr. Jarett Berry, assistant professor of internal medicine and senior author of the study available online in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
In essence this means you can push back the clock on these age related diseases significantly should you keep your fitness level up during mid-life. Their recommendation is a paltry 2.5 hours per week of moderate to intense aerobic activity, something that can be achieved in well under 30 mins per day. This leads to an incredibly increase in your quality of life in later years meaning you’ll spend much less time having to deal with a chronic affliction later in life.
For me it just reinforces the notion that the “slowing down” everyone feels when they get older really is just a perception and not a physical constraint. Indeed all you need to do is to look at the MRIs comparing a 40 and 70 year old triathlete to that of a sedentary individual which shows that lean muscle mass can be preserved as long as you continue your exercise program. The benefits are not only under the skin either as this 75 year old demonstrates:
I remember one of my friends a while ago saying to me that now they were getting close to 30 they could start to feel parts of their body wearing out on them. To put it bluntly I lost my shit at them saying that I’d never been more active or physically fit in my life and put it to them that they were just perceiving that they were slowing down because they weren’t trying to be more active. If a 75 year old can look that good and still be working out at that age then us young whipper snappers who aren’t even half her age really have no excuses.
I could go on but realistically if these kinds of benefits, which can be had with very little time invested, aren’t enough to motivate you then I’m not really sure what will. Sure I’ll give you that it isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do but it’s very much a thing of habit and once you start doing it regularly you’ll find it incredibly hard to stop. Then later in life when you’re still feeling as awesome at 50 as you did at 30 you’ll know it was worth all the effort.
As I’ve alluded to in the past I’m somewhat of a fitness buff, mostly to balance out my predominately sedentary lifestyle of IT work and computer games. Of course when these two worlds collide I end up applying the same kind of iterative process I would to any IT problem or challenge in a game to fitness and the past couple years have been no exception. I mentioned in the past that I was doing CrossFit and since then I’ve tried several other workouts, meal plans and supplement regimes in order to maximise the benefits I get from exercising. 2 months ago I decided to give the PAGG stack from the 4 Hour Body a go after hitting another plateau in my training and I thought I’d share my experiences with it.
Here’s a little background on me so you can put this in perspective (this is at the start of using PAGG):
I took the PAGG stack as recommended: AGG 3 times a day, PAGG before bed and didn’t take it every Sunday. I wasn’t 100% with sticking to this, I’d say I was about 90% on time with it (meaning about 1 in every 10 times I’d miss taking it at the right time) but I believe that I was still close enough for it to be considered effective. I didn’t make any radical changes to my diet or exercise regime during this time either, so most changes can be ascribed to PAGG stack.
So as it stands right now I’ve gained approximately 2KGs whilst going down to 17%. Whilst it wasn’t the extreme fat burning I was expecting there was a definite downward trend when I was using PAGG. Since I’m trying to gain muscle at the moment its quiet possible that the supposed fat burning of PAGG is being muted somewhat as my caloric intake is somewhere around the 2800~3000 range every day. That being said since I didn’t change my diet during this time (and I’ve been on the same diet for a good 4 months prior) the additional 2KGs of muscle gain would appear to be attributable to taking PAGG.
Doing some extra research into the matter though it looks like the potential fat burning/muscle building effects that I experienced could be solely due to the EGCG in the stack. Indeed for the other components there is either no research showing efficacy (Policosanol, as 4HB even states), experimental evidence in certain models (ALA) or mixed experimental results (Allicin). Anecdotally the combination does appear to work, at least for me, but it’s entirely possible that EGCG is responsible for those changes alone. I’d do another round of anecdotal testing on myself to see how it goes, but I’ve got my eye on a new stack that I’m hoping will get close to ECA for efficacy.
Would I recommend PAGG for anyone? I would, at least for 2 months just to see if it works for you. If you buy the components individually it’s actually pretty cheap, on the order of about $30~$40/month, and you should be able to see benefits within a short enough time frame to know if its worth you continuing or not. Personally for me, whilst it did appear to work, I’ve decided to switch to some other supplements that have a bit more scientific backing on them and see how they turn out. If there’s one thing that I learnt from this is that EGCG is potentially quite powerful and should you not want to be downing 16+ pills a day then your best place to start would be with just that.