Stuff You Should Read

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

1. Bad cholesterol: It’s not what you think – It’s time to rethink the halo-and-pitchfork view of our blood fat levels. MSN Health actually came out with a great article on heart disease and cholesterol! To be honest it was actually written by Men’s Health, but it is a step. This article was absolutely excellent, and really continues yesterday’s theme about dietary cholesterol and how 40 years of advice may not have been helping you at all. The book on heart disease is being rewritten, and it is about damn time. Below are some of my favorite quotes from the article:

“Just because you have less of the symptom (statin users take note) doesn’t mean you’ll have less of the disease.”

After looking for relationships correlating with the 8 percent of people who went on to develop cardiovascular disease, they found three scenarios that predicted it, from the most powerful predictor to the least:

  1. High levels of smaller and medium LDL combined with low HDL (a dreaded diabetes-linked syndrome Dr. Krauss had previously called atherogenic lipoprotein phenotype, or pattern B)
  2. Low HDL Levels
  3. High total LDL Levels

According to Dr. Krauss, the three risk factors appear to represent three separate processes that put your cardiovascular health at risk. For men, the first two scenarios are more predictive of heart disease, but the third — high total LDL — was only marginally predictive of heart disease in men. Nowhere to be seen, of course, is the “total cholesterol” number doctors have been bashing us over the head with for decades. Turns out that number is not as useful a predictor for individuals.”

Since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, do yourself a favor, read this article!

2. Magnesium and Insulin Sensitivity – by Stephan Guyenet. Stephan always has absolutely awesome information on his blog. In this post he discusses the connection between magnesium deficiency, as more and more Americans are deficient, and its link to proper insulin sensitivity and glucose control.

He also goes into detail on further implications it might have, such as impact on blood cholesterol levels (improving blood magnesium levels can decrease LDL and triglycerides, and increase HDL). This is a quick and very interesting read, which he wraps up with ways to get more magnesium into your diet. Check it out.

3. Apples vs. Ho Ho’s – by Tony Gentilcore. I think the title says it all. For everyone who lives on 100 calorie snack packs and the like, do yourself a favor and check out Tony humorously teaching you a thing or two.

4. The Case Against Conventional Dairy – by Me. I personally think this is the greatest blog post I have ever written, and it is certainly the longest and most thoroughly detailed. If you want to learn more about dairy, its health benefits and potential health consequences, do not miss my self-proclaimed magnum opus.

I also want to give a quick shout out to CP Bobsled Olympian Bree Schaff. Bree kicked some ass and came in 5th, and she has only been in bobsled for 2 years!

I will be on vacation in sunny Florida all next week, but I will make it my mission to still post a blog or two. Have a great weekend everybody!

Posted on February 26th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

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The Low Down on Cholesterol

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

Just a quick reminder before we get started today, do not forget that Eric Cressey is having is Spring Training Sale through the end of today. Just type in FEB2010 at checkout to get 30% off many of his products. Find out more HERE.

As many of you probably read Tony Gentilcore’s scathing blog post the other day on eggs, cholesterol and why the cashier’s at Trader Joe’s suck, I am going to continue in the “cholesterol from your diet raises your blood cholesterol and causes heart disease theme.”

I just finished reading Dr. Jonny Bowden’s revised new edition of Living Low Carb. It is an excellent book that covers a lot of reasons why reducing carb intake, and improving carb sources, will go a long way to maximizing your health. He also busts some myths, gives supplement advice, and analyzes popular low-carb diets (he gave Cassandra Forsythe-Pribanic, a friend and colleague of mine, the top recommendation for her wonderful book Women’s Health Perfect Body Diet).

In Living Low Carb Dr. Bowden throws out some awesome information that really helps to show why the intense focus on saturated fat, cholesterol and heart disease is misguided. Today we are going to focus more on the dietary cholesterol side of things.

He references the enormous and long-term Framingham Heart Study, one of the largest studies ever undertaken to prove the point.

