Now that I have had a little time to catch my breath this week, and actually get in three quality training sessions, I have been able to not only blog consistently, but do a little reading as well.
I love reading blogs as I find they can often offer little tidbits of wisdom that often get lost in long overly-written articles. Plus often times the comments sections can offer just as much if not more than the blog itself.
Below are some of my favorites from the past week or so, check em out and let me know what you think!
On an aside, I hadn’t really done much foam rolling, ok any at all, since I moved back to Maine. My gym doesn’t have any foam rollers, lame I know, and mine has just been sitting on the porch where I keep planning on using it but never getting around to it. A lazy hypocrite I know. Well my knees have been a little creaky lately and I figured that it is probably because I have let my tissue quality go to shit.
So last night I busted out the foam roller and my oh my was I in for some fun. My body hated me. My upper back, lats, pecs, and especially my vmo’s and adductor magnus lit up like a Christmas tree. I can’t even tell you how much better and more free I felt after that rolling session and some targeted stretching. I have decided to make this a 5 minute morning habit.
For all of you out there slacking on the foam rolling, I can’t encourage you enough to hop on. It will make a world of difference.
For more reading on vitamin K2, check out one of my favorite blogs, as he wrote about it here.
The China Study: Fact or Fallacy? – Denise Minger. Denise goes into great depth and detail, as she crunched the data of the massive China Study herself! Performing some actual statistics on the raw data, she came to some very different conclusions than our dear Dr. Campbell. This is one hell of a read, but if you are someone who has any interest in the China Study, it is well worth your time.
Best. Ad. Campaign. EVER – Tony Gentilcore. This blog is just plain awesome, and it makes me chuckle. Tony delivers one of his most simple yet entertaining blogs that I feel is really pertinent to the training world, and women in general. Give it a read and let me know if your favorite line is the same as mine “Why not just get a 2×4 and put a dress on it?”
Q. What are you thoughts on “Cheat” meals? How often do you go off your diet with such a meal? Can you give an example of such a meal?
My thoughts on cheat meals are myriad. It can vary from person to person really. Some people when they have a cheat meal can enjoy the meal, recognize that it wasn’t a part of their normal food intake, be ok with that, and move on. Others start a cheat meal, and just the thought of cheating makes them feel guilty, so they cheat some more, turn it into an 6,000 calorie extravaganza and then go a week long binge.
Ok, maybe that was a little extreme, but you get my point. One person has a healthy relationship with food, the other person clearly does not, so I think it all depends on how you respond to a cheat meal. Some people do better not really cheating for months until they feel like they are truly on a roll and are comfortable with what they eat. In the Precision Nutrition Lean Eating program they interviewed some winners and contestants, and many of them said they were at their best when they didn’t cheat at all. They didn’t feel restricted because they had such a wide variety of real whole food available to them, and took advantage of it.
Now not everyone is like that. I for one prefer to cheat from time to time, as I dislike being “that guy” at social settings. Now there are times when I am “that guy”, bringing grass-fed beef hamburgers and Ezekiel buns, but there are other times when I eat hot dogs and drink beer too. Just enjoy it, and move on. Maybe even compensate. If you know this meal is going to give you probably twice as many calories as a normal meal, just eat one less meal that day, or cut away from a few others. It isn’t that hard and it doesn’t have to be precise to the exact calorie, it just helps mitigate any potential damage.
My hamburger bun of choice
The point is that the real key is developing a healthier relationship with food (which is beyond the scope of this blog). It also helps to know that one meal is not going to make or break your progress. Being obsessive over every food and calorie you consume is counter productive, so enjoy some treats from time to time, you will live to tell about it I promise.
As for how often, I prefer you keep it under 10% of the time. If you eat real whole food 90% of the time, and allow yourself some exceptions that other 10%, you will be just fine.
Q. What are your thoughts on intermittent fasting or short duration fasting? I recently fasted on Homemade Bone Broth and Kvass for 3 days and feel the benefits.
I honestly really don’t even know what to think. I am sure it works, just like most dieting strategies, but I just don’t know how practical it is. Especially with a family. How many family meals do you have to endure watching everyone else eat while you fast?
