Proposal: Vegetarian/Vegan Offset Credits

I’ve had this thought for a while. It is an offshoot of an idea in my post Approaching Nutrition From An Investor’s Mindset.

When you are investing the goal is to put your money into something undervalued and then get out before it becomes overvalued. In other words, buy low and sell high. The more undervalued the investment, the less risk one takes. If we think about this nutritionally, we benefit most from the nutrients and foods that we are deficient in. A fast food junkie will likely benefit from a vegetarian diet and a vegetarian will likely benefit from a Paleo diet.

For a while.

My proposal addresses two different groups of people that might have compromised health. The fast food eater that consumes a lot of muscle meat and the strict vegetarian (more likely a vegan). Each group could benefit the other by swapping roles for a day. 

An ethical vegan would be able to eat animal protein for a day and still be within their moral guidelines provided they were able to convince a fast food eater to eat vegetarian/vegan for a day. They might even prepare the meals to assure that the fast food eater stays away from animal protein. The fast food person gets a break from meat and loads up on fruits, veggies and legumes. The vegan can now consume some animal protein for a day and shore up any nutritional deficiencies they might have developed.

The impact to the planet is neutral, yet both parties should be nutritionally better off. Actually, I am guessing the vegan would consume grass pastured or more humane forms of animal protein, so the ecological effect would be a net positive. Or the vegan could throw a dinner party for 6 heavy meat eaters and build up 2 days of animal protein credit at once to be spent at their leisure.

You could do this once a week, once a month or once a year. Before I get vegan rage, this is just a thought experiment. Not every vegan or fast food eater will have nutritional deficiencies. But if you do, this is not a bad way to do some nutritional diplomacy with “the enemy”.

Good idea?

fast food

Photo by Derek


Photo by Harald Walker

10 Awful Nutritional Myths Gets One Half Wrong

It feels like I wrote this post once before for a similar article. This response will take a different angle.

Kamal Patel’s article 10 Awful Nutrition Myths Perpetuated by the Media The truth behind the lies is yet another attempt to ignore or dismiss the fact some people are sensitive to bread and that their health improves when they remove it from the diet.

Myth 1: Bread/Carbs are bad for you

Lumping the insulin carbohydrate argument in with the wheat gluten issue wasn’t appropriate. They are two distinct topics. I am pro-carb, anti-wheat. So I agree with the first half of the myth, just not the second. The reason I am anti-wheat is because I have first hand experience removing it and experiencing improved health.

From the article:

While gluten gets all the attention, other compounds may be as or more important for people without celiac disease who suspect that they have gluten sensitivity. For example, some of the same researchers who discovered that gluten intolerance exists in people who don’t have celiac disease did a much more thorough follow-up study, and concluded that gluten was not necessarily to blame in those with irritable bowel syndrome. They suggested that compounds falling under the category of FODMAPs (which are present in a variety of plant foods) may be a greater issue.

OK, I’ll play along. What foods should I avoid if the real issue is FODMAPs? I looked at the FODMAP Wikipedia page and Wheat is one of the first thing mentioned! It is also listed as a primary food to avoid on the FODMAP Dieting Guide. Let us follow the logic.

  1. bread isn’t bad for us.
  2. gluten issues may not exist
  3. the real issue is FODMAPs
  4. a big source of FODMAPs is wheat
  5. bread = wheat

Am I missing something here? If I avoid bread because of the gluten, I am anti-science and neurotic. If I avoid bread, because it is a source of FODMAPs, then I am enlightened. I don’t know, nor do I care what is inside wheat that causes my skin to act up and give me headaches. I look better and feel better when I stopped eating bread. I’m not alone.

MAS 2001

Me and my skin during my bread years.


Me just months after removing bread from diet. 

I’ve said it before, the numbers of those experiencing issues with wheat/gluten/FODMAPs/whatever are simply too large to be this dismissive. I’m actually shocked at how little nutritionists think about risk assessment. Bread can be healthy or unhealthy or maybe it varies on a case by case basis. Maybe we don’t know enough. I don’t know the answer, so I am going to sit on the sidelines not eating bread as nutritionists tell everyone that their gluten issues “may not” exist.

From a risk assessment point of view you can look at this issue two ways.

  1. There is a lack of evidence that bread is bad for most.
  2. There is a lack of evidence explaining why so many people have issues with bread and why their health improves when the bread was removed.

Of course I line up with #2. For me I think the hygiene hypothesis is the best explanation for the modern level of wheat/gluten sensitivities, but I don’t know. If we don’t fully understand why people are getting sensitivities to bread, is it such an awful myth to simply say that bread is unhealthy for some people? I don’t think so. We should be studying the causes instead of trying to explain them away as saying they may not exist.

What I Eat and What I Don’t Eat – 2014 Edition

It has been two years since I updated this list. If you want to see how my diet has become less restrictive over time, let me point you to the two prior editions.

Most of the reasons I had for restricting certain foods turned out to be weak at best or just flat out wrong.

I have rejected the neurotic overly restrictive diets peddled by many in the nutritional blogosphere. Most foods aren’t bad, but eating them in excess can be. People are quick to accept the narrative that the blame lies with the food and not with the excess. But in a world of endless eating options, I still feel it is a rational decision to remove the foods most likely to cause issues and those with the worst nutrient profiles. Often they are one in the same.

What I Don’t Eat

#1 Industrial Seed Oils – What if it is all about vegetable oil? Once you strip away allergies and intolerances, what if the decline in health many experience can all be tied back to consumption of industrial seed oils? I did a three part series on this topic last December. Start with The Common Enemy in Nutrition.

#2 Wheat / Gluten – Since my 2012 edition, the gluten defenders have been at it in full force. The logic goes something like this: most people are fine with gluten, therefore strict gluten avoidance is unnecessary, therefore gluten is fine and thus gluten is healthy. I appreciate the motivation of the defenders in that we shouldn’t be falsely demonizing any food, yet it is a big leap to go from saying “gluten isn’t bad for most people” to “gluten is healthy”.

Even if you have zero issues with gluten, I don’t consider it to be risk free. From the post Was I Wrong About Gluten? Part 2:

When I listened to Evil Sugar Radio Episode 9, Antonio Valladares and Alan Aragon were mostly dismissive of gluten issues. Alan shared his research stating that 90-91% of the population does not have any gluten issues, so therefore gluten is fine and that projecting these problems out to everyone is absurd.

I have a few problems with the logic here. One is 10% is not a small number. What if it really is 30%? That is a tremendous number. Something is going on and even if I wasn’t gluten intolerant, I’d be taking notice. Why are so many people having so many issues with a food that is so prevalent? And what does “fine” really mean? Do we know? I have trouble believing that a food would be harmful to 10% (or 30%), but beneficial to 90% (or 70%).

My concern here is that we still don’t know that much about gluten issues. So instead of focusing on what is causing the problem, the defenders focus on how small the problem really is and how most people are perfectly fine with wheat. Absence of evidence is not absence of risk. As a healthy person that has dealt with this issue, I see their callous attitude as counter productive to figuring out what is causing the problem.

I also find it interesting that many of the gluten defenders are quick to advise their clients to cut out processed foods. I don’t know where you draw the line on the term processed, but with the exception of the WAPF group that soaks, sprouts and ferments grains, I’d consider all the wheat based products you find at the grocery store or in restaurants to be processed. I’m actually surprised I don’t see others pointing this out.

So if I avoid gluten and I’m not “gluten sensitive”, then that makes me neurotic. Yet if I avoid processed carbs, most of which have gluten in them, that makes me health conscious?

Anthony Colpo’s latest book is a good primer into why grains still aren’t healthy.

Whole Grains, Empty Promises: The Surprising Truth about the World's Most Overrated 'Health' Food
Whole Grains, Empty Promises: The Surprising Truth about the World’s Most Overrated ‘Health’ Food by Anthony Colpo

Regular readers now know I no longer avoid gluten 100%. I drink about 1 beer a month. I no longer go out of my way to avoid soy sauce or gojuchang. I believe I have restored my ability to handle some gluten by restoring my gut flora with fermented foods (dairy kefir, kimchi) after heavy use of antibiotics. However, that is just my best guess. I have no way of knowing for sure what happened. And because I don’t know, I am not going to return to eating bread. It took me years to restore my health and I like how I feel without it.

Many nutritional gurus are jumping on the idea that the gluten shark is gone (or never existed), so we can all jump back in the water. I’m unconvinced. I’ll be on the shore watching you guys. As someone with a background in investing, I do not think the gluten defenders understand risk or appreciate my concept of nutritional alpa.

#3 Diet Colas – On the list, off the list, on the list, off the list and now back on. Although I am not convinced this food is dangerous, I’m also not convinced it is safe. If I want a cola on a hot day, I’ll get one with sugar.

#4 Food From China – I will not knowingly purchase food from that ecological disaster. I’m sure I get some China based food when I eat out at some Asian restaurants, but I’m not going to buy any for home.

#5 Peanuts – I do not think peanuts are good for us, yet I purposely will expose myself to a few each year. For an explanation see Healthy vs Resilient.

That is the entire list.

Neutral Foods

#1 Alcohol – I can only handle a small amount of beer. Thankfully the style I seem OK with is the saison, which is my favorite.

hilliards saison

Hilliards Saison Photo by Luke Dorny.

#2 Nuts – I am less down on nuts than I was last year. See the post Nuts, PUFA and Vitamin E for an explanation. I still minimize their consumption, because I tend to overeat them when they are around.

#3 Oranges, Tangerines – I’ve moved these foods off the Avoid list as I am less repulsed by their smell. Still not a fan. Maybe someday. For a background explanation, see Why I Don’t Like Oranges.

#4 Sugar – I feel sugar has gotten an undeserved bad reputation. Once the saturated fat/cholesterol boogie man was killed, everyone went looking for a new villain to fill that role. Sugar was picked. I think sugar has a lot of bad friends such as industrial seed oils and wheat, but by itself I am longer swayed by the weak evidence that is inflammatory or heaven forbid “toxic”. The phrase excess sugar is used so much, I think a lot people stopped thinking about the term excess.

The only reason it is on the neutral list is because it can be easy to over consume and it can displace more nutrient dense calories (nutritional alpa). But eating sugar when your nutrient demands are met and you aren’t in caloric surplus is fine and can even be beneficial. I’ve used sugar to increase appetite to gain muscle and used to help my sleep.

What I Eat

Pretty much everything else is now fair game. Inclusive eating is so much more enjoyable.

5 Issues I Had With Your Personal Paleo Code

I just finished reading Chris Kresser’s book Your Personal Paleo Code. There is nothing new in this book if you are familiar with his blog or the basics of Paleo. It is a long winded version of Primal Blueprint mixed with Perfect Health Diet mixed with The Primal Connection. For the most part, the information seemed solid, but I would only recommend this book for someone new to the topic.

Your Personal Paleo Code: The 3-Step Plan to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, and Stay Fit and Healthy for Life
Your Personal Paleo Code: The 3-Step Plan to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, and Stay Fit and Healthy for Life by Chris Kresser

At 416 pages I found this book could have easily been edited down to about half that size. Other that the length, I recall 5 issues I had with the book. There may have been more, but these stood out.

#1 Too Low in Carbs

Having read Kresser for years and listened to his podcast, I thought he had mostly rejected the low-carb interpretation of the Paleo diet. I thought he was leading voice for moderate intake of carbs. Yet, the recommendations for all but the most active seem low. He advises “most people” to get between 15-30% of their calories from carbs. Buried in a sidebar titled When To Think Twice About a Very Low-Carb Diet there is a mention of hypothyroid symptoms. I think this topic deserves more attention than it received. For years I’ve been reading how this problem is common in low-carb Paleo. I experienced it and I never went that low in carbs.

What is the case for restricting carbs to these levels? It was never made in the book. Hasn’t this assumption that our ancestors were eating high fat diets been gradually eroding as we learn more? All I can think is that these are the macronutrient levels that have worked best for his client base. And if that is the case, I’m fine with that. Just be clear about it.

For the record, I’m not anti-low carb. I’m just no longer convinced it is superior to moderate levels. Many of the arguments I’ve seen supporting LC have been discredited or weakened. If carb levels are optimal between 15-30%, make the case. Your Personal Paleo Code didn’t.

#2 Refined Sugar is “Toxic”

No it is not. The fact there are carbohydrate sources with better nutrient profiles does not make sugar toxic. Chris likes and recommends ice cream, but says sugar is toxic. Well check your ingredient list there pal, ice cream has sugar in it. When I became underweight, I used sugar (in ice cream) to stimulate my appetite to regain weight. I also used a mix of refined white sugar and salt to lower my stress levels to get amazing sleep. Sugar is complicated at best. It is not toxic.

#3 Fear of Phytic Acid in Legumes

The reason Paleo doesn’t like legumes is because they contain phytic acid. Phytic acid binds to minerals. The fear is that eating legumes will make one mineral deficient. Chris does get props for discussing how traditional cultures prepared their legumes via soaking, sprouting and fermenting. The question comes down to is if legumes without traditional preparation are worth eating. Chris says they are best avoided. I am more persuaded by the Precision Nutrition article Phytates and phytic acid. Here’s what you need to know.

In addition to discussing the risks of phytic acid, the PN article mentions the benefit. One example:

When phytic acid binds minerals in the gut, it prevents the formation of free radicals, thus making it an antioxidant. Not only that, but it seems to bind heavy metals (e.g., cadmium, lead) helping to prevent their accumulation in the body.

The PN article paints a more balanced picture. It even provides the tip of consuming Vitamin C or a food with Vitamin C in it when eating something rich in phytic acid. The article concludes with:

To argue that some plant foods are “unhealthy” because of their phytic acid content seems mistaken, especially when phytic acid’s potential negative effects on mineral assimilation may be offset by its health benefits.

I agree. There are many great Indian and Mexican dishes that uses legumes. I no longer buy the Paleo line on legumes, even if the beans are not traditionally prepared. Hell if time is the issue, then according to Food Renegade, a pressure cooker can reduce phytic acid levels significantly.

#4 The Gluten in Beer

I am anti-wheat. Me and Chris are in full agreement. However, unless one has a serious issue with gluten, I don’t think it is necessary to avoid all food with trace amounts of gluten. I also suspect that 100% avoidance could increase sensitivity. Chris was right when he said distilled liquors were safer because they are fermented. Well, beer is fermented too!

Last year I got the idea that my body could handle beer from Chris’s podcast on the hygiene hypothesis. The short version is I used fermented foods to restore my gut flora that was destroyed by heavy antibiotics use. After listening to his show, I decided to test the health of my gut. So I drank a 4 oz beer and felt fine. Clearly a sign that I was healthier. I chose beer over bread, because it is fermented (partially digested). There is no mention of the hygiene hypothesis in the book.

The point I want to share is that one can heal from gluten intolerance and that drinking a small amount of a tasty ale is not the same as eating a bowl of pasta. Exposing myself to trace levels of gluten via beer, soy sauce and gochujang has made me more resilient and thus more healthy.

#5 Extra Protein to Gain Muscle

Chris repeats the myth that one needs high levels of protein to gain muscle mass. No you don’t. In fact, it is often counter productive. One needs an excess of calories to gain muscle. High levels of protein are satiating, which makes it difficult to eat a caloric surplus. I cover this in detail in the post Why Ice Cream is Better Than Protein Powder.

Last Words

Other than the 5 issues I laid out, this would be a fine book for someone new to Paleo. If you’ve already read those books, don’t waste your time with Your Personal Paleo Code. For those of us that have a background in Paleo, his podcast is much better than the book. It is more evolved.

Gaining Weight on a Paleo Diet

Yesterday I listened to Chris Kresser’s podcast on how to gain weight on a Paleo diet. If you don’t have 36 minutes, I’ll summarize it quickly and then give you my thoughts.

  • Show starts with a recorded message from a man who wishes to gain weight on a Paleo diet, but he is also concerned about carbs. (oh dear)
  • The first half the show Chris goes into all kinds of ailments one could have that would prevent weight gain. If you are sick this section is worth listening to. Otherwise you’ll be a ball of stress.
  • The second half was valuable as it had all the dietary tricks. The main ones being don’t fear the carbs, eat starchy veggies and dairy if you can. Chris also likes high calorie smoothies.

At one point Chris advises to eat liberally from all the macronutrients: carbs, protein and fat. This is where my advice would deviate slightly. I would advise reducing protein. Protein reduces appetite. I cover this in the post Just Count Protein For Fat Loss.

The typical paleo diet is high in protein and low in carbs. That combo can result in lower appetite, lowered calorie intake and lowered body weight. Add in a newly found active lifestyle and you could really be in a caloric deficit. Fine if you need to lose weight, but not good if you are underweight.

Forget Paleo, Bring on the Ice Cream!

Chris didn’t say it but I will. Ice cream is the best food you can eat to gain weight. High flavor signal, low in protein and calorie dense. Oh nooz, what about the sugarz? Stop thinking about food as either good or bad. You can use “bad foods” as a tool to solve a bigger problem. If you are an over exercising, bacon eating, carb avoider stressed and unable to build an ounce of muscle on your scrawny body, ice cream is a godsend.

I’ve been there. A few years ago my super clean Paleo/WAPF diet became effortless. I was beyond lean. Thankfully I wasn’t over-exercising. My abs looked amazing, but my face looked gaunt, almost meth like. So I needed to find the best food that would upregulate my appetite. That research lead to my post Why Ice Cream is Better than Protein Powder.

It worked. I gained weight. My gaunt face is gone. My body temperature is higher. My sleep is deeper and I eat wonderful ice cream. :)

Chris did mention dairy kefir, which I also recommend if you are willing to make it on a regular basis. The store bought stuff is over priced and tends to be low-fat. If you can’t handle dairy, a single can of coconut milk packs 840 calories.

MAS at Molly Moon's Ice Cream

Nuts, PUFA and Vitamin E

Last December I did a 3 part series on PUFA (polyunsaturated fats).

  1. The Common Enemy in Nutrition
  2. The Problem with PUFA
  3. Quantifying PUFA, Expert Opinion and My Conclusion

My very brief summary of those posts were that ALL nutritional camps seems to agree that excess PUFA is bad for health. Finding across the board consensus in nutrition is rare. Excess PUFA can cause a host of health problems, which are listed on the second post. The most interesting one to me is reduced metabolism. The third post is where I make the case that one doesn’t just need to lower PUFA going forward, but because our fat tissues are likely to store high levels of PUFA from modern living and they can reside there for years, we need to drastically lower our PUFA levels. At least initially.

My personal strategy to remove excess PUFA out of my body were to:

  1. Minimize or eliminate vegetable oil use. Easy at home. Tougher when eating out. Favor high temperature saturated fats, such as coconut oil.
  2. Eat more seafood, dairy and red meat. Reduce pork and chicken.
  3. Stop eating nuts.

I may have been wrong about nuts. Yes nuts have have high levels of PUFA, but they also are a rich source of Vitamin E. And it turns out Vitamin E plays a protective role against PUFA. From the article Vitamin E: Estrogen antagonist, energy promoter, and anti-inflammatory by Ray Peat.

One possibly crucial protective effect of vitamin E against the polyunsaturated fatty acids that hasn’t been explored is the direct destruction of linolenic and linoleic acid. It is known that bacterial vitamin E is involved in the saturation of unsaturated fatty acids, and it is also known that intestinal bacteria turn linoleic and linolenic acids into the fully saturated stearic acid.

The article also explains how our Vitamin E needs rise and fall based off our intake of PUFA. More PUFA, more Vitamin E. Less PUFA, less Vitamin E. If this is accurate then simply adding up the amount of linolenic acid in our food without accounting for Vitamin E will overstate the PUFA risks in nuts. By how much? I have no clue.

Another factor is heat and light destroys Vitamin E, putting processed seed oils at a further disadvantage to nuts. One exception might be cold-pressed high oleic sunflower oil.


Natural PUFA vs Processed PUFA

Almonds are rich in both Vitamin E and PUFA. One ounce of almonds has 3377 mg of linoleic acid and 7.3 mg of Vitamin E. I suspect this means almonds aren’t good, but less bad. There are some good comments on the 2011 post Ray Peat – Epilepsy by Matt Stone regarding PUFA and Vitamin E.

Jannis said:

Eating nuts because of the vitamin E is like drinking snake poison together with the antidote.

(making the point there are better ways to get Vitamin E)

AS said:

It seems to me, that the existence of the naturally occurring Vitamin E, along with the naturally occurring PUFA, in a natural whole food, is *a* key. That perhaps the two occurring naturally together (among other nutrients, etc.) in a natural whole food means something. That perhaps PUFA, in the context of whole foods, acts very differently in the human body, than unnatural sources of PUFA does.

Matt Stone stepped in and summarized:

I think Ray Peat would say…
Vegetable oils with no vitamin E or supplementation…. WORST
Vegetable oils with vitamin E and aspirin supplementation…. BAD
Whole food PUFA consumption… BETTER
Low total PUFA consumption… BEST

What Matt didn’t include in his comment, is the combination of Whole food PUFA consumption plus a Vitamin E supplement. My guess is this might fall somewhere between BETTER and BEST. But that is just a guess based off the fact nuts still have a high amount of PUFA.

Earlier this year, there were reports of higher risks of prostate cancer who took high doses of Vitamin E daily (400 mg). The rates of cancer were higher when the men had very low or very high levels of selenium. That doesn’t concern me, as the goal for most days would be to consume minimal PUFA and just take Vitamin E as insurance for the days you can’t avoid PUFA.

And there is also the possibility – as Jannis alluded to –  that it is more than just Vitamin E that exists in natural sources of PUFA that provides protective benefit.

Bring on the Almonds?

I love almonds, but I haven’t bought any in over a year. Raw or soaked almonds suppress my appetite more than ANY other food. Also my approach to nutrition is to be expansive. The neurotic restrictive diets aren’t for me. If I can add back almonds, take a Vitamin E supplement, maintain a high metabolism and lose a few pounds, then that is something I want to do. And if I don’t even need the Vitamin E supplement, even better.

Your thoughts?

Ending 30/30 Experiment With Casein (n=1)

This is quick update on the results from my experience trying the Tim Ferriss 30 in 30 experiment. The premise is to get 30 grams of protein consumed within 30 minutes of waking. Doing this is suppose to reduce appetite and trigger weight loss. Because consuming 30 grams of protein that quickly in the morning can be a challenge, Ferriss says in the 4 Hour Body that you can use whey protein shakes.

When I first did this experiment in 2013 I discovered that whey did not suppress my appetite. It stimulated it. I actually got more hungry and ended up eating more. This summer I repeated the test using casein protein, which several people have discovered blunts appetite more than whey. I came to the same conclusion.

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman
The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman by Timothy Ferriss

Skipping Breakfast > Casein > Whey

Casein solved the whey problem, but it didn’t cause my appetite to drop. It was neutral. For me reducing my eating window is the more effective than 30 in 30. Since I can more easily deal with morning hunger than evening hunger, this means skipping breakfast is the best for me.

John in a comment in March pointed out what I discovered.

  1. John says

    I had the same experience with 30/30. If you look in the appendix of his book, in his own study, those who ate 2 meals a day and skipped breakfast had the most weight loss. Of course, he tries to explain this away.

I haven’t dialed in an optimal fasting window. 12-14 hours is likely the best for most days. Doing 16 hours daily was too much for me.


“You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Hungry!” by Dave Groehring

Casein Not Whey For Reducing Appetite (n=1)

In mid June I decided to revisit the Tim Ferriss 30 in 30 experiment. The 30 in 30 refers to getting 30 grams of protein ingested within 30 minutes of waking. Doing this is suppose to help you lower appetite and lose weight. Although real food is ideal, Ferriss says it is OK to have a whey protein shake for convenience.

When I first tried the 30 in 30 experiment, I discovered my appetite actually increased. I gained weight. Was it the fact I was eating much earlier in the day or was it the whey protein? In the post Revisiting the Tim Ferriss 30 in 30 Experiment? I started to think it might have been the whey. So based off the recommendation of HealthNutNutrition, I bought some casein protein and restarted the experiment.

Due to moving twice, getting food poisoning and losing my scale, I don’t have any valuable weight data, but I will report that casein does a MUCH BETTER job at suppressing my hunger than whey. Whey might be fine for post-workout quick nutrition (personally I think ice cream is a superior choice), but it sucks when it comes to holding down my appetite. At least it did for me.

I’m not the only that has noticed the effect casein has on hunger. From The Value of Casein Protein by OneResult:

The second reason casein is a great addition to any supplement routine is its appetite-suppression qualities. Unlike whey, when casein is digested it morphs into a gel on the inside of your stomach lining (as opposed to dissolving right away as whey does). This gel-like substance sends a message from your stomach to your brain that you’re full, preventing you from overeating.

For this reason, many people find that they can go hours without food after having a casein protein shake…

I used this casein protein. Doesn’t taste great, but it doesn’t taste awful, which I guess is an endorsement when it comes to protein powders.

Optimum Nutrition 100% Casein Protein, Creamy Vanilla, 4 Pound

When the casein runs out, I will probably switch to cottage cheese. For a long time I was avoiding cottage cheese because the Ray Peat folks have demonized carrageenan almost as much as PUFA. Carrageenan may still have risks, but they are likely overstated. Even if it is problematic, I see using any potential unhealthy food such as carrageenan as a tool to a greater health goal, which is fat loss. Once the weight is dropped then drop the tool.

The Food Poisoning Diet

I’m interrupting my blog vacation to tell you about an amazing diet that I stumbled upon. You can lay in bed all weekend, sleep most of it if you like and lose weight! Absolutely no exercise required. No special supplements required either!

On Friday afternoon I had 3 tacos an authentic taco place in Redwood City, CA. One lengua and two beef cheeks. Later that afternoon I felt bad. By that night I felt awful. For four days I was in pain. I had almost no appetite. I slept more than I have in my entire adult life. When I did eat, all I could stomach was white rice and Coke. I also was able to eat fruit.

Prior to my feeling awful and during the weekend, I ate nectarines that I purchased at Costco. On the 4th day, I received an alert that those nectarines had been recalled due to listeria concerns. I stopped eating them and threw the remainder away.

By day 5, I was much better and my day 6 all better.

I’ve had food poisoning in Mexico (of course) and Malaysia. Both were from fancy places. This experience was far worse than those two combined.

The result of my food poisoning diet was I lost a little more than 1/2 inch off my waist. Probably unsustainable, but I thought it was worth sharing. I think the problem was from the sketchy meat and not the fruit, but I have no way of knowing. I do know that I have lost all interest in exploring the taco culture in my new city for the time being. And I’ll be sticking to the apples for my next few Costco trips.

When I had no desire to eat, I consciously choose to eat white rice with salt because not only was it easy to make, but it wasn’t that palatable. It was neutral. I had no desire for stronger or complex flavors. When I restricted myself to neutral foods, I ate less and lost weight. I couldn’t help but think of the opposite case where food engineers design foods that consumers love so much that that easily over consume, which is described in the great book The End of Overeating.

The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite
The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David Kessler

Anyway I don’t think you need to eat sketchy meat or recalled fruit to lose weight. Just try a weekend of bland food.

I Survived My First Beer in 5 Years!

Up until Friday, my last full beer was in September 2009. When I discovered gluten was causing me issues, I stopped drinking beer. Other types of alcohol didn’t really interest me, so I stopped drinking completely. I never drank that much, so it was no big loss. But starting last year, I started missing the microbrewery experience.

I live in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, which has become one of the hottest areas in the country for craft beer. There are now 10 microbreweries in a 2 mile radius. That is a lot.

Last autumn I started testing my gluten sensitivities (see Was I Wrong About Gluten? for reasons). First with trace amounts of soy sauce and restaurant gochujang. No problems. Then I started to experiment with a few ounces of beer. I had mixed results. Once I drank 10 ounces of beer and felt horrible. So for the past few months I’ve had a few ounces of beer maybe once a month.

On Friday I decided to drink a full beer. Prior to drinking the beer I ate a raw carrot and took some activated charcoal. I also decided not to stress about it. I told myself I was going to be fine and I was. My face didn’t turn red. No headache. I slept fine.

hilliards saison

Photo by Luke Dorny. Hilliard’s Saison was my first beer back. Brewed in Ballard and my favorite style of beer. 

Avoiding gluten if you find yourself gluten sensitive is an excellent goal. Doing this will give your body a chance to heal from whatever damage the gluten caused. However, unless you are Celiac, your next goal should be to cure the underlying problem that caused the gluten sensitivity to begin with. It might take months, years or it maybe it will never happen.

My health goals are not about seeking optimal, but about being resilient. Although I have zero plans to eat bread anytime soon, I would like to enjoy an Asian meal without stressing out about the tiny amount of wheat in the soy sauce or gochujang. And I’d like to share a beer with friends. Last Friday I did both.

The 10 Health Myths Article Gets One Wrong

The article 10 Health Myths That Just Won’t Die, Debunked by Science was posted back in October, but I just saw it this morning. When I scanned the list, I mostly agreed with their conclusions or didn’t know enough about the topic to form an opinion. However, I feel they got one wrong.

Myth 5: Gluten-Free Foods Are Healthier

You can already guess the argument they will use to defend this claim. Most people are fine with gluten, therefore gluten is just as healthy as non-gluten grains. Although gluten intolerance might be a small number and it might be overstated, that doesn’t make the second half of that statement true.

Gluten-free options are usually not a single grain, but a blend of 3-4 grains, each with their own nutrient profile. By focusing just on the downside of gluten intolerance with a limited number of people and not the upside of nutrient diversity which would benefit us all, they drew a false conclusion. Diversifying one’s grain consumption beyond wheat is a probably a wise idea and likely MORE healthy regardless of gluten sensitivity issues.

Flipping this argument. Let us image that when food makers used gluten, they used a blend of wheat, rye and barley. And let us imagine that every gluten free food maker used only sorghum. In that case, assuming no intolerances, the gluten option would be more nutrient diverse. But that isn’t the case.


Grain Store in Yemen by Rod Waddington

We Still Don’t Know

The gluten defenders are getting a little too flippant these days. When they say nonsense like only 9% of the population is celiac or has gluten intolerances, I want to yell ONLY?!?

9% of the US population of 314 million is over 28 million people. Restate that assertion using a real number. 9% sounds small. 28 million doesn’t.

Why do 28 million people have issues with gluten now? I’m partial to the hygiene hypothesis, but we don’t know. Another theory is that the dose is the poison. In earlier times, we likely consumed a wider variety of grains and even a wider variety of wheat. All in smaller quantities. A single variation of wheat wasn’t in everything. Today’s gluten free alternatives are more nutritionally diverse than those containing today’s modern wheat.

My inner investor tells me that we are working with incomplete information and that grain diversification is a safer and a more healthy path. Even if I didn’t have a gluten intolerance, I would be seeking out alternative grains, like those found in gluten free foods as a nutritional hedging strategy.

Natto + Sriracha

Oh nooz carbs, legumes and fermentation!

The Paleo and Peat godz are weeping. I can feel the diabeteez and super bug mycotoxins killing me. Lordy lordy this inflammation is eating me up!

Ahh!!! Must do a Hole30 DETOX for my purity.


My lunch was great.

Wow! A Good Article on Calories!

For what seems like years there has been this endless debate on calories. It probably will never end.

On one side you have charlatans that preach certain calories in excess somehow magically won’t make you fat. This belief is rampant in the low carb community. The other side endlessly repeats the Eat Less More Move (ELMM) chant and dismisses any discussion of metabolism. This side is dominated by many in the fitness field, who tend to be young and in great shape. Teenage triathlete Armi Legge recently said this asinine statement in an article fawned over by many in the blogosphere.

You could get ripped on skittles and coke (the soda).

I can’t stand either side. Idiocy on one side and arrogance on the other.

To my surprise I stumbled on an actual balanced article regarding calories that doesn’t lie, addresses quality and is concerned about metabolism. Go check out A Calorie Is Sometimes Not A Calorie by Dr. Jade Teta.

Anyone that says calories don’t matter has zero credibility. But anyone who claims calories are all that matter has even less credibility.

Here are some takeaway points from the article.

  1. Calories count.
  2. Quality counts.
  3. Combining sugar, salt and fat has a negative impact on appetite control. (For more info on this read The End of Overeating).
  4. “The standard “eat less, exercise more” approach to dieting leads to about 20-50% loss of lean tissue.”

Dr. Jade Teta’s article successfully balances the strongest points of each side while rejecting the nonsense.

When I put together my plan to lose 20 pounds, my first rule was to remove the foods that dis-regulated my appetite the most. My goal wasn’t to directly lose 20 pounds via calorie restriction. My plan was to reset my appetite via high quality, high satiety foods to that of someone 20 pounds lighter. Reduce appetite while maintaining metabolism first. Then the fat loss should follow. Calories were reduced, but not until I increased quality.

So far my diet strategy, which falls in line with the ideas from the Dr. Teta’s article is working. I’m halfway to the goal and my appetite is in check and my energy levels are fine.


Photo by Victor. Getting ripped on Skittles! 

The “4 Toxins” Revisited

My thoughts on nutrition have changed quite a bit in last few years. I was just going through the archives and I came across the post I did after my December 2011 trip to Ohio. In the post Paleo in Ohio, I declared there were 4 toxins when it came to diet.

They were: Gluten, Veggie Oils, Sugar, and Legumes (except long fermented soy).

My analysis at the time:

For me gluten is the worst toxin. I get splitting headaches and skin inflammation. And once you read up on the dangers of veggie oils, you will do everything in your power to remove them. However, they are everywhere and they can take 2 years to get out of your system. Sugar has never been a problem with me, nor has legumes. Plus they are the easiest to spot and avoid.

My Thoughts Today (2014)


I was dead wrong on legumes, because I listened to Paleo.

The reality is legumes are healthy when they are prepared properly. This is something the WAPF people get correct. Beans are nutritious and a staple in many cultures. There are recipes that go back hundreds if not thousands of years that use legumes. The trick with beans is to soak and sprout. This is how traditional cultures prepared beans and if there were any evidence that the legumes were harming them, I’m guessing they would have ceased cooking with them a long time ago.

When it comes to soy, I stick to miso soup and natto. I still don’t trust tofu, but if it happens to land in my Korean stew I’ll eat it.

sprouted lentols

I soak and sprout lentils when I make Dal.


Boy has my opinion changed on sugar. It is not toxic. It has become the whipping boy of almost every nutritional camp. Sugar is fine and potentially beneficial in limited quantities. Sugar is an anti-stress food. You can use it to build muscle or improve your sleep.

Defending sugar is a tough sell. If you have an open mind that sugar might have gotten a bad reputation, listen to Evil Sugar Radio Episode 2: The Truth About Carbs & Sugar.

Sugar does have a lot of bad friends though. It is often found in foods that have been heavily processed or engineered to encourage overconsumption. We still want to avoid or minimize those processed foods.


Ice cream is a healthy food with sugar. Oreo cookies are an unhealthy food with sugar. Sugar isn’t bad, but it often hangs out with bad ingredients.

Veggie Oils

My opinion that vegetable oils are toxic is even stronger today than before. Last December I did a 3 part series on the problem with PUFA: The Common Enemy in Nutrition, The Problem with PUFA and Quantifying PUFA, Expert Opinion and My Conclusion.

Even though I am fully aware that veggie oils are bad news, I also know they can’t be avoided if you go out to eat. So I refuse to stress about it. I will pick foods that I believe use none or minimal fats during cooking when I am out. Pho is good, fries are awful.


I still think gluten is a big problem for society and myself. We may not understand why, but the fact it is unexplained doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist. There is an entire wave of gluten defenders that are peddling the message that abstaining from wheat is orthorexic. They state that 90-91% of the population is fine with wheat, so not eating wheat is based upon fear. I think their logic is flawed. When I see 10% of the population getting sick from a single food in increasing numbers, I want to know why.

I cover the “It’s Only 10%” argument in the post Was I Wrong About Gluten? Part 2.