Cholesterol Intake

Average Cholesterol From Food

Below Average Cholesterol From Food

Above Average Cholesterol From Food

Blood Cholesterol

mg/day

mmol/L

mmol/L

Men

704 ± 221

6.16

6.16

Women

492 ± 170

6.37

6.26

This data clearly shows, from hundreds of thousands of people, that on average, dietary cholesterol intake had no impact on blood levels of cholesterol. People who ate below the average amount of cholesterol or above it had equal blood cholesterol levels. The body has a negative feedback system. When we consume more cholesterol, we produce less (granted there are people who’s system is broken, but they are the exception, not the rule).

We also have some similar info from another large-scale long-term study, the Tecumseh study.

Blood Cholesterol in Thirds

Lower

Middle

Upper

Daily Intake of Cholesterol (mg)

554

566

533

Oddly enough, or probably not so odd, people in the upper 33% of blood cholesterol levels had the lowest cholesterol intake from their diet, showing yet again that dietary cholesterol intake has little to no impact on blood cholesterol levels.

Even Ancel Keys, the misguided creator of all this saturated fat/cholesterol causes heart disease nonsense, stated, in 1991 no less, “There’s no connection whatsoever between cholesterol in food and cholesterol in blood and we’ve known that all along. Cholesterol in the diet doesn’t matter unless you happen to be a chicken or a rabbit.”

Well that statement was only 40 years late and after we had become a nation obsessed with the wrong data, but we seem to finally to heading in the right direction.

Posted on February 25th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

4 Comments »

The Wonders of Cherries

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

Since I posted my Chocolate Cherry Bliss Smoothie recipe, I have gotten questions from readers and clients about why I love that smoothie so much.

Everyone seems to get that I love it because it is absolutely delicious (I am currently obsessed with it, drink it nearly every day and always before training). I also love it because cherries are one of the world’s most underrated fruits.

Cherries are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants as well as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer compounds. They contain powerful compounds, like the flavonoid quercetin (also high in apples and onions), ellagic acid (also in raspberries) and perillyl alcohol. I did my senior year capstone project on the health benefits of berries, and while cherries are not exactly berries (some sources say they are, some say no), we included them anyway because they kick so much ass.

Quercetin has anti-cancer properties, and is strongly anti-inflammatory as it influences cellular mechanisms. There are a lot of in vitro studies showing the powerful anti-inflammatory  and anti-cancer properties, and some anti-tumor properties as well. While in vitro studies certainly do not make quercetin out to be a magic bullet, it is another piece of ammo in the fight against cancer.

Ellagic acid also has anti-cancer properties and can prevent unwanted changes to our DNA (anti-mutagenic). It has been shown to inhibit tumor growth, and may also have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. The studies on ellagic acid were in vitro, and in animal studies, and even a few human studies showing its health benefits as well. This is good stuff.

Perillyl alcohol has also been shown to inhibit tumor growth. In studies done on animals it has inhibited tumors in pancreatic, stomach, colon, skin and liver cancer. It causes apoptosis of the cancer cells, where the cancer cells commit cell suicide. Pretty sweet.

Another awesome benefit of cherries is its enormous amounts of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are pigments that give cherries (and other berries) their bright red color. Cherries and raspberries have the highest amounts of anthocyanins. These anthocyanins are natural COX-2 inhibitors, and in one study were found to be comparable to ibuprofen and naproxen in their ability to suppress COX-2 activity. Some interesting stuff for those of you with arthritis or joint pain.

Cherries are also high in vitamin C, potassium and fiber, along with tasting like they were sent from heaven. It also always important to remember that real food, like cherries, are always more than the sum of their parts. Their nutrients work in synergistic ways to make us healthier, that go beyond what we measure on single-nutrient studies.

For more info like this, please check out Dr. Bowden’s amazing book, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. It just might change the way you eat.

Posted on February 22nd, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

2 Comments »

You Asked, I Answered

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition, Training

Before we get started today I have a few announcements.

