Show and Go and The Dempsey Challenge

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition, Training

I have some very exciting news to discuss today. First I want to mention that my former boss, and good friend Eric Cressey is set to launch his new product Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel and Move Better. He sent me an advanced copy of the product, and it is absolutely incredible.

Not only that, but EC also asked me to write a nutrition manual to tag along with Show and Go, which I of course obliged! I may have gone a little overboard, since my manual alone is around 90 pages! It contains tons of content, example meal plans, recipes and more!

Leading up to the launch of the product, which also comes with sweet free bonuses from guys like Tony Gentilcore, Bret Contreras, Jim Smith and Chris Howard, Eric is going to be dropping some serious knowledge bombs that are just the tip of the iceberg contained in Show and Go.

Today is one such knowledge bomb. If you want to learn how to squat deeply and safely, Eric has just released a free video revealing several instant fixes for your squat. This squat video is just a small sample of what Show and Go provides, check it out.

On another note, I will be running (who’d have thought huh?) in the Dempsey Challenge on October 2nd. The Dempsey Challenge is “a run/walk and cycling experience which integrates the passion and support of the cancer community with the hospitality of the Lewiston/Auburn community, while providing a rewarding experience and unprecedented value to all participants and partners.”

As I am sure many of you may not know, Patrick Dempsey, the star of Grey’s Anatomy, is actually from a small town in Maine, just outside my home town. He actually attended my high school for a few years before transferring. Anyway, I have decided to participate in the 2nd Annual Dempsey Challenge now that I am home in Maine. It was a tremendous success last year, and many of my family members participated in the event.

The Dempsey Challenge benefits The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing at Central Maine Medical Center, in Lewiston, Maine. To participate in the event you are required to raise $150 in donations, and to that end I am unabashedly asking for your help.

We have all been touched by cancer; we all know people who have it, who have beaten it, and who have succumbed to it. If you wish to donate to my running of the 2nd annual Dempsey Challenge, please click here. There is definitely no pressure, but every little bit helps so even if you only have little to give it will all make a difference. Thanks.

Posted on September 14th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre


You Asked, I Answered

Filed under: Nutrition

I know I just did a You Asked, I Answered segment, but this question was one that I think a lot of people should hear the answer to, as there is so much myth and, as Alan Aragon likes to call it, broscience, that people blindly follow without actually looking at the evidence.

Q. My question is, “what is the best meal or drink before and after exercise?” It seems everyone’s opinon is different. I thought for a long time sugars have no value, but now, I hear they are good for recovery and energy. I make sure to ingest plenty of them in pre and post workout drinks. Mostly I use Gatorade and protein powder, I recently started to add the Cytosport  performance drink. I like to eat pineapple too, after my workout. Maybe that is not the best time for fruits, but I fell better with it. I think what I do works, but it would be great to hear your advice, if you have the time to do so. Thank you Brian.

A. Well I will start this off by saying that this is an excellent question, and it really all depends on many factors, like all things in nutrition the answer is very context dependent.

There is no one “best”, what might be perfect for me would not necessarily be perfect for an endurance athlete, or someone who is allergic to something I am not. It is all about what works for you, end of story.

Having said that, in my opinion sugars still have very little place pre & post training. They are ok and certainly work, but I would definitely not call them best. For the vast majority of the population* I think people would be much better off with high-quality carbs that offer much more than just glucose; vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients, etc. Why take in your biggest carb servings of the day from sources that provide you nothing beyond their carb content?

The goal of the peri-training time period is to maintain hydration, fuel upcoming training session, boost training performance, recover from completed training session, increase muscle protein synthesis, decrease muscle protein breakdown, and spare and restore muscle and liver glycogen.

Why would simple and nutritionally empty sugars accomplish this any more effectively than quality carbs? Answer – they don’t.

Research is pretty clear that a blend of glucose and fructose, from low-moderate GI sources, can be just as effective, if not more so. This blend is more readily oxidized as fuel, better tolerated by the gut, maintains and restores liver glycogen more effectively, maintains and restores muscle glycogen equally as effectively, and may improve next day performance more effectively.

It only takes minimal insulin elevations, 2-3 times above baseline, to maximally inhibit muscle protein breakdown, and this is easily accomplished by a mixed pre-training meal. No simple sugars needed. A quality mixed post-training meal will also keep it elevated to that point for up to 5 hours after as well, so again, no need for tons of simple sugars and huge insulin spikes.

People will also champion faster proteins like whey and casein hydrolysate, to “get to the muscles faster”. Well whey hydrolysate has been shown to be too transient in the bloodstream, being in and out too quickly to maximize anabolism, and casein hydrolysate has been shown to be preferentially taken up by the splanchnic tissues, so unless you want jacked organs it isn’t the way to go either.

