Revisiting the Tim Ferriss 30 in 30 Experiment?

Last year I unsuccessfully tested Tim Ferriss’s idea of consuming 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. Instead of curbing my hunger, it increased it. Here is what I posted on Ending the Tim Ferriss 30 in 30 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.

After 3 weeks, I ended the experiment. At the end of the post, I listed several possible reasons. But I have may have missed one. For my experiment, I used whey protein. Although I am not a fan of protein powders, I needed the supplement for the convenience of consistently getting 30 grams of protein quickly.

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

Maybe the failure of my experiment was really a failure of whey protein and not protein itself? That idea didn’t occur to me until this morning when I watched a video on a making a 4HB protein smoothie on YouTube.

30 grams Protein 4-Hour Body Breakfast Smoothie by HealthNutNutrition

At 2:20 the host of the video states the problem with just using whey protein. Because whey protein is so highly absorbable, “you will probably be hungry within an hour”. That is exactly how I felt! Her solution is to mix it with egg protein. Doing this increases satiety.

High Satiety, High Convenience Proteins?

If whey + egg has more satiety than whey by itself, then one starts to wonder – what is the most satiating protein? What is the most satiating protein powder blend? Most whey protein is sold to athletes that use it precisely because it is quickly absorbed and won’t blunt their appetite for additional calorie loading.

But if your goal is to use higher protein levels to reduce appetite for fat loss, what is the best protein? Egg, casein or maybe my beloved gelatin? I spent a few hours searching and couldn’t find the answer to this question, so maybe one of my smart readers can lead me in the right direction?

30/30 Reboot

I’m ready to try this experiment again. I believe the science is clear that protein has the most satiating effect of all the macronutrients. But I also believe that whey protein by itself is an appetite stimulator for myself. I need a new protein shake recipe. I could even use one of those “build your own” protein powders if I knew which amino acids had the greatest effect of satiety. Your thoughts?

Quantified Self and False Pattern Recognition

I was watching Episode 3 of the new Cosmos show when Neil deGrasse Tyson said something that reminded me an awful lot of the Quantified Self movement.:

The human talent for pattern recognition is a two-edged sword. We’re especially good at finding patterns, even when they aren’t really there — something known as “false pattern recognition.”

The show was speaking about how our distant ancestors looked up into the night sky and tried to draw meaning from what they saw when a comet passed overhead. But this quote could easily apply to a modern man tracking a few points of data in a spreadsheet trying to find some hidden meaning.

I tracked my headaches, sleep quality and coffee intake for 2.5 years trying to find patterns. The single pattern I found was a decrease in headache frequency when I sharply reduced coffee intake. Look at the chart below.

headache-coffee

This was my comet in the sky. And guess what? The pattern was false.

From the moment I stopped doing Quantified Self my headaches plummeted and I didn’t change my coffee intake. With the exception of the month where I was playing Candy Crush, the headaches have almost all but disappeared. I don’t think I’ve had a single headache this entire year that has woke me up in the middle of the night that was intense enough to prevent me from returning to sleep. During the 2.5 year Quantified Self experiment, I averaged 7.5 bad headaches a month.

Why have the headaches disappeared? And how did they disappear all while consuming high levels of coffee? I don’t have a spreadsheet to tell you the answer, but I’ll speak from the gut. The headaches came from stress. One huge source of the stress was Quantified Self. Tracking something daily that I was failing at publicly clearly played a role.

How did I deal with stress? The dopamine hit of another espresso always made me feel a little bit better. But the fact I couldn’t control my coffee intake also made me feel worse. So when I was able to better manage stress and reduce my coffee levels, my headache levels dropped. Coffee was likely a symptom and not the cause.

Today I am drinking a fair amount of coffee. My sleep is perfect and my headaches seem to be gone. Had I not rejected Quantified Self, I never would have learned that coffee intake was a false pattern recognition. I also suspect a lot of the conclusions others are drawing from their Quantified Self experiments are false pattern recognitions.

The rest of the quote from Neil deGrasse Tyson:

We hunger for significance, for signs that our personal existence is of some special meaning to the universe. To that end, we’re all too eager to deceive ourselves and others.

Experiments Update: Sleep, Gray Hair, Tight Neck

This will be a quick post on the status of my latest experiments. I’ve been sick since Saturday and haven’t felt like posting.