Eric Cressey is having a phenomenal sale for the next week. From today through midnight on Thursday, February 25, you can get 30% off on The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, The Truth About Unstable Surface Training, and The Art of the Deload by entering the coupon code FEB2010 at checkout from his Products Page.

This is actually the first time that The Truth About Unstable Surface Training has ever gone on sale since its release, so don’t miss out on this opportunity to pick up some first-of-its-kind research and the practical applications associated with it. Check it out HERE.

I also want to mention that I added a whole bunch of new and exciting stuff to my Resources page, and it is about time! I get asked by clients all the time what chia seeds I get, or what cacao nibs or protein powder I like, as well home gym equipment and books, it is all there, so check it out HERE.

If liked by you guys, I would like to make You Asked, I Answered a weekly post. I get a lot of questions, comments on new posts, and comments on old posts. This gives me a great outlet to answer these questions and comments, and actually gets the answers seen by the most amount of people, which I think is vitally important as it allows for even more discussion. I won’t include names of the people asking the questions, so just let me know what you think.

Q. Brian,

For those not taking in any casein from any source, would combining something like Whey Cool with either a fiber supplement from DFH (or other brand) or fibrous vegetables along with some quality fat essentially make up for choosing straight whey over a whey/casein blend?

Obviously casein gets touted before bedtime and you have noted that a whey/casein blend PW is likely superior to either one as a standalone, but would the above options also potentially provide a happy medium in those contexts?

A. Casein does get touted as a pre-bed protein source, which I think is kind of ridiculous, but it certainly is not going to hurt. Whether it is actually any more effective is certainly up for debate. It might be, but it might also be a little obsessive-compulsive. Just eat.

As for post-training, a whey/casein blend has been shown to be superior to either one alone. Now there still is not an answer as to whether a whey/casein shake is actually any more beneficial than solid food, especially if proper pre-training nutrition needs are met. The data on it is just lacking. Having said that, if you choose not to have any source of casein, then I think a blend of whey with some fiber and healthy fat (like my smoothie recipes) is not a bad idea, but I still might add a slower digesting protein to the mix if you are really concerned about it.

Personally I usually just recommend a whey-based smoothie before training and some real food post, as that seems to work best for most of my clients schedules. I really think in the long run the difference between a shake, a whole-food meal, or even a whey/casein shake in the context of a solid overall diet is minimal to negligible. It might make a difference, it really might, but it might not. If every little pound counts for you, then by all means do what you have to do, but if you train to be healthy and fit and are not worried about getting as absolutely massive as possible, then a whey/casein shake immediately post-training is not completely necessary.

Q. Brian do you find the hemp seed butter tasty or just “passable” but willingly included given its stellar nutrient profile?

On the topic of borage oil, I have read that this tends to be quickly converted to nervonic acid (which is supposedly good for myelin production), but that evening primrose oil, while a less concentrated source of GLA than borage oil, is potentially a better source. As far as you know, is there any truth to this?

A. I personally find the hemp seed butter to be “passable” by itself, but when put on a warm Ezekiel English muffin with a dollop of some organic fruit spread on top, then I think it is actually quite delicious. It does have an absolutely stellar nutritional profile and that certainly does not hurt. (I wrote more about the awesomeness of hemp, HERE)

I have read quite a bit about borage and evening primrose oil. The research I have seem has shown minimal side effects with either one, and they both have some research showing their benefits for decreasing blood pressure, atopic dermatitis, rheumatoid arthritis and more. As far as I know they are both fine options, the choice is simply up to you.

More reading on benefits and side effects of borage oil.

More reading on benefits and side effects of evening primrose oil.

Have a great weekend everybody, and let me know what you think about the weekly post!

Posted on February 19th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

1 Comment »

Make A Healthy Eating Routine

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

For many people who try to change their eating habits and can never make it stick (and for all of you who maybe have fallen off the wagon for your New Year’s resolution), this is often due to a lack of a routine. Humans are creatures of habit. Every morning we do the same thing; get up, eat breakfast (probably the same), take a shower, go to work, etc. The trick is to utilize this, and make it work for you, not against you.

