It has been a long time since I published a Day In The Life piece. These were always some of my most popular posts, and since my nutrition has evolved over time, I thought it was only time to post a new one. These were candid pictures of meals that I eat regularly. Nothing staged or added for effect. My breakfast, shake and lunch are pretty standard and don’t change much. Dinner time has the most variety in general (and they tend to be meals that my almost 3 year old daughter can eat, so our customary salad is out for now).
But before I get into that I wanted to share something else that is pretty cool. Dr. John Berardi, or JB, as he’s known around PN, was nominated for Men’s Health “Ultimate Guy” contest.
According to the website:
“Men’s Health and Kenneth Cole are searching for “The Ultimate Men’s Health Guy” to appear on the COVER of the November issue. This guy is physically fit, confident, stylish, career driven and a pillar of his community…the voting will help us select winners in four categories: Most Physically Fit, Most Healthy, Most Giving, and Most Successful.”
He had to upload 3 photos and 4 short 100-word essays about himself, which you can see HERE.
If you think he is worthy of nomination, it would be fantastic if you gave him your vote. Just click the link above, hit “Vote,” and follow the prompts. Takes 2 seconds.
JB is an awesome boss, and a better friend, so I encourage you all to check it out and see what you think.
Back to nutrition.
Since working for PN my eating habits have mildly changed over time. These days I eat even more vegetables than I used to, and I actually have a more linear intake. Meaning I don’t intentionally eat more on some days than on others. I just prefer the simplicity and consistency, and it flat out works for me.
As I have stated in the past, people often get suckered into “if some is good, more must be better” mentality. Especially when it comes to supplements. This is often due to supplement companies and their marketing tactics, but it is also due to experts in the health and fitness world looking for something cool and exciting to promote.
We see this all the time.
“Well if 5g of fish oil is good, then 15g must be awesome!”
“Vitamin D has lots of health benefits, and I don’t want to be deficient, so I should ‘optimize’ my levels with 5,000IU.”
Unfortunately, these approaches are inherently flawed. And often lead to more harm than good.
With that in mind, here are two great articles that delve into why high-dosing with vitamin D might not be the best idea, and what an appropriate dosage range is for most people. They provide an objective and balanced big-picture view.
What truly sets my High Performance Handbook Nutrition Guide apart from nearly any other product is the 37 pages I devote to the Health and Lifestyle Section. We know how important proper training and nutrition are to getting the performance, health and body composition you want. However, what often goes under-appreciated are the other factors in your life that can have just as massive an impact on your results, namely: stress, sleep, and our environment.
These variables can affect every bodily system, and not taking them into account will prevent your from achieving the results you desire. Still don’t believe me? Check out these excerpts from the Health and Lifestyle Section, and see if whet’s your appetite for more!
Sleep: Why We Need It, and How To Get It
We all know that sleep is important for our health. However, many of us (if not most of us) tend to act as if that just doesn’t hold true for ourselves. We seem to believe that we can get away with it. While you may blame “work” or simply being “busy,” research clearly and consistently shows that people miss out on sleep due to something called “voluntary bedtime delay.” Basically, we stay up late because we want to, often watching “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” re-runs, or mindlessly reading useless info on Facebook. No matter the reason, it is unlikely to actually be more important than logging sufficient and quality shut-eye.
In the big picture, sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise when it comes to improving your health, performance, and body composition.
The average adult gets about 6 hours and 40 minutes of sleep per night. In fact, about 30% of the population gets fewer than six hours per night. Women tend to sleep a bit more than men, and people who carry high amounts of body fat tend to sleep less than those with a normal body fat level. Studies suggest that people who sleep fewer than six hours per night gain almost twice as much weight over a 6-year period as people who sleep 7-8 hours per night.
Excessive sleep isn’t necessarily better, either; those who sleep more than nine hours per night have similar body composition outcomes as those who sleep less than six hours.