I just dislike the mindset of dieting more and more. While there are places and times for things like Warp Speed, and maybe IF, I don’t think they are easily sustained lifestyles. To some people they are, to the vast majority, I leaning towards a no. I also think eating 6-8 times a day, ala the strict bodybuilding protocol, is also impractical and probably even less effective. I prefer people eat 4-5 times per day.
I can’t emphasize enough how much I think just eating real whole food makes all the difference. Maximizing your nutrient density and expending more than you consume are the real keys my friend. While there is more than one way to skin a cat, I find IF, while it may work, to be far more complicated than just focusing on food selection and size.
If a client really prefers to only eat 3 times per day, from whole foods, and meets their caloric, macronutrient, micronutrient and fruit and veggies needs, then I really have no issue with it. If you can meet all of your needs doing IF, then I really don’t have an issue with it either.
My problem is people making ridiculous statements like breakfast is bad for you (there was a recent article about it). I mean really? Maybe it doesn’t work for some people sure, but bad for us as a whole? Ridiculous.
I guess what really bothers me about IF is that people who follow it make it out to be the holy grail and there is nothing better. It is merely a means to an end, and people have lost weight successfully on tons of different methods, so I just dislike the mentality of this way is the best way and therefore the only way.
The real key is finding what works best for you, your schedule, etc. As long as you focus on real food and meet all your needs, then have at it.
A lot of writers have spent a lot of time providing people with proper habits to improve their sleep quality.
Since most American adults do not get the optimal 7-9 hours of sleep per night this can contribute to many health issues including:
increased blood pressure
increased risk of diabetes
confusion or cognitive impairment
poor attention span and more
Clearly this is not something that should be taken lightly, which is why so many writers have written so extensively about creating proper sleeping habits like:
make a nightly routine
don’t read, eat or watch tv in bed
make your room is as dark as possible
run a fan or other source of white noise
I think these are all important and helpful tips. To that I would add look into supplements like ZMA and Z-12 by Biotest. While I do not recommend taking them every night, we don’t want you to feel like you need them to sleep, they will absolutely improve your sleep quality. I am especially a fan of Z-12, and I find I feel more refreshed on nights I take it. If I know I am going to get less than 7 hours of sleep that night, then I definitely take it to ensure the sleep I do get is of the highest quality.
Now as important as all these tips are I have one problem with this. No one ever addresses tips on how to wake up. We have evolved to sleep and wake on the schedule of the sun. Making our room as dark as possible is wonderful for falling and staying asleep, but it is definitely counter productive when trying to wake. I actually have a hard time waking when it is too dark in my room, because my body still thinks it is night out.
Waking up to a screeching alarm is not a refreshing way to wake either. It jolts you out of bed and jacks up your fight or flight response, disorienting you.
I have found a much better way to wake up in a calm and more evolutionary correct manner. Instead of using a traditional alarm clock, I use a clock called a dawn simulator. Instead of a blaring alarm to jar me out of sleep, it slowly emits light over a chosen period of time until it fully illuminates the room, waking me up naturally. It is glorious. It also has a backup alarm in case the light doesn’t wake you, but it is not blaring. It is a soft beep that slowly gets louder with each beep to rouse you slowly.
I personally use a Biobrite dawn simulator, though I know there are a few other brands out there. I would highly recommend it, especially for those of you like me, who have to get up really early in the morning before the sun rises, especially in the dark and gloomy New England winters.
While maximizing sleep quality is incredibly important, I think the often-neglected topic of the proper way to wake up can make a huge difference in how you start your day. Get a dawn simulator and try it for yourself!
A reader of mine sent me this video from CBS about the dangers of protein powders. It only takes about 4 minutes, so give it a quick watch, I’ll wait.
The video is based on a report on protein powders and ready-made protein drinks from Consumer Reports, which showed some protein powders failing quality testing due to excessive amounts of arsenic, cadmium and lead. You can take a look at that report yourself right here.