Often times when people want to begin eating better they buy all this healthy food, but have no game plan for what their meals will look like. They try lots of different combinations, and all kinds of cool “healthy” recipes, but somehow they still can’t seem to stick to it. As weird as it may sound, including too much variety in the beginning can make things much more challenging, and less likely to work. In fact that was one of the only complaints with the original Warp Speed Fat Loss, so when when Warp Speed Fat Loss 2.0 came out, Mike offered a diet plan with a lot more continuity and a lot less variety, to great success.

Sometimes, actually most of the time, removing the thinking from the equation makes life, and eating, a hell of a lot easier. One of the best things that I have found with my clients is to keep things are routine as possible, especially for the first few months. This means less variety, but more consistency.

Find meals that you like and stick with them. I usually suggest finding 3 options for each meal or snack, and either rotating them as needed, or just alternate days. These options do not even have to be very different to make it feel like you are having some variety, but still being consistent. For example having an omelet with 2 slices of sprouted grain toast could be changed to some scrambled eggs with some oatmeal and blueberries the next day. Usually the less drastic the difference, the better.

This may sound boring, as variety is the spice of life, but until you have your eating habits locked in place and you are able to kind of put it on cruise control, then this can make that transition from poor eater to good eater go much more smoothly. Make a routine and stick with it for a while. Slowly add in substitutions, or maybe just have a different dinner every night to keep things more exciting. Find what works best for you, and stick to it, as that is the fastest way to success.

Another good thing about making a routine is that you can see how you respond to different foods and/or meals. If you are consistently eating the same things, or basically the same things day in and day out, it allows you to monitor your response for a few hours after each meal and see how you feel. Are you sluggish? Are you sleepy? Are you full or hungry? Are you energized? Things of that nature.

To wrap it up, in the beginning take the guesswork out and keep it as basic and consistent as possible. Monitor your responses to foods, slowly add in more variety as you feel comfortable and can stay consistent to your eating habits (see my suggestions here and here), and learn to enjoy the taste of real food!

Once you have mastered that, then you can really take advantage of some awesome cookbooks like Gourmet Nutrition, Body By Eats, and The Healthiest Meals on Earth and enjoy everything they have to offer.

Posted on February 17th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

32 Comments »

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition, Recipes

I hope everyone had an excellent Valentine’s Day. My wife and I relaxed all day, watched movies and made a deliciously huge breakfast consisting of eggs, bacon, and some awesome buckwheat pancakes. We also took our puppy (her name is Lucy by the way) to her first puppy kindergarten, she rocked it. Anyway, back to delicious blueberry buckwheat pancakes.

Many, many blogs ago I wrote about the awesomeness that is buckwheat. Buckwheat rocks, as it tastes delicious, is a complete protein, is gluten-free and has minimal impact on blood sugar. In that blog I also mentioned how much I love buckwheat pancakes, especially loaded with Maine blueberries. A reader asked for a recipe, and today I am coming through, as I finally decided to come up with one!

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp Redmond Real Salt
  • 2 packets Truvia (or 2 tbsp sugar)
  • 1 large omega-3 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 2 tbsp melted Organic Valley pasture butter
  • 1 cup Wyman’s Maine wild frozen blueberries

Mix all the dry ingredients together until well blended. Then add one wet ingredient at a time, mixing well after each addition. The batter make look a little thin, but this is how it is supposed to look. Makes 2 large or 4 small pancakes.

Nutrition Facts (per 1 small pancake)

  • Calories – 235 calories
  • Protein   – 5 grams
  • Carbs     – 29 grams
  • Fiber      – 5.5 grams
  • Fat         – 11 grams

Enjoy with a delicious veggie omelet and you have a breakfast of champions!