The one thing I have changed my mind about when it comes to gluten/wheat is I now believe it is possible and even desirable to cure your intolerance. Not because wheat is nutritious, but because it makes sense to be resilient. Walling yourself off from the world may help reduce symptoms, but it doesn’t address the underlying cause of why certain foods cause you to feel awful. I haven’t been able to cure my intolerance, but I can handle trace exposure now (soy sauce, 2-3 oz of beer).

rice flakes

I use rice flakes to make gluten free lasagna. I don’t miss wheat at all. 

New Toxins?

I have no new toxic foods to add to the list. The word toxic gets thrown around too much. All it does is promote unnecessary fear around food, most of it unwarranted.

Death By Food Pyramid vs The Calorie Myth

I just finished reading two books on nutrition. One was excellent and the other not so much.

Death By Food Pyramid

Death by Food Pyramid : How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Have Ruined Our Health
Death by Food Pyramid : How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Have Ruined Our Health by Denise Minger was outstanding. It has an excellent section on the history of the food pyramid and how what we collectively believe about good nutrition is flawed. The book also has a chapter on how to read nutritional research, but the part that I enjoyed the most was the section devoted to the research of Weston A. Price. Price is an early pioneer in nutritional research and wrote the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

I have been in the Weston A. Price nutritional camp since late 2009. To me it makes more sense than Paleo. We can learn a lot from traditional cultures. Death By Food Pyramid agrees.

I don’t want to give away the entire book, but I do want to share some ideas the author presented in Meat chapter.

  1. Eat the whole animal. Nose to tail. Organ meats. Bone broths. Marrow. Traditional cultures knew this (WAPF), now science can see the different distribution of amino acids and how eating the entire animal balances those ratios. Most people today just load up on muscle meats and discard the rest of the animal.This presents a problem we can have too much methionine and not enough glycine.
  2. How we cook meat is important. Low and slow is the way to go. High heat and charring can be problematic. For the past few years, I cook the majority of my meat in slow cookers or liquid. Good to know I’m on the right path.
  3. Iron overload. If you eat too much red meat, you could get elevated iron levels. One of her solutions is the same as mine. Donate blood. I’ve donated 22 pints of blood since December 2010. Easy win for not only your health, but the health of the person receiving your blood.

Death By Food Pyramid does nutritional history more concisely than Good Calories, Bad Calories and presents the ideas of Weston A. Price better than Deep Nutrition.

The Calorie Myth

The Calorie Myth: How to Eat More, Exercise Less, Lose Weight, and Live Better
The Calorie Myth: How to Eat More, Exercise Less, Lose Weight, and Live Better by Jonathan Bailor

If a book says calories don’t count and then proceeds to tell you how to eat in a way that reduces your appetite so you consume less calories and you lose weight, did the calories count? I would say yes. The Calorie Myth uses the good foods (SANE) versus bad foods (INSANE) narrative to tell the reader how to eat. If I could basically summarize the entire book, I’d say eat a lot of protein. Protein is known to reduce appetite and help with fat loss. No myths. No mysteries.

This is yet another nutritional book that states fructose is bad, but with little evidence to back up the claim. It has been 4 years since Alan Aragon discredited Dr. Lustig’s anti-fructose hysterics. Are we just suppose to assume fructose is evil like we used to assume saturated fat was “artery clogging”?

He also goes into how we need glycerol-3-phosphate to store body fat and we mostly get that from carbs. Isn’t this what Gary Taubes got wrong in Good Calories, Bad Calories? Listen to Carbsane on Episode 39 of Evil Sugar Radio explain this point (jump to 28:20). The implication that restricting carbs somehow gives one a free pass on storing calories as fat is the myth.

Bailor also repeats the most nauseating health advice ever, which is to drink lots of water to boost your metabolism. I don’t think so. Drink a lot of water and your body temperature drops. Matt Stone has been on topic of this for a few years. When I stopped drinking so much water, my body temperature increased and my sleep quality improved.

Unlike Death By Food Pyramid there is no mention of nutrient dense foods such as offal, bone broths and fermented foods. But foods such low-fat dairy, skinless chicken and egg whites are listed. Uggh. From a calculator standpoint, he may be right, but I’m more persuaded by Denise Minger’s approach to nutrition and whole food.

I will say one part of the book that was spot on was his approach to exercise. Bailor is a proponent of High Intensity Training. He gets it. John Little, the co-author of Body By Science, even provided a nice plug in the beginning. My advice is if you want to learn more about HIT, read John’s book.

The Winner Is…

Hands down Death By Food Pyramid beats The Calorie Myth.

UPDATE: The blog No Gimmicks Nutrition has an entire section exposing the incorrect ideas from Jonathan Bailor.

Step Out of the Paleo Echo Chamber

This weekend when I learned that 12 Paleo Myths by Matt Stone was available for free on Amazon Kindle until Feb 20th, I reached out to several of my Paleo friends. Although each message was different. The general point was I found this to be a well written caring critique of some of the Paleo beliefs. Not every point will apply to every person, but it can’t hurt to be aware of them. At a price point of FREE, why not grab it and give it a skim?

The response so far has been disappointing. Not a thank you. Not a piss off. Nothing. Actually one person hinted that I should leave the local Paleo group. And these are people I know and care about.

I like Paleo. I like the narrative as a way for people without science backgrounds to embrace a less neolithic diet. What I don’t like is the narrow definition Paleo preached by a handful of influential bloggers as gospel. You know the low-carb, almond flour, CrossFit, sugar-is-evil posse.

Many Paleo adopters seem to have forgotten that at one time they were open minded enough to rethink their diet. They stopped fearing saturated fat, dietary cholesterol and salt. And that was a good thing. But the lesson that we might not know everything and we might get some things wrong seems to be lost.

echo chamber

right on man! by Bobbi Newman

Some of the attacks on Paleo have been downright silly, but that doesn’t mean all criticisms are invalid. Wouldn’t it be wise to be aware of those potential downsides, especially if you are preaching this knowledge to others? But Paleo has grown increasing cultish.

This was never more clear than after Sally Fallon’s critical review of The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf. Many Paleo bloggers and commenters went nuts and felt the need to preach “but we’re on the same team”. Paleo and WAPF have a lot in common, but I fully agree with Carbsane. The article was valid criticism. The fact that Robb has been supportive of WAPF is not relevant to the book review. The fact the book was a few years old only becomes irrelevant if and when a new edition is published.

The way to make Paleo better is not to ignore or dismiss critics, but to listen and learn from them. You know evolve. For over a year now I have used the term “Post Paleo” on my Twitter profile. As much as the Paleo cheerleaders annoy me, the haters annoy me even more. They fail to see the enormous benefit a Paleo narrative – flaws and all – has on the health of many people. So “Post Paleo” is a way of saying I respect Paleo as a starting point or foundation, but I’ve moved on.

By the way, if you don’t own a Kindle, each operating system has a Kindle application you can download for free. I have the Kindle app installed on my Windows 7, iPod and Chromebook.

Rejecting the Seasonal Approach to Nutrition

In July 2011, I completed a one year experiment where I took a seasonal approach to fitness and nutrition. The fitness part isn’t important, but I’d like to revisit the nutrition part of that experiment. For a background see the post Concluding Seasonal Strategies For Fitness and Nutrition. The short version of this experiment was during the colder months, I consumed a low carb diet, fasted and did cold exposure. In the warmer months, I had more carbohydrates and was more active.

I wrapped up the experiment with this line.

Although I think taking a seasonal approach will have a positive effect on ones health, I don’t think this plan is viable for most. Modern life and culture make demands upon us that our Paleolithic ancestors never had to deal with.

Stacking Stressors

Since my one year experiment, I’ve learned more about metabolism and the negative role stress can play on it. My last post Intermittent Fasting – What Paleo Didn’t Teach Me explores how fasting can lower ones metabolism. What starts as a hormetic stress that builds resilience becomes a negative stress that forces the body to respond via lower body temperature.

Going back to my seasonal experiment one can see that the colder months despite having longer sleeps were the most stressful.

  • Low carb
  • Fasting
  • Cold Exposure

Independently and not done “excessively”, each of these stressors could have a benefit. The term “excessively” will vary from person to person based off a number of factors. An young male endomorph with a healthy thyroid would likely handle these stressors much better than a pregnant woman. I never pushed the low carb too far, but I did go too far with fasting and cold exposure.

Queen Anne snow January 2012

To Be Hormetic

Hormetic stress or hormesis is often discussed in Paleo type blogs. The concept is you inflict a small amount of damage and let the body learn and respond favorably. This is the middle ground between avoiding all stress, which makes one less resilient and chronic stress which is unhealthy.

A classic example would be the sun. One could hide indoors to avoid getting burned, but they become increasingly sensitive to the rays and in the process of saving their skin might become Vitamin D deficient. At the other end of the spectrum, staying out for long periods without a gradual adaptation can lead to sunburn and possibly skin cancer. A hormetic approach would be to briefly engage with the sun, adapt and then go to the shade. This allows the body to tan as a natural defense.

I’m now seeing the key part of the hormetic stress is not the stress itself, but ending it in a clear manner. Let me provide some examples.

  • Low Carb – Maybe this is just observation, but I’ve noticed that those that practice cyclical low carb with 1-2 days of carb refuels each week tend to leaner and more healthy than daily low carbers. Makes sense from a stress viewpoint. The cyclical low carbers are ending the stress of low carb on a regular basis. There is an ongoing debate on if and to what degree low carb diets are stressful. I don’t want to step into that debate, but my position is to always view these disagreements with an investor’s mindset. This is why cyclical seems like the best hedging approach for those wanting to use low carb as a tool.
  • Intermittent Fasting – What would be the best way to end the stress of a 16-24 hour fast? Starchy carbs and fatty cuts of red meat are the foods that come to mind. Ice cream too! Same concept as the cyclical low carb.
  • Cold Exposure – In May 2012, I began an aggressive cold exposure experiment that I called Freeze The Animal. The title was inspired by Richard at FreeTheAnimal. What I learned is that cold exposure is fine and even has a positive mood effect, but the key to locking in those benefits came from how quickly I could warm up. When I stepped out of the Puget Sound when it was windy and 50 F, it took an hour sometimes to warm back up. It was miserable. When it was sunny and 70 F, I could warm up in minutes. Very enjoyable.

Seasonal Conclusions

The problem with the seasonal approach is the modern world is full of stressors that could care less about the season. In fact, I’d say that winter months with holiday stress, academic stress, less daylight, more electronic light and sick co-workers might be the most stressful time of the year. Now add a seasonal approach of less carbs, more fasting and cold exposure and you can see how winter becomes a stress dumping ground.

If I were to redesign this experiment, I’d flip the script. Fasting is best done when one is able to move, as in moving towards food. Stuck inside on a cold rainy day in February is not the best time to fast. The rest of year, depending upon where you live might be better. My most enjoyable fast were spring and autumn days. Cold exposure would rock in the summer months when one could warm up quickly. As for low carb, I don’t think it falls neatly into a seasonal approach, although these days I consume a higher amount of carbs in the winter to support metabolism.

21 Ideas From Eating on the Wild Side

Yesterday I reviewed the book Eating on the Wild Side. The book is full of excellent ideas on how to increase the nutrient density in your diet by making better choices when shopping and preparing fruits, vegetables and legumes. Here are the 21 ideas that I found the most interesting. The book has way more.

  1. Press garlic and wait 10 minutes before exposing to heat to maximize nutrition (allicin).
  2. Shallots are more nutritious than most onion varieties.
  3. Scallions have 140 times more phytonutrients than white onions.
  4. Canned and frozen corn can be as nutritious as fresh.
  5. Colorful potatoes (blue, purple, red) have more antioxidants than yellow potatoes.
  6. Cooked carrots are more nutritious than raw. Heat breaks down the tough cell walls making the nutrients more bio available.
  7. Baby carrots are less nutritious because of the carrots used and how they are cut.
  8. Adding fat to carrots increases beta-carotene.
  9. Beets are rich in anthocyanins.
  10. The most nutritious tomatoes are canned, as they are the richest source of lycopene.
  11. Broccoli and Brussel Sprouts lose nutrition quickly, so eat them within a day of purchase. Cutting increases respiration, which increases the rate of nutrient loss, so don’t buy the pre-cut broccoli florets. Cut it yourself.
  12. Frozen peas and beans are less nutritious than fresh, but canned beans have more antioxidants than home cooked.
  13. Steaming or using a pressure cooker for beans is better than cooking them in liquid – less nutrient loss.
  14. Apples highest in nutrition include Braeburn, Cortland, Discovery, Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Liberty, Melrose, and Red Delicious. Ones low in nutrition include Golden Delicious and Pink Lady.
  15. Thawing frozen blueberries with a microwave retains the most nutrients.
  16. Cooking and canning blueberries increases phytonutrient content.
  17. Peaches and nectarines are identical except for one gene that codes for “fuzziness”.
  18. Pick red, purple or black grapes. The green ones little or no anthocyanin.
  19. Frozen concentrate OJ is often more nutritious than premium brands – more flavonoids and antioxidants.
  20. Mangos have 5 times the Vit C as oranges and 5 times the fiber of pineapples. Those with dark orange flesh have the most phytonutrient.
  21. Melons have very little nutrition.

Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health
Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson

How Low Carb Paleo Can Fool You

Yesterday I listened to an excellent podcast between Justin Manning and Richard Nikoley (language NSFW). It might have been the single best hour of any health podcast I have heard. Unlike most health podcasts today which promote neurotic food obsessions or unsafe fitness practices, this was the story of Richard Nikoley of and what happened on his journey into low carb Paleo.

His story is important because he has been doing this for years. He is also over 50 years old. Hearing about how some 25 year old got ripped doing 6 months of Paleo and CrossFit tells me nothing. You’re suppose to be fit and healthy at 25. And unlike Art De Vany and Mark Sisson, Richard was never a professional athlete.

Richard and I share a lot of similarities. Both of us came into Paleo via the writings of Art De Vany. We both lowered the carbs. We both lost weight. We both had issues after our weight loss. We both questioned and eventually rejected the anti-carb dogma. Along the way we experimented with intermittent fasting and cold exposure.

Early in the interview, Richard mentioned how influential the book Fooled By Randomness by Taleb was to him. This was the same book I was reading at the time I first was exposed to Paleo. I believe that book along with our backgrounds in investing helped us think differently about the various health claims during our journey. Richard saw it faster than I did in nutrition. I was focusing more on the survivorship bias rampant in the fitness community. I even put out a post calling Taleb to task for being fooled by randomness on his own fitness routine.


Caveman by Jason Schleifer

Richard’s Low Carb Paleo Journey

Although the entire show is good, I want to highlight the portion that starts around 21:20. Here are the notes I took.

  • Low carb Paleo fools you because the weight loss is so easy at first.
  • Removing the grains, veggie oils and processed foods creates a caloric deficit.
  • Richard lost 60-70 pounds following Low Carb Paleo. He got down to 175 at 5 ’10.
  • At his low, his hands and feet hurt from being very cold. This is a common side effect of low carb diets.
  • During this period of chronic discomfort, he got “off his game” and gained 10 pounds.
  • After gaining 10 pounds, he felt great, which is what caused him to question the low carb dogma.
  • It frustrates him when LC zealots advise further reduction in carbs to those with stalled weight loss that experiencing side effects and symptoms associated with LC diets.
  • Richard acknowledges that LC/Ketogenic diets can be good for initial weight loss, diabetes, cancer, neurological diseases and epilepsy.
  • Believes LC/Ketogenic are best used as an intervention, not a lifestyle.
  • Most people that have walked this planet did not follow a LC diet.
  • People under 35 seem to do well on LC. That is a result of being young.
  • Being Paleo and showing off your abs at 20 doesn’t prove anything.
  • LC Paleo leads to one to believe that restricting carbs not restricting calories caused the fat loss. This is false.
  • On calories: “You don’t need to count them, but they count.”
  • Weight loss stall is caused by a reduction in mass. When you lose mass, your energy requirements drop. To further lose weight, you must either further reduce calories or increase activity.

The book Fooled By Randomness discusses attribution bias. We try to find the reasons that explain a result and sometimes we get it wrong. Richard got it wrong. I got it wrong. Unlike several of the charlatans in the Paleo community, we are willing to admit it. Paleo is a wonderful narrative. It really is a shame that it got hijacked by the low carb cult.

Rage Against the Gluten Skeptics

The gluten defenders lapped up the article This Is Your Brain on Gluten by James Hamblin. Anything that conforms to their opinion that avoiding gluten makes one orthorexic is a message worth spreading. The article goes after Dr. David Perlmutter, who wrote the book Grain Brain, which is about his view that grain consumption is linked to brain diseases from dementia to ADHD.

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs,  and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers
Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers by David Perlmutter

I clicked onto the story, because although I am receptive to the message that a doctor is getting positive results by getting his patients to remove grains, I am deeply skeptical that all carbohydrates are bad. I haven’t read his book, nor do I plan to. I avoid wheat because it makes me feel terrible, I eat fruit and ice cream, because it makes me feel wonderful.

The article actually started pretty decent, even including some comments from Chris Kresser, who is one of the few remaining health bloggers that I still respect. Then the article turned to crap. Our reporter reached out to Dr. Katz as a source to discredit Dr. Perlmutter. Remember that name? He is the doctor I mocked in the post Who is the Guinea Pig Dr. Katz?

I mocked him because he calls canola oil “heart healthy” in his just published book and he lumps saturated fats with trans fats. He even goes as far as to refer to butter as artery-clogging. In 2013! Of course his book is super pro-grain. This is the expert The Atlantic reached out to? Can you say biased? Katz even got to plug his book in the article, referring to his own work as “sensible”. His book has the sensationalist title Disease Proof.

Katz also landed this dipshit fear mongering comment into the article.

 “The problem is that people are going to get their dietary cholesterol from things other than fish and eggs; they’re going to get it from meats and dairies. The problem with diets like that is if you eat more of A, you’re probably going to eat less of B. So people who are eating more meat and dairy and high-fat, high-cholesterol foods are eating fewer plants—they’re not eating beans; they’re not eating lentils. So yes, I think it’s entirely confabulated and contrived, and potentially dangerous on the level of lethal.”

What a tool. Those of us that avoid wheat are eating more plants, because we aren’t consuming half our calories in grains anymore. I’ve got my issues with the Paleo diet, but everyone I know in the Seattle Paleo group ended up eating more fruits and veggies when they tossed the grains. So in our article, which is supposed to be critique of the argument that removing grains could improve neurological ailments, now has an “expert” stating that giving up grains causes one to eat less plants (not less grains) which could be “potentially dangerous on the level of lethal”. Huh?

This is a credible source?

This could have been a really good article had the reporter sought out a real expert in neurological diseases. Katz has a financial interest in dissing not only a competing nutritional theory, but a competing book for sale right now in many bookstores.

Full disclosure: The Atlantic magazine took images from my Flickr feed in 2011 without giving proper attribution per the Creative Commons license I set for both images. I reached out to them to resolve the issue and they never responded back to me. So I have a slight bias against that rag.

Revisiting and Improving The Zone Diet

Two weeks ago I asked CarbSane in the comments of her post about Robb Wolf’s book what mainstream nutrition book gets it most right.

I have yet to come across a mass media diet book that gets it right. There’s always a schtick. One also has to separate the diet itself from the book/rationale.

The Zone is probably best, but Sears insistence on never eating large meals and meeting macro ratios each time you eat lacks any scientific or even practical support. I cannot support a diet that counsels avoidance of all animal products. A whole foods Mediterranean approach generally seems the most sound for the most people — just avoid foods that are “allowed” to which you are sensitive.

My initial thoughts are this makes total sense. In the 1990s, I did The Zone Diet, which I discussed in the post My Experiences With The Zone Diet. At first the diet worked great, but then I ran into problems.

The Zone Diet says to eat small little meals every few waking hours. This is still conventional wisdom. When you first start that habit it isn’t easy, but if you stick with it, it gets very easy. Too easy. Soon you’ll find yourself hungry all the time. I responded to that hunger by eating more. The weight I lost all came back.

Other people have picked apart different aspects of The Zone Diet. For me the primary problem was the frequent meals resulted in frequent periods of hunger. And often I’d respond to that hunger by making poor food choices that were convenient. I was uncomfortable with the feeling of hunger.

The Zone Diet is a 40-30-40, which means 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat. Although I don’t count anything, if I had to guess my ratios now, I’d say it is close to that. I like the ratio as it hedges the benefits and risks others experience when they stay low carb or high carb for too long. It seems like a great starting point.

The Zone Diet
The Zone Diet by Barry Sears

Tossing out Dr. Sears nonsense about many perfectly balanced small meals makes The Zone Diet easier to follow and less neurotic about food rules. It has been many years since I read the book, so I don’t recall the exact details or know if there has been many changes in recent editions.

I visited the Zone Diet webpage to get more details. Although I like the macro view (40-30-30) with CarbSane’s fix, there are some things I dislike about the minor details. Here are the small changes I would make for myself.

  1. The focus on low-fat protein. I’m cool with low-fat protein, but I think higher fat protein is fine as well. I favor beef and lamb over chicken and pork. As for soybeans, only natto or miso for me.
  2. These days I probably consume more more fruit than veggies, but that is a minor point.
  3. I’m not convinced that white rice and white potatoes cause “cellular inflammation”, so I’ll keep eating them.
  4. According to this page, Sears favors Omega 6 fats from veggie oils over animal saturated fats. Sold to him. I don’t fear saturated fats and am more swayed by the arguments that we need to greatly reduce our PUFA consumption.
  5. Another page says The Zone Diet advises to avoid eating egg yolks and organ meats. I’ll be laughing at this recommendation as well.

So if we start with the basic ratios of The Zone Diet then remove the neurotic small meal rules and add my WAPF inspired tweaks, we might have a decent diet for the average person.

Putting this post together reminded me that I tried to contact Dr. Sears back in 1996 for clarification on his no caffeine stance. A few weeks went by and then one day I had a message on my answering machine from someone that worked with him. That person provided a 1 minute explanation on how caffeine breaks down and its negative effect on their diet. I’ve since forgotten the reason, but was impressed they took to the time and effort to respond to my inquiry.

My Tweaks to the Latest Free The Animal Paleo Guidelines

A few days ago Richard at Free The Animal posted New Free the Animal, Resistant Starch-Based Dietary Guidelines. I want to comment, because I really like the direction Richard has taken Paleo. I probably have more in common with him than any other nutritional blogger. Although we both started in the Art De Vany low-carb camp, we’ve both embraced a non-restrictive approach to Paleo. In other words, in our world carbs are fine. With so many neurotic Paleo bloggers peddling products around hyper-restrictive eating ways, I think Richard’s latest post is a great place to start.

Before I add my tweaks, I want to say that I am now ready to start experimenting with the resistant starch. It is something I’ve been half paying attention to from afar. Besides Free the Animal, I was really impressed with Chris Kresser’s interview of Jeff Leach of the American Gut Project. The aspect that interests me the most are the reports of increased body temperature. A new experiment will begin soon.

#1  Dairy

Dairy wasn’t mentioned on the list. For me it is a staple. I love kefir, butter, ice cream and cheese. I like how the Ray Peat fans use the saturated fats of dairy as a way to increase protein without increasing PUFA. I also snack on cheese now instead of nuts. If you can’t do dairy, I’m sorry. Thankfully I can.

#2 Nuts

I just finished a 3 post series on the metabolism damaging effects of PUFA and how the body has a limited ability to process those fats and how they can take years to leave the body. Personally, I’ve decided to forgo nuts to provide my body with a mathematical edge to speed up that process. Plus, I can’t eat just a handful. I find them too palatable.

#3 Beans

I agree to avoid canned beans and importance of soaking. However, when I do have beans I go the extra step and sprout the beans. I don’t know if this makes the beans more digestible. It works for me and it is a trick I learned from my WAPF peeps.

Lentil sprouts

From Lentil Dal Recipe


 #4 Supplements

I don’t take all the ones on Richard’s list. Keep forgetting about zinc. Me and a few friends are currently experimenting with copper and L-Tyrosine to see what effect they have on reversing gray hair. I also take Icelandic sea kelp tablets. My 2013 Supplement post.

#5 Exercise

Probably the only disagreement I have is with the advice to “Lift heavy things in compound fashion once every week or two”. I do think performing resistance training is extremely important. It is the “heavy” and “compound” parts that I have issues with.

Very few people will say this, but I feel that focusing on the actual weight is a mistake. I explain this more in the post Reps, Sets and the Weight Aren’t that Important. The important thing about resistance training is muscle fiber activation. You can do that with a heavier weight, but you can do it more effectively and safer by slowing down the movement. By taking momentum out of the movement, it gets both harder and safer.

There are some good compound exercises and some poor ones. I like exercises that have minimal skill requirements, are safe to perform at a variety of speeds and where I can safely to go to failure. Those are the exercises that are least likely to result in injury. This is why a goblet squat is superior to a barbell back squat. A push-up is superior to a bench press. And a combination of rows and chin-ups are superior to deadlifting. Yes, I am aware that is blasphemy, but that is how I see it.

Quantifying PUFA, Expert Opinion and My Conclusion

This is the third post I’ve done on PUFA. If you missed the other ones, read The Common Enemy in Nutrition and The Problem with PUFA. I think this is an important topic, not because we haven’t heard about it, but because so few people have actually pulled out a calculator and ran the numbers. That is what this post is about. It is time to start adding things up and demonstrate just how easy it is to consume too many polyunsaturated fats when consuming a “healthy” diet.

What Are Optimal Levels?

For this chart, I took three recommendations and how they would look across different daily calorie levels.

 PUFA Limit1500 calories2000 calories2500 calories3000 calories
Perfect Health Diet< 4% of calories6.7 grams8.9 grams11.1 grams13.3 grams
Chris Kresser< 2% of calories3.3 grams4.4 grams5.6 grams6.7 grams
Ray Peat< 4 grams4.0 grams4.0 grams4.0 grams4.0 grams

I used the recommendations of The Perfect Health Diet, Chris Kresser and Ray Peat. The Peat number is something I saw repeated in forums, but could not find the original source. It is one thing to say lower your PUFA, but to see the actual numbers is more meaningful. Let us look at the food.

PUFA Levels

In this section what I wanted to do was pull massive amounts of nutritional data together including sample menus to demonstrate that many low-carb Paleo and WAPF diets have PUFA levels higher than those recommended above. Actually I spent a few hours gathering data and building out a spreadsheet, but then I stumbled onto a post CarbSane put together in 2011.

In the post PUFA’s, the Primal Blueprint and Low Carb diets, she pulled the numbers from the sample menu in  The Primal Blueprinta book I have spoken highly of in the past – and ran the numbers. It is exactly what I suspected. The Primal Blueprint menus were 8-12% PUFA, which doesn’t line up with the suggestions to minimize PUFA. Now I am sure the sources of PUFA are more healthy than seed oils, but they are still high.

This has been bothering me for a while now. Low carb Paleo and WAPF preach against the PUFA, but few have bothered to pull out a calculator to see if their sample menus line up with their own recommendations.

I’ve been very good about lowering my PUFA intake since I returned from my May trip to Ohio. I stopped buying almonds completely. When it comes to meat I favor lamb and beef over chicken and pork 90% of the time. If I am in a restaurant I choose the item that either wasn’t cooked or cooked minimally – even it means choosing the vegetarian option. In fact the only time I get a heavy dose of PUFA these days are at the potlucks thrown by my local Paleo group.

A Tale of Two Snacks

When I was deep into Paleo and believed that sugar was evil, I often had a late light snack of almond butter on sliced apples. These days I often eat a half pint of ice cream. Which is the healther? If you interviewed 100 people, I’d bet 99 would say the sliced apple with almond butter. Let us run the numbers.

  • 1 medium apple sliced and covered with 4 tablespoons of almond butter = 499 calories and 8 g of PUFA (7.8 g Omega 6)
  • 1/2 pint of vanilla ice cream = 464 calories and 0.8 g of PUFA (0.6 g Omega 6)

Yes, I often eat 500 calorie snacks before bed. It helps me sleep better.

If you believe the premise that excess PUFA over time is stressful to the body and that one should keep their PUFA low (below 2-4%) then the ice cream wins. If however you think sugar is worse than PUFA then the sliced apples with almond butter wins. My opinion changes over time, but right now I think PUFA is a much larger concern than sugar.

almond butter

This jar of almond butter has 92 grams of PUFA. I used to go through a jar a week when I was avoiding sugar. That is 13 grams a day of PUFA just from almond butter. When Paleo bloggers talk about nuts in moderation, I don’t think they ran the numbers. Plus I don’t know anyone that can eat just a few nuts and put the bag away.

Dietary PUFA and Stored PUFA

So far all I have talked about has been dietary PUFA, but the real problem might be what is already stored in our fat tissues. We not only need to minimize the PUFA we eat, but get rid of years of eating excess PUFA to optimize metabolism. According to Ray Peat this process can take four years.

That is four years of eating very low PUFA while the body processes the PUFA stored in fat. Andrew Kim did a post earlier this year titled The Half-Life of Human Fat Tissue is 600 Days? that questions the 4 years and suggests it might be much lower. But the takeaway point should be that the body has a limited capacity for processing PUFA. It will take time. Being on the low end of intake, especially when you first embark on PUFA restriction is mathematically wise.

When I ran the numbers, I came to the conclusion that to get to optimal low PUFA levels, a higher carb and lower fat diet made the most sense. You could construct a low carb diet with low PUFA levels, but it would be challenging and quite restrictive. Restrictive diets are fine for a month or two, but a year or more? No thanks.

The Problem With PUFA

In my last post, The Common Enemy in Nutrition, I discussed how different nutritional camps that can’t seem to agree on much, agree that the average diet is too high in polyunsaturated fats and we’d have better health outcomes if we reduced those levels. In this post, I am going to list the problems associated with high PUFA consumption.

I am not a health professional, so I will be linking to all my sources. If I get something wrong, please leave a comment.


The article Polyunsaturated Oils Increase Cancer Risk by Dr. Barry Groves goes into not only the history of vegetable oils, but how they suppress the immune system and are likely to promote cancer growth.

“Many laboratories have shown that diets high in polyunsaturated fatty acids promote tumours. Cancer promotion is not the same as cancer causing. The subject is complex; suffice to say here that promoters are substances that help to speed up reproduction of existing cancer cells.”

“’Vegetable oils (eg Corn oil and sunflower oil) which are rich in linoleic acid are potent promoters of tumour growth.”

The Big List

Health researcher Chris Kresser assembled a list of diseases connected to elevated n-6 levels. From the post How too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 is making us sick:

…elevated n-6 intakes are associated with an increase in all inflammatory diseases – which is to say virtually all diseases. The list includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • cardiovascular disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • obesity
  • metabolic syndrome
  • irritable bowel syndrome & inflammatory bowel disease
  • macular degeneration
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • asthma
  • cancer
  • psychiatric disorders
  • autoimmune diseases

Low Metabolism and Thyroid Issues

You can’t have an article about excess PUFA without mentioning Dr. Ray Peat. From his article Unsaturated fatty acids: Nutritionally essential, or toxic?:

“A series of studies about 20 years ago showed that the functions of the thyroid hormone are all inhibited by unsaturated fats, with the inhibition increasing in proportion to the number of unsaturations (double bonds) in the fat molecule.”


“When the tissues are saturated with those antithyroid fats, metabolism slows, especially when any stress, such as cold or hunger, increases the concentration of free fatty acids in the blood stream. “

But how? For that part of the puzzle I found this explanation on a post by Tom Brimeyer, who has a site that focuses on thyroid health.

  1. Polyunsaturated fats block the thyroid gland from secreting thyroid hormone.
  2. Polyunsaturated fats block the transport of thyroid hormone to your cells within your bloodstream.
  3. Polyunsaturated fats block your cells from properly utilizing the thyroid hormone that is available.

Peat’s article also goes into how PUFA increases estrogen levels which can lower body temperature. The site Functional Performance Systems has a page on that very topic.

Corn Oil Margarine

Photo by 1950sUnlimited. Full image on Flickr. 

Animal Obesity…What About Humans?

I found another Ray Peat article to be very interesting. Suitable Fats, Unsuitable Fats: Issues in Nutrition goes into the history of what fats were used to fatten animals.

“The highly unsaturated seed oils had the opposite effect, of producing a rapid fattening of the animal, while decreasing feed consumption, so by 1950 corn and soybeans were widely considered to be optimal feeds for maximizing profits in the production of meat animals. It was at this time that the industry found that it could market the liquid oils directly to consumers, as health-promoting foods, without bothering to turn them into solid shortening or margarine. Somehow, few physiologists continued to think about the implications of metabolic slowing, obesity, and the related degenerative diseases.”

I bring this up as a possible problem with PUFA that might extend to humans. If the seed oils fattened farm animals on less feed then that demonstrates a metabolic lowering effect that could affect other mammals, including humans.  Again, I am not an expert, but this information combined with the previous section on thyroid and metabolism could explain a connection between high PUFA intake and obesity.

Beth at Weight Maven has a post titled Our Western diet: Prescription for Disaster? that connects how foods high in Linoleic Acid (LA) such as vegetable oils when combined with high insulin foods could increase appetite and lead to overeating.


From the same Ray Peat article as above.

“Unsaturated fats are more water soluble than saturated fats, and they are involved in many problems of permeability and edema.”

WedMD defines edema as “whenever small blood vessels become “leaky” and release fluid into nearby tissues”.


This one appears to have some disagreement. Ray Peat believes PUFA is 23 times more glycating than simple sugar. Dr. Chris Masterjohn disagrees.  For more information on glycation read Aging and Longevity – 3. Glycation.

Excess PUFA is Bad News

There are a lot of bad things than can happy to your body when your o-6 levels get too high. So far I’ve just used the terms “excess” and “too high” when describing PUFA levels. In the next post, I am going to quantify both the levels in food as well what many leading experts recommend.

Part 3: Quantifying PUFA, Expert Opinion and My Conclusion

The Common Enemy in Nutrition

There are so many conflicting opinions in nutrition. What one camp finds healthy is considered unhealthy by others. The low carbers fight the high carbers. Paleo and vegetarian attack each other. Everywhere you go there is rampant disagreement. Every side has their their PubMed Warriors ready to drop links to prove someone else is wrong.

If you are a hobbyist or a regular person just wishing to improve their health, it can be frustrating. It was frustrating for me too, until I noticed there was a single point of agreement that spanned the different nutritional philosophies. The common enemy in nutrition is excess PUFA (polyunsaturated fats), specifically Omega 6 fats. The most common source being industrial seed oils .

Agreement Across the Board

One of the core principles of Paleo is lower excess n-6 consumption by replacing vegetable oil with saturated fats. The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson does a good job alerting aspiring Paleo dieters on the dangers of excess n-6 in veggie oils.

The WAPF group supports traditional food and traditional food preparation and that meant using saturated animal fat and avoiding seed oils.

The Perfect Health Diet lays out a strong case for restricting excess n-6. So does Deep Nutrition and Primal Body, Primal Mind.

The most anti-PUFA camp is probably those that follow Ray Peat.

Matt Stone who works a lot with diet recovery and raising body temperature also warns against excess PUFA.

Even some top vegetarian doctors are now advising against vegetable oils. See the slides from Denise Minger’s AHS talk on How to Argue with a Vegetarian. Dean Ornish, Caldwell Esselstyn, John McDougall and Neal Barnard are all listed as either forbidding veggie oils or greatly restricting their use.

I don’t know of a single respected health writer or teacher that has defended high n-6 intake.

Veggie oil

Photo by Jon Starbuck. Vegetable oil is goof for diesel engines, not for humans. 

Different Paths to Excellent Health

You can be high carb, low carb, pro-sugar, anti-GMO, vegetarian, gluten-free or Paleo and still avoid excess PUFA. Avoiding excess PUFA is usually thrown as one of several ideas one can use to improve their health. But it is the only idea the smartest people in the nutritional field seems to agree about.

Ideas to Lower PUFA

Here are a collection of ideas that most of my readers probably already know about, but in the event you are coming into this post with less knowledge on PUFA, here are some ways to reduce your intake in order of importance.