After looking over that report you can see there are a few problems with it. It is based on people consuming 3 servings of the protein product daily. Not necessarily 3 scoops, but 3 servings, which is a lot. In reality many of these products make their serving sizes larger to seem like they provide greater amounts of protein, when in reality on a per gram of product basis, they are all pretty similar.
This can be misleading when looking over this report, as 3 servings should be anywhere from 60-75 grams of protein. You can see that many of these products far exceed that. GNC Wheybolic, which is a very popular product with high school athletes, contains 180 grams of protein in 3 servings! This is because 3 scoops equals 1 serving, which is ridiculous. Kids get it because they think it provides them with so much more protein, when in reality it is simply a larger serving size.
All three products that failed the testing were larger than normal serving sizes, providing 96, 96, and 126 grams of protein in “3″ servings. To me this slightly confounds the data, as the products should have been compared on an equal gram to gram basis. I understand that doesn’t necessarily reflect real life consumption as people consume the protein on suggested serving sizes not x number of grams, but I hope that people are not really consuming 9 scoops of GNC Wheybolic to meet their protein needs.
In reality people should look to real whole food to supply the vast majority of their protein needs, with protein powders like whey helping to round out intake. Whey protein is actually chock full of health benefits, and is actually the subject of my next article.
Whey is loaded with BCAAs, glutamic acid, cysteine, immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, alpha-lactalbumin and glycomacropeptides which all contribute significantly to our immune system, so it is not some dangerous and deadly food when consumed from quality sources in reasonable amounts.
Now I think it is important that we test these products to ensure they do not contain high amounts of heavy metals. I would also discourage people from consuming more than 40-50 grams of protein from powders anyway, whether from a high quality whey or not. While whey does contain many immuno-supportive properties, other protein sources contain valuable vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and other nutrients that are also necessary for optimal health.
The video goes on to list some of the “dangers” of excess protein – dehydration, digestive problems, increased risk of osteoporosis, complications for people with kidney problems. Lets look at these one at a time shall we?
First off, what is excess protein anyhow? This is not clearly defined in any way in the video. It is just some abstract statement with no qualification, aimed at making people believe that protein powder is deadly.
Dehydration due to protein consumption – While there is some limited research on this topic, it is scant at best. This idea is mainly from one study on military personnel on a water-restricted diet, clearly this does not apply to normal people and normal fluid intake. This is also related to the unsubstantiated but often-reported belief that excess protein damages the kidneys. Neither one has any actual science behind it, so why does it persist in the media?
On a side note, athletes and exercise enthusiasts have been consuming high protein diets for decades without any noted increases in kidney problems or dehydration. While only empirical, it still seems reasonable that if high protein diets truly caused dehydration and kidney problems, it would have been actually reported by now. Maybe this is because the kidneys are an incredibly adaptive piece of machinery, that attenuate change in protein intake. Hmm, what a concept.
Digestive problems? – I could not find anything on this in the literature, and seems to be based solely on ancedotal evidence to me. Does all protein cause digestive problems, or merely protein “drinks”, the video does not specify. In none of the studies, reviews or position statements I looked at is this even addressed, so it seems to be so small a concern to not even be considered in a review of high protein consumption and potential health effects. If a particular protein causes you GI distress, choose another protein source, it is that simple.
Increased risk of osteoporosis – This statement is based on early research that showed that people with high protein intakes had higher urine acidity that also appeared to linked to the leaching of calcium from bones to buffer this increased acidity. These studies were of poor design, with tiny sample sizes and using pure forms of isolated protein. This is not realistic as even conventional protein powders, especially whey, have calcium and other bone-supporting nutrients still intact. It has been more recently shown with higher quality research that the phosphate content of high protein foods negates this potential issue. The main reason why people on higher-protein diets excrete more calcium is because they consume more calcium, not because their bones are weakening. In the elderly, where risk of osteoporosis is a large issue, it is recommended that they exceed the RDA for protein intake of 0.8g/kg up to 1.0-1.2g/kg to maintain bone mass. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: protein and exercise.It has also been shown that when calcium and vitamin D intake are adequate, protein intake is actually beneficial to bone health. Interaction of dietary calcium and protein in bone health in humans.