New CP Website

On another note CresseyPerformance.com has had a face-lift. The new site, created by Dynamic Diagrams, is phenomenal. A completely interactive site; chock full of videos, a sweet blog that you should definitely subscribe to, and a weekly-updated news feed, you will be sure to find some cool stuff. Check it out now!

Posted on February 15th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

8 Comments »

Random Thursday Thoughts

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition, Training

Since I have to make the final vet visit with the puppy tomorrow, I probably won’t have time to post a Friday blog, so I figured I would post a rare Thursday edition instead. I have some random stuff bouncing around my brain this morning, check it out:

1. I am a fan of always trying new foods and ideas, and I have been rocking a new carb for breakfast this past week. I bought some Ezekiel Almond Cereal on Sunday, and I have been having 1/2 cup (1 serving) with a large handful of fresh blueberries and some unsweetened vanilla almond milk. It is absolutely awesome. The cereal absorbs all of the milk and expands and softens, but doesn’t get mushy. I am absolutely loving it right now.

I will say that the Ezekiel sprouted-grain cereal is high in calories and carbs, that 1/2 cup has 38 grams of carbs (6 fiber) and 200 calories, so do keep that in mind.

Though not the almond cereal, or vanilla almond milk, I thought this was a cool picture

Though not the almond cereal, or vanilla almond milk, I thought this was a cool picture

2. My wife and I found what appears to be a good looking fish oil product for our puppy. It is by Vet’s Best, and it contains not only some fish oil and it’s everything-healthy omega-3′s, but some evening primrose oil for the anti-inflammatory omega-6 GLA to boot, along with some vitamin E to prevent oxidation. Seems quite solid to me.

Now I don’t know much about dog food, what is a quality company, what is not. If anyone knows of a similar product that is better, or gives this one a thumbs-up, let me know. Any feedback would be appreciated.

3. A growing pet peeve of mine is when people complain that they are hungry when they are dieting and trying to lose weight. Newsflash – when in a caloric deficit your body bumps up ghrelin production, meaning you will be hungry. It is an unfortunate fact of eating below-maintenance calories.

Focusing on high quality protein, healthy fat and fiber (especially soluble, like in chia or glucomannan) can help hold that hunger at bay. So can drinking a cup or two of green tea between meals, as it is a moderate appetite suppressant.

The fact still remains that you will get hungry. I am sorry, but you will just have to deal with it, a small sacrifice to meet your goals.

I prefer to see you thinking about wild salmon and blueberries, is that wishful thinking?

4. Mike Robertson is having a nice little customer-appreciation sale on Bulletproof Knees until the end of the day today. Just enter the coupon code KNEES2010 (yes all CAPS) at checkout and you will get $15 off. I wrote about this product in the past (here), as I think it is far and away the best corrective exercise resource on knee health.

Check out Bulletproof Knees, and remember this sale only goes through the end of the day on today. Plus it has a picture of dudes playing rugby, which makes it even more awesome.

Posted on February 11th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

4 Comments »

Vanilla, Nuts & Flax Smoothie

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition, Recipes

As many of you know I have always been a fan of Dr. John Berardi and his Precision Nutrition system. His work and website are what got me into this industry in the first place!

Many of the smoothie recipes that I have come up with have utilized the recipes from Precision Nutrition, just modified BSP style.

One of my favorite Precision Nutrition smoothies is the Nuts & Flax shake. It is absolutely delicious. The problem is that it utilizes cottage cheese, which is a food I have limited and no longer encourage. I have modified this smoothie to meet my specifications, ie – be awesome.

BSP Vanilla, Nuts & Flax Smoothie

  • 6-8oz unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 6oz vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 2 tbsp milled flax seed
  • 2 tbsp almonds and pecans
  • cinnamon to taste
  • ice cubes if desired
  • Enjoy!

Give it a shot and let me know what you think. I will note that this smoothie is the rare exception that does not contain any fruits or vegetables, so I recommend having a serving of choice with it.