  1. Replace vegetable oils you use for cooking with saturated fats such as coconut oil, butter, ghee, palm oil, and tallow.
  2. Cook more meals at home. Most restaurants use vegetable oils. If you do go out to eat, select dishes that are either uncooked or cooked with no or minimal oils, such as soups. I really like pho.
  3. Minimize nut intake. See this article for a breakdown with more detail.
  4. Make your own salad dressing using olive oil. Avoid shelf stable packaged food as almost all will have some industrial seed oil.
  5. More red meat, less white meat. Beef and lamb are better choices than chicken and pork. White fish and shrimp are great protein options as well that are low in fat.
  6. Grass pastured animals have less PUFA than grain fed. If you are on a budget, this would be most important when consuming cuts of meat with a higher fat content.
  7. Toss the fish oil in the trash. The people that seem to get the most benefit from this supplement are athletes that engage in highly inflammatory sports such as mixed martial arts.  For the rest of us, there are other ways to reduce inflammation, one being lowering PUFAs.
  8. More carbs, less fat. This is not me stepping into the carb wars arena, but a really a mathematical observation. If one is following a low carb version of either the Paleo or WAPF diets, then their total fat intake will be much higher. A percentage of that fat will be PUFA. This may or may not be a concern, but if ones goal is to sharply lower PUFA then this needs to be mentioned.

I’ve wondered how much of a role reducing PUFA has on bringing one closer to their optimal health. Meaning if you did nothing else out of the ordinary in your diet, how much benefit would you get from just this one habit? I suspect it would be a lot.

Part 2: The Problem with PUFA

Commercial Gluten Free Gochujang is Now Available!

UPDATE (September 7, 2014): This product is wheat-free, not necessarily gluten free. 

Good news for my fellow gluten free peeps that wish to cook more Korean dishes at home. You no longer need to make your own gluten-free gochujang (Korean chili pepper paste). There now exists at least one option that does not have added wheat.

That is the good news.

The bad news is it will still be extremely difficult to find. Most Asian grocery stores will not carry it. And of the three Korean grocery stores I visit, I’ve only seen it at one of them. To be honest, I actually needed the help of a Korean friend to spot it.

Gluten Free Gochujang

Start your search by looking for containers that look like this one. That will narrow your search. However, MOST of the containers that look like this still have added wheat. So you’ll still need to look at the ingredients.

Red pepper paste ingredients

Not exactly the most healthy list of ingredients, but as you can see no added wheat. This is to my knowledge, the first and only brand of gochujang that is safe to eat for those trying to avoid gluten.

It tastes fine. Not as good as my homemade gochujang recipe, but far more convenient. Several years ago when I first got into kimchi, all the brands had added crap,. Things like MSG and a few unpronounceable ingredients, which are totally unnecessary for fermented vegetables. Today most brands of kimchi have a clean list of ingredients – even at the Korean grocery stores. This is an encouraging trend. My inner Korean is pleased. :)

Who is the Guinea Pig Dr. Katz?

In my last post Call Me a Saturated Fat Guinea Pig, I attacked an article written by Dr. Katz which implied – without evidence – that those people that increase their intake of saturated fat would die before he did. He never states what level of saturated fat that is, but instead uses the term “a lot”. I did make a mistake in that post. I falsely credited Katz with admitting that he might have been wrong about his demonization of saturated fat in prior writings.

Dr. Katz is a classic example of the “Now I Know Better” fallacy. He was wrong and now because he changed his view, we must listen to him. By preaching moderation, he can present himself as wise.

Actually, he hasn’t changed his mind. His newest book which was published just last month continues to repeat the same health myths that have been destroyed numerous times in the past decade.

Disease-Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well
Disease-Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well by David L. Katz M.D. I’m linking to this book so you can use Amazon’s Look Inside feature. In no way am I endorsing this book. 

Let us look at a few choice quotes from his latest  book Disease-Proof, which was published in September 2013. You’d swear you were reading something from the early 1990s.


page 64

The doctor lumps saturated fat in with trans fats. Even an idiot like me can see this might cause a problem with your data set and lead to false recommendations. Then he says it is important to restrict your saturated fat intake lest you get heart disease or a stroke. No wonder his crappy article implied saturated fats were dangerous. He found himself on the wrong side of science and he has a new book to sell.


page 94

Our Yale doctor believes whole milk which has nourished humans for thousands of years is to be replaced with the processed skim milk. I wonder if the doctor saw this story?


page 108

“Heart healthy” seed oils and “artery clogging” butter? What year is this?

The book is full of other gems such as reducing sodium and praising whole grains, but I’m going to stop here. Now to all those people that thought Katz’s article was balanced, can you now see he was using fear as a way to promote his book? You can also see his definition of “a lot” of saturated fat is not Dave Asprey levels, it is normal traditional culture levels.

I could be wrong, but I am going to ignore the seed oil and no-fat dairy advice of Katz. I’m more swayed by the PaleoWAPF, Ray Peat and Perfect Health Diet recommendations. All of which have destroyed the health myths that Dr. Katz still clings to.

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price. I prefer the wisdom of this book over the canola nonsense Katz is still peddling. 

UPDATE (10/28): Free the Animal just posted Saturated Fat & Cholesterol Worries are so 2009. Exactly!

Call Me a Saturated Fat Guinea Pig

A few people I follow have been gushing over the article Scapegoats, Saints, and Saturated Fats: Old Mistakes in New Directions by Dr. David L. Katz. The article was a response to the latest admission by medical journals that saturated fat is not the unhealthy fat. Our good doctor says it was wrong to demonize saturated fat, but we would be wrong to canonize it (his words).

I found the tone of the article to be condescending. This passage especially.

So, the idea that you should liberalize your intake of saturated fat is more conjectural and less based in epidemiology than the argument to cut it ever was. Perhaps we can eat a lot of saturated fat and live a long, healthy life, but there is no real-world experience to validate the claim; it’s just a hypothesis. If you choose to test it, you are casting yourself as guinea pig in your own research. If you’re still here and I’ve checked out, I guess you get the last laugh- but I won’t be around to hear you chuckle. On the other hand, if you check out and I keep going, I guess I get to say I told you so. But you won’t be around to hear me pontificate.

I did a quick search of Dr. Katz on Amazon. He has written numerous diet books over the last decade. A quick look inside shows he was one of the very doctors that was preaching against the evils of saturated fats. Now Dr. Katz has found himself on the wrong side of science, so his defense is two fold. First preach moderation and then take a jab at those of us in the traditional food camp that welcome saturated fats as eating “a lot”. A term he doesn’t define.

Dr. Katz insults those eating diets rich in saturated fats as “guinea pigs”. I disagree. I think the guinea pigs were the fools following the advice of medical professionals like Dr. Katz that were consuming industrial seed oils, low-fat dairy and “heart-healthy” grains. Below is a recipe from Dr. Katz’s 2007 book.


And this pompous fool thinks he will outlive people like me? You can have your shitty canola oil fiber muffins, I’ll be eating ice cream. Yummy saturated fat!

Dr. Katz is a classic example of the “Now I Know Better” fallacy. He was wrong and now because he changed his view, we must listen to him. By preaching moderation, he can present himself as wise. The reality is whenever our fitness and nutrition gurus get caught making errors, they always run back to the simplistic moderation arguments. It is a false defense, because moderation has both a vague and ever changing meaning.

Despite Dr. Katz’s implied warning that he will outlive all of us liberally consuming saturated fat, I’ll continue to eat foods rich in saturated fats, just like humans have since the very beginning. I have found the pro-saturated fat arguments from Paleo, WAPF, Perfect Health Diet, and Ray Peat far more compelling than the “we just don’t know” message from Dr. Katz.

An Incomplete Explanation for Food Cravings

I just finished reading How to Stop Food Cravings by Matt Stone. It is a good post, but I feel it is incomplete. To summarize his article, he feels that food cravings are a sign that we are underfed or under stress. Instead of denying ourselves the foods we crave, we should listen to our body and eat those foods we most desire. He explains:

Satisfy all cravings when they arise 110%. So what if you eat 168 Oreo cookies in a week? You won’t eat that many the second week and may not touch one for two years after the second week.

I’ve seen this thesis before. Those that diet regularly develop food cravings and stress about the very foods they crave. Restriction and cravings can be stressful. It makes total sense. Matt’s approach even seems like an interesting one to try.

Yet it didn’t work for me.

I have never had a sweet tooth. I’ve never craved sweets. Yet after I started the ice cream experiment, I wanted something sweet a few times a day. I couldn’t stop thinking about ice cream and Mexican colas. Even at a pint of ice cream a day, I wanted more.

MAS at Molly Moon's Ice Cream

Unlike the clients Matt works with, I’ve never counted calories or really even dieted. I’m guessing my metabolism is on the high side of average. I’ve never had better sleep.

Giving into my food cravings only made them stronger.

The only thing that has reduced my craving for sugar has been a conscious effort to reduce my intake. Rules and restrictions. After Labor Day I told myself no more ice cream or Mexican cola until Memorial Day. I’ve slipped a few times, but the rule has worked remarkably well and my sugar cravings are lower. Not gone, but lower.

The “Now I Know Better” Fallacy

I want to start by saying that I greatly respect those in nutrition that come out and admit they were wrong instead of clinging to an old idea that may no longer be correct or was never correct. However, these same people greatly destroy their credibility when they use their own change of opinion as proof of wisdom that they are right today.

I don’t know know if there is a word to describe what I’m talking about, so I’m going to call this the “now I know better” fallacy.

Enlightenment and Condescension

Being able to admit your fault is honorable. But this honor is destroyed when the newly enlightened turn around and attack the very group they left under the guise that they now know better. Yet you see this all the time.

By believing they are suddenly right tells me they failed to understand an important lesson. If they are willing to accept they were once wrong, then the possibility exists that they might still be wrong. Coming to the conclusion that you were wrong about one thing doesn’t make you automatically right about your newfound belief. You might not even be right in declaring you were wrong in the first place.

What bothers me most about the “Now I Know Better” crowd is their condescending attitude towards the group they were once part of. It isn’t enough to leave politely, they feel the need to burn the house down, because they know better. They become the self appointed parents ready to save their children from their own stupidity.

We saw this years ago when when the first wave of Paleo “knew better” than those on a Standard American Diet or a vegetarian diet. Now we are seeing the arrogance of the Paleo attackers. Their criticism might be 100% valid, but that has zero relevance to their current beliefs.

I view each stage of my nutritional journey as a learning opportunity. I do not regret my experiences with low-fat, vegetarianism, Paleo, low-carb, WAPF or more recently ideas from Ray Peat. My only regrets have been sticking with a diet that stopped working, because I felt I knew better.

I can see that it is likely that my nutritional journey will continue as I change and what we know about food changes. Each stage has kept me interested in my relationship with food in a new way. I view that as a good thing.

Ending the Tim Ferriss 30 in 30 Experiment

On Friday September 20th I began each morning by consuming 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking. This is a fat loss strategy Tim Ferriss explained in his book The 4 Hour Body. Less than 3 weeks after starting, I’ve decided to end this experiment.

It not only isn’t working, but I’ve actually gained 4 more pounds. It has been a disaster. My hunger levels are higher than before. I now think about eating all day long.

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman
The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman by Timothy Ferriss

When I mentioned the experiment, I was concerned that it might not work as well for ectomorphs or those of us within 10 (now 14 ) pounds of our ideal weight. Some of the comments I received mirrored my experience.

From JM:

I tried that experiment 2 separate times. Each time, I put on weight. I rotated between canned fish, beef patties or chicken breast. It did not suppress my appetite and the additional calories added up over the month.

From Becky:

I never lose weight when I begin eating early in the day, no matter what I eat. Eating early in the day always gets my appetite going. If I eat breakfast first thing, I am hungry 3-4 hours later. If I wait until late morning or lunchtime to eat, I generally only eat two meals.

Based of my research and my N=1 test, I am going to speculate on why 30 in 30 works for some and not others. Again this is just speculation.

  1. 30 in 30 probably works better for those with slow metabolisms that have erratic eating patterns.
  2. 30 in 30 likely works better for those people consuming low amounts of protein and higher carbohydrates.
  3. For people like myself that already have healthy eating patterns and are getting plenty of protein, adding an additional meal upon waking doesn’t have the same day long appetite suppressing effect.
  4. I could see 30 in 30 working better for someone with a long history of dieting that had low energy.
  5. For people like me that need to eat before going to sleep or else I’ll wake hungry, 30 in 30 is probably a bad idea since our eating window is now 18 16 hours. That is a recipe for weight gain.

Starting tomorrow I am returning to 12-16 hour breaks between my last meal of the day and my first meal the next day. Looking back at my initial fat loss I experienced in 2008-2009, it did come as a result of reducing my eating window via Intermittent Fasting. The trick for me is learning how to do that without abusing caffeine. Which is a trick I have yet to figure out. :(

(Probably) My Last Post on Gluten

After posting both parts of Was I Wrong About Gluten?, I felt I still needed to tie everything together. Like other aspects of nutrition, when there is massive disagreement, I try to approach the debate as an investor. When disagreement levels are high among smart people, one should assume that both parties are working from incomplete information. Over time we will learn who is right and who is wrong and what we didn’t even consider. Just like investing.

So in this post I am not going to assume that gluten is either safe or harmful. I’m going to assume I don’t know. After reading so much about gluten from both sides of the argument, here is the path I would take to answer the question for myself.

If You Feel Awesome

If you feel awesome, skin looks good, joints are OK and you have good digestion, move along. Either gluten isn’t bothering you or you are resilient. Focus your efforts elsewhere. If something changes later in your life, you can always revisit this question.

Remove all Gluten for 30 to 60 Days

Because 10-30% of the population either has or is suspected to have some gluten intolerance, I believe it is wise to remove 100% of gluten for 30-60 days. During this time, pay attention to how your gut health feels. Do your joints feel better? How about skin quality? Are you having fewer headaches? Weight loss?

Ending the test after 30 or 60 days will depend upon how the test is going. If you aren’t seeing any difference, end the test at 30 days. If however, you are noticing benefits, keep the test going. At the end of the test, reintroduce some gluten and then monitor your health closely for 4 days. Try not to stress about this. The default assumption should be that you are a resilient person. If you are fine, go about life knowing you did the test and you can handle gluten.

If Gluten Was an Issue – Repeat the Test with Dairy

Many health professionals that are anti-gluten also recommend eliminating dairy at the same time. You can go that route if it works for you. For me I would only do that test if I suspected I had a dairy issue and I came into the test feeling poorly. It is hard enough to eliminate gluten by itself.

Once I knew gluten was an issue for me and removed it from my diet, I proceeded to add a 30 day test with no dairy. I had no issues.

Repair Your Gut

As I mentioned in Part 1, one of the theories behind the rise of gluten intolerance is the “old friends” hypothesis that we evolved with our gut flora, which helped us deal with grains. When we have poor gut flora from taking antibiotics, overuse of antibacterial soaps and lack of fermented foods, we are more likely to respond poorly to gluten.

I don’t think there is a downside to assuming that your gut flora can be improved. If you are ill, you can seek out a naturopath doctor. They will run test and come up with a way to restore your gut flora. If you are OK, consider adding fermented foods to your diet. I started making kimchi over 3 years ago and added dairy kefir on a regular basis last December. Besides it being a rewarding hobby, I rarely get sick anyone and I think it has helped me when I get exposed to small amounts of gluten. One could also take supplemental probiotics or prebiotics.

Making Gluten Safer

In July 2012, I saw a presentation from Ramiel Nagel about reversing tooth decay and curing cavities. One the points Ramiel made during the presentation was how it probably wise to avoid grains if one is susceptible to cavities. The reason he explained was that in traditional cultures grains were processed in a way that made them safer to consume. Grains went through a partial fermentation by laying the field post harvest. The grains were then soaked prior to use.

Nourishing Traditions:  The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon

Our ancestors discovered that grains were safer and more nutritious when they went through soaking and partial fermentation. Sally Fallon’s article Be Kind to Your Grains…And Your Grains Will Be Kind To You covers how traditional preparation disables the anti-nutrients as well as how different cultures around the world came up with similar strategies for processing grains. Her recommendation is to soak your own grains, but if you can’t do that choose sourdough or sprouted bread.

Beyond Wheat

One of the benefits I got from eliminating wheat from my diet was I greatly expanded my sources of carbohydrates. I now have a rice cooker and I’m always trying different rices that I find at the Asian grocery stores. Prior to going gluten free, I don’t know if I ever tried other grains such as sorghum or millet. I’m also now consuming a variety of root vegetables that I never did before going wheat free.

Even if one doesn’t have a gluten issue, I think seeking nutrient diversification is a wise idea as the nutrients one is deficient in aren’t likely to be found in daily staples. In other words, don’t blindly reach for a loaf of bread every week. Get some parsnips, basmati rice or a purple yam. Mix it up.

Test For Resilience

I mentioned that today I can now handle soy sauce, which has wheat in it, with no issues. I also mentioned that I was fine with 4 oz of beer. Sunday I learned the hard way that 10 oz of beer was too much, as I had an 18 hour headache. Despite the fact I’m not 100% healed of gluten issues, I’m still better than I was before and maybe I’ll continue to improve.

Some people won’t become more resilient. They will become increasingly sensitive. At least they know, which is a great thing.

Last Words

Removing gluten is a tool one can use to improving their health. It won’t work for the majority, but because it is such a powerful tool, I think it is worth testing if you are having health issues that have been linked to gluten intolerance. Of all the health experiments I’ve tried – and I’ve tried a lot – nothing has come close to benefits I’ve received from removing gluten.

Was I Wrong About Gluten? Part 2

For those that haven’t read Part 1, please do so now. In it I describe how I removed gluten from my diet and experienced positive health benefits. Then I reflected on how I became sensitive to gluten and how I am in a better position now to handle small amounts of gluten.

Has the fear of gluten been exaggerated? Is it just one of a long list of foods that have been demonized unjustly? In the past year there have been many smart individuals that believe this is the case. The new wave of gluten defenders seem to be falling into 2 camps.

Diet Recovery / Broken Metabolism

Matt Stone is a fan of using wheat to jump start a metabolism wrecked by excessive dieting. If someone has a history of food restriction and has developed unhealthy attitudes about food, then food typically thought of as “junk food” can be both metabolically and psychologically beneficial. The thinking here is that by increasing metabolism, so many other health markers move in a positive direction that total health benefits in spite of the wheat. Here wheat is used as a convenient tool to solve a greater problem.

I really don’t have much to comment here. It’s an area of health I know little about, but if one can eat cookies to boost metabolism to restore health then, why not? It isn’t denying the possible health issues with gluten, it is about addressing a larger health issue quickly.

“It’s only 10%”

The other group of gluten defenders state that Celiac represents just 1% and when you add in those with any gluten intolerances that number is only 10%. I’ve talked to a local naturopath whose research suggests that number is 30%. On a recent Robb Wolf podcast with Dr. David Perlmutter MD, author of Grain Brain, also uses the 30% number. Regardless of the number, this camp feels that gluten issues have been overstated. As a side note, I’ve noticed the people in this camp are almost all coming from a fitness background. They tend to be resilient as do their clients.

When I listened to Evil Sugar Radio Episode 9, Antonio Valladares and Alan Aragon were mostly dismissive of gluten issues. Alan shared his research stating that 90-91% of the population does not have any gluten issues, so therefore gluten is fine and that projecting these problems out to everyone is absurd.

I have a few problems with the logic here. One is 10% is not a small number. What if it really is 30%? That is a tremendous number. Something is going on and even if I wasn’t gluten intolerant, I’d be taking notice. Why are so many people having so many issues with a food that is so prevalent? And what does “fine” really mean? Do we know? I have trouble believing that a food would be harmful to 10% (or 30%), but beneficial to 90% (or 70%).

Maybe Alan is right and the much of the gluten demonization is about praying on the insecurities of the fitness culture? God knows they’ve done it before. For me the numbers are too high to ignore and too many smart people have raised concerns that in my opinion have not been fully addressed. Robb Wolf, Paul Jamient, Chris Kresser, and others have gone into great detail why they feel gluten is best avoided.

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs,  and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers
Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers is by Dr. David Perlmutter who sat down with Robb Wolf for a podcast interview on the book. The second half of the interview deals with his neurological concerns related to grains.

Moving from 100% GF to 99% GF

As I covered in Part 1, I believe I have to some degree healed my body’s ability to handle gluten. It took years, but I’m now more resilient. But just because I’m not showing symptoms when I have soy sauce or 4 oz of beer, does not mean that I’ve accepted that gluten is beneficial. I haven’t.

Even if the only benefit I’m receiving from removing gluten these days is that I’ve replaced those calories with more nutrient dense and nutrient diverse foods, then that is still a benefit. And if someday we all learn that gluten was innocent then we can resume eating it at that time. I doubt that will happen, but I’ll keep an open mind.

The 30 in 30 Experiment

I’ve started a new experiment. This time I will be testing an idea from Tim Ferriss. Upon waking I will consume 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes. In the book The 4 Hour Body, Ferriss mentions how this trick helps accelerate fat burning.

By starting the day off with a high dose of protein, Ferriss has found that it has an appetite suppressing effect which results in an easier path to fat loss. 4HourLife has some ideas on how to get those 30 grams. For me, even though I think whey protein is the one of most hyped overrated supplements, I bought some to make this experiment easier.

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman
The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman by Timothy Ferriss

This experiment is a radical change for me. I’ve never started my day off immediately with food. In the past few years, I’ve gone hours before consuming calories. Besides seeing if the 30-30 method could control my appetite, I also selected this experiment because it will help me be morning compliant with an idea from the Ray Peat crowd. They warn against consuming coffee on an empty stomach as it can trigger stress hormones.

I started this experiment on Friday September 20th. Way too soon to tell if it is having an effect. I’m only interested in losing 10 pounds. Unless I get a negative response, which I don’t expect, I’ll keep this experiment going for at least 60 days.

I wonder how well the 30-30 plan works for the last 10 pounds? Has anyone experimented with it? I’d especially like to hear from those that normally would skip breakfast.

The Bug Buffet

Wednesday night I got a chance to listen to author David George Gordon talk about eating bugs. After the talk, I joined the bug buffet and ate some bugs myself. I’ve owned the 1998 edition of his Eat-A-Bug Cookbook for a few years now. At the event, I learned a new and expanded 2013 edition was released.

The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook, Revised: 40 Ways to Cook Crickets, Grasshoppers, Ants, Water Bugs, Spiders, Centipedes, and Their Kin
The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook, Revised: 40 Ways to Cook Crickets, Grasshoppers, Ants, Water Bugs, Spiders, Centipedes, and Their Kin by David George Gordon

I didn’t buy the new version. Although I have zero issues with eating bugs, sourcing them has always been a challenge. With the exception of silkworm larvae (aka “ground cucumber”), which is sold in the Vietnamese grocery stores, I have not seen any insects sold anywhere near Seattle. For the record, I’ve been up and down the aisles of most Asian grocery stores from Lynnwood to Federal Way.


The 2 on the stick tasted like sauce. The locust (upper left) had no flavor. The mealworms (upper right) were the best. They did have a slight crunch. The real little ones in the flan (bottom left) were so small and covered with sugar that I couldn’t taste them. None were as good as my bug soup.

My hunch is to make this way of eating sustainable and affordable, one would have to start home ranching. Even the package of silkworm larvae costs $3.50. Considering how few calories a package has, it really isn’t worth buying for anything more than a novelty in the United States.

Was I Wrong About Gluten?

For years I have been anti-gluten. I removed it from my diet and my skin quality improved and I got leaner effortlessly. But lately I’ve seen a growing backlash against the gluten backlash. Instead of dismissing the new wave of gluten defenders, I thought I’d look at gluten with fresh eyes as well as reconciling my own personal experience.

Remembering 2008

2008 was the year I started making many health changes. After many years of eating a pesco-vegetarian diet composed of multiple meals throughout the day, I slowly began eating meat. I eased into experimenting with Intermittent Fasting and cold temperature exposure. No longer fat phobic, my overall carbohydrate consumption dropped. I stopped buying bread and only consumed grains away from home.

With all these factors in play, I started leaning out. I also decided to visit a dermatologist to address my rosacea. She gave me creams and massive amounts of antibiotics. In the post Be Your Own Dermatologist, I go into how I got off the meds and determined it was wheat that caused my skin flare ups.

I don’t want to fall for attribution bias and state that all the wonderful health improvements I made in 2008-2009 were from removing grains. It could have been from following a more nutrient dense diet, lower carbs, IF, cold exposure or cooking more of my own meals. It was probably some combination. What I do recall is that my experience with wheat got worse after my visits to the skin doctor. Worse than before I made any dietary changes.

By the end of 2009, I had enough experiences to recognize that when exposed to wheat I would get a headache that could last 12 to 24 hours. Sometimes I would get a stomach ache. So on January 8, 2010, I decided I’d have my last piece of bread. The date wasn’t accidental. It was Elvis’s birthday, so of course I had a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. I haven’t touched bread since. 

Since giving up the wheat, I have had accidental exposure a few times. The response was usually the same headache and/or stomach ache. In the past year though, I’ve noticed that small amounts of soy sauce or other food items with trace wheat don’t bother me. This got me thinking.

Was it Gut Flora?

Why was I handling gluten exposure much better in 2013 than I did from 2010-2012? Was my body more resilient? If so, what was going on? Last month Chris Kresser did a podcast on What Are the Hidden Costs of Modern Hygiene? that helped me connect the pieces.

…it’s possible that if we still had the Paleolithic microbiome intact, we could tolerate grains and all of these compounds with no problem. And perhaps that explains why some people are able to tolerate those foods with apparently no problems. But given that the microbiome has changed so significantly because of things like sanitation and hygiene and also increased use of antibiotics and decline in the consumption of fermented foods and fermentable substrates that lead to a better gut microbiome…

In 2008, I began taking a lot of antibiotics to deal with rosacea. Is it possible that my gut flora was in a far worse state to digest gluten because of the meds? And starting in early 2010 I began making kimchi and sauerkraut, both fermented foods to support gut flora. However, I didn’t get into dairy kefir on a regular basis until December 2012. Since that time, I haven’t had a single incident where trace exposure has triggered ill effects.



Bring on the Bread?

I needed to do a test to support the theory that my gut flora was destroyed by antibiotics in 2008 and healed via fermented foods from 2010 to present. So last Saturday, I went to a microbrewery and drank a 4 oz ale. Beer makes more sense than bread, since beer is fermented and tastes better. :) This was the first beer I had since 2010. I had no issues. No headache, no stomach ache. I slept fine. Granted this is only one point of data, but a very encouraging one.

I’ve read several accounts of individuals that have reversed their gluten insensitivity, so this idea isn’t new. Although it is doubtful this will help Celiacs, being less sensitive to wheat is a step towards greater resilience.

This post is getting long, so I’ll explain in Part 2 why I do not have any plans to resume eating bread and what the new wave of gluten defenders have gotten wrong.

Reversing Gray Hair? Part 2

A year and half ago I posted on the idea that the amino acid L-Tyrosine might be able to reverse or delay gray hair. L-Tyrosine is used to make melanin, which gives your hair its natural color.

What prompted the post was a guest article Jimmy Moore had about an upcoming podcast guest. After listening to the podcast, I sort of lost faith that the doctor knew what he was talking about. He came off as yet another carb phobic voice reciting the same old tired script.

In addition to L-Tyrosine, the other leading suspect in reversing or delaying gray hair was copper. Considering I was most likely copper deficient in 2008 and have been getting plenty of copper via both supplementation and beef liver, I started to suspect copper was the key.

Source Naturals L-Tyrosine 500mg, 100 Tablets (Pack of 3)
Source Naturals L-Tyrosine 500mg, 100 Tablets (Pack of 3) (Amazon USA)

Later in 2012, I learned from Dan Kalish that if you take L-Tyrosine daily it should be paired with 5-HTP. I covered this in detail in the post Safe Use of 5-HTP and L-Tyrosine. As good as L-Tyrosine made me feel, 5-HTP was a mixed bag. It started out OK, but my sleep got worse with it. I started to get concerned, so I stopped taking both supplements. That was early 2013.

This summer I noticed the gray hair returning. Like it looked in 2008. Now throughout the past year, I’ve had copper daily either in supplements or offal. I also take selenium daily. I was starting to suspect that copper wasn’t the key player. Maybe it was L-Tyrosine after all?

Yesterday I got this comment from Daniel, which confirmed my suspicion.

Tyrosine is the key element in reversing gray hair. An accidental finding in imatinib receivers proved this. Imatinib is an anticancer drug, working through tyrosine kinase inhibiting. They noticed that patients on this drug regained their hair color after 6-7 months. Some of these patients were over 60! So I think that increasing tyrosine itself may also have the similar effect. By the way, spinach is a good source of tyrosine for vegs and those who dislike animal-drived proteins.

Daniel goes on to say he is working professionally in hair health with reversing gray hair as one of his goals. He also recommends supplementing with selenium and zinc.

Now What?

I personally don’t care if and when my hair turns gray. Maybe consuming a nutrient dense diet can reverse gray hair or maybe it can delay or slow down the process? Beats me. Regardless of if you care about having gray hair, being well nourished is still a good goal.

From everything I’ve read, minerals like selenium, zinc and copper are probably about the safest supplements one can take. I am concerned that taking high doses of L-Tyrosine daily might not be a wise idea. See the safety post and watch the video for more details. If Dan Kalish is correct then messing with L-Tyrosine without 5-HTP in high doses or for extended period might cause problems.

I’d rather have gray hair than get the supplementation wrong. I already know I don’t like 5-HTP, so I’ll resume taking L-Tyrosine in small doses (500 mg) daily, but I’ll also take every other month off. Of course this post is not medical advice. I’m just a health hobbyist interesting in learning if one amino acid can reverse gray hair. If you have your own nutritional story about graying hair, please leave a comment.

Weight Gain on a Ray Peat Diet

I wanted to bring up a topic that I see mentioned frequently on forums and comments that relate to the Ray Peat diet. Seems a lot of people experience weight gain. Last month I received this comment from Greatgiantsteppah:

I have tried this diet for a couple of months now and have gained a lot of weight (mostly Subcutaneous fat) around the stomach and my abs are a goner. My diet has consisted mostly of fruit, carrots and milk and then some beef.

These comments are common. For those not familiar with the Ray Peat diet, read my post The Peat-atarian Diet For Those of Us With Average IQs.

The diet ideas of Ray Peat are not about fat loss or achieving an ideal weight. The goal is to increase metabolism and support the thyroid. That often means increasing calories and carbohydrates. Getting healthy hormonally is more paramount than weight management. Some people gain weight. I did.

My Story

In early 2012 I noticed that my weight kept dropping. I went from a healthy lean 195 down to a ripped but gaunt 183. My height is 6 foot 2.5 inches (189 cm). I was eating a super clean hybrid of WAPF, Paleo and the Perfect Health Diet . I needed to gain weight, but I wanted to do it in a nutrient dense manner. My research led to the conclusion that ice cream was the optimal food. Ice cream also happens to be a superfood on the Ray Peat diet. Read that post if the idea that ice cream can be super healthy puzzles you. I had trouble with it until I really dug into the numbers.

It worked. Eating ice cream stopped my weight loss. Once I stabilized my weight, I decided to use ice cream to gain muscle. And it worked. I gained 10 pounds of muscle before the end of the year. Throughout the summer of 2012, I was preaching the gospel of ice cream to anyone that would listen.

The problem came later. I overshot my target weight and kept gaining. For the first time in my life, I had developed a sugar craving. Then I went a month without coffee and my appetite signals got all messed up. Today I am 10-15 pounds heavier than my target weight. The good news is I have more muscle and am no longer gaunt. My metabolism seems to be high, but so is my appetite.


Photo by Atomische * Tom Giebel

Losing Weight on a Ray Peat diet

Remember the point of the Ray Peat diet is not about having ripped abs, but having a healthy metabolism. If you are still recovering from thyroid or metabolism issues, you may want to solve that before pursuing an ideal weight. I am not a nutritionist, nor do I have any clients. I’m just trying to figure this riddle out myself.

The standard advice I see in forums devoted to Ray Peat when it comes to fat loss is to reduce your dairy fat content and cut back on the coconut oil. So you might go from whole milk to 2% milk fat. I suspect this standard advice is geared towards the individuals that still need to boost metabolism, as it would ensure they were still getting ample carbs and sugars to support thyroid. The reduction in fat would reduce calories without restricting carbs.

I suspect that standard advice is not ideal for those of us with healthy metabolisms. I could be wrong on this, but my guess is those of us with healthy metabolisms just need to correct our appetite signals. I doubt reducing dairy fat is going to do that. Some ideas that come to mind are:

  1. Replace highly palatable foods by consuming the components separately. Have a piece of fruit and a glass of milk instead of ice cream. You get the sugar and the dairy fat without the high flavor signals.
  2. Replace the sacred orange juice with oranges. An orange has 1/2 the calories of an 8 oz glass of orange juice. I don’t eat oranges myself, but I like to rotate in new fruit every week.
  3. No more Mexican colas or other sugar drinks. Not because they are bad, but because of their effect on appetite.
  4. Reduce milk quantity. For me, I’ve decided to consume milk every 2nd or 3rd week. I’m still dialing it in, so I don’t have an exact ratio yet, but I’m only buying whole milk.

Your Thoughts?

To be clear, I am in no way endorsing the Ray Peat diet. Some parts make sense to me and some don’t. I am a student of what makes different diets work. This one is more complicated than most. I successfully used ice cream to fix my rapid weight loss, now I am going to see if I can curb my appetite signals using slight tweaks of the Ray Peat diet.

If you have any tips or ideas, drop a comment.

Results From the Low Histamine Diet

Thanks to Pauline for bringing to my attention that I never shared the results of my low histamine diet from May 2012. The Low Histamine Diet was an experiment to see if histamine was playing a role in my late night headaches.

The short answer is that dropping from a high level of histamines to almost none had zero impact.

TestAverage Headache (0-5)Average Sleep Quality (0-5)
Low Histamine1.283.64
All days since April 20111.233.80
May 2013 1.293.77

As you can see from the table, the Low Histamine Diet had no effect. May 2013 was included to measure any seasonal differences. The good news for me is that my kimchi and kefir have no correlation to my headaches. The bad news is that coffee is likely the remaining cause, although it isn’t nearly as strong of a trigger as gluten or alcohol.



In Episode #49 of the Bulletproof Exec, Dave Asprey mentioned this blog (46:33) and my fermentation hobby. His theory is that the reason I can eat fermented veggies daily is because my liver produces high levels of diamine oxidase (DAO). He further theorizes that most people have low or average levels and this makes consuming ferments problematic. Then he goes off into his toxic planet thesis, which I addressed in the post 4 Reasons Not to Ferment Veggies.

I’m not a PubMed Warrior, but I have trouble with his logic. Cultures have been fermenting foods for thousands of years. Long before refrigeration, our ancestors figured out how to preserve foods via fermentation. We are the descendants of those people. Although it is understandable that some people would have histamine intolerances, those should the exceptions.

Perhaps everyone is looking at histamine the wrong way? Can our bodies adapt and become more efficient at removing histamine with repeated exposure? I can’t but help to think of lactic acid build up from certain type of exercise, such as negative (eccentric) lifting to failure. The first time you do it, you feel like hell. Then after a few workouts, the body adapts and you feel much better, much faster.

I do think it is wise to take a break from foods high in histamine from time to time. Fermented veggies make sense during periods outside harvest. The rest of the year, seek out fresh veggies. In other words, hedge the benefits and the risks of both. Assume incomplete knowledge.

Revisiting the Paleo Books

Starting around 2008, I read and reviewed several nutritional books on this site, most of which have some popularity in the Paleo community. Although I’ve really enjoyed experimenting with a Paleo diet approach, as time goes by I find myself increasingly critical of ideas that made perfect sense to me just a few years ago.

If one goes back into the archives of this site, the reviews of certain Paleo books are a little too positive. With more experience and more knowledge, I’ve decided to revisit these books with my current thoughts.

Hair-Raising Encounter by JD Hancock

Photo by JD Hancock

The New Evolution Diet by Art De Vany

My original review of The New Evolution Diet was in December 2010. Without rehashing old ideas, I find De Vany’s approach far too restrictive. Carbs are bad and as is excess fat. He dislikes grains and dairy. If I followed his higher protein version of the diet, I would be hungry all the time and bored.