There is a fairly strong body of research showing that lack of sleep increases risk of many conditions, including:
altered food intake, leading to a decrease in satiety hormones and an increase in hunger hormones, as well as an increase in pleasure response to food, causing increased food intake
loss of lean mass, including muscle, bone and organs (such as your brain)
decrease in thyroid stimulating hormone
It is important to note that sleep debt is cumulative, meaning that the more nights with less sleep, the greater likelihood of negative effects taking place. The good news is that you can catch up with just a few consecutive nights of adequate sleep. Experts hypothesize that each hour of sleep debt needs to be repaid eventually, so don’t let it add up.
Okay, so we know lack of sleep is a problem. As researchers have noted regarding sleep debt: “these alterations are similar to those observed during aging and sometimes during depression.” Awesome.
Fortunately, research also shows that simply getting adequate sleep can quickly right the ship on these issues. So, how do we go about creating an environment conducive to optimal sleep? Well, here is a step-by-step guide on getting sufficient, and restorative, sleep.
Hundreds of chemicals are capable of inducing cancer in humans or animals after prolonged or excessive exposure. Chemically-induced cancer generally develops many years after exposure to a toxic agent. For example, a latency period of as much as thirty years has been observed between exposure to asbestos and incidence of lung cancer.
In 2010, the President’s Cancer Panel Report declared that “The true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated…this group of carcinogens has not been addressed adequately by the National Cancer Program. The American people – even before they are born – are bombarded continually with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures.”
According to the report, there are about 80,000 chemicals in commercial use in the United States, but only about 2% of those have been assessed for their safety. The report singles out radon, formaldehyde, and benzene as major environmental toxins that are causing cancer.
Radon:What is it, Where is it, and How do I Get Less of it?
Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas. It comes from the natural decay of uranium or thorium found in nearly all soils, and it typically moves up through the ground and into the home through cracks in floors, walls, and foundations. It can also be released from building materials or from well water. Radon breaks down quickly, giving off radioactive particles. Long-term exposure to these particles can lead to lung cancer.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that radon causes about 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year, with 1 in 20 U.S. homes having elevated levels. Radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking, and the leading cause among non-smokers.
Testing for radon and taking the necessary steps to lower radon levels in homes that have elevated radon can prevent many radon-related lung cancer deaths. This process is known as radon mitigation. Getting your home air and water (if you are on a well) checked is simple and inexpensive – and can save your life and the lives of your loved ones.
Formaldehyde: What is it, Where is it, and How do I Get Less of it?
Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical that is used in building materials and to produce many household products. It also occurs naturally in the environment and is produced in small amounts by most living organisms as part of normal metabolic processes. Formaldehyde has been classified as a known human carcinogen by several government agencies.
Formaldehyde sources in the home include pressed-wood products such as particleboard and plywood, glues and adhesives, permanent press fabrics, cigarette smoke, and fuel-burning appliances. In addition, formaldehyde is commonly used as an industrial fungicide, germicide, and disinfectant, and as a preservative in mortuaries and medical laboratories.
Research studies of workers exposed to formaldehyde have suggested an association between formaldehyde exposure and several cancers, including nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia. Rats exposed to formaldehyde fumes developed nasal cancer.
The EPA recommends the use of “exterior-grade” pressed-wood products to limit formaldehyde exposure in the home. Ensuring adequate ventilation, moderate temperatures, appropriate humidity levels (through the use of air conditioners and dehumidifiers), and the use of indoor plants can also reduce formaldehyde levels in homes.
Benzene:What is it, Where is it, and How do I Get Less of it?
Benzene is a colorless liquid that evaporates quickly. It is naturally found in crude oil and is a basic petrochemical. Unfortunately, it is also a known human carcinogen. Benzene is found in tobacco smoke, gasoline (and therefore car exhaust), pesticides, synthetic fibers, plastics, inks, oils, and detergents. Benzene has also been found in soft drinks (since removed or reformulated), and dryer emissions from scented laundry detergent and dryer sheets.
About 50% of the benzene exposure in the US results from smoking tobacco or from second-hand smoke. Substantial amounts of data link benzene to aplastic anemia, bone marrow abnormalities and leukemia – particularly acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and acute non-lymphocytic leukemia (ANLL).