Sleep

There are two current experiments related to sleep. The first I outlined in the post An Amazing “Back to Sleep” Hack which involves dissolving a pinch of sugar and salt under the tongue to help go back to sleep. This trick continues to work wonders. This might be the best hack I’ve stumbled on since I started my renewed interest in health in 2007. Well except for eliminating wheat.

The second hack was mentioned in the comments of that post. It involves consuming tablespoons of honey prior to bed for deep sleep. I’ve tried this three times and it hasn’t helped a bit. But in fairness to this sleep hack, it might be better for those that have trouble initially falling asleep, which has never been my issue.

MAS Sleeping

Lil’ MAS sleeping

Gray Hair

In the post Reversing Gray Hair? Part 2, I theorized along with some commenters that a combination of L-Tyrosine and Copper might stall the progression or even reverse gray hair. Five months have passed since that post and I have been diligent about taking both those supplements. For me the result has been the gray is coming faster than before. I don’t think the supplements caused the acceleration, but for now it appears they aren’t doing what the experiment hoped they would do.

Oh well, bring on the gray. With my longer thick hair, I’ll probably end up looking like Bill Fleckenstein.

Going forward I’ll continue taking copper for its heart health benefits, but I’ll probably only use L-Tyrosine when I reduce my coffee levels.

Tight Neck

It has been almost a year since I reported on my tight neck. Well it turned out the problem was defined incorrectly. In November I mentioned my neck while writing a book review of Becoming a Supple Leopard.

Recently I went to see Nikki at Indigo Kinetics about my tight neck and shoulder. Through close observation, she was able to see that my neck was fine, but I was over-recruiting rhomboids, upper trapezius and pec minor and under-recruiting my rear deltoid, serretus anterior, and low/mid trapezius. The result was some unnecessary shoulder elevation and  shoulder blade retraction in my movements. This was causing my neck to tighten up. I never would have caught that from a book.

My tight neck turned out not to be a tight neck. Once this was figured out, I started exercises to re-engage those outer back muscles. I also stopped doing all those neck mobility movements. And the neck tightness is almost all gone now.

You?

Love to hear what experiments you’ve been working on recently and if you’ve seen any progress. The only other experiment I can recall in my tired state right now is my knee rehab. That is going along fine, but too soon to tell any results.

It’s Gettin’ Hot In Here (Metabolism)

I’m ready to provide a status update on the “Turn Up the Heat” experiment I started last year. The goal was to see if I could increase my body temperature using some of the ideas found in Matt Stone’s Diet Recovery 2 and Eat For Heat books. I provided a one month status report in April that showed zero benefit. By June I had lost patience that I wasn’t seeing any benefit, so I decided to shelf the experiment and focus on other things.

But I mostly continued the ideas I listed from the experiment with one exception. I didn’t worry about eating carbs upon waking. That is unnatural for me. I eat right before I go to sleep. Eating right when I wake up widened my eating window too much.

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

My #1 health focus in the second half of 2013 was to become militant about reducing PUFA. For me this meant adopting a zero nut policy. I had already eliminated vegetable oils years ago. The last source of significant PUFA left in my diet was almonds. In December, I did a 3 part series on PUFA, which made the case that the standard Paleo advice of “nuts in moderation” might be flawed and could slow down the process of reducing PUFA levels in the body.

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

No Nuts + More Cheese

For me evening food satiety comes from nuts or cheese. By giving up the nuts, I was making a conscious choice to consume more cheese. The good news is Diet Recovery 2 lists cheese as the #1 warming food. The bad news is fat loss is much easier with almonds than cheese. This applies to nuts, not nut butters. See my post Food Reward Test: Almonds vs Almond Butter for that explanation. Kevin Richardson’s article covers how almonds can help you lose weight.

I knew that it could take several months and possibly years of eating a super low PUFA diet before I could tell if it had a metabolically stimulating effect. But since PUFA was my interest, I proceeded with the experiment.

It only took a few more months before I began to notice improvements. My cold fingers began to warm up. I donate blood every 8 weeks and I saw a steady increase in body temperature with a slight increase in pulse. My body temperature went from 97.0 to 98.4! This is the first winter I can every recall not having cold hands and feet.

It should be noted that prior to removing nuts, I was already consuming a higher carb diet. I regularly had sugar and never restricted salt. Sleep quality was also consistent. Going back to the list of ideas from the experiment, the only major change I made was removing nuts.

almonds

“But Nuts Are Healthy!”