When I ate super clean – not even low carb – I was dropping weight too fast. My face looked gaunt. The food that successfully reversed that was ice cream. It was dairy plus sugar that worked for me.

I may have said this before, but De Vany was a professional athlete long before he discovered Paleo. How much of his current amazing health is a result of his genetics plus training and how much is a result of diet? The longer I go on my nutrition journey, the most I suspect it is the former.

Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson

My review of Primal Blueprint was from June 2009. When it comes to editing and clear writing, I still think this is a good book. Many of the ideas I still agree with, but its core message that high levels of carbohydrates leads to “insidious weight gain” no longer rings true.

I’ll quote Matt Stone:

In Mark Sisson’s book, The Primal Blueprint, he shows a little chart with carbohydrate levels ideal for weight loss, weight maintenance, and the levels of carbohydrate intake that lead to, in his words, “insidious weight gain.” Get above 150 grams of carbohydrates per day in your diet and you enter the danger zone. I have said this many times and I will say it again – in all the information I’ve ever read on nutrition and health, this could very well be the dumbest and most unsubstantiated tidbit I’ve ever come across. It is downright retarded, with 5 billion…. 5 BILLION living exceptions to the rule that a carbohydrate intake exceeding 150 grams per day triggers insidious weight gain. This is just plain stupid. I couldn’t even believe my eyes when I read it. This guy is, and should be, the laughingstock of anyone who studies obesity or nutritional science. He completely undermines his credibility as an intelligent person with this one uber-knuckleheaded and poorly-thought out conclusion.

The rest of the book is pretty good. Sisson embraces dairy and has a sane approach to exercise. I think because I liked the rest of the book so much, it provided credibility to the carbohydrate chapter that was unwarranted.

Primal Body – Primal Mind by Nora T. Gedgaudas

My review of Primal Body – Primal Mind was from July 2010, which was the first edition. I later read the second edition in December 2011. PBPM is a high fat anti-sugar Paleo. By the time I read the 2nd edition, I was already dismissive of the idea that carbohydrates were evil.

My own journey had already moved away from Paleo and towards a more Weston A Price approach. I enjoyed my expanded diet and the fun I was having learning how to cook traditional cuisines, which were full of those evil carbohydrates.

PBPM is too restrictive for me. Plus I after reading a few posts about the author on Carb Sane, I have serious doubts on what is true or isn’t true in the book. Right now I am teaching myself Malaysian cooking. Wonderful recipes that would be impossible if I followed the PBPM advice.

Deep Nutrition by Catherine Shanahan

Although I posted my review in June 2012, I read it at least a year before then. What I liked and still like about this book is how it combined the principles of traditional food (the Weston A Price approach) and modern nutrition.

Chapter 9 demonizes sugar and carbs going as far as saying they block metabolic function. Using the same observation Matt Stone used above when critiquing Mark Sisson’s “insidious weight gain” comment, that doesn’t appear to me true. I’ve since read from others how sugar can support metabolism.

Sally Fallon posted a review of Deep Nutrition on the WAPF site with a lot of good points, If there is a 2nd edition, Dr. Cate would be wise to work with Sally and the WAPF before going to press. The WAPF needs a book like this that they can endorse. As great as the 1939 Nutrition and Physical Degeneration book is, I can tell you that only a few members of the Seattle chapter of the WAPF have read all 500 pages.

Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes

This was the book I fawned over. I took it to Thailand with me in November 2009 and read it three times. When I returned home I told everyone it was the best book ever. In short GCBG tells the story of how health professionals falsely came to the conclusion that cholesterol and saturated fat were the cause of obesity and health problems. Then it points the blame on carbohydrates.

Although there were critics of the carbohydrate theory, I didn’t pay much attention to them at first. I cut carbs and I lost fat effortlessly without counting calories. It had to be right. Then when I was lean, I added back carbs and stayed lean. Huh? The critics were getting louder, so I read James Krieger’s multi-part series on Insulin: An Undeserved Bad Reputation. It was his analogy that insulin is like a traffic cop that clicked with me.

Thus, insulin is like a traffic cop or a stop light at an intersection. It helps slow down and control traffic. Without a stop light or traffic cop, cars go through the intersection uncontrolled and you get traffic accidents. Likewise, without insulin in the body, gluconeogenesis, glycolysis, proteolysis, ketogenesis, and lipolysis all proceed at high rates without anything to stop them. The end result is hyperglycemia, ketoacidosis, and eventually death.

So insulin was never the bad guy, just like cholesterol was never the bad guy? I heard Taubes on a recent podcast, towards the end of the interview it sounded like he doesn’t even think his insulin theory of obesity is right anymore.

Last Words

The main reason I revisited these books is because I am no longer convinced that carbohydrates are the cause of obesity and health decline. With that said, I can no longer endorse any of these books. I’ve gotten rid of these books and replaced them with cookbooks.

4 Reasons Not to Ferment Veggies

I am a big fan of making ferments. I love my kimchi and sauerkraut. However, I have heard 4 reasons why someone may want to avoid fermented veggies. In this post, I’ll do my best to explain their position and my response.

#1 Fear of Mold

This is the easiest concern to address and it the one often brought up by those new to the world of fermentation. If veggies are exposed to the open air, they will mold over time. However, if the veggies are submerged under water and allowed time to ferment mold shouldn’t occur. But what sometimes happens is the veggies at the top do become exposed to air and some mold can form.

There are a few ways to prevent this. One is to have a weight or croc hold the veggies down so they remain under liquid. A second approach to periodically push the veggies down during the fermentation period. Worse case scenario is if you lose the battle to mold, you can always throw out the the top inch of veggies and use the rest. And if you are still concerned, use the remaining veggies in a heated soup. You won’t get the probiotic benefit, but the food won’t go to waste either.

Refrigeration is a recent technology when it comes to the history of food preservation. Before it arrived, cultures from all over the world independently figured out how to harness fermentation to preserve veggies post harvest.

#2 Hypothyroidism and Goitrogenic Veggies

My understanding of this topic is limited, so I’ll refer you to the Chris Kresser podcast with transcript RHR: Solutions for Snoring, Overactive Bladder, and Balancing Goitrogens in Your Diet.

Fermenting cabbage into sauerkraut actually increases the goitrogens that it contains, but it reduces the amount of nitriles, which is another type of chemical that’s present in some foods like cabbage that has a toxic effect on the thyroid, and in fact, it’s even a more harmful effect that goitrogens.  And unlike goitrogens, the effects of nitriles can’t be offset by iodine intake or iodine supplementation.  So with fermentation, you do have an increase in goitrogens, but you have the nitriles, which are even more harmful and not offset by iodine, cut in half.  So we might say that the net effect of the fermentation of cabbage and probably other goitrogenic foods is either neutral or even positive because of the reduction of nitriles.

Chris seems to be OK with the fermented despite the increase in goitrogens. However, if you don’t want to risk it, you can just forgo the cabbage and ferment other veggies. Maybe my Fermented Carrots and Ginger recipe? Problem solved.

fermented carrots

#3 Lactic Acid and Inefficient Metabolism

The Ray Peat camp of nutrition dislikes fermentation because of the lactic acid and the negative effect it has on metabolism. This is a complicated topic, so I’ll refer you to these articles.

A Bioenergic View of High Fat Diets by Danny Roddy, Altitude and Mortality by Dr. Ray Pat and Lactate vs. CO2 in wounds, sickness, and aging; the other approach to cancer by Dr. Ray Peat. My quick takeaway is:

  1. Fermented foods are rich in lactic acid.
  2. Excess lactic acid can be stressful to the cells.
  3. Lactic acid and carbon dioxide have opposing effects. (Lactic acid = bad, CO2 = good)

I have no way of knowing what the quantifiable negative effect of eating a small plate of kimchi or drinking a few ounces of kefir daily has on metabolism. But for this post, let us assume fermented foods are negative for cell metabolism. Other than cutting out fermented foods (ain’t going to happen), how can we boost the carbon dioxide side of the equation?

The first idea is from Danny’s article. Avoid high fat diets. Other ideas I’ve read about include consuming baking soda, getting sufficient calcium and supplemental salt. I can do that.

#4 Fear of a Toxic Planet

Dave Asprey (The Bulletproof Exec) wrote this comment on another post.

The big question to ask yourself with your kimchee is what species of microbes are present in your ferment. Many fermented veggies are very high in histamine and other biogenic amines, and some species of lacto bacteria actually cause peroxynitrite formation in the gut. We’ve changed the earth’s biome with excessive spraying of several mutagenic fungicides and the microbes have responded by increasing the number of types of toxins they generate, as all microbes do when stressed.

Of course I don’t know what species are in my kimchi. Almost nobody does. Yet people keep fermenting and they seem to be doing fine. Although I like a lot of what Dave talks about when it comes to fitness and mindfulness, I’m skeptical of his negative opinion of fermented veggies.

But for this post, let us assume that those of us making fermented veggies now have mutagenic harmful microbes in our gut flora. And let us assume that we are experiencing no symptoms of discomfort that we can detect. I’m still not concerned, because in a few years the Human Microbiome Project will be completed. I discussed this in the post The Healthy Optimist.

There are 100 trillion bacteria in your body. What it is made up of is still a mystery, but not for long. The Human Microbiome Project is a 5 year project where the goal is to sequence all that data.

When this project is finished and we start collecting massive amounts of patient data, cloud computing will take care of the rest. We will be able to find the good, bad and evil microbes. The guesswork will be a thing of the past. So even if us fermenters using zombie microbes destined to destroy us (which I don’t believe), we just need to hang on for a few more years. Big data will save us. :)

Last Words

As you can tell, I’ll still be making kimchi and other veggie ferments. If there is mold, I’ll scrap it away. To my knowledge I do not have thyroid issues. I’ve never felt bad after consuming fermented foods. I’ve even taken two breaks and reintroduced. All good. I’ll start consuming a little baking soda just in case it helps negate any lactic acid effects. And by the end of this decade, I’ll find out what exactly is growing inside me and deal with any issues at that time.

Time to Examine My Current Supplements

In May, I posted Thinking About Supplements – 2013 Edition. Perhaps a better title would have been Guessing About Supplements? For me and probably most consumers, when it comes to supplements, we do our best and try not to get suckered into wasting our money on worthless crap. But we continue to waste money. We are hopeful that next pill or powder will make a measurable difference, but it rarely does, so we continue to get scammed.

For the most part, I am anti-supplement, yet I still have a collection of vitamins, minerals and “other” that I take. To reconcile this inconsistency, I tell myself that my current batch of supplements are being tested to eliminate the possibility they might work. And if they don’t I won’t repurchase them in the future. Then I’ll be free. Of course when the future does come, I buy different supplements and repeat the process.

It is silly guess work. This ties into a book that Examine just released this week that goes into the research behind all the supplements. They rate the supplements and provide scores.

Examine Supplement Guide

The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide from Examine

Am I Wasting My Money?

Here are the latest supplements I am trying and what I learned from The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide.

  • Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)  – Not listed in book.
  • Rhodiola rosea – It appears I didn’t waste my money here. Research suggests it does a good job with fatigue, where it gets an A grade. It gets a B for Well-being and Cognition. Now if I can only cut back on my coffee enough to really test it myself. :)
  • MSM – This supplement got a C for muscle soreness and pain, which were the primary reasons I started taking it. The magnitude of effect is listed as minor. When I first started taking MSM, I didn’t notice anything. Then I started mega dosing (per Glenn’s advice) and started feeling improvement. Was it the MSM or something else? Time will tell.
  • Creatine Monohydrate – Talk about a supplement with a glowing report card. More A grades than an honor roll student. The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide has provided me with many reasons to take creatine other than building muscle. Plus it is super cheap. Solid win.
  • Calcium-D-Glucarate – This does not appear in the book, but there is a page on the Examine website which says “Using calcium-D-glucarate as a daily preventative supplement does not appear to be a prudent idea, due to its lack of reliability even in theory and high doses used.” Good thing I ended up not buying this supplement, plus I get a tremendous amount of calcium from my dairy rich diet.

The supplement that I have flip-flopped on the most is BCAA. Art De Vany recently convinced me to give it yet another try. I haven’t noticed anything like he describes. Had I consulted the good book, I would have saved my money. There is nothing mentioned about BCAA suppressing appetite, because it doesn’t for mortals. Maybe for De Vany, but not for me.

One supplement that Dave Asprey hypes is L-Glutamine. I found it completely useless. The good book is on my side. I could have saved money here as well. Did nothing for my headaches or building muscle.

I’ll be using The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide going forward the next time I start to fall for the hype of some supplement. I’m certain it will save me money.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of the e-book and am an affiliate. 

Great 19 Minute Overview of Ray Peat’s Principles

Last year I spent many hours trying to wrap my head around the nutritional ideas from Ray Peat. When I felt I had grasped enough of the basics, I summarized what I learned in the post The Peat-atarian Diet For Those of Us with Average IQs. I could have saved a lot of time, had this video presentation been around then.

Ray Peat: An Overview of his Basic Principles by AIT Fit

Note that I am not endorsing the diet, but a lot of makes sense to me, especially the points that overlap with ideas that I’ve already had success implementing.

BCAA Again?

With the possible exception of diet colas, the one idea I have flip-flopped on the most is if BCAA (branch chained amino acids) are a valuable supplement. In the post Thinking About Supplements – 2012 Edition, I mentioned I lost faith in BCAA.

BCAA – I know Leangains loves BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids) as does my mentor Art De Vany. The most common benefit associated with BCAA is that it preserves muscle during fasted training. I was already highly skeptical before I listened to Brad Pilon on the Fat Burning Man podcast. He made a solid case that BCAA is absolutely not needed to prevent muscle loss during fasted training.

Well today I read a post by Art De Vany that has got me ready to try BCAA once again. How I dropped to 5.6% body fat and gained muscle, part 1** makes the case that BCAA can suppress appetite.

I have only sparingly used BCAAs over the years, but now I am a big fan. They keep me from getting hungry, keep my brain from lacking energy, promote muscle growth, and, above all, protect and stimulate my mitochondria. As you will see below from my references, the BCAAs give my body a metabolic advantage on both sides of the energy equation.

And how much does Art take?

I take about from 1 to 2 grams of Guardian BCAAs with B12 a day. I use a teaspoon if I am hungry and do not want to stop to eat. I take another mid day for an energy boost, if convenient, and another an hour after dinner and well before bed.

Optimum Nutrition Instantized BCAA 5000mg Powder, Unflavored, 336g

Now I took BCAA a few years ago, but just on days when I was fasting and lifting. I don’t recall an appetite effect, but I was only having a few doses a week. Considering I am now to take control of my appetite, this sounds like a cheap experiment. And if one could get an energy benefit then that might help me reduce caffeine levels.

Has anyone noticed an appetite or energy effect from BCAA?

** If you go to Art’s site, you will likely need a browser plugin to increase and darken the font. I highly recommend Readability. It is the antidote to hideous typography. 

Maybe Paleo Shouldn’t Let GMO Crops Upset Them?

Almost without exception, everyone that I know from the Paleo community loathes GMO food. The story goes something like this. Small farmers produce the organic heirloom stuff we buy at the farmers markets. We dive into nutrition and then read Omnivores Dilemma and watch Food Inc. We learn than organic farming is good and GMO farming is evil.

What if we were wrong about GMO food? What is the purpose of GMO? It is to get higher crop yields per acre using less chemical pesticides. If they didn’t do that, they never would have been adopted.

But what about the nutritional quality? My response is who cares? The crops that are most being genetically modified are foods on the no-no list. According to article The Most Common GMO Foods by Jill Corleone, the 3 most common GMO foods are:

  1. Soybean
  2. Corn
  3. Canola Oil


What do I care if canola oil is GMO? 

Paleo people are told to avoid grains, legumes and industrial seed oil. The fact soy, corn and canola oil are GMO shouldn’t affect us. We don’t eat them. It isn’t our battle. I read one statistic that said without GMO, conventional farmers would need an additional 9% more land to farm to get the same yield.

Where are they going to get that 9% from? Other farm land where GMO is currently not being used? Is it possible that a campaign that successfully demonizes GMO foods actually results in the expansion of industrial farming? 

In the absence of GMO, I just don’t see conventional farmers embracing the Joel Salatin organic farming model. I think they will acquire more acreage, deforest and use chemicals. And the land they deforest might be land currently being used by one of the cool small organic farmers we chat with every week at our local Farmers Market. Conventional farmers have deeper pockets.

Maybe I am dead wrong on this. I’m throwing up this idea for others to bat around. What if GMO got even better and were able to use even less acreage to grow foods we already are avoiding? Might that be a win? Although we don’t consume those GMO crops, we do share the same water table and I’d prefer it had less chemical pesticide run off.

I didn’t want to get into the ethics of patenting seeds and the litigious nature of the companies that do. I think that is a separate topic.

Love to hear your thoughts.

June 2013 Experiments

When I’ve done experiments in the past, I focus on one thing. For June 2013, I’m going to mix some past experiments together to see if I can get a synergistic effect. I’m also going to try a new idea, which I couldn’t previously test.

My goals this month:

  1. Reduce headache frequency and intensity.
  2. Drop 5-7 pounds.

First the headaches. My past experiments have turned up 3 ideas that measurably help.

  1. No grains, except white rice. Corn seems to be OK, but I will minimize it as well this month. Although I am excellent at avoiding gluten, this month I will be just as diligent avoiding what I call the secondary grains (sorghum, millet, etc). This means no Gluten-Free treats or anything that even looks grain dominant. I learned last year that I have a secondary grain intolerance, which I posted about in Results From My 30 Days Without Grain Experiment. Because the effects are less severe than gluten and random, I haven’t initiated a no grain policy. For June I will. 
  2. Reduce caffeine levels, especially coffee. The data is clear. When I went an entire month without coffee, my headache intensity dropped considerably. When I added coffee back, it increased lock and step with consumption.
  3. Minimize AM caffeine. I have noticed that my sleep is better when I have a single coffee post lunch or early afternoon. Having the coffee post meal should be better for my body than slamming coffee in the AM on an empty stomach. Plus I am a natural morning person. I jump out of bed with no alarm by 6 AM most mornings.

So in summary, avoid most grains, have some tea in the AM and a single coffee post meal in the early PM. This might be the secret sauce. It combines results from 3 previous experiments. By the way, I am not looking for new ideas at this time or yet another request that I see a doctor. Those comments will be ignored.


For the fat loss, I have 3 ideas.

  1. Return to IF (Intermittent Fasting). I’m going to stop screwing around with trying to increase my body temperature by eating early in the AM. All it does is make me hungry all day long. Plus it isn’t working. I have more thoughts on that, which I’ll save for a future post. For the IF, my target will be 12 hours minimum, with most days between 14-16 and a random 20-22. In the past, I’ve used excessive caffeine to blast through IF, but I can’t do that this time (see above), so this will take some adjustment. 
  2. Only consume sugar rich foods on days where I lift weights or hike at least 2 hours. Those foods would be ice cream and pudding. On days over 80 F, maybe a single Mexican cola.
  3. Back in 2011, I reviewed the book The Shangri-La Diet in the post Flavor Signaling and The Shangri-La Diet, but I could try the ideas because I was already an optimal weight. I also was eating a super clean diet that had none of the foods that are considered hyper palatable. Well after a year of eating ice cream, I developed a sweet tooth, which I never had prior. So I will play with his ideas to consume foods with calories and no taste, such as Extra Light Olive Oil or diluted sugar water.

Exercise will stay the same. One to two machine based brief weight lifting sessions using a combination or slow movements and static holds. I’ll also continue urban hiking through Seattle.

The challenge for June will be the morning. Dealing with hunger with low caffeine is going to be tough.

Post Paleo in Ohio = No Inflammation

I am back from an 8 day trip to my home state of Ohio. My last visit was in December 2011. I covered that experience in the post Paleo in Ohio – Adventures in Inflammation. In that blog entry, I discussed how I tried my best to dodge the 4 big toxins, which were gluten, veggie oils, sugar and legumes. Since that trip I’ve moved sugar off the toxin list and placed into neutral status.

By trying to eat Seattle clean during that trip proved impossible and I got some gluten exposure, which made me ill. I was also getting back pains due to stress caused by my lack of dietary control.

I learned a lot that trip. Being neurotic about food can be worse for our health than just embracing what is outside our control as best as we can. It was then that I refocused my health journey. It would no longer be about being more healthy or seeking optimal health. The focus shifted to resiliency. I covered that in the post Healthy vs Resilient.

Post Paleo

For this trip I decided my only goal would be to avoid gluten. It really would make me miserable, so I can’t bend on that. Everything else was wide open. Avoiding veggie oils would be impossible and would make me a poor guest if I tried.

So during my trip, I had no pastured meat, nothing heirloom and only a single organic apple. Everything was cooked in veggie oil. I had some legumes. I drank a few colas that had High Fructose Corn Syrup. But I didn’t have any gluten exposure. The result was I felt great and got great sleep. I gained a few pounds. Oh well.

I ate at Taco Bell, Wendy’s and Boston Market. I survived.


I had both Doritos style tacos while in Columbus. Photo by Karl Baron.

Now I am back home and eating more healthy again. Last night I had a Beef Heart Stew using my my homemade beef stock. Taco Bell will have to wait until my next visit to Ohio.

The Twinkie Diet Proved Nothing

I wrote this post two years ago, but never hit publish. It got lost in the drafts. Consider this a “lost episode”.

In 2010, Escape the Herd alerted me to the story of a professor that proved that fat loss was all about calories and not about nutritional quality. I still read people that cite this study as proof that it is all about the calories and if you just cut the calories you’d lose the fat. For those unfamiliar with the diet, read Twinkie diet helps nutrition professor lose 27 pounds:

His premise: That in weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most — not the nutritional value of the food.
The premise held up: On his “convenience store diet,” he shed 27 pounds in two months.

In my opinion his study proved very little.

The only thing this study showed is that in the short term a single healthy male of 41 years old with University resources can eat a mostly poor diet and lose fat. How does this further our knowledge on obesity? It doesn’t. There are many examples of prisoners of war or concentration camps where those detained consumed nutrient poor and calorie restrictive diets. And they lost weight.

When we discuss fat loss, we should be striving for long term and sustainable. I suspect that one of the reasons people over eat is because they are under nourished. Putting out press releases saying you can lose fat eating Twinkies isn’t helping those that struggle with dieting that may have real health issues in addition to being overweight.


Photo by Joel Kraut. 

Hostess vs High Velocity Super Warrior

Since so many people seemed hellbent on showing that the only thing that matters is calories, I’d like to propose a study. My study would add two additional metrics: long-term success and perceived hunger. Take 100 people with at least 50 pounds to lose over the age of 30 evenly divided by sex.

  • Group A: They would follow the caloric restrictive Twinkie diet for 2 months.
  • Group B: They would get 70% of their calories from the foods listed on the post High Velocity Super Warrior Foods.

If a calorie is a calorie, they should lose weight at equal amounts. Fair enough, but that part isn’t interesting. I want to see what happens when they resume normal eating. Who keeps the weight off better and feels the least hunger? The Twinkie group or the Super Warriors? I strongly suspect it won’t be the Hostess group. I believe the more nourished group will have greater long term success.

Thinking About Supplements – 2013 Edition

Last July I posted Thinking About Supplements – 2012 Edition. Although I still fancy myself as someone that is mostly anti-supplements, the evidence suggests otherwise. I do take supplements daily, but what I take changes over time. Someday I fully expect we will have gadgets that alert us to every nutrient deficiency in real time, but in the meantime we guess. I could spend hundreds of dollars on tests to get snapshots, but I’d rather direct that money on a nutrient dense and diverse diet and then self monitor as best as I can.

The 2012 posts explains why I don’t like fish oil, multi-vitamins or whey protein powder. Those views have not changed.

Supplements I Lost Faith in Last Year

5-HTP – I was enamored with the brain supplements last year, especially L-Tyrosine. But I learned from Dr. Dan Kalish why L-Tyrosine needed to be balanced out with 5-HTP. See the post Safe Uses of 5-HTP and L-Tyrosine. The problem is that even at the lowest dose, my sleep quality was worse with 5-HTP. Not at first, but I have enough data to confirm that fact now. Without 5-HTP, I cut way back on L-Tyrosine and only use it on days when my caffeine levels are low and my mood is poor.

I also became concerned that using 5-HTP might not be safe and using it to boost serotonin might be unwise. Here are some links to articles that question the conventional understanding of serotonin.

Melatonin – I almost never take melatonin, because I fall asleep effortlessly 99% of the time. However, I have kept melatonin on hand for those rare occasions when I can’t get to sleep. Not anymore. It doesn’t help me fall asleep faster and when I do wake up I feel terrible, If that isn’t enough of a reason not to take it, I learned another yesterday. In the post Thyroid Deficiency & Common Health Problems, Matt Stone and Danny Roddy linked to an audio interview of Ray Peat discussing how melatonin lowers body temperature which can make it more susceptible to infections.

Supplements I am Testing or Considering Testing

Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) – I started taking B5 after Pauline tipped me off that it could help with adrenals. Too soon to tell if it is helping, but it is cheap insurance.

Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) – I was taking this as a tea during my caffeine detox period, but I’ve found making the tea too inconvenient, so I am considering using the supplement version. Rhodiola is supposed to help to with stress and muscle recovery.

MSMGlenn tipped me off to this supplement for helping with tight shoulders. At a low dose I felt nothing, but a high dose I think it is working. Since going from 1 capsule a day to 6-8 capsules, my shoulders are far less tight. At the time I upped the dose, I didn’t try anything else new, so I’m going to keep using this supplement, because it appears to be working. :)

Creatine Monohydrate – I stopped taking creatine almost immediately after last year’s post, because I wanted to isolate all weight gains to the ice cream experiment. Then I forgot all about it until last night when I listened to SportsCoachRadio’s podcast show Creatine: All About The Go-To Sports Nutrition Supplement. Now I understand the supplement more and will resume taking it.

Calcium-D-Glucarate – Dave Asprey recently talked about this supplement in a podcast. Then I found his post 4 Reasons Bulletproof (and Paleo) People Should Take Calcium-D-Glucarate. I’ve never taken a calcium supplement, because I figured I was getting plenty with my higher than average dairy intake. However, the problem with dairy is it can be high in estrogen  What is interesting about this article is that this form of calcium is supposedly removes excess estrogen from the body. To what degree it does it better than other forms of calcium, I am not sure. Because it is cheap, I am considering taking it.

Natrol Calcium D-glucarate 500 mg Tablets, 60-Count
Natrol Calcium D-glucarate 500 mg Tablets, 60-Count (Amazon USA)

Supplements I Still Take

Mostly the same from the 2012 Edition, which included magnesium, copper, selenium and Vitamin D3. I also still consume food supplements of gelatin powder and kelp tablets.

I still think whey protein is a rip-off. You are better off eating ice cream or dairy kefir.

How about you? Any new supplements you like? Any you lost faith in?

Approaching Nutrition From An Investor’s Mindset

Over the last few years I’ve read numerous accounts of people that have tried different diets only to end up in worse health. Most often the diet works very well in the short term, but then things go wrong. At the point things go wrong, the person following the diet usually stays loyal for an additional period of time until their health declines to the point where they are forced to change their nutritional approach. They then embrace a new diet which corrects the deficiencies of the prior diet. This lasts for a while, until the same cycle replays itself out.

When I read the accounts of people that had poor experiences on a Paleo diet, I almost always see that they followed a strict, sometimes extreme, interpretation of the diet. Then after a honeymoon period, when their health gains started to reverse, they increase their commitment to what had already started failing for them. In the post Am I Paleo?, I mentioned that I never experienced any negative health issues from a Paleo diet and that I would explain why.

The reason why I’ve been fine with Paleo, low carb, ketosis, cold weather exposure, intermittent fasting or even massive amount of ice cream is that I approach nutrition from the mindset of an investor. Nutritional gurus love to wrap themselves in their PubMed blankets and dish out narratives that they believe work for everyone, but a simple observation shows that isn’t working. The fact that some succeed on any plan is not proof that it works for everyone. There are are too many failures.

How does one succeed in nutrition when nobody seems to agree on anything? How can one get the benefits that arrive in the early stages of a diet without staying too long and compromising their health? What has worked well for me is thinking about nutrition like an investor thinks about investment opportunities.

MAS money

Undervalued, Overvalued

When you are investing the goal is to put your money into something undervalued and then get out before it becomes overvalued. In other words, buy low and sell high. The more undervalued the investment, the less risk one takes. If we think about this nutritionally, we benefit most from the nutrients and foods that we are deficient in. A fast food junkie will likely benefit from a vegetarian diet and a vegetarian will likely benefit from a Paleo diet.

For a while.

I still recall the first time I had beef liver a few years ago. Although I’ve never had anabolic steroids, I imagine what I felt was similar. I had this surge of strength and felt amazing. However, by the 10th time I had liver it was no different than an apple.

As an investment gets close to or hits its true value, the less return we can expect to receive. This leads us to our next investment idea.

Lock In Your Gains and Re-balance Your Portfolio

Remember in investing as a security gets closer to true value, the risks increase. The reason for this is it is no longer undervalued. The gains you got early on when the asset was undervalued are now gone. This is the time to re-balance your portfolio. A fast food junkie that switched to a vegetarian diet might start adding some seafood or meat into the diet a few meals a week. A low carb Paleo person might start adding white rice and fermented dairy. In each case, you are diversifying your nutritional portfolio.

But what if your new portfolio of food isn’t working as well? That brings us to our next investing idea.

Stop Loss Nutrition

A stop loss order is an investment term. The definition from Investopedia:

An order placed with a broker to sell a security when it reaches a certain price. A stop-loss order is designed to limit an investor’s loss on a security position.

I’ll provide a simple explanation of how a stop loss order works. At the time of this post Apple (AAPL) is $430 a share. Let us say you did your research and you believe the stock will go up $100, so you buy a share. However, you accept the possibility you might be wrong and the stock could drop by $100 a share. But you don’t want to lose $100, so you set a stop loss order for $400. If the stock drops to $400, it automatically triggers a sale. You’ve limited your losses to $30.

Why not apply the same principles to nutrition? Define the point at which you will abandon or alter your new strategy. I think this would prevent many people from following ever stricter versions of diets that have stopped working for them.

Hedging and the Fructose vs. Glucose Debate

Good investors will hedge their portfolio. They might have a primary thesis on what they think might happen in the market, but in the event they are wrong they also have secondary thesis. They invest in both, so their losses are limited in the event their primary thesis is wrong.

In nutrition, there is a huge debate between which form of carbohydrate is superior. Paul Jamient believes glucose is better. Andrew Kim sides with fructose. Both are extremely smart and they disagree with each other. What is the average person to do?

There are 4 possible ways to “invest” in this debate:

  1. Side with Paul Jaminet. Consume primarily safe starches and limit fruit and sugar carbs.
  2. Side with Andrew Kim. Favor fruits and limit starches.
  3. Assume both are wrong (the very low carb thesis) and greatly limit all carbs.
  4. Hedge. Consume both safe starches and fruit evenly.

As you probably guessed, I’m “invested” in #4. Now if I’m wrong, I’m likely not “too wrong”. I consider #3 to be a short-term strategy. One that I’ve already pursued and benefited from following.

Last Words

I left the low carb interpretation of Paleo a year before the safe starch debate even began. I had leaned out and I wanted to lock in my gains. If I could add back carbs and stay healthy and lean, then my portfolio was more diversified, which I view as less risky. And that is exactly what happened. Going from Paleo to a more WAPF diet was a no-brainer to me. The investor in me saw it as a very low risk way to greatly expand my nutritional portfolio.

The problem with most nutritional gurus is they believe nutrition is settled science and that their interpretation is correct. But simple observation shows that can’t be true. Not only is there too much disagreement, but even what they are disagreeing about is always changing. I don’t expect that trend to end. Nor does it need to. In the absence of information, I can still make good decisions when I approach nutrition using an investor’s mindset.

Speed Round: Fitness and Nutrition (April 2013)

Sometimes I cringe a little when I go back and read some of my earlier posts on nutrition. Not always, but sometimes I am tempted to remove a sentence or add an update. But with almost 2,000 posts on this site, it would be an impossible task to maintain current views on all those entries. And it would be futile, as my views are constantly changing.

Plus it seems unethical to go back and tidy up posts to make oneself always look correct. So my policy is to only update spelling or grammatical errors on older posts. I’ll also fix links that break. The only exception to this policy is recipes. As I make a dish and learn ways of making it better, I will update those posts.

Since my views are changing, how can I quickly bring readers up to my current thoughts? Recently I got a great idea while listening to the podcast interview of Robb Wolf by At the end of the interview Robb is asked to participate in a “speed round“. Quick answers to a lot of topics. A brilliant idea.

Here goes my first speed round.

CrossFit – Asinine

Squat and Bench Press – Unnecessary and unsafe.

Parkour – Looks cool. but unless you are training to be a cat burglar, the risk of injury is way too high.

High Intensity Training – Love it.

Cardio – Unnecessary for good health.

Eat Less Move More – Only explains the successes.

Intermittent Fasting – Great for learning how to deal with hunger. I think the daily 16 hours are excessive, especially for ectomorphs and women. I like Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat approach best now.

Cold Temperature Exposure – I like CT as a tool to widen one’s comfort range of temperatures. However, I am skeptical of the broad fat loss claims. Those losing fat with CT all seem to be endomorphic males. Unless you are a thick-wristed big dude, I would use just enough CT to expand your comfort window. Women should probably avoid.

Glucose vs Ketones – I’ll probably do a full post on this later, but I am still in favor of cyclical approach to carbs, only now my bias is much more towards glucose metabolism.

True Toxins – Veggie oils, wheat and unfermented soy. Sugar is likely fine.

Paleo – A good start, but only a start.

Fitness blogs by young mesomorphs with cut abs – Mostly delusional nonsense written for other young males who like to be told fitness fairy tales.

GMO – Sorry, but I don’t fear genetically modified food. Economist Tyler Cowen cuts through the hysterical claims in An Economist Gets Lunch.

Microwaves – Fine.

Diet Colas – Sugar cane soda is a much better option, however a single diet cola a day is probably fine. More than that might cause strokes.

Popcorn – I have no idea if it is good or bad. I eat it occasionally. Nothing suppresses my appetite more.

Best Nutrition Book – None. Get a cookbook that inspires you instead.

Best Fitness Book – Body By Science or HillFit.

Long term view of health – Extremely optimistic.

Confidence Level that I Understand Fitness – 70%

Confidence Level that I Understand Nutrition – 30%

That is it for now. I’ll likely do another Speed Round post in a year mocking my opinions in this post. :)

Am I Paleo?

The biggest trend I’ve seen in nutritional blogs in the past year is the growing anti-Paleo movement. Unlike the 2008-2010 period, the attacks aren’t coming from the conventional “whole grains are good and cholesterol is bad” crowd. The attacks today are coming from those that tried a Paleo diet and have abandoned the label. Many even had great success with the diet. The reasons for leaving Paleo vary and I am going to go through some of them in this post.

Personally, I am torn. There are things I like and things I’ve grown to dislike about what it means to be Paleo. In this post, I am going to go through what I dislike and like about Paleo.


Photo by Pascal

Paleo Problems

Some background. I am not a health professional or PubMed Warrior. I come to health from a finance and programming background. I look for patterns of failure and try to figure out the motivations behind what is often conflicting nutritional advice. Enough disclaimer, here are a few of the problems I see in Paleo.