For the most part any high quality protein will do, though if you want liquid nutrition a combination of a quality whey protein with some casein, like from grass-fed dairy (whole milk, yogurt, etc) would work well.

Yes I said whole-fat. Research has also shown that post-training fat consumption does not blunt glycogen replenishment, and may actually increase net protein balance, potentially making you more jacked.

Finally comes timing. Many meatheads will tell you to down that post-training shake immediately, and I mean immediately, after you are done training. Is this necessary? I would say no, especially if your pre-training nutrition, which is equally important if not more so, was spot on. Waiting an hour to have your post-training shake or meal won’t make a bit of difference.

I hope that covered just about all the angles and convinces you that as usual real food is the answer.

* – the only exception might be endurance athletes who have multiple glycogen depleting session within 8 hours of each other.

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


Stuff You Should Read

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition, Training

Well last night during my CP fantasy football draft (to be honest I am not a huge fan of my team, but what can you do) I put the final touches on my nutrition guide for EC’s new book. I am very excited that I had the opportunity to write the nutrition component for EC, but I am also very glad that it is done! It was an incredible amount of work!

Anyway, here are some good blogs/articles that you should check out while you are pretending to work.

1. What a Stressed Out Bride Can Teach You About Training Success – Eric Cressey. Eric delves into how making your goals public, like telling people you are getting married, can greatly increase your chance of success, especially in fitness, performance and body composition.

2. A Little Sage Advice – Tony Gentilcore. Tony answers a question that gets asked often, “how to be a better trainer?” He explains how reading and networking are incredibly important, but that the best way to get better is to just do it!

3. The Dirty Little Secret of the Diet-Heart Hypothesis – Stephan Guyenet. Stephan has been a huge influence in my beliefs on how saturated fat affects health risk (or health improvements!), food quality affects body composition and a whole lot more. This is one of my favorite posts of his, and if you are at all interested in the actual research showing that saturated fat does not cause heart disease, do yourself a favor and check this out.


Posted on September 9th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

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More Good News for Grass-fed Meat

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

While researching the benefits of grass-fed meat for my nutrition guide for Eric Cressey’s new book, I came across a brand-new study that I thought was really incredible.

This study looked at red meat from animals that were fed grass or conventionally-fed, and compared the amount of omega-3′s in the blood from each.

Now as I am sure you know, grass-fed meat contains more omega-3′s than conventionally-fed (along with more CLA, more vitamins A and E, and a better saturated fatty acid profile), but it was unknown if this was enough to make a significant difference in blood concentrations in people.

These researchers set up a randomized, double-blind dietary intervention for 4 weeks. This means it was well-designed (especially for a nutrition study, which are often poor).

These 20 subjects replaced their normal red meat intake with three portions of either grass-fed beef or lamb, or conventional-fed beef or lamb.

The researchers found the fatty acid composition of serum blood and platelets, overall dietary intake, blood pressure as well as blood cholesterol and lipid levels pre and post-intervention.

They found that the subjects who consumed the grass-fed meat had higher total intakes of omega-3′s (obviously) and higher blood and platelet levels of omega-3′s, but there were no significant differences seen in triglycerides, blood cholesterol levels or blood pressure.

Ok, so what does this tell us? It tells us that consuming grass-fed red meat will contribute to higher levels of omega-3′s in our diet and in our blood, which is pretty cool. While clearly just consuming grass-fed meat was not enough of an increase in omega-3′s to alter blood lipids and cholesterol (or at least not given enough time), and it was clearly shown to be a significant contributor to overall omega-3 intake.

The key is to look at the big picture, and to see how the consumption of pasture-raised and grass-fed animals will improve nutrition and health over time. 4 weeks is a very short time period to see powerful changes, but just improving blood and platelet levels is an important step in improving long-term health. Eating grass-fed meat in conjunction with pastured eggs and dairy will make an even bigger difference in the overall omega-6 to omega-3 ratio and levels of inflammatory markers.

To me it is just more proof against those who try and claim that the difference in cattle feed is not important. While I do believe that it is significantly better to consume real food like meat, grass-fed or not, than processed man-made food products (or edible food-like substances as Michael Pollan likes to call them), to claim that how the animal was fed doesn’t make a true difference is simply false.

Over time these pieces all add up. Heart disease and inflammation are not problems that are created over night. They are created from long-term diet and lifestyle choices, and improving them one piece at a time will make a huge difference long-term. Choose grass-fed whenever possible, your long-term health will thank you.