When I was first exposed to the idea that nuts might be bad for metabolism, I dismissed it as nonsense. Then I ran the numbers and came to the conclusion that although moderation makes sense for many things in nutrition, when it comes to undoing years of excess PUFA damage, adopting a strict low-PUFA diet is mathematically the best course of action.

My take away advice is to restore metabolism first and then decide if you want to consume nuts in “moderation”. I will continue restricting them for now.

Life After Quantifiable Self

On September 1st, I quit my Hunting Headaches quest. After 2.5 years of tracking, I’m now 2 months free of the daily quantifiable self habit. Did taking my eyes off the data make things worse? Nope. I guessed that ending my daily data collection would have no effect, which is why I ultimately decided to quit tracking. But I was wrong.

For three weeks after I ended the daily data collection, I didn’t get a single headache. That is a record. Even in my month with no coffee that never happened. In fact I didn’t even get my first headache of the month until someone asked how it was going and then I became aware that I was having a record month. My coffee levels were still elevated.

The obvious explanation is that although my time commitment to quantifiable self was small, the stress of daily tracking and trying to affect an outcome was likely a cause of the headaches. Early on in the project when it was clear that I wasn’t able to solve the riddle of night headaches, I regretted posting on the experiment. I became the experiment and for over two years I was failing at it and doing so publicly.

The past two months I’ve had a noticeable decline in both headache quantity and intensity. Even lower than the two months where my caffeine levels were extremely low. And I had a higher than normal level of coffee during this time. My sleep quality was also excellent. Stepping away from the daily tracking was a wise move.

Is Quantifiable Self a form of Journaling?

The book 59 Seconds makes a strong case that writing about our problems is more effective than thinking about them.

Thinking can often be unstructured, disorganized and even chaotic. Writing encourages the creation of a storyline and structure that helps people make sense of what has happened and work toward a solution. Writing is a systematic solution based approach.

59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot (Borzoi Books)
59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot (Borzoi Books) by Richard Wiseman

Is numerical quantification of our experiences a form of journaling? It is a question I don’t know the answer to. In a comment that I can not find (there are 9,000 on this site), I recall someone (probably Glenn) saying something profound that has stuck with me. Data is the opposite of human relationships. In other words, what makes us human are those things that can’t be quantified.

I wish I had an answer on when QS is a tool for good and when the act of data collection becomes a problem. I’ve clearly gotten some benefits from tracking, but I still need to find that balance.

The site The Unquantified Self has thought a lot more about this than I have and has a few excellent posts on this topic. Be sure to read Why This Blog and Think Before You Track – the Uncertain future of Quantified Self. One line I really likes was:

If you are going to track, focus on testing interesting hypotheses using simple experiments lasting a relatively short time.

Although my Hunting Headaches experiments were simple, the collective duration was too long and it stopped being interesting once my confidence in solving the riddle was diminished.

Yesterday I had a lot of coffee. More than normal. It was a level that my 2.5 year dataset would have predicted a good probability of having a night headache. But I’m not looking at the data anymore. Slept a perfect 8 hours with no headache.

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. :(

One Confusing Month: My June 2013 Experiment Wrap-Up

A month ago I posted June 2013 Experiments. Using a few strategies my plan was to reduce headache frequency/intensity and lose 5-7 pounds. Well I succeeded on the first goal and failed on the second and I’m clueless to explain either outcome.

This month has completely stumped me. Maybe you can help me make sense out of it?

Headaches Down, Sleep Quality Up

I’ve been tracking headaches on a spreadsheet since March 2011. I added Sleep Quality later. Along the way I’ve tracked coffee and other variables. Heading into June I was certain that caffeine was a major trigger for headaches. More coffee equals more headaches. Now I am less certain.

My plan was to reduce caffeine levels, but actually they went up. I’ve been playing with my Clever Coffee Dripper too much. My average intake was 2.73, up from 2.13. The other goal was to minimize AM coffee. There I was good. On most days I restricted myself to a single coffee before lunch.

Before I get into the coffee data, I wanted to say the only grains I consumed in June were white rice and corn. No sorghum, millet and definitely not any wheat. This may have helped a little, as it did in September 2012.

Pushing my last coffee back to later in the afternoon seems to be helping. It is counter intuitive as many people would have trouble getting to sleep when they drink coffee in late afternoon, but I never have a problem falling asleep. My challenge is staying asleep. I’m a morning person. If I wake up at 4 AM, it is often tough for me to return to sleep. Interestingly, I did this test in 2011 and came to a similar conclusion.