  1. Fear of Carbs – I will say that things are slowly improving thanks to Paul Jaminet of The Perfect Health Diet and the attention he brought to safe starches. Safe starches are the glucose sources of carbohydrates that include white rice, potatoes and sweet potatoes. A year ago I wrote my thoughts in the post Dances With Carbohydrates. Other variations of Fear of Carbs include fear of fructose (fruit) or fear of sugar (glucose + fructose). Even though I am neutral on sugar, I think this fear is likely over stated. Regarding insulin, I suspect Krieger is right, not Taubes. 
  2. CrossFit – I think CrossFit is both dangerous and unnecessary to achieve a high level of fitness. The fact it is so associated with Paleo troubles me. See my posts Help Me Understand CrossFit and Responding to a CrossFit Enthusiast for my thoughts. Also check out Anthony Dream Johnson’s post The Cross Fit “Attitude” : A Disease.
  3. Stricter is Better Mentality – This is a problem with every diet. We make changes and get amazing results at first, but then the results stall or even reverse a little. Instead of recognizing that we have changed, we decide to follow a stricter version of what has stalled. We shake our heads at the vegetarian that goes vegan and then becomes a raw food vegan, yet Paleo followers fail to see the same patterns in themselves. In the Paleo community there are no shortage of blogs that promote a stricter is better message. They work real well for 25 year old mesomorphic males, but then again so does everything else. I prefer a less strict approach. See Loosening the Paleo Collar.
  4. Male Biased – As a dude, this isn’t my battle, but I can clearly see that a lot of the advice given in the Paleo community that could benefit men might actually make the health worse for women. I was likely guilty of this in some of my older posts. When it comes to intermittent fasting, cold thermogenesis, extended low carb dieting and extreme exercise, I would advise women to do their own research and not take the word of some guy with visible abs, especially if you have thyroid issues, are pregnant or trying to conceive.
  5. Whole Paycheck Paleo – I love my grass fed, free range, organic heirloom stuff as much as the next health conscious person, but the people in society with the worst health tend to be poor. They can’t afford to spend their entire paycheck on high quality food and (gag) CrossFit gym memberships. I think a lot of people are turned off from Paleo because they see it as a diet for people with a lot of disposable income. Yes, you can try and make the debate that the person will save money on health care in the long run, but the reality is Paleo has an elitism problem. And the truth is the big gains in health come from removing the big toxins (wheat, veggie oils, unfermented soy) and cooking your own meals, not from paying twice as much for groceries,
  6. Complicate to Profit – I love Matt Metzgar‘s comment on my post Primal Certification? Are You Kidding? He said complicate to profit. There a lot of people in Paleo that have decided to take Paleo in a complicated neurotic direction to make money. I get that people need to pay the rent, but the core message of Paleo is one based on simplicity and empowerment. I’m thankful these hucksters weren’t around when I was first introduced to the diet.
  7. The Obsession With “Optimal” Health – I believe the quest for optimal health at certain point makes one less resilient and less healthy. I cover that in the post Healthy vs Resilient.

What I Like About Paleo

To me Paleo is more about a mindset. Unlike every other diet that I had been exposed to, this one said I didn’t need to be an expert. Imagine a world 10,000 years ago and what foods would have been available. There is your starting point. Those foods are nutrient dense and you’ll greatly reduce your risk of major chronic illnesses. Paleo taught me to question conventional wisdom. Its root message of simplicity and resiliency appealed to me. It still does.

Paleo taught me to question all nutritional dogma, including Paleo dogma itself. This led me to the opinion that Paleo is a good place to start, but rejecting the last 10,000 years of ancestral knowledge of food would be a mistake. This is why I say The Endgame for Paleo is WAPF. Rejecting the last 100 years of industrial food is still probably a wise idea for most.

Since being exposed to Paleo, I’ve taken control and responsibility for my health. I run my own health experiments and I’ve learned a ton about cooking and food in the last few years.

Am I Paleo?

I’ve drifted so far away from Paleo in the last few years, I don’t know if one could call my diet Paleo. If someone asks me today if I am Paleo, I’ll respond with, I like Paleo only as a starting point. It is a good first step. But I also believe Paleo is unnecessarily restrictive. We have evolved since the Paleolithic era. Melissa of Hunt Gather Love just rejected the Paleo label in the post Breaking Up With Paleo. I’m linking to her post, because her nutritional journey looks similar to mine.

Vegetarian -> Paleo -> WAPF + some Ray Peat, Matt Stone and Danny Roddy.

Unlike her, I didn’t experience any health issues on Paleo. I’ll explain why in a future post. So am I Paleo? Is rejecting wheat, veggie oils and unfermented soy enough to keep me in the tribe?

My Evolving Opinion of Sugar

There is a big divide in the nutritional blogs I read about sugar. Most conventional and Paleo type blogs are still anti-sugar. Many claim that sugar is toxic, inflammatory and more likely to be fattening than other foods. On the other side, you have the defenders which argue that sugar is fine and how it can help boost metabolism. They write about how sugar is an anti-stress food and should be embraced. I’m now somewhere in the middle.

Below are 2 books that I have not read. One is anti-sugar and one is pro-sugar.

Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease
Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease by Robert H. Lustig

I Didn't Quit Sugar

I Didn’t Quit Sugar: Why sugars are essential for optimal metabolism and health by Platt and Skinner (Book no longer available

Nutritional science is not my background, so my opinion is about my relationship with sugar. I personally entertained the idea that sugar might be OK a year ago in the post Why Ice Cream is Better Than Protein Powder. For me I saw sugar as a tool. I needed a food that I could easily eat past satiety that would help me reverse my weight loss and gain weight. In the post, I speculated that ice cream could be beneficial to lean ectomorphs.

The good news is that sugar in the form of ice cream did exactly what I wanted. I stopped losing weight and gained muscle. The bad news is that the more ice cream I consumed, the more I wanted. My appetite for sugar escalated. What started as a post workout tool became a daily treat and I gained weight. Almost 10 pounds more than I wanted.

The Peat-atarians claim sugar can boost metabolism via increased body temperature and pulse. It did neither for me.

My opinion is that sugar is probably fine, but it can mess with appetite. Foods with sugar tend to be highly palatable. Again if your goal is to boost metabolism or gain muscle, then sugar seems like a valid tool. But I found the more sugar I consumed, the more I wanted. I did not find sugar to be anti-stressful either. My sugar cravings actually ended up becoming disruptive and mildly stressful.

The solution for me will likely be a cyclical approach. More in the summer and more on high activity days. Less in the winter and on rest days. But right now my goal is to cut way back to get control of my appetite.

My Plan for the “Turn Up the Heat” Experiment

A few days ago I mentioned that I was starting the “Turn Up the Heat” experiment, which is my attempt to increase my body temperature. Read the previous post for the background on where I got the idea and why it could be beneficial. This post is about listing ideas on why my body temperature is lower than average and how I will try to fix it.

Before proceeding with the plan to increase my body temperature, I wanted to examine the reasons how it might have gotten low in the first place. Here are the reasons from most likely to least likely.

#1 Drink Too Much Liquid

I have consumed a ridiculous amount of water for more than 20 years. During Army Basic Training, drill sergeants would order us to drink a full canteen of water almost every hour. They didn’t want any recruit to get heat exhaustion in the hot Georgia sun. After leaving the military, I fell victim to the health advice that we need to drink massive amounts of water. And I did. This I learned from Matt Stone can lower metabolism.

During college, I listened to a radio show by Dr. Dean Edell. A caller was concerned about the diuretic effect of coffee. The good doctor’s advice was to relax and drink more water. And I did. Then during my fling with microbrewery beers, I chased every pint of ale with a pint of water – to avoid dehydration or something like that.

By 2009, I had stopped drinking beer and thanks to Art De Vany was drinking a lot less water. But I still drank a lot of coffee and tea. I also was likely still drinking too much water, especially in the morning.

For more information on over-hydration read Matt Stone’s post How Much Water Should YOU Drink?. Also listen to Episode 6: Matt Stone/180 Degree Health – The Bobby Pickles Podcast from minutes 29 to 32.

#2 Excess PUFA

Up until I found the Paleo diet, like most people I was consuming veggie oil, which is loaded with unhealthy PUFA. I’ve since ditched those unhealthy fats for coconut oil and butter. However, the past few years I’ve been eating lots of almonds, almond butter and sunflower seeds. For the longest time I tried justifying eating almonds. They provided me with a high level of satiety, which helped me sleep better. But nuts and seeds are still loaded with Omega 6 fats, which are bad for metabolism.

About two weeks ago, I stopped eating all nuts seeds. To replace calories, I’ve started eating more cheese. It is the only other food that even comes close to providing the same level of satiety. The good news is cheese has saturated fat, which is metabolically boosting.

#3 Ectomorph (the lanky body type)

The third possibility is that my body type is more of a factor in lower temperatures than what I eat or drink. I reached out to Matt Stone on Twitter with that question.


Those are the most likely reasons for having a lower temperature. Reasons that don’t apply to me are yo-yo dieting, carb restriction, or excessive exercise. I’ve never counted calories or carbs. And although I’ve done experiments with low carb, I’ve always cycled in higher carb days, plus my cold hands have been around a long time before I ever restricted carbs. As for exercise, I pride myself on not having broken a sweat exercising since leaving sunny San Diego in 2007.

How I Plan to “Turn Up the Heat”

  1. Drink LESS water, tea and coffee.
  2. Eat less chicken and pork (PUFA). Eat more beef and lamb (Saturated Fat).
  3. More cheese. No Nuts/Seeds. (Diet Recovery 2 lists cheese as the #1 warming food)
  4. Cook stews with less liquid or use coconut milk.
  5. Since I’ll be eating more red meat, continue with the weekly beef bone broth. Also supplement with gelatin.
  6. Eat more salt. (see Brian’s comment for ideas)
  7. More calm time. If higher body temps causes calmness, then the opposite is likely true. Relax to warm up. See this story on monks meditating to increase their temperature.
  8. More carbs. Not a problem for me. I regularly consume rice and potatoes. Wheat is still evil.
  9. Eat carbs upon waking. This will be a huge change for me.
  10. Eat popcorn for  salty snack.

If you have additional tips, please leave a comment.

Ending the Ice Cream Experiment

It was about a year ago that I stepped on the scale at the gym and saw I weighed just 183 (my height is 6 ft 2.5 inches or 189 cm). This wasn’t good. I had been weight stable at 190 for a few years and now I was losing weight rapidly. My abs looked awesome, but my face was gaunt. I needed to gain weight, but my diet was so clean that I’d need to try something different. Simply eating more wasn’t working.

So I put on my thinking cap and went looking for the perfect food that would help me gain some weight. But I didn’t want to eat any old junk food. I wanted to find the cleanest most anabolic food that I could eat past satiety. The food that perfectly fit the job requirement was ice cream. I did an entire post explaining Why Ice Cream is Better Than Protein Powder.

Needless to say, when I went from eating super clean with very low sugar to pints of ice cream weekly, it freaked some people out.

Paleo Scorn and Peat Praise

Almost all nutritional camps demonize sugar. This is especially true with the Paleo crowd. By engaging in the ice cream experiment, I was openly embracing what I had previously listed as one of the big four toxins (the other 3 being gluten, veggie oils and unfermented soy). If the Paleo fear mongers were correct, I was at risk for gaining back the 20 pounds of fat I lost when I began eating a cyclical lower carb Paleo diet.

The followers of Ray Peat hold the opposite opinion of sugar. They see sugar as getting a bad repetition and that sugar can be therapeutic. Sugar to them can boost metabolism and lower stress. In my ice cream post, I linked to Sugar: Pure, White & Awesome by Danny Roddy. That is probably the best article I’ve read on the pro-sugar side.

ice cream

Photo by Robyn Lee. I approve of the vanilla, which is usually the cleanest ice cream, but not the cookie bits. 

What Happened?

In September, I posted Update on My Ice Cream Experiment. My early results were:

  • No ice cream – Was experiencing rapid fat loss. Couldn’t gain muscle.
  • 1 pint per week – Still losing weight.
  • 2 pints per week – Weight stabilized.
  • 3 pints per week – Muscle gain and some fat gain. Some acne.
  • 4 pints per week – More fat gain and worse acne.

I solved the acne problem by sourcing only the cleanest ice cream. Once I became diligent about avoiding any corn syrup and carrageenan, my skin got better. So heading into October I had dialed in my sweet spot of optimal ice cream consumption. Then I started the hardest experiment of my life. I went an entire month without coffee and went a full three weeks with absolutely no caffeine. This was the first time I did a real coffee or caffeine detox in my entire adult life. That is when my sugar consumption spiked again.

Going without caffeine wrecked my mood and I also learned just how much of an appetite suppressant caffeine had been for me. Prior to the caffeine detox I was back rocking a perfect weight of 187. A month later I was 7 pounds heavier at 194. I posted about this in Low Caffeine Weight Gain.

A funny thing happened when I slowly started adding back the caffeine. I couldn’t down regulate my sugar cravings that spiked during the month without coffee. I also started making kefir and I gained another 5 pounds. Now I am at 199. This is up 16 pounds. I’d guess it is half fat and half muscle. I’d like to get back to 190-193. I think that is the sweet spot.

Super clean diet with no sugar = 183 (too lean)

183 + ice cream = 187

187 + ice cream – caffeine = 194

194 + ice cream + kefir + caffeine = 199

199 – ice cream + kefir + caffeine = (Goal 190-193)

Time to End the Experiment

One of the things followers of Peat say about sugar is that is will increase metabolism. It will increase body temperature and your pulse. I did get an increase in pulse shortly after eating ice cream, but nothing sustainable. Consuming massive amounts of sugar also did nothing to increase my body temperature. And although I enjoyed the taste of ice cream, I didn’t find my health or stress levels to be better than they were in the year prior when I consumed very little sugar.

The muscle gain I experienced was from an excess of calories. The fat I gained was from an excess in calories. Sugar was not an evil toxin, nor was it magically helpful. In that sense I feel both the Paleo and Peat folks were wrong. It served its purpose, but the downside is I do believe sugar messes with appetite signals more than most foods. Which is fine if that is your stated goal, like it was for me. But now that I’ve pushed it too far, it is time to stop the ice cream experiment. I won’t stop 100%. I’ll still have it as a treat from time to time, but it won’t be a daily or even weekly treat.

For post workout calories, I will use my homemade kefir. It is nutritionally close to ice cream, but I’m far less likely to consume to excess. It is also cheaper. If I start wasting away again, I can always return to ice cream. ;)

My final advice is for lean ectomorph males wishing to gain muscle. Lift weights, but not too much and then eat ice cream. It works. And if it doesn’t work, don’t assume you aren’t lifting enough. Assume you aren’t eating enough ice cream.

The Neurotic Approach To Food

In the last post, I used the phrase “neurotic approach to food”. I want to explain this more. When we dive into nutrition and make an effort to eat healthy, regardless of what healthy means to us at that time, we divide the world of food into “good” versus “bad”. If we eat “good foods”, we feel fine and when we eat “bad foods” we feel awful. But what we consider “good” and “bad” changes over time, based of what we are exposed to in the health media, our own research, our experiences and if we have money to throw around – blood tests.

Although there are foods that some people really should avoid, there is a lot of gray area. What we should be focusing on is developing a positive attitude towards our food in an effort to become more resilient. Highly restrictive diets and this belief that minor toxin exposure will destroy our body is not a healthy way to live. Are you have a stressful response to a food because of the food or your belief of the health qualities of that food?

Neurotics Anon

Photo by Malingering

We all know someone that is a vegetarian or maybe we’ve been one ourselves. Have you ever been around one when they learn some soup they consumed was made with a chicken or beef stock? I’ve actually seen them develop stomach pains. Then upon further investigation, they find out the stock was really vegetarian. The stomach pains were real, caused by their food neurosis.

This is not just a vegetarian phenomena. It is with all diets. If there are foods that are toxic, by all means remove them. After that, just enjoy your food. Be thankful. Be resilient. After all there is an almost certain probability the health media will move on to the next food to demonize or praise.

Maybe some of my older posts at times may have approached food in a too restrictive manner. Sorry about that. I still loathe veggie oils and gluten. There isn’t a third smoking gun however. Continually looking for one would be neurotic.

Diet Recovery 2 and the “Turn Up the Heat” Experiment

In the past year, I’ve become a fan of Matt Stone at 180DegreeHealth. We agree on many things. The two primary things are we both see the neurotic approach to food and exercise as being unhealthy. My primary health interest is to find sustainable ways to become more resilient in a stressful toxic world. What interested me about Diet Recovery 2 is it provides a plan for boosting health by fixing metabolism issues.

Diet Recovery 2: Restoring Mind and Metabolism from Dieting, Weight Loss, Exercise, and Healthy Food
Diet Recovery 2: Restoring Mind and Metabolism from Dieting, Weight Loss, Exercise, and Healthy Food by Matt Stone

Optimizing Metabolism

When we think about diets and eating healthy, we focus on the good foods versus the bad foods. We try and measure calories or carbs or whatever is in fad at the time. Then we try and quantify our exercise with pedometers and heart rate monitors. And we may get results, especially in the short term, but over time it often becomes unsustainable, which results in a high long term failure rate. What you will learn in the book is that caloric restriction and excessive exercise can lower metabolism.

If you think about this, it makes perfect sense. The body is only interested in survival. If the signals being sent are less food and more activity for extended periods of time, the body will mount a defense. Up until I was exposed to Matt’s work, I knew of a few of those defenses. The first being increased hunger. Followed by increased exhaustion and finally increased risk of illness or injury. In Diet Recovery 2, Matt explains how a stressed body will often have a reduced body temperature.

I don’t have a health background, but this makes total sense to me. The body is a complex system. Calories feed total metabolism. Total metabolism is base plus activity. By increasing activity or restricting calories for long periods, the body responds to that threat by lowering base metabolism. Diet Recovery 2 takes the opposite approach of other health books. It focuses on ways to increase metabolism measured by body temperature. Increasing your body temperature by a degree every minute of every hour will yield greater benefits than focusing on the calories plus activity side of the equation.

What Wrecks Metabolism?

In Diet Recovery 2 we learn a few things that can cause metabolism to drop.

  1. Calorie restriction, especially yo-yo dieting.
  2. Excessive exercise, especially chronic cardio.
  3. Poor or insufficient sleep.
  4. Long term low carbohydrate dieting.
  5. Consuming too many liquids or cooling foods.
  6. Too many PUFAs (Polyunsaturated fatty acids)

Since the items on the list are the ones that wreck metabolism, the opposite is advised to help the repair. Eat more calories. Get off the treadmill. Sleep more. Stop fearing carbs. Quit drinking so many beverages, especially water. And embrace saturated fats over PUFA. The book goes into greater detail and explanations.

Following this advice you are very likely to gain weight at first, but that is OK. Think of the leaky boat analogy. Yes you can paddle it real hard and hope you’ll get across the lake or you can be patient, make the repairs and then make the journey safer and with less effort.

Is Diet Recovery 2 For Me?

When I was first exposed to the body temperature theory of metabolism, I wasn’t sure it applied to me. I’m very temperature resilient. I can take ice cold showers or do a 10 hour urban hike through the hot and humid streets of Bangkok, Thailand. I’m fine with both. However, ever since the 10th grade I’ve had cold hands and toes. I’ve always assumed it was a circulation problem I developed from one brutal Ohio winter, but I’ve been donating blood every 8 weeks for 2 years now. My body temperature is always falls in the 97.0 – 97.5 range. Maybe my metabolism could use a boost?

When I look at the list above, the two items I have been guilty of is drinking too many beverages and consuming too many PUFAs. I’ve never counted calories or carbs and think cardio is a mental illness. However, my entire adult life up until around 2009, I would drink water or coffee all day long. Then I watched Art De Vany’s Evolutionary Fitness lecture and he made a great case for drinking less water. Since then I have cut back on the water. One of the symptoms of over hydration mentioned in Diet Recovery 2 is dry skin. I can attest when I cut back on the water, my dry patches skin went away. As for the PUFAs, I’m years into rejecting seed oils, but until very recently was consuming sunflower seeds and almonds regularly.

Another symptom of excess water consumption mention in the book is headaches. This is where I learned about hyponatremia, which is having low salt levels, often caused by excessive beverage intake. Headaches are a common symptom of hyponatremia.

The “Turn Up The Heat” Experiment

I’m not convinced that I can raise my body temperature or that if I can that I will feel noticeably better, however it does make a lot sense to me. My background is in tech. I recall one project where my team was looking for ways to increase the speed of the application. We could optimize the database tables, rewrite queries, run some reports during off hours or a host of other labor intensive strategies. My project manager had a better idea. He bought a faster server. He threw more heat at the problem and it went away instantly.

I’m ready to give the Diet Recovery 2 protocol a try. Even though I drink far less water than I used to, I could probably still cut back more. I also need to figure out ways to consume more salt. I’m plenty fine on sugar. I’ve begun tracking my body temperature already and I’ve already got two years worth of headache data.

The “Turn Up the Heat” Experiment has started.

Primal Certification? Are You Kidding?

I was half paying attention to the FatBurningMan podcast interview when I heard Mark Sisson state he was starting a Primal Certification program. You’ve got to be kidding me? Has it really come to this? I made a joke on this blog in August 2010 that we would see a Paleo certification. It was a joke!

From Where the Paleo Message is Failing:

It is probably just a matter of time before paleo eating becomes more widespread, but part of me thinks the failing message is the fault of the paleo blogging community. What started as a simple message of returning to a diet from our evolutionary past has become an industry. Books, seminars, DVDs and even conventions. What is next? Paleo certification. :roll:

Wasn’t the entire point of Paleo was that it was simple? The gurus of Paleo told us that by rejecting Neolithic poisons, getting plenty of rest and exercising in a sensible way we’d be better off. Makes sense to me. When did it get so complicated that we needed certification to share such a simple message?


Photo by Beautification Syndrome

When I think of paying for certification, I think of database knowledge. Having someone pass a test to prove they have some level of competence before you hand over the keys to the corporate database kind of makes sense. But, Paleo certification? Really? This just reeks of hucksterism. Up until now, I have had tremendous respect for Mark Sisson. I still think the Primal Blueprint is the best book written on Paleo, but this isn’t rocket science. We don’t need Paleo or Primal certifications. If it is easy enough for a caveman, then it should be easy enough for us.

Maybe I am wrong about this certification? I did a quick search to see if anyone else shares my opinion and found nothing. Am I alone here?

So Much Paleo Drama

In the past few years, I’ve seen many nutritional bloggers attack each other. Not just their ideas, but personal attacks. As someone with strong opinions on certain topics, there have been times I was tempted to “throw down“, but I’ve always resisted. At the times when I found myself most likely to go into attack mode is usually when a learning opportunity was just around the corner. It is when the ideas we hold closely are challenged is when we are most likely to attack.

The great thing about being me is that I can change my mind anytime I want. I am comfortable with admitting I am wrong or don’t know. I embrace ideas I find interesting and discard the ones that don’t appeal to me. What some study says is less important to me than what my own experiment reveals. I see nutrition through the eyes of traditional cooking first and science second. That has served me well as the PubMed Warriors defend studies that affirm their bias and attack the ones that don’t.

Attacking is Good For Page Views

I’ve had a web presence of some kind since 1996. I’ve learned there are two basic ways to build an audience. One is write compelling content and hope an audience likes what you are offering. The second way is to attack someone more popular than you and hope they respond. I could easily poke a stick at a few top nutritional bloggers and get at least one to respond. But I could care less about page views. The motivation for this blog is about learning and sharing. And as I mentioned above, at the point I most want to attack is usually when I am about to learn something.

I have tremendous respect for health bloggers that when they get attacked, ignore the personal aspect of the attack and instead use the increased attention to bring the discussion back to health. They are focused on doing what they believe is best for the health of their readers and not defending their ego.

Affirmation Not Information

I am currently reading the book The Information Diet, which makes an excellent point. People often aren’t seeking information, they aren seeking affirmation. They read the blogs and share the links to what they already believe. It comforts them. We see this in politics, but it exists everywhere, especially nutrition. Paleo worshipers are quick to tweet a story that conforms to their already held belief and the Paleo attackers are quick to do the same with their information. Confirmation bias closes off learning opportunities.

The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption
The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption by Clay A. Johnson

The title of this post is in reference to the blog Paleo Drama, which I have mixed opinions about. Although it does expose some Paleo quackery, it also gives attention to the very people they detest on topics that have nothing to do with health. In the digital age, it is best to shun the behavior you abhor, not to shame it. Shame rarely works anymore, it just delivers more attention to what you despise.

UPDATE (Feb 6): Paleo Drama responded. Below are my comments.

Some clarifications. I am not anti-Pub Med. I am admitting that I’m unqualified to read scientific literature on nutrition with a high level of comprehension. I have tremendous respect for those that can AND are able to communicate that information to the average person. Hammering people over the head with links to PubMed without context is a form intellectual bullying.

When I say I use a Paleo/WAPF basis for my nutritional decisions, I am not saying it is perfect or optimal. I am saying I don’t know, so I choose traditional methods as the foundation of my diet. It may be the wrong decision, but it won’t ever be too wrong. I will let others dig through PubMed, I’ll be in the kitchen.

Paleo Drama stated:

We clearly have different views of human nature if he thinks that health bloggers don’t speak up on other issues for the health of their readers for their sake and not because they need to keep up the party line for the $$$. And I definitely feel tolerating hateful behavior is unhealthy.

I like how Paleo Drama goes after the $$$ quackery, because it is there the connection to health is clear. As for tolerating hateful behavior, I don’t tolerate it. I ignore it and move on. I don’t draw attention it, which is often exactly what the hateful person is hoping you will do.

Diet Colas and Changing My Opinion

Several times on my health journey I have changed my opinion on a nutrition topic. Part of the freedom I have as an individual is that I am not accountable to clients or some brand. I’ll embrace an idea, test it, use it as long as it suits me and then discard it when I need to. The one idea I have changed my opinion on the most has been diet colas.

My Boring History With Diet Colas (High School to 2012) – Skip This Section if You Like

In high school, I switched from regular Coke to Diet Coke. No calories! In college, I fell for the aspartame is an evil toxic compound argument and went back to regular cola. By the time college ended, I was a coffee drinker and rarely drank cola. Then during the dot-com era, I started drinking Coke again. Then I got all healthy again, I stopped drinking all colas. That was until Coke came out with a Splenda version of Diet Coke and eventually Coke Zero.

Coke Zero held my attention for a few years, then I became concerned not so much for the aspartame, but the benzoate compounds. I even wrote a break-up post with Coke Zero titled Yes, It’s Over, Call It A Day, Sorry That It Had To End This Way. That break up lasted until I found myself in the blaring heat of Thailand. Even after that trip, I would continue to drink maybe 1-2 cans of Coke Zero a month.

Coke Zero in Bangkok

Headaches, Diet Cola Safety and Krieger

Why was I still drinking the occasional diet cola? Two reasons. One, I believed that diet colas could help on those mornings when I had a really bad headache that coffee and tea couldn’t eliminate. Two, I believed that the sugar from regular cola posed a worse risk than the artificial sweeteners from diet cola. Some will gasp at that statement, but there is a lot of hysteria when it comes to the dangers of diet colas. If it were 1% as bad as its critics claim, people would be dropping like flies. People drink a lot of diet cola and have for a few decades. I don’t see these people having worse health outcomes. There are some alarmists that treat drinking diet cola as if were like riding a motorcycle in the rain without a helmet. Really?

The first level headed examination of this topic that I heard was when James Krieger of Weightology appeared on the Bulletproof Exec podcast #15. I’ve listened to the show twice and I feel Krieger made the case that health risks from diet cola are way overblown. There are some people that get headaches or feel lousy from drinking diet colas. They should stop. James has a series of articles on the topic for paid members of his site for which I am not.

By the summer of 2012, I was still medicating with Coke Zero whenever I got an extreme headache. Then I noticed that my headaches would go away at the same rate regardless of if I drank a cola or not. So I stopped drinking diet colas. Later I discovered that lowering my coffee intake would be more effective in reducing headache frequency.

Why Am I Fearing Sugar?

Going all the way back to high school, the underlying assumption has been that sugar is full of health risks. Why else would anyone initially embrace diet cola? Last year I played with the idea that sugar may have gotten an undeserved bad reputation. Although I am still not convinced sugar is 100% innocent, I am no longer with the majority that believes it is evil. I cover my thoughts more in the post Why Ice Cream is Better Than Protein Powder.

The safety debate that I read about concerning sugar has to do with real sugar versus the corn syrups. Some say they are equal, whereas others have written about the dangers of the corn syrup variety. I honestly don’t know the truth, but last year when I made an effort to only eat clean ice cream (no corn syrups or carrageenan), my skin quality improved. So I started drinking the occasional Mexican Coke, which uses regular sugar and I feel fine. It also tastes a lot better than corn syrup Coke or any of the diet cola offerings.

My Current Opinion

I am not convinced that any cola is healthy, yet I think I am fine with regular or diet. Since I drink so few colas, the best option for me now is Mexican Coke. Once again I am rejecting diet colas, but not because I believe they are dangerous. Diet colas don’t help my headaches, they don’t taste as good as real colas and I no longer fear small amounts of sugar. It is likely my opinion on this topic will change again. For the record, I still think the best option is no cola, but sometimes I really crave the taste of Coke.

Kefir, Caffeine and Trigger Point Therapy

I’ve got three health items on my mind today.

Is Dairy Kefir Anabolic?

About a month ago I started making dairy kefir again. I stopped making kefir a year ago when I started getting a reaction to water kefir. Then I learned about the high level of histamines, which may have been triggering some of my headaches. I started The Low Histamine Diet last May and did it for over a month. Seems I didn’t post a follow-up. The results were that greatly reducing histamine levels did not help with my headaches. I forgot all about kefir.

Then a friend of mine started making kefir. He offered grains to me. My initial thought was the headaches I got from kefir, but that was water kefir. I never had an issue with dairy kefir, so I started making the dairy ferment once again. And I am loving it. My kefir tastes great and I’m even mixing in a little half and half to get a thicker texture.

The interesting thing I’ve noticed in the last month is that I may have gained some muscle. This was unexpected, as my workouts have not been that intense recently. I’ve often read how milk is anabolic, but I haven’t really drank much since I was a child. Kefir should be equally anabolic. Who knows? I’ll keep drinking it.

Caffeine Might Be Making Me Jittery

It appears I am going to have to really cut back on caffeine again. My plan was to survive on a lower level until spring and then do a longer detox. Even though I’m consuming half the caffeine I did prior to my October 2012 detox, I am finding myself feeling jittery. I’ve never felt jittery on caffeine before.

The good new is cutting back on caffeine should be much easier than the last time.

Unsure about Trigger Point Therapy

In the post Help Me Fix My Neck and Shoulders, one of the ideas in the comments was Trigger Point Therapy. I am new to this topic, so I got a few books from the library. The books showed me where I could apply pressure to relieve tightness in my neck and shoulders. Although my neck and shoulders weren’t in terrible shape, I had been interested in loosening up that area to provide more free movement.

The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief, Second Edition
The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief, Second Edition by Clair Davies

Using the books, I was able to locate the points, apply pressure and feel what felt like knots loosening up. So at first, it appears this stuff was working. The problem I experienced was the tightness kept returning and it felt like it was getting worse. The more time I spent doing Trigger Point Therapy, the better I felt in the short term, but the tighter I felt later. This is when I thought about Dr. John Sarno and and my battle with back pain.

I posted on Dr. Sarno in The Psychology of Back Pain.

Dr. John Sarno specializes in patients that deal with chronic back pain. He believes that stress is the major cause of back pain. When we go through periods of chronic stress, the brain uses a diversion tactic to protect us emotionally. That diversion is to manifest REAL PHYSICAL pain, often in the lower back region. The pain is real. It is not in our head. The roots however are psychological.

One of recommendations Dr. Sarno tells his patients is to stop all forms of treatment, because that treatment is validating the physical manifestation of the pain. It does nothing to address its roots. When I began to suspect that Trigger Point Therapy was making my neck worse in the same manner, I stopped it. Within a few days, my neck felt better on its own. Not perfect, but back where I started.

I can see where Trigger Point Therapy might help with injuries. See Foam Rolling & Trigger Point Activation on Biohacks for one example.

Last Words

So I’m loving the dairy kefir, cutting back on caffeine and stopping the Trigger Point Therapy. Love to hear your thoughts.

Seattle WAPF on Facebook

Just a quick note for those in the Seattle area. Working with the chapter leader of the Seattle Weston A. Price Whole Food Nutrition Meetup group, I created a Facebook page for our group:

The Meetup group gets together about once a month. We have a potluck and then usually a presentation. Anyone can join. Our meetings are almost always held in the Ballard neighborhood at Firefly Kitchens.

I brought 2 jars of this ferment to to our Meetup last evening. 

If you don’t know who Weston A. Price is, then check out these posts.

The Minimal Effort Approach and Fat Gain

Almost three years ago in the post The Minimal Effort Approach, I outlined what I felt was different about my approach to fitness and nutrition.

Minimal Effort means discovering what is the least effort, least time commitment and least cost one can invest to achieve their health goals.

If something requires excess cost or effort that is unjustified then I discard it. Complexity and compliance are inversely correlated. At the time I wrote the post I was in the mindset of someone reaching towards their health goals. By finding the least amount of effort required to make progress, one could always dial up the effort if progress stalled. Compare that to the traditional nonsense peddled by personal trainers, which involves restricting diet too much and working out too much. Those strategies work for some and are highly effective in the short term, but they have three disadvantages.

  1. High long term failure rate – I’d love every person considering going all out on a new fitness and nutrition plan to consider that these plans might be best designed to see short term results. And when the gains stop and even reverse that might be the failure of the plan and not a lack of willpower from the individual. The fact some people succeed following a protocol in the long term is not proof of the plan. They may have succeeded on a number of plans, including those less extreme.
  2. Effective variables? – If someone changes their diet and their exercise completely and starts seeing results, they might mistakenly believe the two are producing a synergistic effect. They might be or they might not. You don’t know. By not doing everything at once, I discovered I could get lean by just eliminating wheat and exercising just 15 minutes a week.
  3. Patience – I am a believer that when your body is well rested and nourished that it will discover its ideal healthy weight. I strongly disagree with extreme forms of exercises and counting calories. To me those show a lack of patience. Give your body a diverse nutrient dense diet, plenty of rest and some movement and trust the process. It may take a while to lean out, but when you do you’ll be healthier and the fat loss has a greater chance of being permanent.

I have discovered another benefit to The Minimal Effort Approach. If and when new health goals emerge, you are in a place where you can easily dial up the effort. When I took a two decade break from caffeine in October, my body had an unanticipated response. I gained 7 pounds of fat. I learned that the high levels of coffee I had been consuming had been suppressing my appetite. I’ve slowly added back in some coffee, but I am still consuming less than half the amount of caffeine I had prior to my detox. Although I stopped gaining weight, I haven’t lost any of the 7 pounds.

Photo by Robyn Lee. 

No need to panic. I’m in a wonderful position to lose weight. Because I’ve been exercising at minimal levels, I could always increase activity to meet my current appetite level. Or I could scale back on my daily intake of ice cream. Maybe increase the number of fasting hours? No need to jerk the steering wheel when a slight tap will do. My point is I have lots of options. Compare that to the individual that exercises for hours each week and counts calories. When their health goals stall or reverse, they have no where to go. They are already being compliant to a program that requires a high level of effort. They’ve painted themselves into a corner.

By creating a fitness and nutrition plan that gets results with minimal effort, you have designed a system with a built in insurance policy when failures arise. Unlike the calorie counting cardio junkies, you can always slightly dial up the effort if you need to. Just be patient.

The Peat-atarian Diet For Those Of Us With Average IQs

I read a lot of stuff regarding nutrition. It has been an active hobby of mine since 2008. Although it was the Paleo Diet that rekindled my interest in nutrition, today I consider myself more in the Weston A. Price camp. I explained why in the post The Endgame for Paleo is WAPF. I’ve been successful on both diets. Earlier this year I started reading about the dietary views of Dr. Ray Peat and his followers. Unlike Paleo or WAPF, which are easy to understand on the surface, the Peat-atarian articles are quite intense. They aren’t user friendly.

What makes the Peat Diet unique is that it approaches nutrition from a hormonal perspective. It is all about reducing chronic stress. To me the Peat Diet appears to be a modern fix to the WAPF Diet. Traditional diets worked great for traditional cultures. But we now live in a world with chronic stress and dietary toxins. Simply following a traditional diet or going caveman may not be enough or may not work as quickly as a diet designed specifically to address the hormonal stress of modern times.