Complications for people with kidney problems - OK my first beef with this point is that the writing on the screen differed in a small but significant way from the reading of the reporter, as she stated that excess protein can “for some people cause kidney problems.” That vague statement makes it sound as if just about anybody could develop kidney problems from excessive protein intake. When in reality, unless you have a pre-existing kidney condition, this is not the case. Here is a free pubmed article that looks at the state of the literature on the topic, and declares this to be a non-issue. Dietary protein intake and renal function. I will say it again, according to the numerous studies on the topic, unless you have a pre-existing kidney condition you are at no risk of kidney problems from increased protein consumption. Period.
As someone who has suffered from dry skin in the past, I am always looking for ways to improve it. I use a filtering showerhead, which works very well. I also consume plenty of healthy fats, including fish oil and borage oil, which both have made significant contributions.
Unfortunately I still found when I showered more than once in a day, my skin would still get pretty dry. I mentioned this once talking to Cassandra Forsythe, and she recommended I check out Kettlepot Soaps.
These have been absolutely amazing. These soaps are handmade right in CT, from natural oils and fragrances with no harsh detergents. I bought them for my wife as a small gift the first time we bought them, and she absolutely loved them.
“All bar soaps are made with top-quality base oils (olive, palm, coconut, soybean and canola), essential oils, fragrance oils, natural pigment colors, herbs, flower petals and more. Bars are hand-cut and wrapped in pretty, coordinating fabric. Each mild bar is rich in olive oil and glycerin to produce a creamy, cleansing lather.”
These bars do come really nicely wrapped and presented, and make a nice gift for the ladies. All you guys out there take note.
Needless to say these bars have made a tremendous difference to my skin, especially during the end of winter. They make you smell clean and fresh, yet leave your skin moist. Some of our favorites have been: Oakwood Sandalmoss, Oatmeal Milk & Honey, Cool Cocoa Mint, and Dragon’s Blood.
I know, lame title, but an important topic and something that I feel compelled to address.
Before I get to that I would be remiss if I did not congratulate Cressey Performance on their 3 year anniversary. CP was a wonderful experience and I would not be anywhere near the coach, nutritionist or person that I am today if it wasn’t for Tony, Pete and Eric as well as the incredible clientèle that I had the privilege of coaching. Please take a moment and check out the CP blog and EC’s blog celebrating their anniversary.
Back to the title, I came across an article on MSN just recently about current obesity rates in America, and it is frightening to say the least.
While it seems that childhood obesity rates are stabilizing (for now anyway), adult obesity continues to skyrocket up. In 1980 only 15% of the adult population was defined as obese, as of today that number is 34%.
40 states, out of 50, have at least 25% of their adult population deemed to be obese. The best state, Colorado, is only at 19.1%. That is still 1 in 5 adults who are considered obese!
Where have we gone wrong?
Considering that 10% of all health care costs are associated with obesity, this is something that needs to change, and it needs to change now.
To me the answer isn’t getting rid of McDonald’s. Too often I hear the blame laid at the feet of the food industry, and don’t get me wrong they have certainly played their part, but so have we. We have to start holding ourselves accountable for our choices and actions.
We choose to eat McDonald’s, they did not make us pull into their drive-thru and order 2 Big Mac’s with fries and a drink, super-sized of course because it is only 25 cents more. We made that decision. Personal accountability has disappeared, and to me nowhere is it more apparent than in our food consumption.
People claim that it is too expensive to eat healthy, especially in this economy. I say bullshit. We just choose to spend our money on other things. As a country we spend the smallest percentage of our disposable income on food in the industrialized world, at less than 10%. Instead we buy a giant flat-screen tv, and the HD cable to go with it or a 12th pair of jeans, designer of course. These are fine things to have, but recognize that you are making a choice.
To piggy-back that point, the amount of money that we spend on food away from home was 48.5% of all money spent on food, which is up from 34% in 1970 and 25% in 1950. Clearly this is a problem as well, but again, we are choosing to spend that money at restaurants rather than on home-cooked meals.