To decrease benzene exposure, don’t smoke, and try to avoid second hand smoke. Ensure adequate ventilation in your home, use non-scented laundry detergents and dryer sheets, and keep plants in the home.
Household Cleaning and Personal Care Products
Cleaning supplies come in all shapes and sizes, with an infinite amount of marketing and advertising to promote them. It is hard, if not downright impossible, to know today what you really need to clean your home. Which chemicals may do more harm than good? Which companies are actually trying to marry safety and effectiveness, not just worrying about their bottom line and shareholder profits?
In addition,personal care products and cosmetics are also ubiquitous in society today. We all use them to look better, smell better, and feel better about our presentation to the world.
Unfortunately, many of these products are known contributors to poor air quality and various other health problems. Many ingredients in personal care and household cleaning products are known to harm or irritate the lungs and trigger asthma, even in healthy people. Some products even contain ingredients that are known endocrine disruptors and are linked to cancer and reproductive abnormalities. They also pose a great threat to aquatic life as they eventually end up in waterways.
You can forget trying to read the labels to discern their safety, though. Not only do labels require a PhD in advanced chemistry, but federal law in the U.S. allows companies to leave many chemicals off labels. These acceptable omissions include nano-materials, ingredients considered trade secrets, and the ingredients of “fragrance.” Instead, they use of terms like “cleaning agent” or “quaternary ammonium compound” for anything they decide they don’t want to list.
Your best bet is to check for warnings and the ingredients I will cover next. Don’t be fooled by marketing claims.
You might think that this is a hyperbole or tree-hugging paranoia and that your government would not allow such dangerous chemicals to be so widely used, and to not require them to be listed. You would be wrong.
In the U.S., companies that make cleaning or personal care products may use nearly any ingredient or raw material in their product formulations without government review or approval. They are not required to disclose all of their ingredients on the label. The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 laid out what the EPA could do to regulate the industry: essentially, not much.
If a product or chemical is deemed to pose an unreasonable risk of injury, companies can voluntarily recall a product. These recalls tend to focus on immediate injury risk such as chemical burns or fire hazards, not subtle problems with chronic implications, such as asthma or cancer. Companies do not have to prove chemicals are safe before putting them into cleaning products. In fact, in its more than 30-year history, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (the cosmetic industry’s safety panel) has assessed fewer than 20% of cosmetics ingredients and found only 11 ingredients or chemical groups to be unsafe.
The chemical industry as a whole is largely unregulated. There are over 80,000 chemicals in use in the U.S., and the vast majority have never been assessed for safety by federal regulators.
“There are too many chemicals and not enough data,” said Kevin Crofton, EPA research toxicologist. “There are literally thousands and thousands of chemicals in use for which we really don’t have much information at all.”
In addition the terms “hypoallergenic” or “gentle” do not necessarily indicate a product is safer, or is even those things. A company can use a claim like “hypoallergenic” to mean anything, or nothing at all. Remarkably, the Environmental Working Group conducted an assessment of over 1,700 body care products and found that 81% of those marked “hypoallergenic” or “gentle” contained allergens or skin and eye irritants!
In the U.S., there are more than 500 products sold that contain ingredients banned in cosmetics in Japan, Canada, or the European Union. The FDA also has little authority over cosmetic companies, cannot recall harmful cosmetics, and relies on companies to report injuries from their products a voluntary basis.
Just this morning, Shane made this comment on my most recent post:
“The nutrition section was great! Pretty much worth the price of the entire bundle on its own
Found some of the lesser-known stuff (like the section on beer) fascinating.”
With that in mind, you might be wondering what else you will learn if you pick up your own copy of The High Performance Handbook(besides the finer details of beer!)? Well here are a few excerpts from the Nutrition Explanation Section of the book to give you a small taste of the more than 200 pages of content I provide:
Dairy and Diabetes Risk
With little fanfare, a study recently came out by Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian and colleagues. Why so little fanfare, you ask? It’s because the study suggests that dairy fat may actually protect against diabetes, and that goes against conventional wisdom and government recommendations.