If like me, you have an average IQ and you start to dive into understanding all the hormonal relationships, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed. The purpose of this post is to just hit the important differences, why they exist and who might benefit the most from experimenting with this diet.

Paleo vs Primal vs WAPF vs Peat

On the surface it may appear that The Peat Diet is a radical departure from Paleo, but it isn’t. It has more in common with Paleo and WAPF than it does with USDA recommendations.

GrainsNONOYES (treated only)NO
SoyNONOYES (fermented only)NO
Fermented FoodsYESYESYESNO
"Sugar is Good"NONONOYES
Offal + Bone BrothYESYESYESYES
NutsYESYESYES (treated only)NO
"Saturated Fat is Good"YESYESYESYES

I’ve bolded the two main differences.

#1 Sugar – Every diet under the sun seems to loathe sugar. Not Ray Peat. At a hormonal level sugar can be used to reduce stress and boost metabolism. This protocol seems to be effective with people that have stalled in their fat loss while following a strict low carbohydrate diet. Give your body some sugar, reduce the internal stress, boost metabolism and resume fat loss. Using sugar to improve your health seems like a bizarre idea at first, but a few years ago we used to think saturated fats were evil and now we love them.

My own N=1 experiment this year was consuming ice cream daily. Although I haven’t become fully convinced sugar is good. I’m no longer convinced it is bad. My health is as good in 2012 as it was in 2011, when I avoided sugar. So given equal outcomes, I’m going to eat ice cream. :)

#2 Avoid Omega 3 – This is a big idea to wrap your head around. PUFAs aren’t just evil, they are super evil and that includes Omega 3 fats. It took me a while to grasp this concept and the motivation behind this recommendation. The typical person today will have high levels of inflammatory fat as a result of excessive PUFA. Depending upon whom you read, it can take 4 or more years to get rid of it. The way to get rid of it quickest is to eliminate all forms of PUFA.

This recommendation leads to the mathematical conclusion that a Peat Diet will be higher in carbs and lower in fat. I saw one chart that estimated a Peat Diet was 50% carbs, 25% fat and 25% protein. When you reduce your intake of bad fats (PUFA), you’ll also be reducing all fats. When fats go down, carbs must go up. Although I suppose one could eat fistfuls of coconut oil to boost the fat level, it isn’t necessary since the carbs are boosting metabolism.

What I Like

Besides their love of ice cream, one of the things I really like about the Peat diet is how it places importance on bone broth and offal. This is the best idea in the WAPF camp. Use the entire animal and not just the muscle meat. Ray Peat’s writings explain a hormonal reason why that is important. From his article  Gelatin, stress, longevity:

When only the muscle meats are eaten, the amino acid balance entering our blood stream is the same as that produced by extreme stress, when cortisol excess causes our muscles to be broken down to provide energy and material for repair. The formation of serotonin is increased by the excess tryptophan in muscle, and serotonin stimulates the formation of more cortisol, while the tryptophan itself, along with the excess muscle-derived cysteine, suppresses the thyroid function.

I love this. Traditional cultures unknowingly knew how to properly use the entire animal to the benefit of their thyroid.

3 jars of beef bone stock

What I Dislike

The Peat Diet is against fermented foods. The reason is that the body apparently considers lactic acid stressful to process. Ray also doesn’t like negative weight lifting movements, as they produce a lot of lactic acid. I may have an average IQ, but I think the Peat-atarians are wrong on this point. First of all, anyone that has ever started a weight lifting program using negative lifts knows the body adapts quickly. The extreme soreness you experience on workout one gets less and less with subsequent workouts. This tells me that the body learns to deal with the stress rather quickly. Also, you need far fewer workouts so rest time between workouts is increased, which reduces stress.

As for fermented foods, I’m going to side with traditional cultures on this one. Having access to fresh vegetables year round is such a recent phenomenon. Fermentation is how we preserved veggies and dairy. The nutritional value and safety of foods increase when they are fermented. Even if there was a slight stress response, there are so many benefits from fermentation.

Another thing I dislike about the Peat Diet and their obsession with eliminating stress is that there doesn’t seem to be any discussion of hormetic stress. Should stress always be avoided? Or should we introduce episodic stressors and teach our bodies how to adapt in a positive manner? As someone that believes strongly in the benefits of Intermittent Fasting and Cold Weather Training, you know where I stand.

Should You Try This Diet?

There is a lot to this diet that I didn’t cover. As a person with an average IQ that is not a PubMed Warrior, it appears to me that the person most likely to benefit from this diet will be someone that has had a long history with dieting, specifically low-carb dieting. Weight loss has stalled. Most likely the person is female and possibly with a low thyroid. Ideally the person would be able to handle dairy. That is not to say others wouldn’t benefit, but that seems like the person that would get the most results.

The problem with this diet is the message is hard to understand. Hopefully this post clarified some of the differences. In a future post, I will list some quick start ideas on how to transition from Paleo/WAPF to a Peat diet. Note that I am not endorsing this diet, but I do believe it has merit and can benefit some people. I’ll eat the ice cream, but I’m not giving up my kimchi. :)

Rejecting Nutrition

In my last post Not a PubMed Warrior, I explained that although I love reading good analysis of nutritional studies from those skilled in communicating that information, I no longer waste my time trying to determine what is or isn’t good research. I’ve been suckered by studies that ended up being crap. Instead of taking sides, I’m at the point that I’d rather move on to something else while the smart people in the room work out their differences. I’m a hobbyist. I don’t need to be 100% right. As long as I’m moving in the right direction I’m OK. I have no clients and the only person’s health that I am responsible for is my own.

I feel I’m different than other bloggers that discuss nutrition in that my primary motivation is not about seeking optimal health. It is about creating more resiliency. To be resilient means to thrive in absence of perfect health or perfect knowledge.

In the comments of the last post, I was challenged that I was bright enough to become skilled in doing analysis of nutritional studies. My response is that I did this once before with finance. I spent a few thousand hours studying finance from 2005-2010. But as my knowledge grew, I didn’t become a better investor. The first 500 hours were valuable, but beyond that I ended up learning about things that had no relevance to portfolio performance. In other words, it ended up being wasted time.

Research by Danya Bateman

I now feel the same about nutrition. Like finance, it isn’t that I feel I know everything, it is that I now know that one can’t know everything and things you know end up being wrong or incomplete. But you never what is or isn’t valuable at the start. You get sucked into the illusion that if you just read more and dig into the problem deeper that it’ll all make sense. But you never stop digging. And the reason you don’t stop digging is because you still have fond memories of early successes that were life changing. Cutting out gluten was as powerful to me as was shorting the 2008-2009 stock market crash. If I mustered up all the effort to research more and more, it is highly unlikely that I’ll top those milestones.

I’d had planned on listing some examples on how I use common sense to resolve those PubMed Warrior debates. There really is no reason to. The answer is to self experiment on the ideas we find the most compelling. The majority will not show a difference, but every now and thing you find something interesting. When it comes to nutrition, I think all the low hanging fruit has been picked. At least for me it has.

Not a PubMed Warrior

From time to time, I throw out the phrase PubMed Warrior. It is a term I coined to describe those health bloggers and commenters that pour through research studies to find evidence to support their nutritional views. Once they have their references they race into battle determined to squash their opponent or convince others of their superior research skills.

But wait a minute, nutrition is science! This isn’t political opinion. What bias? The problem is you have rampant disagreements in nutrition and each side has studies to support their opinion. So the PubMed Warriors take the studies that conforms to their opinion and rush to the battlefield. They brush off attacks by stating their opponents studies were flawed or inconclusive. And when that fails, they question the integrity of the researcher and unleash a personal attack.

Warrior by John Wedin

Although I’m certain there are many researchers that approach nutritional research with an open mind that they might be wrong, many aren’t. We humans love to seek out data that supports our view. This is called confirmation bias. If you’ve made a career attacking some aspect or group regarding your nutritional beliefs, then how likely is going to be that you admit you were wrong? Not only will your critics eat you alive, but your supporters will too. Still have to pay your rent. Better to defend the dogma, sell your books and carry on.

I am not a PubMed Warrior for several reasons. To start, I am not qualified to read a nutritional study. I’ve never received training, nor do I care enough to pursue that knowledge. Also, I have no way of knowing if a study is good or poor. Just look at the debate The China Study has caused. It has both brilliant critics and supporters. About a year ago, I decided I would no longer post anything about nutrition that required a link to a medical study. Instead, I would post links to analysis that I found compelling or interesting.

I’d also like to point out that many studies can not be replicated. From In cancer science, many “discoveries” don’t hold up:

During a decade as head of global cancer research at Amgen, C. Glenn Begley identified 53 “landmark” publications — papers in top journals, from reputable labs — for his team to reproduce. Begley sought to double-check the findings before trying to build on them for drug development.

Result: 47 of the 53 could not be replicated.

Think about that the next time someone mentions that such and such a study shows that something causes cancer. Amgen couldn’t reproduce the results in almost 90% of the landmark studies.

Another reason I am not a PubMed Warrior is I think it can be a form of intellectual bullying. By keeping the discussion of nutrition at a high academic level, you can spout off your position knowing that most people will not be qualified to respond in agreement or disagreement. The masses will just nod their head and think you are smart or a pompous ass or both.

About a year ago, I was deep into a nutritional discussion when a friend of mine stopped me and said “Talk to me like I’m a 5 year old.” It was an extremely powerful moment to me. It made me realize that whatever I knew about nutrition that I wanted to share with others needed to be communicated in a respectful and helpful way and not a manner that made me feel smart. This I believe is what is missing from most of what I see in nutrition today. The messenger has become more important than the message.

Better Than PubMed

If you have brilliant individuals that disagree on nutritional issues and they each have mounds of research to support their case, where is the truth?  I remember reading the wonderful history of saturated fats and cholesterol in the book Good Calories, Bad Calories thinking how misguided they were back then. Well I suspect we are equally as misguided today, but just about different things. I think we need to assume that that nutritional science is still in its infancy and we know a lot less than we think we do.

What is a average person suppose to do? For me I like the Paleo/WAPF framework. What would a caveman or traditional culture do? That may not be the end of the discussion, but it is a sound place to start. We are here because our ancestors figured out how to survive and thrive in harsh environments without the guidance of PubMed. They were real warriors not PubMed Warriors. We can do the same. Granted if you are sick and need the assistance of modern research, then by all means use that information, but for most of us it is probably not necessary and worrying about some perceived health risk is likely worse than the health risk itself.

When someone tries to scare me with a nutritional study, I just try to use common sense. I do what makes sense to me. If an idea is compelling, but unconvincing I’ll run my own personal experiment. In my next post, I’ll provide a few examples on how I personally resolved a few nutritional disagreements using common sense and experimentation.

Results From My 30 Days Without Grains Experiment

I was just reminded that I never posted the outcome to My Current Experiment: 30 Days Without Any Grains. There was a data issue with this test. On September 1st, I got exposed to gluten at a gyro restaurant. That experience led me to post Commercial Gyro Meat is Absolutely Not Gluten Free. Even though the test was contaminated, I continued completing the 30 days.

What I learned was interesting.

  1. My skin inflammation was not affected by this test.
  2. When I reintroduced the Gluten-Free brownie, it triggered a night headache. I did this twice.

The gluten-free brownie uses sorghum and millet. I can say with confidence now that I have a secondary grain intolerance. This would also explain why I have felt awful both times I sampled gluten-free beers, as they often use sorghum. I would count this test as successful. I learned something new about about myself. No more gluten-free treats for me. When it comes to treats, I’ll stick to ice cream.

This is the power of running experiments.

Sorghum by Emma Cooper

A Month Without Coffee – Here Goes!

Today is Day 1 of my most challenging self experiment to date. I am going to go the entire month of October without coffee. No decaf either. My prior record was 4 days in 1997. :o I outlined my goal and plan in the previous post My Caffeine Detox Plan. That post was written on Thursday and published on Friday. Here we are on Monday and I’m feeling super confident that I will succeed. The dark clouds already seems to be lifting. What happened?

In that post, I said:

There is a raging debate on whether announcing goals make you more or less accountable. Well, I am about to find out.

There have been articles making the case that we should keep our goals to ourselves. Derek Sivers posted Shut up! Announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them.

Tests done since 1933 show that people who talk about their intentions are less likely to make them happen.

Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you’re less motivated to do the hard work needed.


Once you’ve told people of your intentions, it gives you a “premature sense of completeness.”

My history is that I almost never publicly announce goals unless I know there is a high probability of success. Otherwise I’m wasting everyone’s time spouting off about something that likely won’t happen. Being private is easier than being accountable. And being accountable is something I strongly value.

Almost as if I created an experiment within an experiment, I decided to ignore Sivers advice and do the opposite of what I normally do. That is why I announced my intentions to curb my caffeine addiction in the post Caffeinated Delusions and my goals in My Caffeine Detox Plan.

Boxing up all my coffee gear and putting it into storage was motivating. I liberated the space for some of my ferments. :)

A fascinating thing happened after I published my goal. Immediately I started believing that I was going to be successful. My confidence soared. My mood improved and I honestly didn’t feel the powerful pull of coffee. Never have I reduced my caffeine levels this fast this easily. It only became easier once I hit publish on Friday. By posting my intentions, I was saying that this goal no longer had a high probability of failure and as a result it instantly felt more attainable.

I still have a long way to go, but I think I will succeed. Being accountable has increased my motivation and my belief in myself. Siver’s article seems like sound advice, but I wonder if there are cases or personality types that are exceptions? I suspect I might be one. We will find out. I’d be interested to hear other opinions on when it is wise to announce goals, when it isn’t and how that affects success rates.

UPDATE Nov 1, 2012: Did It! A Month Without Coffee

Caffeinated Delusions

My name is MAS and I’m a caffeine addict.

For the past few years I have been deluding myself that my relationship with caffeine was healthy. When I mention that in a typical day I only consume 3 or 4 espressos, some people are shocked. Then I explain that back in my San Diego days I used to consume 5-6 mugs of french press coffee a day and those mugs were 16 ounces. By comparing current intake to the amount I was consuming just a few years ago, I was able to trick myself into believing that I had made great progress in curbing my caffeine addiction.

When I switched from french press to espresso, my caffeine intake did go down. But this also about the time that I started getting an appreciation for quality loose leaf tea. These days I consume about 4 mugs of tea day. Overall my caffeine intake is lower, but not by as much as I thought. My sleep is better, but that is probably the result of not drinking coffee in the late afternoon or evening and not directly a result of lower total caffeine.

Is comparing current caffeine usage to past caffeine usage a useful metric? That question has been bothering me for a while. This week I conceded that it is wasn’t. The fact remains that I am equally addicted to caffeine albeit at a lower level than before. My addiction might even be greater, because today I am consuming espresso that is far better quality than just a few years ago. The strides I’ve made in my home roasting and shot pulling at home have improved a lot recently. By collecting more data and interviewing the best baristas in Seattle, my home espresso quality has improved more in the past 9 months than in the first 9 years I was making coffee. Every month or so my coffee tastes better than it did before. This is making my addiction stronger.

The DRUGS sign at the Seattle roasting facility for Stumptown Coffee (12th Ave). So true. 

Prior Detox Attempts

In 2011 I went 14 days without coffee, but my detox was flawed. First off, I was still drinking tea. Also, because I switched to decaf I was still getting the flavor stimulus. So I never went a day without caffeine or the taste of coffee. I built in a loophole in the very test I created. Now I see that the flavor stimulus for me is equally as addictive as caffeine, I know I can’t use decaf to detox.

The only real 100% caffeine and coffee free detox I did was way back in 1997 when I lasted 100 hellish hours. That was before I started home coffee roasting or had a real burr grinder. Even when I visited coffee hostile locations such as South America, Southeast Asia and New Orleans, I still acquired caffeine every single morning and most afternoons. So caffeine has played a role in my daily life for 15 non-stop years or approximately 5,475 consecutive days. And if you exclude those 4 days in 1997, you can add another decade to that number. This can’t be healthy.

Deeper Addiction

Beyond the caffeine and the stronger flavor signals, coffee and tea both now have strong social links for me. I am the organizer of the Coffee Club of Seattle which meets an average of twice a week. This year I’ve had 160 espressos from Seattle area coffee shops. Yes, I have a spreadsheet. :) This doesn’t count non-espresso drinks or the coffee I consumed when I was out of town. And it definitely doesn’t count the drinks I made at home, which is much larger number. Much of my social fabric since moving to Seattle is based upon coffee or began with coffee.

Dark Clouds

I need to know who I am without caffeine. This isn’t going to be easy. Tuesday morning I woke up after a perfect night of 8+ hours of deep sleep. I decided I would wait a while before making coffee. I should have been ready to take on the world without caffeine, but I couldn’t. My head wanted coffee. Even though I was fully rested, I was mentally paralyzed. That is when I knew I had to do a real detox, but this one will require more planning, because I need to break the addiction at every level.

If this post lacked my crisp writing style it is because I’m already in a funk from cutting back on the caffeine. I’m not getting caffeine headaches, just a sharp decline in mood. It feels more like a breakup than a withdrawal. I’ve doubled my L-Tyrosine to no effect. Yesterday I left the headlights on in my car and ran the battery dead. Later I left house with the oven on and burnt a 3 pound meatloaf. There may be fewer posts or suckier posts in the next few weeks.

Into the darkness.

I Thought You Were a Vegetarian?

In the past couple of years I’ve had several people tell me that they thought I was a vegetarian. I’m not. Maybe it is a Seattle thing, but they learn that I cook or make vegetable ferments and jump to the conclusion that I might be a vegetarian. It makes sense. Vegetarians tend to know more about food and are probably more likely to make their own sauerkraut or kimchi. And there are so many vegetarians on the West Coast.

Whenever someone would present me with this misconception, I used to almost dismissively correct them. Beef liver made me healthy, not soy burgers! Correcting someone is rarely going to change their perceptions. A better approach is to plant a seed of doubt about that belief and let them think about it. So about a year ago I started answering the vegetarian charge in ways that advanced the dialog. Here are three responses that I use today.

The Experiment Response

This response works with people with more science or engineering backgrounds. I dismiss labels and promote the word experiment. This is a proactive way to think about food. Nothing is settled. The only thing that matters is data and the only data that matters is our own. This group understands the importance of testing. Framing dietary decisions in engineering lingo captures their attention.

I experimented with a vegetarian diet for a period back in college, but I found it didn’t get me the results I wanted. When I began adding seafood and meat back into my diet, my health improved. I got leaner, was able to gain muscle and had far more energy. I continue to experiment with my diet. Who knows what I’ll be eating in a few years. I’m not tied to labels. All I care about are results.

The Winter Response

This response changes the question from is a vegetarian diet healthy to which season of the year or what part of the planet is the vegetarian diet the most natural.

Maybe I’m wrong, but a vegetarian diet this far north of the Equator doesn’t seem natural in the winter months. If I was passionate about following a meat-free diet, I would move south to area where fruits and vegetables grow year round. I don’t feel comfortable buying supplements and having my food flown in thousands of miles when I have access to locally produced meat and seafood of high quality. Maybe a seasonal vegetarian approach might be worth looking into? Be a vegetarian during the part of the year when we get sunshine and plenty of Vitamin D and then be more of an omnivore the rest of the year.

This was Seattle on January 18, 2012. Let’s go hunting…for broccoli? 

The Quality Response

If I can sense the person I am talking to is more in the fast food unhealthy camp, I’ll use this response. It changes the perception that no-meat is healthier than meat to a discussion about meat quality.

I’m not a vegetarian. We are very fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest where some of the highest quality meat on the planet is raised. I can get many cuts of grass-fed beef at the Farmers Markets or several local grocery stores. The prices are much better here than many parts of the country. I might be a vegetarian if all I had access to was the pink-slime meat and the stuff served at fast food places, but we are fortunate we have access to the healthy stuff.

Last Words

These three responses have worked so much better for me. It avoids all those tired old debates about vegetarian diets being more healthy. It varies from person to person, season to season and if they have access to quality meat. Does anyone else get this question and how have you responded?

Update on My Ice Cream Experiment

Last year I only had two servings of ice cream the entire year. I’ve more than made up for it this year. Around March I started eating ice cream on a weekly basis. As we moved from spring to summer, I kept increasing the amount of ice cream I was eating. Then in July I put out the post Why Ice Cream is Better Than Protein Powder, which makes the case that the limiting factor in muscle growth isn’t protein, but calories. And the calories from ice cream with its mix of carbs, saturated fat and cholesterol seemed to be the perfect food for the task.

Here is a breakdown of how my body responded at different ice cream levels.

  • No ice cream – Was experiencing rapid fat loss. Couldn’t gain muscle.
  • 1 pint per week – Still losing weight.
  • 2 pints per week – Weight stabilized.
  • 3 pints per week – Muscle gain and some fat gain. Some acne.
  • 4 pints per week – More fat gain and worse acne.

Since skin inflammation – be it a rash, rosacea or acne – is an external sign there might be an internal stressor, I’m thinking my sweet spot for ice cream might be 2 pints a week with an occasional week with 3 pints. The plan all along was to push the ice cream all summer long and then scale down in the winter.

My favorite ice cream is Salted Caramel from Molly Moon’s of Seattle. 

My experiment showed me that I don’t need to deprive myself of ice cream. The reason I can eat more ice cream than most and remain lean is that I don’t eat the cone. I avoid all gluten sources and even minimize exposure to all other grains with the exception of white rice. So when it comes time to have cake and ice cream, you can have my cake, because I’ll be doubling down on the ice cream. :)

Commercial Gyro Meat is Absolutely Not Gluten Free

Let me share with you the hell I went through late Sunday night, so you never have to experience it. I was out all day Saturday and ended up having lunch at a Greek restaurant. I had a gyro meat salad with no bread. I woke up at 2:30 AM with a screaming headache that lasted for several hours. I suspected the gyro meat had gluten in it, but the last time I researched this I came to the conclusion that gyro meat didn’t have gluten. Seems I researched this question incorrectly.

Traditional recipes for gyro meat do not have gluten. However, many Greek restaurants today are not making their gyro meat on premise using traditional recipes. Like many other modern restaurants they use food service companies. So it doesn’t matter what the traditional recipes for gyro meat call for. The only thing that matters is what the food service companies are selling to these restaurants.

Commercial Gyro Meat

Three of the major suppliers of gyro meat in the USA are Kronos Products, Olympia Foods and Grecian Delight. Grecian Delight posts their gyro nutritional information on their website. Bread crumbs is listed as the 3rd ingredient. Interestingly, their gyro meat also has MSG. Kronos doesn’t post their nutritional information, so I contacted the company and confirmed that their gyro meat is not gluten free. Olympia Foods has a color sales brochure on their site that states their gyro meat has wheat and soy in it.

If you find yourself stuck at a Greek restaurant, your safest bet is to get kabobs or a Greek salad. I confirmed with Kronos that their kabobs are gluten free. What you don’t want to do is get the falafel, which also contains wheat. Other things I learned today during my research is that the hummus you thought had olive oil might be using soybean oil. And the Tzatziki sauce has a number of questionable ingredients.

Look For the Posters

Have you ever noticed those posters of women holding a gyro? That is a sign that the gyro meat was purchased from a food service company and not made on premise.

Photo by Milo Tobin. If you see this poster or this one or this one, the gyro meat absolutely has gluten in it. 

If a restaurant makes their own gyro meat on premise, it is highly unlikely that you’ll see a food service poster. At that point you can ask the proprietor if they use gluten. Assume they do.

Gluten is NOT Necessary For Gyro Meat

If you search online for gyro recipes, the majority do not include wheat or soy or MSG. Why do food service companies add breadcrumbs? Perhaps the bread makes the meat pack together better for shipping? Or maybe it is just a cost issue. Fluff up the expensive ingredients of beef and lamb with dirt cheap bread.

This post explains why I cook 99% of my own meals. We are being poisoned one meal at a time with toxic ingredients. Fortunately, I have solved the gyro meat riddle at home with two recipes.

  1. My Gyro Obsession and The Meatball Solution
  2. The Gyro Meatloaf Recipe

If you operate a Greek restaurant in the Seattle area that makes your gyro meat on premise and without gluten, please leave a comment on this post, otherwise I’m boycotting all of you. I prefer hunger to a massive headache.

My Problem With “Eat Less Move More” Part 2

Judging from the comments on My Problem With “Eat Less Move More”, I think I did a poor job explaining my position on Eat Less, Move More. Let me summarize my view.

  1. Calories do count. (Eat Less)
  2. Exercise is vastly over-rated for long-term fat loss. (Move More)
  3. ELMM most likely explains every success. (or in my opinion EL alone)
  4. 90-95% of people fail when they attempt ELMM for fat loss.
  5. ELMM does NOTHING to explain why such a large percentage fail. They openly or through implication state it is a character flaw in the dieter. They either lacked discipline, willpower, lied or deluded themselves to their caloric intake.
  6. The failure rates are too high to attribute to character flaws.
  7. I believe the probability of long term dietary success is higher when the individual is healthy. Restricting calories (and therefore nutrients) to an already unhealthy person has a high failure rate. I believe one should get healthy BEFORE they attempt to get lean.

Seeking Nutritional Alpa

I’m not a dietitian and I do not have a client list. My approach to nutrition assumes incomplete knowledge and comes from an investor mindset. The term alpha in finance means return in excess of the compensation for the risk borne. From a nutritional standpoint, we know that some foods are far more nutrient dense than others. We also know that some foods are more toxic. Those foods might have equal calories. I believe from my own personal experience and talking with others that finding those foods with a greater alpha do a far better job of reducing hunger at equal caloric rates.

Beef Stock is a food with a high nutritional alpha.

I think that a strategy of removing foods with negative alpha (grains, veggie oils, soy) and adding foods with positive alpha will increase the probability of success more than taking on calorie restriction head on. Did for me. The hunger I experienced when eating bread (negative alpha) was much greater than when I gave it up. Losing 20 pounds without bread was significantly easier than losing just 5 pounds when I did eat bread.

The challenge in fighting obesity is not continually explaining the minority of successes, but figuring out how to increase the number of successes in a way that works with the body. Blaming the individual isn’t helpful.

My Problem With “Eat Less Move More”

If you do a Google search on the phrase “Eat Less Move More“, it will return over 9 million results. If you listen to most health care professionals and personal trainers they will say that the only way to lose weight is to eat less and move more. They repeat that it is simple logic and they can point to every successful case of fat loss as following those principles.

Explaining how just 5-10% of dieters succeed is not a complete explanation for why 90-95% fail when they attempt the same principles. The question we should be asking is not what makes a diet work, but what causes it to fail? Eat Less Move More does a great job explaining success, but that is just half of the equation. Before we can address failure, we first need to explore how we feel about obesity.

Is Obesity a Character Flaw?

It is time for an open and frank discussion about how we view overweight people. When you see someone 50 or 100 pounds overweight, do you make a snap judgement about that person? What words would you use to describe their character? Lazy, undisciplined? We judge the obese because it is a commonly held belief that they choose to remain heavy. After all, if they only ate less and moved more they would be lean. Right?

Obesity and the failure of diets has been framed as character flaw. If obesity wasn’t such a worldwide and growing epidemic, I might agree with them. But every person that walks the planet today is the result of a highly resilient lineage. We are the successes. I also believe that most people do not consciously chose to be overweight and would prefer to be leaner. When overweight people are cast as being undisciplined, it does a great disservice to those individuals that are already struggling both physically and emotionally.

Failure is the Problem

If Eat Less, Move More were such as effective strategy, then the failure rate wouldn’t be so high. Some people find it easy and some find it impossibly hard. I cringe every time I see a reference to some fat loss study that lasted weeks or a few months. Who hasn’t lost weight in the short term only to regain it later? The important question is not how the dieter lost the weight, but what caused it come back. The answer is always implied. The dieter lost the discipline to eat less or got too lazy to keep up with an exercise plan. Failure is framed as a character flaw and not a flaw with the Eat Less, Move More advice.

If 90-95% of dieters fall and most or all of them attempted a variation on the Eat Less, Move More principle, why such a high failure rate? Our so called health professionals blame the dieter, because they lack discipline. This enrages me. Can you imagine if LASIK eye surgery or any other health service had anywhere close to that failure rate? But because the individual ultimately controls what they eat and how much they move, the failure of a diet is always defined as the fault of the individual. We also stop looking for alternate causes of failure.

DIET by Christi Nielsen

Move More?

I am on record as saying exercise is vastly over rated when it comes to fat loss. My position is that appetite will always rise to meet energy expenditure, but not necessarily in the short term. You can go weeks or a few months where exercise appears to be an effective strategy for fat loss, but it’s not. We get injured, we get sick, we travel and the body gets very good at predicting how much energy you’ll burn through and adjusts appetite accordingly.

Earlier this year, I did a five part series on Exercise and Fat Loss where I detail not only why I consider it ineffective, but how it can actually make you fatter. The first three parts are relevant for this discussion.

  1. Walking Didn’t Lean Me Out
  2. How Exercise Indirectly Kept Me Fatter
  3. Fat loss and the Case For Less Exercise

Note that I am not anti-exercise. My concern is that an overweight individual that eats poorly and starts an exercise program may lose fat in the short term, but when that appetite catches up to activity expenditure they will end up eating more of the poor quality foods that made them overweight. Fix the diet first.

Eat Less?

In the end eating less is the solution, but again that doesn’t explain why so many people fail. It is clear that some people lose weight easier than others. Are they more disciplined or is something else going on? From my research into nutrition, permanent fat loss is a lot easier when the body is healthy. An idea that Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness puts forth is that you don’t lose weight to be healthy, you get healthy to lose weight. What this means is that if you have nutrient deficiencies, inflammation and hormonal imbalances, your success rate at fat loss will increase if these are addressed before you start eating less.

I like the analogy of the leaky row boat. You can certainly try to paddle that boat across the lake. It will be very hard and you may get there safely or your boat could fall apart before you arrive at your destination. Personal trainers will scoff at the failures as not wanting it bad enough or lacking willpower. The reality is that unlimited willpower only exists in Nike and Gatorade commercials. A better plan would be to patiently fix the boat first. Remove the rotted wood and repair the holes. Once the boat is seaworthy, the journey should be a lot easier. How do you do that?

  1. Fix your sleep.
  2. Remove toxins known and suspected. (grains, veggie oils, soy, dairy for some, non-traditionally prepared legumes)
  3. Eats lots of nutrient dense foods.
  4. Learn how to cook.
  5. Exercise minimally, safely and efficiently.

When I followed the list above, weight just started falling off. It was effortless. Besides fat loss, other signs that your body is healing are improved skin, better digestion and deeper sleep. When personal trainers and health professionals blindly repeat the phrase Eat Less Move More they are indirectly blaming every dietary failure as a character flaw in the dieter. They point to the successes without trying to understand the failures.

My Problem With “Eat Less Move More” Part 2

My Current Experiment: 30 Days Without Any Grains

Even though I gave up gluten years ago, I still would from time to time have gluten-free grain options. In the past several months as I’ve increased my carbohydrate levels, I’ve been consuming popcorn and treats from Dolce Lou, a local GF bakery. At first I thought I was OK with the gluten-free grain options, but I noticed a red spot on my skin that seemed to become more pronounced the day after I consumed popcorn. A skin inflammation is often a sign that that something is wrong internally. Also when I dug through my headache data, I noticed an uptick in headache intensity on Wednesdays and Sundays, which are the days I am most likely to consume a gluten-free bakery item from the Farmers Market.

Time for a new experiment! I am going 100% grain free, including popcorn, for 30 days. White rice is still OK. For some reason, I thought I did this specific test once before, but if I did I don’t have accurate data. Plus it is probably a wise idea to get updated information.

Photo by Robyn Lee. Pupusas from my newly found El Salvador restaurant will have to wait a month. 

Is anyone else starting or in the middle of a dietary experiment this summer?

The Healthy Optimist

Our food system is toxic, people are unhealthy and it seems health outcomes are getting worse and worse. Yet, I am optimistic that in the near future things will be better. A lot better. The positive changes I’m envisioning won’t come from better education or a cleaner food supply. They will come from scientists and engineers that will empower individuals to greatly improve their health without the need for doctors or other health care practitioners at an affordable cost.

It all comes to down to data. Soon we will live in a world where that data is far more extensive, up to date and dirt cheap to access and act upon.

Real Time (or Near Real Time) Health Monitoring

Imagine a future where every person could download an application to their smart phone or similar device that collected extensive health data quickly. Today we can work with labs, get blood work, send payment and then wait for the results. Once we get those results, we work with health practitioners to make adjustment and then we retest. The feedback loop today is too slow and too expensive. And because so few data snapshots are collected, the data might not be an accurate reflection on an individual’s day to day state of health.

In the future we will be able to do this tests at home as many times as we like. These gadgets will be as common as the bathroom scale. Instead of going months or years with a nutrient deficiency, we will be correcting them in days or hours. These gadgets could detect rising inflammation or stress levels. I could see them connecting to a cloud server that tracks infectious diseases and aggregates that data to health and safety personnel. In addition to tracking data, these gadgets will offer health recommendations based upon risk level. Everything from “eat a carrot” to “call 911″. These recommendations and outcomes could be fed back to the cloud. That data would be analyzed and then updated recommendations could be constructed in real time. In other words, a system that learns.

Every time there is a shooting incident in the news, the gun debate starts up again. I’m actually more curious about the brain chemistry of the individual committing the violent acts. What are their serotonin, dopamine and Vitamin D levels? Is there a pattern? By collecting more data more frequently and sharing that data, I think we will find these answers and more.

The Human Microbiome Project

There are 100 trillion bacteria in your body. What it is made up of is still a mystery, but not for long. The Human Microbiome Project is a 5 year project where the goal is to sequence all that data. Having healthy gut flora is essential for good health. Today we destroy our gut flora with antibiotics. Some buy supplemental strains of health probiotics to fix that damage. Others like me make and consume fermented foods. But I have no way of knowing the state of my gut flora and if I have an over abundance or deficiency in certain bacteria. Right now it is still all guess work.

The article In Good health? Thank Your 100 Trillion Bacteria covers the project and some of the implications. Combined with the testing gadget I covered above, this will mean personalized strains of healthy bacteria will be created and consumed as a primary healing strategy. This will result in far less sickness and extremely fast recovery times. And as someone that believes nutrient absorption plays a role in obesity, we could see populations down regulating appetite as their gut heals.

I know that when I stopped taking antibiotics and made fermented foods part of my diet, my hunger levels dropped and so did 3 inches off my waist. My skin quality also improved. I was fortunate to stumble on what worked for me. I believe The Human Microbiome Project will result in highly personalized healing strategies. It won’t take months or years either. I envision recovery times happening in weeks or even days.

Battle of the gut bugs! by UMHealthSystems

The Age of Super Fitness

The fitness industry has been ruled by the meat head jocks and cardio junkies for too long. That won’t remain the case. Not only is the message that quality of exercise more important than quantity becoming mainstream, but engineers are figuring out safer and faster ways to trigger the body to make postive adaptations. The Bulletproof Exec blog is watching and participating closely with some cutting edge fitness equipment. Here are two interesting machines mentioned on the post Step 4: Learn To Use Your Body.

The Electrical Current Biohacking Machine – From the post:

It takes about 10,000 repetitions of a movement for the brain to re-pattern itself. You can use electrical currents to stimulate the muscles and brain 500 times a second, letting you re-pattern a movement pattern in a few minutes. Years of progress are possible in 1-2 days. Many of the top-performing pro athletes use these secret techniques and spend upwards of $50,000 to get trained with specialized high current equipment.

Besides creating super athletes, I could see this having a huge impact in physical therapy. Instead of months or years of retraining your brain to engage in proper movement, you could fix yourself in a weekend. Once or twice a year we all take our cars to a mechanic to get an oil change or tune up. In the future, I can see heading to health center that uses electrical muscle stimulation to accomplish a similar task. MAS, I can see your left calf is 4% weaker than your right calf and your mid back rotation could be improved a few degrees. We can have that fixed for you before lunch. 

The other tool mentioned in the article is a Whole Body Vibration machine. From the post:

Standing on a vibrating plate can do amazing things for chronic pain because it causes muscles through your skeletal system to fire and it causes lymph (fluid between tissues) to circulate.