Food consumption is all about choices, and right now as a whole we are choosing poorly. Nobody is deciding for you what you choose to consume, so start holding yourself accountable and start making better choices. We will all be better off for it.
A lot of stuff rattling around the brain lately. Man it feels good to be blogging consistently again (knock on wood!). Now that my wife has started her residency we seem to have finally settled into a bit of a routine, which allows me to blog on a much more consistent basis.
1. Do as I say, not as I do. Right before I left CP I decided to try and trap bar deadlift a new PR of 620, even though only weeks before I had just pulled 615. I chose to pull it on a trap bar with a somewhat lower setting than the one below, just to be more of a man, or something like that. Testing deadlift PR’s within weeks of each other is something that I would probably never let a client do, but me, I’m the expert right? Well, I did complete the pull, but I believe it was the ugliest one in my lifting career and my back has been paying the price ever since. I just tried to pull 315 for speed the other day, about 2 full months since the 620 pull, and my back gave me the finger. Needless to say, don’t be a hero. To quote myself, train smart and hard, not one or the other.
2. I had the distinct displeasure of going to see that new Twilight movie, Eclipse, the other night with my wife. Now I make her watch all kinds of stuff that I love that she isn’t too fond of, so it is a compromise. Having said that, I should get 3 of my films in exchange for that horrible excuse for a movie. The best part was the trailer for the last Harry Potter. Holy shit did that look amazing. I bet Tony will destroy the back of his pants when he sees that for the first time.
3. Speaking of movies I’ve been meaning to discuss this one for a little while, I just haven’t gotten around to it. I watched State of Play the other day and I was impressed. I didn’t have incredibly high expectations for it, though I had heard it was worth watching. I would agree. While it has a few stumbles and mis-steps, when it hits it hits dead center. I would probably give it about an 80, and definitely say it is worth watching.
4. One thing I definitely miss about CP is the gym atmosphere. When I train now it is startling how much different it is when you have to provide all of your own motivation. My new gym is rather sterile and life-less, and has definitely affected my training. Do your best to find a gym that has an environment and atmosphere to help you reach your goals, not one that will actually slow you down.
5. On that same theme when I am at the gym the inner strength coach wants to come out very badly. I see people doing all kinds of stupid shit, but I also see people trying to train properly but maybe are not executing the exercise correctly or just a need a few pointers to clean it up. Thus far I have held my tongue unless I was spotting someone or something, but how do people feel about getting advice at the gym? Should I continue to keep my silence, or do you guys think it would be prudent to help people out from time to time? I would love to hear your feedback.
Now that title may seem a little odd coming from the guy who wrote The Case Against Conventional Dairy, but the key part of that other blog title is the word conventional. Conventional dairy production is awful. The cows are packed in like sardines, force-fed tons of corn, milked constantly and the quality of the product suffers greatly.
Fortunately there is a growing amount of available dairy from cows that are grass-fed and pasture-raised, milked only when appropriate and producing a vastly superior product. Organic Valley is one such company that produces their dairy this way, and I have talked about them before with their Pasture Butter.
I am also not a huge fan of pasteurization (especially UHT pasteurization), as it changes the taste of milk, seems to deaden the product and definitely kills off some of the benefits of raw milk, including some probiotics like Lactobacillus acidophilus.
Because of all of this, my consumption of dairy has greatly decreased over the past year. I generally stick to yogurt (sometimes Greek, sometimes just Stonyfield plain yogurt that I add protein powder too), and some stuff from my local farmer’s market like raw butter (amazing) and raw milk (also amazing) from a local farm that raises only organic, grass-fed pasture-raised cows.
I still only consume small amounts of the milk, one half-gallon will last me a week, and I consume about 1 tbsp of the butter per day, so my overall dairy consumption is not that high.
The point of all this is to talk about another dairy source that I have come to appreciate more and more. It has gone in and out of my diet for about a year and a half, but lately has been in there quite consistently.
I am talking about raw sharp cheddar cheese by Organic Valley. This product is available nation-wide, which is a nice perk. It comes from grass-fed pasture-raised cows, and it isn’t pasteurized to boot. It is aged for about 8 months to maximize flavor (and make it legal to sell anywhere), and it goes awesome with an apple.