Dr. Mozaffarian and company collected two measures of dairy fat intake in 3,736 Americans. They took six 24-hour dietary recall questionnaires, as well as assessing blood levels of trans-palmitoleate. Trans-palmitoleate comes almost exclusively from dairy fat and red meat fat, and therefore it reflects the intakes of these foods. Dairy provided most of the trans-palmitoleate fatty acid in this study.
Adjustments were made for confounding factors, and trans-palmitoleate levels were associated with a smaller waist circumference, higher HDL cholesterol, lower serum triglycerides, lower C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation), lower fasting insulin and lower calculated insulin resistance. In addition, people who had the highest levels of trans-palmitoleate had 1/3 the risk of developing diabetes over the 3-year study period.
Again, it is important to note that trans-palmitoleate is a fatty acid, and so is only provided in significant amounts by whole fat dairy, not from low-fat or fat-free versions. The investigators also noted that “greater whole-fat dairy consumption was associated with lower risk for diabetes.” This is an important distinction, as it wasn’t just trans-palmitoleate levels that were associated with the decreased risk, but the actual consumption of whole-fat dairy itself that seemingly provides the benefit.
Here’s another nice quote from the authors: “Our findings support potential metabolic benefits of dairy consumption and suggest that trans-palmitoleate may mediate these effects. They also suggest that efforts to promote exclusive consumption of low-fat and non-fat dairy products, which would lower population exposure to trans-palmitoleate, may be premature until the mediators of the health effects of dairy consumption are better established.”
While it is certainly possible that trans-palmitoleate is mediating a lot of these positive health outcomes that were associated with it, in all reality, it only makes up a tiny fraction of the fat content of milk. I tend to believe that instead, it is more of a marker of dairy fat intake, with the benefits more likely coming from the other elements contained in dairy fat – CLA, vitamin K2, butyric acid, vitamin D – in addition to the trans-palmitoleate.
The Importance of Particle Number
Moving beyond particle size, there is emerging research that the number one risk factor for cardiovascular disease is actually particle number, in particular the number of LDL particles you have. This research even seems to indicate that even if you have large and fluffy LDL, if you have too many of them, you are at an increased risk of heart disease.
You might be wondering, “Why?” The full details are beyond the scope of this piece, but basically, it is a probabilities game. The more particles you have (not the amount of cholesterol in the particles, and maybe not even the size of the particles), the more likely the chance that one of those LDL particles is going to penetrate into your arteries, beginning the whole atherosclerosis cascade that will eventually lead to heart disease.
Interestingly, this research shows that when particle numbers are taken into account, particle size no longer has a significant relationship with atherosclerosis. So, while some earlier research showed large and fluffy particles to be more benign, this may not necessarily be true. However, this research does seem to indicate that while those small and dense LDL particles may not be any more atherogenic, they are actually a marker for metabolic dysfunction, inflammation and insulin resistance, so they are still not a good thing.
To actually know the amount of LDL particles you have, you need to have an advanced blood lipid panel done. Not all of these panels show LDL particle number (LDL-P), but they will all likely show your apo-B number, which can be used as a proxy for LDL-P.
Unfortunately, you can have low LDL-C with high LDL-P (and therefore a high risk of heart disease), and low LDL-P with high LDL-C (and therefore a low risk of heart disease). They do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. So, you can have high LDL-C and be at low risk, and have low LDL-C and be at high risk. This is not what most doctors will believe, so you might have to show them the research referenced at the end of this book!
In fact, the research also seems to indicate that people with high LDL-P and low LDL-C are actually at the highest risk for heart disease and overall mortality. This risk is even higher than in people with high levels of each. This is because people with high LDL-P and low LDL-C tend to have small and dense LDL particles, which while possibly not a direct cause of heart disease, are at least a marker for metabolic dysfunction that further decreases health.
Pick up your copy of The High Performance Handbook Gold Packageand you get my Nutrition Guide in conjunction with Eric’s incredible resource, which is a truly unique training program and like nothing you have ever seen before…
First, unlike your typical cookie-cutter program, it doesn’t force you to do an exercise you can’t.
Second, it designs a program suitable to your needs – based on how you move, what your schedule allows, and what your goals are.