A key to the Age of Super Fitness will be dealing with chronic pain. Once the costs come down on this, it could have huge health benefits to greater population. Less painkillers, less side effects, increased productivity and a greater well being.

Health Utopia

To me this is not a question on if these ideas will happen, but when will they be available at an affordable cost to the general population. They are coming. Will it be 5 years or 25 years? Can you wait? I’m highly optimistic on the future of health, but until that future health utopia arrives, I’ll continue to eat a healthy clean diet and exercise in a safe productive way.

The Endgame for Paleo is WAPF

There have been a few popular Weston A. Price (WAPF) bloggers that have attacked the Paleo diet. I understand some of their criticisms, but dislike their techniques. I find that the two diets to be highly complimentary. For those new to these terms, check out my post Paleo vs Weston Price. I like the Paleo diet as a starting spot. Turning back your diet 10,000 years is a great way to reboot your internal operating system. Dropping the neolithic poisons and eating a diet made up of foods our ancestors thrived upon is an effective strategy many have used to improve their health.

As much as I like the Paleo diet as a starting point, I prefer a Weston A. Price approach to nutrition. Paleo is good at figuring out what foods to eat. Weston A Price focuses not only on foods and food quality, but also food preparation. Paleo is about bringing the food back to the cave. Weston A. Price takes it from there and figures out how to extract the maximum nutrition from that food. Fermentation, soaking, sprouting, making stocks and organ meats.

What really appeals to me about the Weston A. Price approach is how different cultures in completely different parts of the planet that had no way to communicate with each other, independently came up with similar solutions to food preparation. Only when modern cultures rejected traditional food preparation in favor of convenience and cost saving did health begin to decline. Nutritional science is just beginning to catch up to what our ancestors knew about food.

Recently I had sopa de pata at an El Salvadorian restaurant. This soup includes beef feet, tendons and tripe cooked slowly with vegetables including yucca, corn, cabbage and onions. Not only did it taste amazing, but I felt great afterwards. There is some ancestral wisdom in that soup. 

To stay completely Paleo without embracing elements of Weston A. Price is to reject thousands of years of ancestral knowledge. On my nutritional journey, I am more interested in learning recipes from traditional cultures than pouring through PubMed looking for ammo to defend a dietary position. Sharing a homemade sauerkraut with friends is far more enjoyable than debating carbs or calories. One of my favorite TV shows is Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. He travels the world eating traditionally prepared cuisines – often from restaurants with multi-generational history.

Learning more and more about nutrition now seems a waste of time to me. It’s all about the food.

Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations Collection 6/Part 1
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations Collection 6/Part 1

A Juicing Skeptic

I’m often asked if I juice. Not steroids, but with fruits and vegetables. The answer is I don’t. I remain unconvinced that juicing offers the health benefits its fans claim. Before I get attacked in the comments, I’ll explain why I am a juicing skeptic. I could be wrong.

Whenever I run into a fan of juicing, the story is almost the same.

  1. Their health wasn’t great.
  2. They stop eating crap and start juicing.
  3. Their health improves and they credit juicing.

My opinion is the most dramatic health benefits come from removing the crap, not from the juicing. My crap foods were gluten, vegetable oils and unfermented soy. Even though I added more nutrient dense foods, it was removing the toxins that allowed my body to heal.

Another reason I am a juicing skeptic is that it doesn’t seem natural to buy a massive amount of fruits and vegetables, pulverize them into a shake and then throw out all the vegetable fiber. The juice consumer then slams their body with a concentration of vitamins never found in nature at that level. The expectation is the body will be able to absorb and thrive by overloading nutrients. I understand the argument that in order to get that much nutrition, juicing solves a problem that cooking doesn’t. When you cook the vegetables, you can eat more at one sitting, but you end up losing some of the nutrients.

There are two other solutions that have been available to mankind for many thousands of years. Neither requires buying massive quantities of fresh vegetables or purchasing a kick ass juicer. When it comes to nutrient density in a real food form that our ancestors thrived on, but modern man mostly ignores, we have offal and fermentation.

Back in the old days, we didn’t have planes flying fresh aspargus from Peru to our air conditioned grocery store. We also didn’t have the technology to them turn those fresh vegetables into liquid for our morning smoothie. We didn’t even have refrigeration. How did we survive and get the nutrients provided by vegetables, especially outside harvest time? One method was eating animals, particularly their organ meat. FreeTheAnimal did a post showing that 1/4 pound of beef liver has as much nutrition as 5 pounds of fruit. You see Mother Nature has a plan for us that doesn’t involve 7 easy payments. But wait there’s more!

Mankind also figured out that fermentation not only preserved vegetables beyond harvest, but they became softer to eat and they had higher nutrient levels than fresh vegetables. Yes, fermented vegetables can have 2 to 3 times the vitamin levels of fresh vegetables. I can also eat a bowl of sauerkraut or kimchi a lot easier than raw cabbage. Plus they have healthy probiotics that you do not get from juicing.

3 jars of kimchi

I also want to briefly touch on a topic that I’ll explore more in a future post. It is about nutritional arrogance. Regardless of if you’re Paleo, vegetarian or even a Dr. Oz follower, we discuss nutritional properties of food as if it is settled science. It might be settled science, but I don’t believe so. In the entire history of world, it has only been 99 years since we discovered Vitamin A. Folic Acid wasn’t discovered until 1941. Our understanding of Omega 3 ratios was primitive until the 1990s. Hell, in the last few years we’ve seen major breaks in our understanding dietary inflammation, gluten and gut flora. There are over 3,000 derivatives of Vitamin D3 and we’ve only have published biochemical data on 1,000 of them.

This tells me that there is a good chance that there is A LOT MORE we have yet to learn about food. We may still be in the Stone Age when it comes to nutrition. When I eat beef liver or sauerkraut, I’m eating in harmony with the way my ancestors did. With juicing, I don’t know how my body will respond to the nutrient overloading or what good things are being thrown away. Traditional eating doesn’t require nutritional science for validation. Our existence is proof it works.

Would I ever juice? If I were sick, had removed all the toxins from diet, was consuming offal and fermented foods and was still nutrient deficient then I might. I’d likely work with a nutritionist and get blood work done also. Most people do not fall into this camp. They want the damage from their cupcakes to be washed away by slugging a glass of blended produce. And liver is too yucky for them.

Safe Use of 5-HTP and L-Tyrosine

In the post L-Tyrosine is my NZT-48, I raved about taking L-Tyrosine to improve focus. It was an idea I got after quickly taking a quiz in the book The Mood Cure. Because the supplement was so effective, I went back and read the book in its entirety. After taking the other quizzes in the book, I discovered that I could possibly benefit even more from 5-HTP. Whereas L-Tyrosine would help with my morning focus, 5-HTP would elevate my evening mood and possibly improve my sleep quality.

The Mood Cure: The 4-Step Program to Take Charge of Your Emotions--Today
The Mood Cure: The 4-Step Program to Take Charge of Your Emotions–Today by Julia Ross

I began taking 5-HTP on May 29th. The first effect I noticed was vivid dreams, which seem to a common effect. After about a week, I did notice my evening mood was improving. Nothing dramatic like I experienced with the L-Tyrosine, but still pleasant.

I have been tracking my sleep quality since August 27, 2011. Every morning I assign a score of 1 to 5 on how well I slept. Prior to 5-HTP my average Sleep Quality was 3.8. Since 5-HTP it has been 3.7. A slight decrease, but that could be seasonal, as I tend to get better sleep during the colder months. I found no increased sleep quality at doses of 50 mg or 100 mg. My evening mood improvement may have been from the supplement or something else. So unlike L-Tyrosine, I’m not certain I am benefiting from 5-HTP.

How They Work

My understanding of this topic came from the presentation Amino Acids and Their Application in Brain Chemical Balancing by Dr. Dan Kalish. I also listened to his podcast interview Brain Drain on Underground Wellness. Serotonin and dopamine do not cross the blood brain barrier. So to increase their levels, you need to add their amino acid precursors along with any essential co-factors. Taking 5-HTP will increase serotonin levels and taking L-Tyrosine will help dopamine levels. The required essential co-factors by Dr. Kalish are:

  • Vitamin C: 1,000 mg / day
  • Vitamin B6: 75 mg/ day
  • Calcium: 500 mg/ day
  • Cysteine: 4,500 mg/ day (divided doses)
  • Selenium: 400 mcg / day
  • Folic Acid: 2,000 – 3,000 mcg / day

Safety Concern

What I learned from Dr. Dan Kalish is that you can create problems down the road if you try to just address a serotonin or a dopamine deficiency independently. If you take 5-HTP without L-Tyrosine for long periods of time, you could end up depleting your dopamine levels. And the same is true in reverse. Taking L-Tyrosine without 5-HTP could end up depleting your serotonin levels. It has to do with synthesis, which the video covers in depth starting around the 24 minute mark.

Amino Acids and Their Application in Brain Chemical Balancing

To be safe, the recommended ratio is 10:1. Ten units of L-Tyrosine for every 1 unit of 5-HTP. So currently I am taking 500 mg of L-Tyrosine in the morning and 50 mg of 5-HTP in the evening. By accident, I stumbled upon the safe ratio. Dr. Kalish says you can safely use up to 3,000 mg of L-Tyrosine with 300 mg of 5-HTP daily. Any more than that and he recommends getting tested. The important thing is to never use just 5-HTP or L-Tyrosine independently.

The Kalish Method: Healing the Body, Mapping the Mind

The Kalish Method: Healing the Body, Mapping the Mind by Dr. Daniel Kalish came out last month. I have not read it yet.

I have experimented with higher doses than 500 mg L-Tyrosine, but have not noticed any additional benefit. In fact, it seems I am more likely to get a headache. Some quick searching shows this is a common side effect. If you are taking these amino acids to improve mood, I highly encourage listening to the podcast interview. The YouTube presentation is fine, but it is more technical and geared toward practitioners.

Beyond Supplements

My personal approach to supplements is to periodically cycle off them. Use them to make a correction and then see if the body supported by a nutrient dense diet can take it from there. I’m going to take a few weeks off from both supplements. Marks Daily Apple has an article on boosting serotonin without supplements. KnowMyBody has one for dopamine. Mark likes the herb rhodiola better than 5-HTP, because it acts by slowing down the serotonin breakdown. After reading the two articles, the tips that I believe I could benefit the most from are caffeine reduction and playing more challenging games. Another article gives props to beets as an excellent food source for increasing dopamine levels. I like beets, especially fermented.

UPDATE May 2013: I no longer take 5-HTP. For an explanation why see Thinking About Supplements 2013.

High Satiety Foods – The Results

Last October I posted High Satiety Paleo Friendly Foods? In that post I started a discussion about what foods delivered the most satiety at the fewest calories. The other requirements were easy to prepare and inexpensive. I received lots of comments and since then I have been running my own tests. These are my results. What works for you may be completely different.

#1 Popcorn

Yes, I am aware popcorn is a cereal grain and is thus a no-no for those following a strict Paleo Diet. However, I have found it is by far the food that packs the most satiety. I’m not talking about the prepackaged microwave popcorn which are loaded with unhealthy vegetable oil fats. I’m talking about regular popcorn cooked over the stove using coconut oil. I liked both white and yellow popcorn equally. For a topping I used Cajun seasonings.

Eating popcorn requires a lot of chewing. To eat a bowl of popcorn takes time. A medium sized bowl of popcorn can keep me full for hours. It is also dirt cheap and super easy and quick to make.

Photo by Anna

#2 Soaked Almonds

I covered this in detail on the post Food Reward Test: Almonds vs Almond Butter. When I want something cold also, I will mix frozen berries with the almonds. Very filling. I’m a huge fan of almonds.

#3 Sweet Potatoes

I had mostly positive results with sweet potatoes. I would cube a peeled sweet potato and then steam it. If I craved fat, I’d add butter. If I craved something sweet, I’d add a little brown sugar. Often I’d add some cinnamon. I believe the key is to not over cook the potato. Once it gets too mushy, it loses its satiety power.

That is All

I tried other foods, but these were the only three that approached the satiety levels I got with almond butter or full fat dairy options such as yogurt, cottage cheese or hard cheeses. In the absence of caloric density, I believe seeking out foods that require more chewing will yield the greatest satiety. Those foods also tend to be more expensive and require more time preparing.

What foods have you found provided the greatest satiety that are also inexpensive and easy to prepare?

Hacking Testosterone and Increasing Oxytocin

This post is a continuation of the ideas put forth in the post Hacking Hormones in a Relationship. On a hormonal basis women are becoming more masculine and men more feminine. After watching Dr. Gray’s video, I can now see that each change is a response to the other. As women are becoming more dominant, men are becoming more submissive, which lowers their testosterone and raises their estrogen levels.

The woman is now taking on more roles that produce testosterone, which increases her stress levels. Under normal situations a male with a higher testosterone level could trigger oxytocin in the woman lowering her stress, but the estrogen dominant male will either engage in “tit for tat” arguing or become further submissive. Neither will help lower the stress in the woman or himself. Stress levels build on both sides and this leads to compromised immune systems and poor health.

Dr. Gray’s lecture was targeted mostly towards couples and how they should interact with each other to produce optimal hormonal responses. But what about us single people? Before we fall into the role reversal trap which breaks up many relationships, we should get our own ducks in order.

Hacking Testosterone in Men

Prior to embracing the Paleo Diet, I could feel my testosterone levels declining a little each year. When I ditched the bread and tofu, I lost 3 inches of belly fat. Remember that belly fat in men produces estrogen which lowers testosterone levels. Although I’ve never had my testosterone measured, once that belly fat was gone I could feel my testosterone levels rising. I also diversified my diet with organ meats and devoted more time to workout recovery. I had successfully hacked my testosterone to higher levels. I’m certainly not alone. There are widespread reports of men following a Paleo diet feeling more like, well men.

Mark Sisson posted A Primal Primer: Testosterone with several ideas on how to increase testosterone naturally. They include:

  1. Lift Heavy Things
  2. Sprint
  3. Avoid Excessive Cortisol
  4. Get Sun or Take Vitamin D
  5. Eat Clean, Pastured Animal Products
  6. Eat Saturated and Monounsaturated Fat
  7. Avoid Foods that Regularly Spike Your Blood Glucose Levels
  8. Get Adequate Zinc Intake

A few ideas that I would also include are:

  1. Get plenty of sleep.
  2. Allow the body to recover from stressful workouts before heading back to the gym.
  3. Cold exposure. (I can’t prove it scientifically, but I am convinced it plays a role.)

Increasing Oxytocin in Women

Dr. Gray lists these attributes as oxytocin simulators: sharing, teamwork, communication, shared responsibilities, affection, support, collaboration, and compliments. He further states that social networks like Facebook are highly addictive to females, because they provide the illusion of community they need, but they do not produce oxytocin. They need real face to face interactions to trigger that positive hormone, which is a problem because modern life has becoming very isolating to women. Much of their social interaction is no longer associated with unconditional giving, but deadlines and the need to hurry up, which is a primary oxytocin inhibitor. Unlike the recommendations for men, it seems each woman will have to solve this in her own way, depending upon career, location and responsibilities.

Volunteer work might help. Bonding with a pet can also produce oxytocin. I’ve always wondered why women choose to go to yoga class together instead of buying a DVD and doing the exercises at home. Now I understand why. They are sharing and communicating with other women, which is reducing their stress levels.

Photo by Jason D’ Great. Dr. Gray talked about the community aspect that women had when they washed clothes by hand with other women. Although this work was tough, it did trigger hormones that reduced the woman’s stress level. 

A Good Start?

This post just touched the surface of this topic. Note that I am less than a week into my understanding of this subject. I have some more thoughts, which I plan to research. In the meantime, is there anything else you’d like to add to this post?

Hacking Hormones in a Relationship

Over three years I watched the DVD lectures by evolutionary fitness guru Art De Vany. In those seven hours I learned a lot about hormones and how they applied to human performance. Using what I learned, I made several changes in my life which ended up yielding a positive health outcome. Because I was in tune with how my hormones were being triggered, those changes did not require massive amounts of willpower. Timing nutrition and training in a way that promoted optimal hormone expression made the body composition benefits I experienced seem almost effortless.

A few days ago I was over on The Bulletproof Executive website and I saw an entry titled Video: Hacking Your Hormones with John Gray of “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”. My gut reaction was negative, because my opinion of the relationship advice industry is highly cynical. The industry caters to women that are unhappy and looking for validation that someone else is to blame for that unhappiness. This is the type of message that generates positive reviews and word of mouth buzz that sells books and seminars. Perhaps I am hopelessly naive on this point, but I do have an economics background and we all know in business that the customer is always right. Start telling the customer that they might be wrong and they will take their business elsewhere.

Maybe because Dave posted it or because the phrase “hacking your hormones” appeared in the title, I decided to watch the video in the post. I ended up watching the 1 hour 37 minute video twice. I’m so glad I did. Now I know why I have been such a poor predictor of relationship outcomes. Ones that I assumed were solid ended up being doomed and ones that appeared rocky were actually solid. Just like De Vany taught me with nutrition, there is also a timing component associated with the hormones in male female relationships.

In the speech you will learn how men and women are wired differently and how as a society we have failed to understand this. This isn’t psychology. It’s biology.

Venus on Fire, Mars on Ice – John Gray (June 22, 2012) from Bulletproof Executive

Lecture Notes

Not everyone will find time to watch the video or read his book. Here are some of the ideas covered. The video covers much more.

  • We are living in a world with excessive estrogen, much of it environmental.
  • Estrogen suppresses testosterone in men.
  • The average 58 year old man has more estrogen than the average 58 year old woman.
  • When a man has high levels of estrogen his body stops producing testosterone.
  • Excessive estrogen in women can reduce progesterone levels.
  • Belly fat on men is a huge source of estrogen.
  • In indigenous cultures men and women maintain healthy hormonal output well into old age.
  • Stress attacks the immune system. Chronic stress can lead to heart disease and cancer.
  • Women are more stressed now than ever before and more stressed than men.
  • Testosterone is the stress lowering hormone for men.
  • Oxytocin is the stress lowering hormone for women.
  • Testosterone in women suppresses Oxytocin.
  • When women engage in work that involves risk, danger, planning or is related to time and space, they increase Testosterone output, which feels good at first, but because Oxytocin is suppressed, their cortisol levels rise.
  • Dr. Gray mentioned that when women soldiers return from combat roles they always get divorced. The job creates a masculine hormonal outcome.
  • The #1 inhibitor of Oxytocin is being in a hurry – the feeling of “have to”.
  • Unconditional giving lowers stress in women. Conditional giving doesn’t.
  • Men want to feel masculine, which requires being around femininity.
  • A common cause for relationship trouble is role reversal. The woman becomes too masculine or the man too feminized.
  • Talking about stress lowers stress levels for women.
  • Talking about stress raises stress levels for men. Men are designed to forget.
  • Men are wired to be able to shift away from stress better than women.
  • When you put a hormone into your body, your body stops making it.
  • Taking testosterone increases prostrate cancer risk.
  • Bodybuilders can have very low testosterone levels due to inadequate rest.
  • To increase testosterone use it up and then rest. Take a nap.
  • When men are exposed to danger their testosterone spikes. If that experience continues and they feel powerless, their estrogen levels will rise. Their hormones are instructing them to become more submissive as a survival strategy.
  • When men are grumpy or moody they are showing signs of estrogen dominance, because they feel some level of powerlessness.
  • The male brain is more left dominant, which involves time, space and reward.
  • The female brain is more right dominant, which involves relationships.
  • Engaging in “tit for tat” arguing is the worst thing men can do.
  • Under stress women have twice the memory as men.
  • Men are happy when their woman is happy.
  • A man can not make a woman happy, but he can make her happier.
  • Men can supplement with Tongkat Ali to increase testosterone.
  • Lithium Orotate is a supplement for reducing stress and improving mood.
  • Dr. Gray talks about the Tyrosine and 5-HTP supplements for stress reduction and their role in correcting ADHD.
The take away lesson is that men are becoming more feminine and women are becoming more masculine and this isn’t good for our health and our relationships. I have some more thoughts on this topic, but this post is getting long. I’ll pick this up in a future post. It is a fascinating topic.

Why Ice Cream is Better Than Protein Powder

In the post Thinking About Supplements – 2012 Edition, I said this about protein powder.

Pure garbage. The limiting factor in gaining muscle is not protein. It is calories. I only wish I have figured this out years ago. I’ll be doing a separate post on this topic. In the meantime, if you are a young ectomorphic male, don’t waste your money on this crap. Buy ice cream instead. I’m not kidding.

As someone that has wasted over a thousand dollars on protein powders and bars since the mid 1990s, I’m a little upset that it took me so long to figure out I was throwing my money away on useless supplemental protein. Before I dive into this post, I want to define the audience for this post. It is for male ectomorphs that are already lean wishing to gain additional muscle. Younger males and those with less training experience will benefit even more. It is also not for ectomorphs with a gut.

I am not a trainer or dietitian. I do not train others and my only client is myself. These are my opinions, which may or may not be right for you. I am not a PubMed Warrior. Instead of studying medical journals, I observe patterns of failure. Skinny guys have been choking down protein powder for decades and it isn’t working. Our mesomorphic trainers with perfect genetics accuse of not eating enough, so they prescribe more protein. I think they are wrong.

Protein Is Great For Leaning Out – But That Isn’t The Goal

Many diets advise consuming high levels of protein. The reason is that protein is highly satisfying. From the Leangains post Cheat Day Strategies For A Hedonist:

Protein is superior to carbs and fat intake in both short-term and long-term hunger suppression. This seems to be related to not only a stronger effect on appetite-regulating hormones (i.e. ghrelin, PYY and GLP-1), but also to its high TEF.

Do you see the problem? To gain muscle requires a caloric surplus. The lanky lifter is told to shovel protein down their throat to gain muscle. That very protein is now suppressing their hunger making it harder to go into caloric surplus.

How Much Protein is Required For Muscle Growth?

For my understanding on this topic, I want to give credit to Brad Pilon and Matt Stone. Brad wrote the ebook How Much Protein? which dove into all the research studies on protein. If you are interested in this topic, check out his book. Spoiler alert: one of the conclusions reached in the book is you don’t need that much protein to gain muscle. High protein recommendations are usually motivated by supplement companies which make a killing off protein powder.

Matt Stone recently posted How Much Protein Do You Need To Build Muscle? From that article:

But I still have one problem with all the high-protein fanaticism when it comes to muscle growth… Protein lowers appetite.  It also takes the most calories to digest, so there are many wasted calories on a high-protein diet.  Excess protein also seems to have a long-term metabolism-lowering effect (which impairs muscle growth and exercise performance), perhaps due to the previous two factors – perhaps for other reasons (like excesses of tryptophan slowing down metabolic rate).

Read the entire post. It should be noted that neither Brad Pilon or Matt Stone sell protein powder or protein bars on their websites. Yet many sites that advise high protein for ectomorphs have their own line of protein. Put your credit card away, you’re being punked.

Protein Arrogance

I can already anticipate the criticisms of this post. There will be defenders of certain types of protein or specific makers or whatever the latest buzz words are. Whey concentrate versus whey isolate versus casein versus whatever type of protein is in fashion this season. For almost 20 years I have watched supplement makers peddle new and improved versions of protein powder. With every iteration more scientific jargon is thrown at the consumer. The message never changes. Now they have figured out protein, buy our product and you’ll be HUUGE!

Here is a better idea. Eat real food. If you eat meat, eat the whole animal not just skinless cuts of muscle meat. Organ meat, meat on the bone, lean cuts, fatty cuts and make stocks. The book Deep Nutrition explores this topic in more depth. Our ancestors were unknowingly more knowledgeable about protein than today’s supplement companies.

Will the Real Anabolic Nutrients Please Step Forward?

If we need more calories and not as much protein as we think, what should be eating?

Saturated Fat – The book The Perfect Health Diet lists an increase in muscle mass as a benefit of a diet high in saturated fat. From page 79:

Muscle is composed of equal weights of fat and protein. One way to store fat, without making individual cells excessively fatty, is to increase the number of cells. Muscle is the primary body component which grows in order to store excess fat.

Page 80 goes further into explaining why muscle gain is easy when using high fat diets.

Cholesterol – Anthony Colpo recently wrote Research Update: Eating More Cholesterol Makes Muscles Stronger, which covers a recent study. After an explanation on how cholesterol is a critical nutrient involved with neurological function, he summarizes with this sentence:

Intense resistance exercise causes muscle damage which must be repaired if improvements in strength and performance are to be realized…and cholesterol is intimately involved in this repair process.

Carbs – Back when I first started playing with Intermittent Fasting, I would sometimes continue fasting after weight training. This turned out to be a dumb idea and I lost muscle. Much has been written about how carbs post workout assist with recovery and muscle growth. Dr. John Berardi wrote this a decade ago.

…since protein breakdown predominates during the post-workout period, getting the insulin up allows muscle breakdown to diminish so that synthesis can dominate and we can quickly get back to building muscle!

How do you do that? Eat carbs with some protein.

Is Sugar Evil or Therapeutic?

Sugar is terrible for everyone, right? That is what I assumed and it may be true, but I’m less certain than I used to be. People that consume a lot of sugar tend to have poor health outcomes, but is it the sugar or something else? If one consumed a low-inflammatory nutrient dense diet would sugar still be toxic? Of course I am not speaking to the general population, but active lean ectomorphs.

A few months ago I read the post Sugar: Pure, White & Awesome by Danny Roddy. It goes into depth on how at a hormonal level having low blood sugar is perceived as a stressor to the the body. It goes further to state that running on fat promotes stress, because adrenaline is recruited to assist the process. And once glucose stores are depleted the body uses the stress hormone cortisol to provide glucose. The article is based off some of the research of Ray Peat, who is an expert in hormones and is somewhat controversial.

All my other nutritional mentors are anti-sugar, so why am I entertaining the idea that sugar might be beneficial? Because my research has led me to believe that stress is the limiting factor in gaining muscle for the ectomorph. We train too much, recover too slowly, sleep too little and can’t sit still. And when we fail to get the results we desire, we do more. This is observational, but I see us ectomorphs as more likely to abuse caffeine, which is a stressor as well. And cortisol is catabolic.

Trainer Keith Norris said on an interview on Episode 35 of The Latest in Paleo that overall stress level is a critical factor in predicting recoverability rate. He has noticed that the “wiry” “twitchy” guys have the slowest recovery rates. He believes that reducing stress levels are very important in improving the body’s ability to recover from a workout.

When Dave Durell interviewed John Little on High Intensity Nation, they discussed how ectomorphs are more likely to get nauseous during an intense workout. Glycogen is stored in the muscles. Ectomorphs have less muscle and therefore less glycogen stores. When we exhaust our glycogen stores, our pH levels drops and we feel that nausea. John figured out that when someone starts to feel this nausea, placing table sugar under their tongue helps the nausea goes away in just 10-20 seconds. Sugar relieves a stressor that is more likely to occur with ectomorphs that train with intensity.

If I’m connecting the dots correctly then it is possible that sugar is beneficial in reducing stress levels and increasing recoverability rates. More sugar, not more protein is what the ectomorph needs to gain muscle. I could be wrong, but I’m willing to experiment. ;)

Bring on the Ice Cream!

I quit consuming protein powder and bars years ago. I didn’t lose any muscle. I directed that money towards buying real food and my health improved. But I still needed to find a food to push me into caloric surplus that meets all the above requirements. My body wanted ice cream.

Ice cream is calorically dense. It has sugar, protein, saturated fat and even some cholesterol. Matt Stone has a post comparing ice cream to mothers milk, which is quite anabolic. And it tastes awesome! When I finish a workout and then have a bowl of ice cream, I can feel my body thanking me. Prior to adding ice cream into the rotation I was losing weight too fast and my body felt cold. Since adding the ice cream (along with creatine), I’ve gained 4 pounds without increasing my waist size.

My plan is to continue eating ice cream on active days at least through the end of summer. Anyone else willing to experiment? It’s for science. :)

Photo by Robyn Lee

Thinking About Supplements – 2012 Edition

It has been 2 years since my Thinking About Supplements post. If you want to know why I have an anti-supplement bias, go read that post. Despite my bias, I have spent the last year trying many different supplements in an effort to reduce my headaches. Every single one of them turned out to be worthless.

Supplements I No Longer Believe In

BCAA – I know Leangains loves BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids) as does my mentor Art De Vany. The most common benefit associated with BCAA is that it preserves muscle during fasted training. I was already highly skeptical before I listened to Brad Pilon on the Fat Burning Man podcast. He made a solid case that BCAA is absolutely not needed to prevent muscle loss during fasted training.

Multi-Vitamin – I haven’t taken vitamins in a few years. My goal is to eat a nutrient dense diet with real food. But what if I couldn’t cook my own food? Would I take a vitamin? No. I think our understanding of nutrition is still in its infancy and trying to fool Mother Nature could have side effects. In episode 112 of the Paleo Solution podcast, Dr. Loren Cordain sounded the alarm about vitamins.

Yeah, there’s a series of meta-analyses that have come out in the last — I want to say 2 to 3 years particularly from the Harvard group and others. And what we’re finding is that when we look at these enormous groups of people, 250,000 people and we look at mortality from all causes combined, what we find is that antioxidants and vitamins, B vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin E, they actually increase the overall mortality.

Fish Oil – After reading The Perfect Health Diet, I learned that many fish oils on the shelf are rancid. It is much better to just eat fish and do everything you can to reduce your Omega 6 intake (cut out the vegetable oils).

Protein Powder – Pure garbage. The limiting factor in gaining muscle is not protein. It is calories. I only wish I have figured this out years ago. I’ll be doing a separate post on this topic. In the meantime, if you are a young ectomorphic male, don’t waste your money on this crap. Buy ice cream instead. I’m not kidding.

Supplements I Take

Magnesium – So many smart people swear by Magnesium, so I take it. I’m using Glycinate, because Chris Kresser has gotten the best results with his clients using that form. Good enough for me. I feel no different when I take this and when I don’t.

Vitamin D3 – I have my suspicions about our understanding of Vitamin D3, but I still take it occasionally in the winter months. However, my primary winter source of Vitamin D3 is fermented cod liver oil. It isn’t a supplement, but a real food. It also has Vitamin A.

Green Pasture's Blue Ice Royal Butter Oil / Fermented Cod Liver Oil Blend - CINNAMON GEL - 8.1 fl.oz (240ml)
Green Pasture’s Blue Ice Royal Butter Oil / Fermented Cod Liver Oil Blend – CINNAMON GEL – 8.1 fl.oz (240ml)

Selenium – The Perfect Health Diet makes a solid case for Selenium use.

Copper – Also recommended by The Perfect Health Diet.

Creatine Monohydrate – Earlier this year I stopped taking Creatine for a few months. I wanted to see again if this stuff really worked. Well two weeks later and I’ve gained 4 pounds of “muscle”. Beefcake! According to The Bulletproof Exec, creatine may also be increasing my IQ.

L-Tyrosine + 5-HTP – I am currently working on improving my focus and mood. The book The Mood Cure suggests that based off my quiz results that I should be supplementing with L-Tyrosine and 5-HTP. I firmly believe in L-Tyrosine, which I posted about. I’m still testing 5-HTP. So far the one thing I’ve noticed with it is that my dreams are more vivid. I’ll report more on this in a future post.

Supplements That Are Really Food

Icelandic Kelp Tablets – Sea vegetables are extremely healthy. This supplement is super cheap and is an excellent source of iodine.

Nature's Life Kelp, Icelandic, 41 Mg, Laminaria Digitata, 250  Tablets,  (Pack of 2)
Nature’s Life Kelp, Icelandic, 41 Mg, Laminaria Digitata, 250 Tablets, (Pack of 2)

Gelatin Powder – I first bought gelatin powder to see if it could deepen my sleep. Although it didn’t make my sleep better, I could see how it could really benefit others that don’t regularly consume bone broths. For me I am using this supplement post-workout to see if I increase my recoverability.

How About You?

What supplements do you swear by? One supplement I didn’t list was a timed released Vitamin C. It may have merit or it might be harmful. I’m not sure.

My Worst Nutritional Mistakes

About a year ago I had an idea for a post. I’d list and rank my worst nutritional mistakes. There would be the usual suspects, such as the vegetarian phase and The Zone Diet. Then I starting thinking about the years where I would eat protein bars and I even went through a phase where I was buying Egg Beaters from Costco. Cases of soy milk! I was so wrong. Oh and then I had my George Foreman grill phase, where I’d destroy good salmon by squeezing every molecule of fat into the run off tray.

I never wrote the post because I got this feeling the premise for the post was faulty. At several points in my nutritional journey I got overly confident. I felt that I had figured things out only to see my progress stall and eventually reverse. When I followed The Zone Diet, I looked down at my vegetarian period as a stupid mistake. Today I view The Zone Diet as a mistake. Although I’d like to think that my current nutritional path is optimal, my experiences have told me not to get too confident. The gains I have achieved with a Paleo/WAPF diet have lasted longer and been easier to maintain than any other nutritional plan I’ve followed, but I still refuse to declare victory.

Photo by elycefeliz

Were My Dietary Mistakes Really Mistakes?

Even though I would love to go back in time and smack my 20 year old self for following a vegetarian diet, I did learn a lot about food during that period. I read labels and menus closely. I explored many cuisines such as Indian, Ethiopian, and regional Asian that I did not eat prior to becoming vegetarian. I also began cooking more of my own meals and became more comfortable in the kitchen.

The same was true with The Zone Diet. During this period I embraced more foods with healthy fats and ate a wide variety of seafood, which was easier to do living on the Gulf Coast of Florida than Central Ohio. What I learned about food as a vegetarian became the foundation I built from when following The Zone Diet. And then when I eventually went Paleo, I had developed enough knowledge and discipline regarding food choices to make that transition work with relative ease.

My Worst Nutritional Mistake?

Exploring new diets, even when they turned out to be poor choices, weren’t mistakes. The mistakes for me were always about staying loyal to diets that had stopped working or no longer lined up with my health goals. This isn’t just my mistake, it is extremely common. We treat our diets like religion. Low carb, raw food, Paleo, it doesn’t matter. If the diet stops working, we refuse to change course, because the diet was so effective for us in the beginning. We’ve changed, but our loyalty hasn’t. We blame ourselves and refuse to admit we were wrong.

So my worst nutritional mistakes were staying loyal to diets that had stopped working for me and believing that I was following the optimal diet. I hope that I’ve learned my lesson.

My Experience With The Zone Diet

The worst diet isn’t the one that doesn’t work. The worst diet is the one that works extremely well in the short term, but fails in the long term. The diet that never works gets discarded and the dieter can move onto a new approach. The one that works only in short-term followed by a return in weight gain is more confusing to the dieter. They almost always blame themselves for not sticking to the diet and if they only stuck with it they would be successful. They rarely conclude that the failure of the diet in the long term wasn’t their fault. Years go by and the loyalty remains and so does the weight. The diet that fooled me the longest was The Zone Diet.

The Zone Diet hit big in the mid to late 1990s. The premise of the diet was our macro-nutrient ratios should be “40-30-30″. That is 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein and 30% fat. To a population that had demonized the role of fat, especially healthy fats, this was a welcome message. And the carbohydrate restrictions weren’t as tough as the Atkins Diet, which was popular in the 1970s. In other words, it was interesting enough of an idea to capture the attention of the public. This included myself.

Zone Diet
Zone Diet by Barry Sears

Prior to The Zone Diet, I accepted the low-fat argument peddled by the mainstream press as being the healthy choice. This meant I bought low-fat food options and cooked low-fat meals. Then when I went out to eat, my body was so starved for fat that I’d gorge myself. I could polish off an entire pizza in a sitting. My body wanted the fat from the cheese in the pizza desperately. I was never lean during this period.

The Zone Diet worked great for me at first. I never weighed my food, but I did follow the “eyeball method” to gauge the 40-30-30 as best as I could. The skills I learned reading labels as a vegetarian came in handy. I started leaning out on The Zone Diet. At that time it was the leanest I had gotten as an adult. Note that I am leaner today. The problem was my progress was unsustainable.