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


Whey More Than You Thought

Filed under: Nutrition

Meatheads know it works. Scientists know it works. And that’s why whey protein is the veteran celebrity of the sports nutrition world.

While other supplements come and go, whey is rock-solid in its place as a nutritional powerhouse that can help you build muscle, burn fat, and generally be more awesome. But the benefits of whey go far beyond its ability to stimulate protein synthesis—in fact, it could be one of the best things you could ever put in your body.

Since whey contains somewhere around 60 native enzymes, vitamin-binding proteins, metal-binding proteins and other beneficial biological components, it’s been found to have antioxidant, anti-tumor, antihypertensive, and antibacterial properties and has been used successfully in clinical studies in the treatment of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis.

Bioactive Fractions — Cool Name, Even Cooler Results

[continue reading article...]

Posted on September 7th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

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You Asked, I Answered

Filed under: Nutrition

Q). What are your thoughts about ALA conversion to DHA as well as antinutrient content in flax? I read that Cordain has changed his stance on flax and doesn’t recommend them anymore, but I’d be curious to hear what you have to say.

A). ALA conversion to EPA and DHA is varied and quite poor overall. Studies have ranged from 0 to 12%, though it varies per person and by sex, with women seemingly converting more than men. Now this doesn’t mean that ALA doesn’t have any benefits. It is still beneficial and has been associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. While I wouldn’t go crazy with it, and I am not a big fan of large doses of flaxseed oil, I think that flaxseed has tremendous benefits.

Flaxseed and its inherent lignan content have been shown to suppress atheroslcerosis, reduce LDL cholesterol, increase HDL cholesterol, decrease markers of inflammation (such as C-reactive protein) and raise blood levels of omega-3′s. Here are a couple of review studies on flaxseed and cardiovascular disease if you want to take a look yourself.

So yes I think moderate flax consumption is not only a good thing, but a great thing.

Q). Brian,

Given the spirit of this blog post, do you think the information in the following post (specifically the portion toward the bottom under the heading of “Hemp: Not For Human Consumption”) misses the mark by throwing hemp products under the bus? From the tone of the comments, it sounds like their verdict on hemp would remain as is, even when considering that a portion of the n-6 PUFA’s in hemp are from GLA.

A). While I do think the WAPF has some great content, they have plenty of things that I do not agree with as well. This question can be summed up in so many ways by my blog post on the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. I think people take the omega-6 content of a food too far. If huge portions of your diet contain large amounts of industrial vegetables oils (like corn oil) that contain tremendous amounts of omega-6′s, are highly processed and prone to oxidation then that is a problem.

If you consume a moderate amount of hemp, say 1-2 tbsp of seeds per day, or a scoop of protein, or some hemp seed butter, or some moderate combination and you also consume your fish oil, some flax, some chia, some walnuts as well as cold-water fatty fish and grass-fed meats, then no it is not a problem whatsoever. Hemp contains omega-3′s, mainly in the form of ALA like noted above in the flax Q & A, and it also contains SDA, a relatively rare omega-3 that highly converts to EPA, much more readily than ALA.

The actual ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in hemp is actually around 3:1, so I really do not see how this is a food unfit for consumption. Plus, like you noted many of the omega-6′s come from GLA, which is actually an anti-inflammatory omega-6.

I do prefer that people eat the whole food, like the seeds themselves, rather than the oil since you also get fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals and antioxidants that help prevent oxidation. Overall, I think hemp is a fine food and is definitely fit for human consumption. If you want to read more I blogged all about the goodness of hemp.

Posted on September 6th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre


Home-made Trail Mix

Filed under: Nutrition, Recipes

While I am a firm believer in having a high-quality protein source at every meal, I don’t draw such a hard line when it comes to snacks. Sure it would be nice if a lot of them contain a high-quality protein, but I don’t think it is required.

I absolutely love having a simple snack of an apple with a bunch of natural peanut butter and some cinnamon sprinkled on top. It is like comfort food to me, except totally awesome for me.

In keeping with this theme I came up with a really simple home-made trail mix that is sure to please even the most ardent trail mix enthusiasts, if there is such a thing.

I will simply entitle this snack Trail Mix, as I have been told by my wife and at least one of my readers, who is a friend of mine from college, that my snack and smoothie recipes sound more like women’s body lotion than food.

Trail Mix

Simply mix all in a baggie and voila! A great anytime snack.