Raw cheese from grass-fed cows is an excellent source of protein as well as some fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K2 (whose intake has been associated with lower risk of heart attack, cancer and all-cause mortality), as well as CLA (potent cancer-fighter), carotenes and omega-3 fatty acids. It is an incredibly nutrient-dense food!
Though I am not a fan of conventional dairy, if you do choose to consume dairy, do your best to make quality choices from quality companies.
Question: I found something through one of your articles about tea. Specifically when milk is added to green tea or other varieties of tea, the catechins are then negated by the fat content in the milk and rendered useless, now I’ve done a little light reading on it but I keep finding mixed results, some sources say this is not true, some say it is, some say it depends on the fat content… I’m a little bit confused by it all, as with many things in nutrition it’s hard to find a great answer, especially only being a nutrition aware by hobby, perhaps you could enlighten me?
Keep up the great work mate!
P.S I don’t drink green tea with milk (though I have tried it on occasion) but I do drink Black, White, Rooibos and Oolong with milk ( I only know about Rooibos thanks to you!)
Answer: While milk and dairy products do interfere with the catechins in green tea, it is due to a protein, not to the fat content. That may have been the source of your confusion (one study was done on fat content and it did show a difference, but it is the only one I am aware of, the rest are on protein). Milk and its high protein products (cheese, yogurt) contain a significant amount of protein. Casein is the major type of protein found in milk, making up nearly 80% of the content, with the other 20% coming from whey.
It is this casein protein that actually causes the issues with simultaneous tea consumption.
Tea contains some incredibly heart healthy compounds called catechins, specifically one called EGCG, which have been shown to cause the arteries to relax, among many other benefits. Unfortunately research has shown that when you add milk to the tea, the casein binds to the catechins, preventing this incredibly beneficial effect from taking place.
I think more research is needed on the topic, since it has been shown that the probiotics in yogurt disrupt some of casein’s other potential heath issues, so does it also prevent casein from binding to polyphenols and catechins? There just isn’t enough known.
What I would suggest is actually putting some form of citrus in your tea, be it a dash of lemon juice, or even an orange peel. Citrus has been shown to actually increase how well the catechins and antioxidants in tea are absorbed by the body. You can also choose varieties of tea that contain a little citrus in them, and this should also provide some benefit as well.
Hope that helps!
For more reading on the subject, check out some other blogs I wrote here and here.
I have come to notice a rather disturbing summer trend. People find excuses and justifications all over the place to eat like complete and utter shit.
“Well it’s the holiday”
“Well it’s so and so’s birthday” (we just had my mom, my dad, my sister and myself in a 10 day span)
“Well we are on vacation”
“Well we are at a wedding”
“Well it’s a Tuesday”
OK maybe the last one is a bit of a stretch, but not really. While people do tend to be much more active in the summer giving us the potential to lose a good amount of unsightly bodyfat, we make up for it by eating lots and lots of garbage. Tons of hot dogs, chips, sodas and beers, cakes and desserts, it never ends!
Now having said all that I am all for having a good time in the summer. It is most certainly ok to indulge in some delicious eclaire cake (like my mom made me for my birthday) once in a while, but once in a while is once in a while, it is not a near-daily event!
Justifying the choice to eat garbage does not make the food any less shitty, it just soothes your conscience while you expand your waistline. While again I do encourage people to enjoy themselves and just eat once in a while, sometimes you do have to be “that guy (or girl)” who doesn’t have 6 beers, 4 hot dogs, a pile of macaroni salad and an entire bag of chips to themselves.
Instead maybe you have 1 burger, some salad, maybe a small handful of chips and some assorted fruit with 1 beer. Maybe it isn’t as sexy, but you are certainly not deprived and it won’t do any damage. In many ways that’s what eating at get-togethers is all about, mitigating potential damage.
So do not be afraid to just enjoy yourself from time to time this summer, but also be prepared to be the one person at the party with some actual restraint as well. A bit of both will go a long way to help keep you sane and lean.