Third, it’s an entire system. Not just some manual that says “do this.” We give you an entire video database, how to modify exercises, and much more.
Almost exactly six years ago, on Halloween of 2007, I moved down to Massachusetts to begin an unpaid internship at a brand new, and tiny, training facility in Hudson. My only source of income was going to be as a part-time personal trainer at a Boston Sports Club in the city.
My parents thought I was nuts. But I knew I was onto something.
That something was Eric Cressey.
I had read Eric’s work on t-nation and various other sites while in college, so I knew how bright and driven he was. And when I visited Cressey Performance for the first time, you could see that intelligence and work ethic written all over him. This was a guy I was willing to trust, to learn from, and for whom I would be willing to work for free, just to have that opportunity.
And it was worth every penny. I went on to become CP’s first employee, became the Head Nutritionist, and had an integral role in choosing and training subsequent interns. It was an awesome job. A job that I stuck with even as I moved to Connecticut when I got married, and drove 1:15 each way. I put over 40,000 miles on my car that year, just driving to and from CP.
And I would do it all again.
Fortunately, you don’t have to work as an unpaid intern or put 40,000 miles on your car to absorb the knowledge and training tools of Eric Cressey. Eric just released his new resource, The High Performance Handbook, and I would encourage you to put your faith in him, as I did, and give his program a shot.
This resource is about as thorough as they come; it’s almost like a choose-your-own adventure book for people looking to achieve their training goals. The programs start out with a quick and easy (yet effective) assessments so that you can identify a few important things that must be taken into account to effectively individualize your 16-week training program. And best of all, these programs are modifiable for anyone – they are not geared to only advanced trainees or elite athletes. They can be adjusted and modified to any skill level or training experience.
The High Performance Handbook also includes over 200 incredibly detailed coaching videos; it’s like being at CP with Eric where he coaches you through the drills just like you’re one of his professional athletes or clients.
Not only is this resource incredible in and of itself, bur Eric is so excited to finally launch it that he is is giving away some awesome free gifts to anyone who purchases the product today (Tuesday). Most notably, you’ll be entered to win an all-expenses-paid trip to get evaluated and train for two days at Eric’s facility, Cressey Performance!
Beyond the grand prize you could also win some free New Balance Minimum sneakers, a CP t-shirt or receive access to Eric’s 25 minute video, 7 Ways to Progress a Pushup. Pretty sweet, but you have to hurry!
Also, while you’re at it, I’d highly recommend you pick up the Gold Package of The High Performance Handbook, as it includes an awesome nutrition and lifestyle guide written by some really smart and good looking guy, ME :). In my humble opinion, this nutrition guide is the most comprehensive nutrition and healthy lifestyle resource available. I provide 50 Recommended Recipes, 14 Example Menus, explanations on how to calculate your calorie, protein, carb and fat needs (and why they are all important), and so much more. All told there are more than 200 pages of content!
I know, two posts in one week, let alone one month! It’s like a record or something.
Anywho, a few days ago I pointed out that Eric Cressey had put up an awesome Upper Body Training Video. With his new resource, The High Performance Handbook, coming out next week he has even more to share. And as the guy who wrote the Nutrition Guide for it, I can tell you how phenomenal this resource really is. A few days ago Eric has put up another awesome video you should check out. And this one is on breathing.
Learning to breathe appropriately may seem like a strange topic, but in fact the more we learn about breathing, the more we realize how it impacts how well we move and perform. And it has an enormous impact on our posture, tissue quality, and injury risk. Breathing correctly can be used to help with relaxation (yoga, meditation), but also to brace the core to lift heavy weights.
If you have something that can help with two extremes like this, you know it can be “clutch” when it comes to making or breaking your fitness progress. Luckily, Eric’s video today focuses on some of the breathing strategies he uses in terms of exercise selection and coaching cues. Check it out:
On another note, I have been a part of some awesome content over at precisionnnutrition.com lately. While I don’t post as much on my site like I used to, its because I work hard on creating top-notch content for PN, so check out some of these articles below:
Hey guys. I know I rarely blog these days, however, I have some incredibly content for you this week.