The nuts provide plenty of healthy fat, fiber, a little protein as well as vitamin E, magnesium and other minerals. The Plum Sweets provide a nice touch of chocolate, and moderately dark chocolate to boot, as well the incredibly healthy prune (dried plum). The raisins (I recommend organic as grapes are one of the worst offenders when it comes to pesticides) bring the perfect amount of sweetness to the table, as well as tons of phytonutrients and antioxidants, including resveratrol.

This snack provides roughly 383 calories, with 7 grams of protein, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fiber, and 19 grams of fat.


Posted on September 3rd, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre


Almonds: Too Many Omega-6′s?

Filed under: Nutrition

One of the most well noted problems with the Western diet today is the skewed omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. These polyunsaturated fats should be at a 4:1 to 1:1 ratio for ideal health, but in today’s average American diet, it ranges anywhere from 10:1 up to 30:1 in favor of omega-6′s!

Both omega-3′s and omega-6′s are essential fatty acids, meaning that we as humans cannot produce them (though we can technically produce some omega-3′s, it is not an efficient or wholly effective process) and must ingest them from food sources. They also both compete for the same metabolic enzymes and their ratio will significantly influence the body’s level of inflammation.

Omega-6′s are necessary for the inflammatory process, which is an essential part of healing, as well playing a large role in the health of the skin. Omega-3′s are essential to keep inflammation in check, and are also beneficial for cardiovascular, brain, eye, and joint health as well as innumerable other benefits.

The problem is that many leading nutritionists and their followers get so stuck on this ratio idea that they often miss the big picture. They will talk about how you should avoid foods that are too high on the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio spectrum. This may be true in cases of foods that contain huge amounts of polyunsaturated fats that are mainly omega-6′s, for example corn oil, but it does not hold true for every food that has a ratio above 4:1 like so many profess.

Straight up poison

Straight up poison

1 tablespoon of corn oil contains roughly 7.2 grams of omega-6′s and .16 grams of omega-3′s, or for the ratio nuts out there about 45:1. This is a problem. It is very difficult to consume foods with enough omega-3′s and minimal omega-6′s to balance that out.

Where this actually isn’t a problem are foods like almonds and olive oil. Many people who focus strongly on the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio will tell you to steer clear of almonds. While it is true that they have a omega-6 to omega-3 ratio even worse than that poison corn oil, at an astounding 1987:1, they contain far less actual omega-6′s at 3.3 grams (along with a paltry 1.7mg of omega-3′s). So even though they have a far worse ratio, their actual amount of omega-6′s is a number that is much easier to overcome.

Simply consuming 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds will provide you with 1.6 grams of omega-3′s while only providing .4 grams of omega-6′s, giving us a nearly 2:1 ratio with the almonds. While that same tablespoon of flax would only improve the corn oil ratio to 4.3:1, even that is almost right where we want to be!

It is true that most foods contain more omega-6′s than omega-3′s, so you don’t want to consume, or at least over-consume, foods with tremendous gram differences, simply for the fact that there are only so many omega-3′s to go around to help balance that out, but that doesn’t mean that all foods with ratios above 4:1 are off limits. This would remove tons of tremendously healthy foods from the diet:

  • almonds
  • pecans
  • olive oil
  • hemp seeds
  • avocado
  • peanut butter
  • pumpkin seeds
  • and more
eat some!

eat some!

The simple fact of the matter is that people need to stop only looking at individual components of individual foods and making ill-conceived judgements. Almonds offer lots of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, protein, and fiber, as well as vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, antioxidants and more. We need to remember not to miss the forests for the trees.

The far more important fact is to judge foods on their entire nutritional value (of which we are still learning so many things) and your diet as a whole. Simply because you consume some almonds on a daily basis is not an issue, especially if you are consuming pasture-raised or omega-3 eggs, grass-fed meats, wild-caught fatty fish, fish oil, flax, chia, and walnuts on a daily or weekly basis.

The point of the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is not to look at individual foods, but to look at your intake from your entire diet, so stop being an ass-clown and eat some damn almonds.

Posted on September 2nd, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre


Digging Through the Archives

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

Here are a few of my older blogs that you may have missed, never seen or will give you a nice recap. I think you will all enjoy having the chance to read some blogs that may have gotten “lost in the shuffle of time”.

Secret Superfood – This is a good one about a common fruit that may surprise you with its plethora of health benefits. Those of you taking baby aspirin for your heart should check this one out.

Grocery Shopping 101 – This was a highly requested topic that I covered in great detail many months ago. If you ever feel overwhelmed or unsure of yourself in the grocery store, this one is for you.

The Real Truth of Acai – Those of you who get bombarded with pitches for Mona Vie and the like will appreciate this one. I look at the actual facts and go into great detail on whether acai is worth your time.

Posted on September 1st, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

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