PS – I am currently adding many blogs to my Recipes category, as well as updating my Resources page, so keep an eye out!

Posted on February 10th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

2 Comments »

You Asked, I Answered

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

Question 1: Any recommendations on protein powders? Or at least protein types. Been using a great whey/casein blend for a while, but looking to get away from it as per the dairy issue.

Answer: For protein powders there are a lot of options, it just really depends on what you can fit into your budget. If you are a fan of whey, like I am, then I would encourage some products like this:

  1. Whey Cool by Designs for Health
  2. BiPro by Davisco Foods
  3. Grow Bioactive Whey by Biotest

Obviously there are a TON more choices, but I just chose 3 good products, with different price points.

I would rank Whey Cool (and products like it such as Warrior Milk) as probably the Cadillac of protein powders, but you pay an arm and a leg for it.

I think BiPro is another fantastic product, maybe a slight step down from Whey Cool, but it is more reasonably priced, though still not cheap.

If Whey Cool is the Cadillac, then Grow would be the Buick. It is still a quality product, but it does contain some sucralose, which I am not really a fan of, but it is also the most reasonably priced whey here, and it tastes great.

It really all depends on your budget, and how much you are willing to spend on protein powder. To me if you start getting a lot cheaper than Grow, then I start to wonder about the quality of the product, it might still be good, but I certainly have my doubts.

If you want to get completely aware from dairy-based protein powders, see the next question.

Question 2: Do you have any recommendations for affordable rice protein powder that doesn’t taste like dust? I got some vanilla rice protein powder from Whole Foods, and I use lots of fruit, but I keep feeling like I’m drinking a chalk shake. Sun Warrior rice protein powder gets good reviews, but is expensive.

Answer: Unfortunately most rice protein powder is awful, in my opinion. I tried Sun Warrior and personally was not a fan, but I am also used to some delicious whey. I too have heard good things, and have had a few clients who really like it, so it is probably the best rice protein powder out there, but you do pay for it.

Other options would be some egg protein, or hemp protein like Hemp Pro 70 by Manitoba Harvest. Hemp certainly has a distinct taste, and is a little nutty, but I still prefer the Manitoba Harvest over the Sun Warrior myself. Give each a shot and let me know what you think.

Posted on February 8th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

2 Comments »

A Delicious Deviation

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition, Recipes

For my wife and I, Sunday mornings are often a departure from the norm. Every Monday through Saturday we are up early, making the same breakfast, doing the same things, you know, in our routine. Sundays however, allow for more time and creativity, and this is where meal experiments can really shine (or fail, but at least it was worth a try).

This past Sunday Anna and I were not in the mood for eggs, so we popped open our copy of the Gourmet Nutrition Cookbook, and perused the breakfast options, looking for something interesting. Lo and behold, we stumbled across a delicious french toast and parfait recipe that looked absolutely awesome.

Since we didn’t have every single ingredient, and you know I am going to modify it anyways, we made that recipe BSP style. It called for some whole grain bread to be cut into 1-inch squares, so we used some sprouted grain Ezekiel bread. We mixed that with some omega-3 eggs, and added cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Top it off with a little maple syrup, and it was awesome.

The parfait portion called for cottage cheese, yogurt, and strawberries among other things, and we didn’t have any of it. So instead we subbed in plain Greek yogurt for the cottage cheese and regular yogurt (and added a packet of Truvia for a little more sweetness), used blackberries for the strawberries, and it to was incredible.

The point of this post is to show that eating healthy does not have to be boring or monotonous. Too often people get stuck into healthy eating ruts, including me, where they eat the same meals over and over and over again. Variety is the spice of life, people. Continuity certainly has its place, but there is something to be said for stepping outside your comfort zone and trying a new recipe and just seeing what happens.

In the end it was a phenomenal breakfast, not only did it taste great, it looked the part too.

For more recipes like this, definitely check out Gourmet Nutrition and the complete Precision Nutrition System.

Posted on February 4th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

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