My first mentor (and former boss) Eric Cressey has some phenomenal videos this week. These videos will teach you how to customize your training programs and exercise selection to your own unique needs. Eric and his staff at Cressey Performance train hundreds of professional athletes and ordinary fitness folks alike, plus it is where I learned nearly everything I know, so you can be sure they are top-notch and applicable for everyone.
Eric’s widely recognized as “The Shoulder Guy,” so it’s only fitting that this week of videos kicks off with a look at how you can probably benefit from shaking up your upper body workouts. I found the information to be really eye opening, and he shows some awesome ways to look at upper body pressing besides just bench presses. Here’s a link to check it out:
I simply wanted to share 2 incredible new PN articles that I have had a hand in shaping. While they are officially credited to JB, who did write the majority of each one, several of us also had a hand in editing the piece and adding our thoughts. With so many bright minds involved, it turned good articles into incredible ones, that are worth sharing with as many people as possible. They are that good.
Many nutrition experts have long advocated that people eat the rainbow when it comes to their produce consumption. And beyond even that, it has been stated that you really only want to eat darkly colored fruits and veggies, as those are allegedly the best ones for you. While darkly colored produce is fantastic, as they get those colors from potent nutrients like anthocyanins and anthocyanidins, do they really stand head and shoulders above the others? Due to these recommendations, produce with minimal color like cauliflower, onions, and especially iceburg lettuce and celery, have really taken a backseat, much to my dismay.
In reality, we are still learning and discovering all kinds of new compounds and nutrients in the produce and plants that we eat, and while deep color may be indicative of the healthfulness of some produce, it is not the be all end all. In fact researchers recently discovered a compound called apigenin, which they believe to be one of the most potent anti-cancer compounds ever found! Two of the richest sources of apigenin? Humble, lightly-colored celery and iceburg lettuce.
The thing about cancer cells is that they are actually incredibly successful. At least, as far as their own survival is concerned they are successful to the extent that have a kind of immortality. This is the problem for the person with cancer, the cancer cells bypass the processes that should cause them to die as part of a regular cycle (known as apoptosis) and so they grow out of control and cancers develop. According to new research though, we now know how a substance called apigenin from foods makes cancer cells mortal again.
Apigenin is found in many plants but the best sources are parsley, celery, chamomile tea, thyme and iceburg lettuce. The researchers found that apigenin binds with around 160 different proteins in the human body. Among the most important of these though was a protein called hnRNPA2.
This hnRNPA2 protein influences the activity of messenger RNA (mRNA) which in turn carries the instructions needed to produce a specific protein. The modification of mRNA determines which protein the mRNA will cause to be produced. Abnormal modification (splicing) is the culprit behind around 80 per cent of cancers. The researchers found that apigenin, when applied to breast cancer cells, causes them to splice mRNA normally so that the cancer cells are no longer immortal and are programmed to die as usual (undergo apoptosis), or become sensitive to chemotherapy. That is awesome stuff.
So what does this all mean? It doesn’t mean that you need to take an apigenin pill, it just means you should worry less about which exact types of produce you “should” eat, and instead just eat the ones you enjoy, as that will lead to the greatest overall produce consumption, and likely your best bet for long-term health.
I just wanted to send out a big thank you to everyone at Cressey Performance for putting on a wonderful seminar this past weekend. The new facility is absolutely incredible, definitely makes me miss coaching there a little bit. For those of you who haven’t seen it, here is a nice little tour from Eric:
It was an awesome experience and I look forward to giving more talks like that in the future. Overall I think it went quite well, especially since it was my first seminar presentation. I have given loads of presentations in school, some solo talks to local high schools and such as well some in-service talks to the CP staff, but never to 200 people as part of a group seminar! We will have some cool stuff on the talk on the PN site probably some time in January, so keep your eyes peeled!
I also wanted to congratulate all of the other presenters for doing great work and providing some unique content. It was a great learning experience all around.
Last but not least, I want to thank everyone who attended. I got to meet a lot of cool people, and several readers of the blog, which was humbling and exciting at the same time. So thank you all who attended, we couldn’t have done it without you.