The Zone Diet says to eat small little meals every few waking hours. This is still conventional wisdom. When you first start that habit it isn’t easy, but if you stick with it, it gets very easy. Too easy. Soon you’ll find yourself hungry all the time. I responded to that hunger by eating more. The weight I lost all came back. Back then I blamed myself. If I could only get my act together, The Zone Diet would work for me again.

The Zone Diet Was Flawed, I Wasn’t

The idea that there is a perfect macro-nutrient ratio is nonsense. Traditional cultures closer to the Equator thrive on higher carbohydrates and those closer to poles thrive on higher fat. What they don’t do is count calories or ratios. They eat nutrient dense diets of varying size at varying times. They alter their diet seasonally too. And certainly don’t eat Zone compliant “nutritional” bars.

In my opinion, the biggest problem with The Zone Diet is the rule that has dieters eating multiple small meals throughout the day. Our body produces the hormone ghrelin to stimulate hunger. When we eat at predictable times that signal sets stronger and stronger. And in the end, hunger always wins. Soon you’ll find yourself eating more in response to stronger hunger signals. The Zone Diet isn’t the only diet that is guilty of this “eat little meals” nonsense. Read the Leangains article Ghrelin and entrainment for an excellent summary on this topic.

Other people have picked apart different aspects of The Zone Diet. For me the primary problem was the frequent meals resulted in frequent periods of hunger. And often I’d respond to that hunger by making poor food choices that were convenient. I was uncomfortable with the feeling of hunger. Ghrelin was doing its job, which was keeping me alive and telling me to eat because food was plentiful and available now.

I credit Art De Vany for showing me the light. His original Paleo essay exposed me to the ideas of Intermittent Fasting and not eating all the time. In his DVD lecture, he warned against counting calories, which he referred to as “command and control” diets, because they never work in the long term. I embraced Intermittent Fasting and added randomness into my diet. Today I am 25 pounds lighter than I was in January 2008. I can go many hours without eating. When I eat, I can have a small meal or feast. My fat loss was effortless and it has been effortless to maintain. That should be the goal of any diet.

Deep Nutrition, Perfect Health Diet and The End of Overeating

I’m way behind on my nutrition book summaries. In this post, I’ll cover three excellent books that approach nutrition from different viewpoints that compliment each other nicely.

Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food

Many of the readers of this site know about Weston A. Price. He was a dentist that traveled the world in the 1920s and 1930s studying the effects of how modern food was impacting traditional cultures. He published Nutrition and Physical Degeneration in 1939, which detailed the excellent health people had from different parts of the world before they became exposed to processed foods. As great as Price’s book is, most will not find the 500+ pages accessible. Plus we know a lot more about nutritional science today. That is where Deep Nutrition comes in. It beautifully connects the wisdom of traditional food preparation with modern nutrition.

Deep Nutrition does an outstanding job covering the dangerous of vegetable oils. It also has a great section called The Four Pillars of World Cuisine. These are the nutritionally dense foods used by traditional cultures long before we even knew what vitamins or omega ratios were. Those pillars include Meat on the Bone, Organ Meat, Fermented / Sprouted Veggies and Raw Foods. That sounds like my diet of the past few years. I may not be able to defend the science, but like my ancestors, I know those foods are working great for me.

Deep Nutrition is the best nutrition book I’ve seen directed at mothers. There is a section on what the mother should be consuming during pregnancy and why waiting three years between children is a wise idea. If you are looking for a book that connects the knowledge of ancestors with modern nutrition, this is a great book to own.

Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food
Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food by Catherine Shanahan

Perfect Health Diet: Four Steps to Renewed Health, Youthful Vitality, and Long Life

If you like numbers and getting under the hood on nutrition, you will love The Perfect Health Diet. Like Deep Nutrition it covers which foods are most nutritious and which are the most toxic. Some things you will learn in PHD:

  • Why saturated fats are the safest fat.
  • Strategies for healing and preventing disease.
  • What are safe starches.
  • Why non-starchy veggies should be counted as fats, not carbs.
  • A no hunger method of Intermittent Fasting, which I have tested successfully many times.
  • Which supplements are the most useful and which to avoid.

Perfect Health Diet like Deep Nutrition falls under the Paleo umbrella. I think it is an excellent reference.

Perfect Health Diet: Regain Health and Lose Weight by Eating the Way You Were Meant to Eat
Perfect Health Diet: Regain Health and Lose Weight by Eating the Way You Were Meant to Eat by Paul Jaminet

The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite

An emerging theory of obesity is based upon food palatability and food reward. I first posted about this last August in the post Flavor Signaling and The Shangri-La Diet. The End of Overeating explores how food scientists are engineering food that override our natural appetite. When we get foods that provide an excess stimulus, we become addicted to those foods and over consume them. This is good for profits, but not for our health.

Before I read The End of Overeating, I knew processed foods like breakfast cereals and candy bars were designed to get us to over consume. What I didn’t know was just how pervasive food engineering has become. Many sit down restaurants with visible kitchens aren’t actually cooking the meal on site. They are receiving the food that was assembled and pre-cooked at a different location. This is done not only to drive down costs, but to stimulate more addictive behavior in their customer base. From page 72:

Before the chicken is shipped from the manufacturating plant, it’s battered, breaded, predusted, and frozen. This creates a salty coating that become crispy when fried in fat. “All this stuff absorbs fat, dries out the batter and breading, and replaces water with oil. So now you’ve got batter and breading that is probably 40 percent fat,” according to the food consultant.

All this processing makes the food softer and easier to consume. From page 69:

By eliminating the need to chew, modern food processing techniques allow us to eat faster. “When you’re eating these things, you’ve had 500, 600, 800, 900 calories before you know it,” said the consultant. “Literally before you know it.: Refined food simply melts in the mouth.”

To make matters worse, the fat restaurants typically use is the very cheap and inflammatory soybean oil. Not good. By layering sugar on fat on sugar on fat, food scientists have figured how to get you consume past satiety. If this book doesn’t make you want to start cooking your own food, then nothing will. I’ve read a few posts where smart people have critiqued this theory of obesity. Although it may not end up being complete, after I ran my own Food Reward Test: Almonds vs Almond Butter, I became a believer. The more you chew you food, the less calories you need to reach satiety.

The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite
The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David Kessler

My Problem With the 30 Day Paleo Challenge

I am a fan of the Paleo diet. I think it is an excellent way to reboot your health and lean out. Many of the leaders in the Paleo community promote a 30 day challenge to demonstrate the benefits of the diet. During the 30 Days, the dieter needs to do the following:

  1. Eliminate Grains
  2. Eliminate Dairy
  3. Eliminate Legumes
  4. Eliminate Vegetable Oils
  5. Greatly Reduce Sugar
  6. No Alcohol

That is just the start. Some variations of the 30 Day Challenge go further with food sourcing rules (grass-fed, organic) and exercise requirements. If you can turn on a dime and follow the above list then more power to you. I couldn’t. It took me months of slowly rolling in the concepts before I dialed in my own custom version of Paleo. It worked for me and I never needed to go “all in” to see the benefits.

What I’ve noticed in the Paleo community is that many of the most successful followers have one thing in common. They were former vegetarians. Myself included. Why is that? Vegetarians become very skilled at learning what is in the food they eat. They have experience reading labels. They are more likely to have cooking skills. They’ve already put lots of thought into ordering at restaurants and shopping at grocery stores. When they make the switch to Paleo, all those skills just get aimed in a new direction. Their success rate will be much higher than the individual with no experience following a restrictive diet.

I still eat (sprouted) legumes occasionally. 

The problem with the 30 Day Challenge is that unless you are skilled in following restrictive diets, there is a good chance you’ll find the restrictions too much to even start or you might might fail midway and give up entirely. An alternate approach is to roll in each restriction on your own time table. Not only is this method easier, you will be able to see which food group was causing the most problems. For me it was gluten. Had I tried to give up all grains and dairy at the start, I would have failed and never learned that I’m OK with dairy and to avoid gluten.

Maybe this post is common sense, but it needed to said. This all or nothing extreme mentality isn’t going to work for most people. Plus is it isn’t necessary. Gradually removing toxins from your diet and adding in nutritionally dense food works. The process may be slower, but what is the hurry when you are talking about life changing habits?

“I Thought You Didn’t Eat…”

I really need to stop talking about diet outside this blog. Even though people find my food experiments entertaining, they also fail to grasp that they are just experiments. Experiments end. The readers of this blog get that. Others don’t. I stopped doing a low-carbohydrate interpretation of the Paleo diet 2 years ago. Yet I still have friends, some that are close, that even after seeing me eat rice, sweet potatoes and ice cream think that I despise carbs.

I’ve gotten an accusatory “I thought you didn’t eat…” over carbs, nuts, dairy, sugar and probably a few I’m forgetting. Part of me thinks they honestly don’t remember me explaining that I do short term experiments and that they forget the outcome. But it happens so frequently and often multiple times with the same person. Constantly explaining or defending my dietary experiments has become too exhausting.

Some people are desperate to feel better about themselves and one way they do it is by pointing out what they see as inconsistencies in others. It doesn’t matter if those inconsistencies are real or perceived. We live in a Gotcha Society. The number one reason that I’ve been successful with my diet in the last four years is because I’m willing to experiment. I don’t have the answers, so I test. I incorporate what works and then discard the rest. Why this upsets some people baffles me.

Are others experiencing a similiar situation or if this is just part of the Seattle’s passive aggressive nature?

lil MAS eating

Young MAS enjoying a meal.


L-Tyrosine is my NZT-48

In the previous post Distraction Diet 3, I mentioned that I actually found a supplement that increases my ability to focus. That supplement is the amino acid L-Tyrosine. Before I explain how, I want to remind readers that I am not a fan of supplements. I think most are worthless at best and potentially dangerous. I’ll save that discussion for a future blog post. This post is just about L-Tyrosine, the greatest supplement I’ve ever taken.


NZT-48 is the drug taken by the main character in the movie Limitless. This fictional nootropic drug allowed the character to access 100% of his brain and accomplish amazing things in a short period of time. Of course I’m not saying that L-Tyrosine is literally that powerful, but for me it has had noticeable and predictable cognitive benefits.

Limitless (AMAZON USA)

Caffeine, Mood and L-Tyrosine

My first exposure to L-Tyrosine was during my 2010 summer coffee detox. It was a suggestion I got from Nora Gedgaudas, the author of Primal Body, Primal Mind. The idea was as you remove caffeine, adding L-Tyrosine could improve mood and help with cravings. It did, but at the time I didn’t notice much more, probably because I was running at half speed due to the caffeine restriction.

Earlier this year I ran into L-Tyrosine twice more. One was a post on Jimmy Moore’s site about how it could reverse gray hair. That was interesting, but it was the second that captured my attention. I am a member of the Western Washington Paleo Enthusiasts and each month we get together for a Paleo Book club. The book selections are not just strict Paleo, but come from a variety of health and fitness topics. I believe it was February that the book was The Mood Cure.

I didn’t read The Mood Cure. I just came to the meeting for the discussion. During the talk, I borrowed the book and did the self tests. My results said I would benefit strongly from L-Tyrosine. So I started supplementing the next day.

Gray Skies Are Clearing

2011 was not a good year for me and 2012 started out pretty rough as well. I had tons of ideas for projects, but my focus was lacking. The INeedCoffee redesign was taking much longer than it should have. The L-Tyrosine came at just the right time. I started seeing benefits right away.

I would take a 500 mg capsule of L-Tyrosine in the morning on an empty stomach and I could feel my mood improving. Code blocks that I thought would take weeks to roll out on INeedCoffee were completed in days. On the mornings when I felt my thinking was fuzzy were always the mornings that I had forgotten to take the L-Tyrosine. It wasn’t a stimulant or happy pill, but more like a gentle nudge in the right direction.

Before anyone says the word placebo, I could rattle off a list of a hundred different supplements that I’ve tried over the years that I wished dearly would have delivered some benefit. But they didn’t. Other than perhaps creatine monohydrate, this is the ONLY supplement I’ve had in the last 20 years that has an effect that is both noticeable and positive.

Do your own tests. The book has a series of quizzes to help the reader determine what supplement might help their mood the most. For me it was L-Tyrosine. I’d love to be able to answer more about The Mood Cure, but I haven’t read it yet. I do plan to read it soon. It certainly earned my trust.

UPDATE JULY 2012: If you are considering taking L-Tyrosine, please read the follow up post Safe Use of 5-HTP and L-Tyrosine. Taking L-Tyrosine for long periods of time without balancing it out with 5-HTP, could lead to depleted serotonin levels.

The Low Histamine Diet

Well the day finally arrived. Yesterday morning my refrigerator had no ferments at all. For the past few weeks, I have been finishing up all my sauerkraut and kimchi in preparation for my latest dietary test. For the next 30 to 60 days, I will go on a highly restrictive low histamine diet. I’m trying to determine if histamines play a roll in my late night headaches.

There are two groups I will need to restrict. Group one are foods with high levels of histamines, which are primarily fermented foods. Group two are foods that stimulate the body to release higher levels of histamines. The full list is quite extensive. I’m going to tackle the foods that have high levels and that I consume the most. I’ll probably screw this test up a few times, but if I can achieve a 95% or greater reduction, I think I’ll have solid data.

Foods HIGH in Histamines to AVOID

  • Fermented vegetables (kimchi, sauerkraut, etc).
  • Fermented dairy (cheese, yogurt, kefir)
  • Fermented meats (sausage, salami, etc)
  • Fermented alcohol (beer, wine, cider)
  • Fermented soy (natto, miso)
  • Vinegar, Ketchup, Mustard
  • Yeast Food (Marmite, Vegemite)

My kimchi will be missed.

Foods to AVOID that Stimulate the Release of Histamine

  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Pineapple
  • Kiwi
  • Spinach
  • Eggplant
  • Chocolate

The Questionable List

I believe the heavy histamine problems are on the two lists above. These are ones where the consensus was less certain. As the test proceeds, I can keep an eye on these as well.

  • Avocados
  • Shellfish
  • Egg Whites
  • Peanuts
  • Nuts (other than almonds)
  • Canned Fish – This appears to get high histamines from storage, but if consumed upon opening is OK.
  • Spices: cinnamon, chili powder, cloves, anise, nutmeg, curry powder and paprika
  • Black tea
  • Sunflower seeds

This will be the toughest test ever for me, as I consider kimchi and sauerkraut to be essential foods. It doesn’t help that The Art of Fermentation just arrived in my mail.

Gelatin Supplementation and Deep Sleep

A month or so ago I stumbled across a recommendation for using gelatin supplementation to improve sleep quality. Specifically the theory was that gelatin could minimize early morning awakenings. This idea appealed to me, since the period of my sleep that is the most fragile is that 3 AM to 5 AM period. This is when headaches will often wake me up and even on the non-headache nights, this period is the most sensitive.

The article Gelatin, stress, longevity by Ray Peat makes a solid case for supplementing with gelatin for deeper sleep. The short explanation is that the modern diet is very heavy in muscle meats and low on the non-muscle parts of the animal. And each part has a different amino acid profile. When we favor too much muscle meat and not enough of the parts used more in traditional cuisines (think organ meats, bone broths), we are out of balance. From the article:

When only the muscle meats are eaten, the amino acid balance entering our blood stream is the same as that produced by extreme stress, when cortisol excess causes our muscles to be broken down to provide energy and material for repair. The formation of serotonin is increased by the excess tryptophan in muscle, and serotonin stimulates the formation of more cortisol, while the tryptophan itself, along with the excess muscle-derived cysteine, suppresses the thyroid function.

The article goes into scientific detail on how eating too much muscle meat, which is high in cysteine and tryptophan which affect the thyroid, can produce nocturnal stress. This stress can negatively impact sleep quality. By supplementing with gelatin that balance could be restored, nocturnal stress could be reduced and the result would be deeper sleep. The author tested it on himself and said:

For years I hadn’t slept through a whole night without waking, and I was in the habit of having some juice or a little thyroid to help me go back to sleep. The first time I had several grams of gelatin just before bedtime, I slept without interruption for about 9 hours.

Even though I already consume bone broths on a regular basis, I was interested in trying this supplement out. My research lead me to Great Lakes Unflavored Gelatin as a clean source of quality gelatin. So I bought a two pack from Amazon.

Great Lakes Unflavored Gelatin (AMAZON USA)

Did It Help?

I’ve been tracking Sleep Quality every night for almost a year. I rank sleep on a scale of 1-5. A 5 represents perfect sleep and 1 is awful. I consumed gelatin prior to sleep 13 times in the past 26 days. Here are my Sleep Quality averages.

  • 3.77  Gelatin
  • 3.92  No Gelatin

My sleep quality did not improve at all with the Gelatin supplementation. In fact it was slightly worse. I don’t believe the Gelatin made my sleep worse. If I extended the test out, my guess is the numbers would equal out. I may repeat this test at a later date, but I’m not expecting the gelatin to suddenly give me deep uninterrupted sleep.

Gelatin has other more known benefits such as a joint repair. I’m going to continue taking the supplement, mostly on workout days or when I’m making meals that are all muscle meat with no bone broths. What I did learn was that Gelatin was not my magical sleep bullet, but I could see where others that don’t make their own bone broths could get those benefits.

UPDATE 2014: I now believe my test was invalid. Either I needed a higher dose or a longer test period. Also, judging sleep quality based on that day’s supplement is likely flawed. The benefit from gelatin is likely cummulative.

What I Eat and What I Don’t Eat – May 2012 Edition

The last time I posted on what I eat and don’t eat was over two years ago. Time for an update. The biggest difference between now and then is I no longer follow a strict low carbohydrate interpretation of the Paleo diet. In fact, I don’t even primarily consider myself Paleo. I’m more in the WAPF camp, which places greater importance upon traditional methods of food preparation.

What I Don’t Eat

I have found that most of my health benefits came from eliminating the foods with the highest amount of anti-nutrients. People that preach moderation when it comes to toxins never seem to have excellent health. Here is what I avoid.

Things I have taken off the No List include starchy vegetables and white rice. My experiences suggest that The Perfect Health Diet is accurate in labeling them safe starches. I’ve also started drinking the occasional Coke Zero again. It helps me when I have extreme headaches in a way that coffee, tea and water don’t. In Podcast #15 of Upgraded Self Radio, I felt James Krieger made a strong case for the safety of diet colas. In an ideal world, I wouldn’t drink Coke Zero, but it is more effective than Alleve or Advil for my headaches.

Neutral Foods

Here are some foods I eat that fall into a middle ground. They aren’t necessarily healthy, but I have found they don’t cause me problems. Run your own experiments.

  • Popcorn
  • Gluten-free grains (in small quantities)
  • Ice Cream (occasionally and on high activity days)
  • Cheese

What I Eat

Once the toxic foods have been removed, I like the strategy of loading up on highly nutrient dense foods. The post High Velocity Super Warrior Foods has a list of ideas. Here are the foods I eat.

  • Mostly pastured, organic meat
  • Mostly clean seafood
  • All vegetables (raw, fermented, cooked)
  • Seaweed
  • Some fruit
  • Coconut oil, butter, lard, tallow, ghee, palm oil, olive oil
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt (Full Fat)
  • Coffee and Tea
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Soaked almonds
Bacon Cupcakes
My kind of cupcakes!

Questionable Foods

As much as I’ve tweaked my diet in the past few years, there are some foods I still have some uncertainty about. I will run tests on these foods to determine my personal tolerance.

  • Nightshades – I plan on doing a 30 day elimination test on this food group later this year.
  • Tyramine / Histamine Foods – My test last year was flawed, I need to do a strict test to see if this is a cause of my headaches.
  • Coffee – My 2 week test last year was flawed as well. I need to go a full month and not have decaf during the test period. I am not ready for that test. It’ll be much later in the year.
  • Cheese and Almond Butter – The two foods I find the most hyper palatable. They are fine foods, but I can’t control myself when they are in the house, so I’ve drastically cut back on both.
  • Gin – Recently, I’ve discovered that my body might be able to handle very small amounts of gin. More data is needed.

Less Rigid

This list is less rigid than the one I made two years ago. I now know which foods are the most toxic and which are the most nutrient dense. I suspect having a healthy attitude about everything in between is a better approach than becoming a neurotic eater obsessing about the quality of every calorie.

Healthy vs Resilient

This post is a follow-up to Loosening the Paleo Collar, where I try and determine what aspects of the Paleo diet were responsible for the benefits I experienced. Instead of following an ever increasing stricter interpretation to achieve more results, I took the opposite approach and started removing behaviors to see where the true benefit resided. Besides having a curiosity on these matters, I had another motivation and that is the topic of this post.

Peanuts Are Unhealthy, Right?

In early 2009, I watched Art De Vany’s Evolutionary Fitness Seminar. I was very new to the Paleo diet. I wanted to learn more, so I took notes and started thinking about ways I could make changes in my diet and behavior. At one point in the lecture De Vany mentions how we shouldn’t eat peanuts, because they contain a carcinogenic toxin know as aflatoxin. This wasn’t a problem for me. I loved almond butter just as much as peanut butter, so I formed a new food rule and avoided peanuts for almost 2 years.

Then at a Thai restaurant I had a dish made with a peanut sauce. My mouth turned instantly numb. I had trouble speaking, almost like I had been injected with Novocaine. This had never happened to me before. I stopped eating for a moment and instead of panicking, I calmly told myself that I was going to be OK. I slowly finished eating my meal and by the time I left the restaurant the numbness was gone and I was fine. Since that incident, I purposely expose myself to peanuts 2-3 times a year without getting any side effects. Dealing with a numb mouth is one thing, what if I had gone 5 or 10 years without peanuts and then had a far worse exposure?

That incident got me thinking.

The Resiliency Axis

It is not enough that we pursue a path of becoming more healthy. If we aren’t developing resiliency, then we could just be building up a new form of fragility. When we become fully committed to a diet, be it Paleo or whatever, we construct a bubble between us and what we see as toxic. This is a safe environment for losing weight and getting healthy, but we are still in a bubble in a toxic world.

Intermittent Fasting is about building resiliency over eating schedules and being comfortable with the state of hunger. Weight training and cold weather exposure are other strategies used for increasing resiliency. Why not dietary hormesis?

Maybe this post won’t make sense to those that don’t follow a strict diet, but I am aware of a lot people in the Paleo and WAPF (Weston A Price Foundation) groups that get exponentially more neurotic about elements of their diet that have the least impact. Everything must be grass-fed, organic and free range to them. I’m not kidding when I say that I know people that spend hours every week investigating the practices of local farms. While I am glad that someone is keeping tabs on what Local Farmer X is feeding to his heirloom chickens, I don’t see these people as having greater health outcomes than me. In fact, I see the opposite.

Obsessing about what is unhealthy is unhealthy. It makes you less resilient. It is important to discover what your dietary enemies are, but unless you have a life threatening allergy, running from them 100% of the time may not be the most healthy response. During my trip to Ohio, some gluten exposure gave me a severe headache and stomach pains. What if I had exposed myself to trace amounts of gluten on the days leading up to my trip? Would I have felt better and enjoyed my trip more? Sure it isn’t healthy, but my resiliency would likely have been greater.

Healthy vs Resilient Axis

Another one of my amazing graphics. ;)

RED is the path I see many in the PALEO/WAPF groups following. In their obsession with becoming more healthy, they lose resiliency. The GREEN path is the alternative. Once you’ve become healthy and realize that any additional incremental benefit introduce greater fragility then shift focus to resiliency.

Pick Your Poisons

We live in a toxic world. Constructing walls of super clean eating is excellent way to get healthy, but once you’ve healed, the next step might be to focus on increasing your resiliency to that toxic world by carefully picking your poisons in small doses. It has been over two years since I posted on what I eat and what I don’t eat. In my next post, I will revisit this topic with a bias towards resiliency.

Loosening the Paleo Collar

I slowly started the Paleo diet back in 2008 and was fully on board by the end of that year. Long story short is that I leaned out and cured my rosacea. The strategies I aggresively followed in the first few years included:

  1. Low Carb
  2. Cold Temperature Exposure
  3. Intermittent Fasting

During this period I never went dairy free and I didn’t increase my exercise. Unlike other diets, the health benefits were not short term. By 2010 it was clear that my health was better and that it required no extra effort to maintain the gains. By following the 3 strategies above, I was in the best shape of my life.

Was it Carbohydrate Restriction?

My early interpretation of the Paleo diet was low carb. I consumed no grains, no rice and minimal amounts of starchy vegetables. I would have an occasional sugar treat such as dark chocolate or ice cream. Since I exercise minimally, I never experienced any problems that seem to be more common with many in the Paleo community that exercise, in my opinion, excessively.

Then in 2010, I started a year of eating seasonally. I wanted to see the effects of eating more carbohydrates in the summer and less in the winter. Since I had already leaned out, I was also interested to see how my body would respond to the reintroduction of higher carbohydrate levels. This is when I added back rice and more starchy vegetables. Unlike my fellow CrossFitting MMA Parkour P90X Extreme More-Is-Better Paleo comrades, outside of walking I exercise typically less than 30 minutes a week. Would the bringing back the safe starches (sweet potatoes, yams, white rice) I removed cause a change in my health or body composition?

I ended the year of eating seasonally in the summer of 2011 and my health didn’t change. My skin, digestion, sleep and body composition were the same as when I followed a more strict low carb approach to Paleo. So I continued eating the safe starches and have now on a regular basis throughout the past year.

Photo by Alan Levine

Was it the Cold Temperature Exposure?

The topic of cold temperature exposure is getting popular again. It is now being called CT or Cold Thermogenesis. Jack Kruse and Richard Nikoley (FreeTheAnimal) are all over this topic. From 2008 until the start of this year, I engaged in some form of cold temperature exposure near daily. My exposure was tame compared to what Dr. Kruse and Richard are doing.

Even though I can’t prove it, I feel that cold temperature exposure helped me lose fat up to a point. Once I dropped 3 inches off my waist and had leaned out, it didn’t help me get Level 3 Lean. From January 2012 until April 2012, I stopped all cold weather exposure to see what would happen. Stopping the cold exposure did not change body composition.

Was it Intermittent Fasting?

I’ve written extensively on my experiences with Intermittent Fasting. I am a huge fan. I’m no longer a slave to hunger. I’m never in a position where I need to eat unhealthy food, because I can always delay eating until a healthy option is available. That might be 2 hours or 20 hours. Intermittent Fasting builds resilience.

One thing I’ve learned from my IF experiments is that when the body starts to feel cold, you are either fasting too much or not eating enough when you break the fast. For the past year, I’ve been listening to my body and dialing back the amount of fasting I’m doing. My typical fast is closer to 14 hours than the longer 16 to 22 hour ones I did in the early years. Reducing my fasting has not changed body composition.

Loosening the Paleo Collar

The steps I took with the Paleo diet are not the ones I am using to maintain my gains. I’m no longer low carb. I’m lower than most Americans though. I still avoid gluten, most soy (fermented is OK), most legumes (sprouted is OK) and seed oils. I’ve added back some cold showers for post workout recovery. I still fast, but the fasts are shorter.

I believe the benefits I got from Paleo mostly occurred in the first two years. I don’t believe following a stricter interpretation of Paleo would yield greater results. Now I am more interested in pushing the boundaries back in a controlled manner. That will be the topic of my next post.

Food Reward Test: Almonds vs Almond Butter

Last October in the post High Satiety Paleo Friendly Foods?, I outlined my problem. Right before I go to bed is when I seem to be the most hungry. I seek out foods that are calorie dense that have high food reward. The two foods that I overeat are cheese and almond butter. If it is in the house, I’m going to eat them in excess. In a future post, I will do a follow up to the ideas from the comments in that post. For this post, I’m going to share my results from a test I did comparing the satiety of almond butter versus regular almonds.

In preparation for my last Hunting Headaches experiment, I had to give up fermented foods including dairy. I had already scaled back on dairy to a bare minimum, because prices for yogurt and cheese spiked. This meant for 3 weeks, my only trouble food was almond butter. I tried to control myself, but after 3 weeks, I had finished 3 jars of almond butter. At the end of the 3rd week, I switched to regular almonds. To make them more healthy, I soaked them Nourishing Traditions style.

Soaking raw almonds with a small amount of sea salt helps neutralize enzyme inhibitors present in the nuts. It makes them easier to digest.

For 3 weeks, my hand went into the almond jar whenever I wanted some nuts for snacking. At the end of 3 weeks, I had polished off 3 pounds of almonds. Now let us run the numbers.

  • Almond Butter: 4140 calories * 3 jars = 12,420 calories
  • Raw Almonds: 2576 calories * 3 pounds = 7,728 calories

I was able to reduce my calorie level by 4,692 calories over a 3 week period without increasing hunger. The raw nuts provided greater satiety per calorie. My brain clearly reacts differently to almond butter than raw almonds and the difference was substantial. I was able to consume two foods that were nutritionally equal that provided satiety at different caloric levels.

The difference between the almond butter and the raw almonds was much greater than I thought it would be. I wanted to learn more, so I went looking for more information and I found an excellent article titled Five Ways Eating Nuts Can Help You Lose Weight by Kevin Richardson. Go read the full article if this topic interests you. Actually the entire site is excellent. The paragraph I found most interesting was how chewing itself triggers the satiety.

A rather controlled clinical study found that chewing almonds 25 times (which is the average number for most people who eat almonds without trying to choke) elicits the strongest reduction in hunger and increased feeling of fullness two hours after eating, compared to chewing 10 or 40 times.[16] Which leads us to believe there is no need to exaggerate chewing in order to reap the appetite suppressing attributes of nuts since regular chewing seems to do the trick.

With almond butter, there is far less chewing and it takes more calories to reach satiety. This food reward theory has merit.

Meatloaf Economics

I got a comment on Facebook after I posted The Gyro Meatloaf Recipe about scaling down the recipe. The recipe is for a 3 pound meatloaf. My short answer was of course you can scale it down, but why would you?

It takes less than one hour to make a one pound meatloaf. That is heating the oven, mixing everything together and cooking time. A two pound meatloaf still takes one hour. As does a three pound meatloaf. So I make my meatloaf using 3 pounds of meat, because my baking tray isn’t suited to cook 4 pounds of meat.

Meatloaf is perfect for leftovers and for freezing. If you could interview my refrigerator, it would tell you that over 90% of the days in the last year I’ve had a meatloaf chilling inside her. *Are refrigerators feminine?

Cost and Time

Because I live in the Pacific Northwest, I can get grass pastured ground beef for about $6/lb. Add in a little onion, garlic and spices and a three pound meatloaf comes in at about $20 in material costs. If you use conventional beef, it will cost half that. For this example, let us say that the average portion is 1/3 of a pound or 5.33 ounces. That is 35 healthy grams of protein for just $2.22 (grass pastured) or $1.11 (conventional).

What is the cooking time per meal, assuming a portion size of 1/3 pound? Since each meatloaf takes an hour, a one pound meatloaf takes 20 minutes per portion. A two pound meatloaf takes 10 minutes per portion. A three pound meatloaf takes just 6.7 minutes per portion. Time economics dictate that you should cook the larger sized meatloaf.

Eating healthy on a consistent basis is not just picking the right food, it is also about balancing time and money. The meatloaf is slam dunk winner on time, money and nutrition. And meatloaf is also portable. I often will wrap a few pieces in foil and take them with me in a little cooler.

Now I am thinking that I need to buy another Pyrex tray. Two 3 pound meatloafs knock my time per meal down to 3.3 minutes. :)

Great News, Meat is Going to Kill You!

This week my fellow Paleo bloggers went into DEFCON 1 mode when the big health story hit the mainstream news. That story was Daily serving of red meat raises risk of cancer, heart disease. Meat, particularly red meat, is a staple of the Paleo diet. Here are some responses to the health story:

Don’t Throw That Red Meat Away! – Escape the Herd

Will Eating Red meat Kill You? – Marks Daily Apple

Red Meat: Part of a Healthy Diet? – Robb Wolf

What Me Worry?

To be honest, this story didn’t cause me any concern. In fact it made me happy. I’ll explain why later. The reason the story didn’t phase me at all is because I understand that the real cause of heart disease is most likely inflammation caused by a neolithic food (veggie oils, excessive fructose) and not something mammals have been eating since the dawn of time (see Paleo 2.0 by Dr Kurt Harris). Besides eating a low inflammatory diet, I also practice a nutrient timing strategy that forces my body to use autophagy as a cancer prevention strategy.

Pop nutrition scare stories don’t work on me anymore.

Embracing Nutritional Apathy

For a while I was evangelical when it came to nutrition. Not anymore. If someone asks me, I will happily share my nutritional journey, but I’ve quit wasting my energy on the non-receptiveness masses. Several months ago I reached out to a very good friend with a well researched email connecting her health problems to gluten. The symptoms were classic. Instead of a thank you or a follow up discussion, I got unfriended on Facebook. Oh well, lesson learned.

I’m not going to lose anymore time trying to help people that aren’t receptive. Even the people that are the closest to me. My blog is here for those that care to hear about what worked for me. So if someone tells me that meat will give me cancer, I’ll respond by saying “Maybe, you’re right“.

Why the“Meat Is Going to Kill You” Story Made Me Happy

This story that upset so many Paleo folks is actually excellent news. Next week and maybe a little longer the scared sheeple will buy less red meat for fear they will drop dead from cancer or a heart attack. This means grocery stores will have an excess supply of beef and lamb. To prevent loss, they will mark down the price. While the doped masses are buying tofu and Low-Fat Graham Crackers next week, I’ll be stocking my freezer full of discount lamb.

Photo by Joshua Marks

Before I get a question about conventional versus grass pastured meat, let me say that I strongly prefer grass pastured, but if the price is right I will get lean cuts of conventional beef or lamb. For ground beef I will only buy 100% grass pastured.

Coffee and Gluten: Say It Isn’t So

Today I read a very sad sentence. From the Perfect Health Diet post Around the Web; PaleoFX Edition:

Warning: Dr Clark says that coffee is bad for people with gluten sensitivity, due to cross-reactive antibodies.

Say it isn’t so. This is the video of Dr. Clark explaining how people with gluten issues, like myself, could also have issues with the protein in coffee.

From the video:

Ten percent of coffee is a protein that cross-reacts with gluten antibodies.

I like coffee. I like coffee a lot. Some might say that INeedCoffee. It would really suck if the protein in coffee was negatively impacting my health. There are strong similarities between the headaches I get after gluten exposure and my late night sinus headaches.

The Protein

The important take away I got from the video was that the problem was with the protein, not the caffeine. I would assume this means the problem exists with decaf coffee as well. Why is that important? Two reasons come to mind.

  1. During my 2 week test with no coffee in September 2011, I drank decaf coffee.
  2. To test for a sensitivity to a protein requires a 30 day elimination. Like I did for casein and gluten independently.

This means I need to redo my coffee detox test. Only this time it needs to go a full 30 days and I can’t drink any decaf. The goods news is that I can drink all the tea I want. Dr. Clark responded to a question regarding tea in the comments of the video.

Green Teas is not? a cross reactor…caffeine is not the cross reacting compound. It’s the protein in Coffee…

Espresso vs Brewed Coffee

Did you know that the nutritional outcome of coffee varies based upon how it is brewed? That is what I learned back in 2009. I shared what I found the article Black Coffee and Espresso – Not Calorie Free.

Digging further into the data I noticed that brewed coffee has 0.3g of protein. Protein has 4 calories per gram. This would give the brewed coffee 1.2 calories. That is some conservative rounding. Espresso is listed with no protein.

I went back to the CalorieKing website and it now reads that espresso has less than 0.1 gram of protein. Brewed coffee has 0.3 grams per 8 oz. Why is this relevant? Over the past few years I have become almost exclusively an espresso drinker. When I do have brewed coffee, I feel worse. I always assumed it was because brewed coffee has more caffeine. However, when I think back to when I had brewed coffee it was always just tastes at Coffee Cuppings or samples from brewing demos. I almost never would sit down with a full mug of regular coffee. If I did, I often would get headaches. Interesting.

Time For Another Test

Only a test will tell me the answer. I’m going to start scaling back on my coffee again in preparation for a full 30 Days Without Coffee experiment. This is going to be my toughest experiment yet.