Average headache intensity was 0.70, which is tied for the second best month ever. Each night I assign a headache score of 0 to 5. Zero meaning no headache and 1-5 measuring intensity should one occur.

  • Oct 2012: 0.58 (no coffee the entire month)
  • Nov 2012: 0.70 (1.13 average coffee per day)
  • Jun 2013: 0.70 (2.73 average coffee per day)

I also only had 2 bad headaches, which was the lowest ever.

Average sleep quality was 4.23 (out of 5). This was the best month ever! And I typically have worse sleep quality during the longer summer days. My sleep quality for June 2012 was 3.57. One factor I need to mention was I did daily sauna and steam room visits the first 8 days of the month. My sleep quality was 4.75 those days and 4.11 the 8 days that followed. Probably not enough data to draw a conclusion, but I thought I’d mention it.

What happened? Is the key to drink coffee later in the afternoon? The only other change is I switched from unfiltered coffee (French press) to filtered coffee (Clever). Maybe it was just a string of good luck and the data isn’t statistically significant?

Less Sugar + More IF = Weight Gain?

As stumped as I am about the headache data, I’m really puzzled about my weight. I thought by returning to Intermittent Fasting and reducing my sugar intake that I’d lose 5 pounds. Nope. I gained 5 more. Interestingly, I actually look 5 pounds leaner in the mirror. Maybe that was from getting a little tanner?

dailyIF

My average IF was a little on the low side (13.9 hour average), but it was still higher than the previous months. Maybe I needed to add an additional hour? Exercise levels were constant. I didn’t introduce any new foods and I would estimate my sugar consumption was 50% less than the prior month.

I’m now all the way back to 210, which is where I was in early 2008 when I began my recent nutritional journey. The difference is I look a lot better now. Then I was puffy and inflamed, not anymore. Although I am happy with the way I look, I’d still like to be leaner as I feel my mobility was better at a slightly lower weight.

Now What?

I’m hoping to have out my July Experiments post later today or early tomorrow. If you have any theories on my June experiment results or tips for July, please leave a comment.

UPDATE: I’ve decided to keep the same experiment and goals for July 2013.

Cold Thermogenesis – 5 Years Later

It has now been just over five years since I began exploring cold temperature exposure. When I first started doing this, I didn’t use the term thermogenesis. My goal was not to lose fat, but to widen my comfort zone of temperatures. Having moved to Seattle after 7 years in San Diego, I was a wimp when it came to being cold. I recall being uncomfortable even in the low 60s without a jacket or sweatshirt.

I needed to do something. Encouraged by an Art De Vany article, I began to do deliberate cold exposure. By the 2008-2009 winter, I had expanded my  short sleeved shirt comfort zone down to the mid to upper 30s F (assuming no wind). This was also the same time period that I was losing weight effortlessly.

Fat Loss?

When I dropped the 20 pounds, I was also playing around with other factors. I lowered my carbs, experimented with Intermittent Fasting and began cooking all my own meals. There are many claims on the Internet that cold exposure helps with fat loss. Since I was trying so many things, there was no way to determine its role at that time.

Over the past 5 years, I have dialed up and down the amount of cold exposure and have come to my own personal conclusion that if it helps with fat loss, that effect has been minor. In fact, when I got to really low levels of body fat, I suspected it was having the opposite effect. My hypothesis is cold exposure on a lean body is a stressful trigger telling the body not to lean out further. Again this is just a guess.

When you read the stories of fat loss associated with CT, be they online or the one in the Tim Ferriss book, I noticed a common theme. They all tend to be male endomorphs. They also tend to be at least 30 pounds overweight when they started. The cold exposure brings them to a normal weight. I don’t see anyone getting shredded with Cold Thermogenesis.

Swimmers and surfers are held up as examples of how cold water exposure can help them maintain very low levels of body fat even at extreme caloric levels. Maybe it has a role, but they also have a high level of activity, plus they aren’t losing weight – they were already lean.

Freeze the Animal

For a few years, I cycled between cold air exposure in the winter and cold shower rinses in the winter. Just enough to keep my comfort window wide. Then in April 2012, Richard at FreeTheAnimal posted Cold Water Therapy and Experimentation Recommences and I was inspired to see just how far I could push my body.

I didn’t have a tub that I could load with ice, but I do live very close to the Puget Sound. So I began a new experiment. I would track my exposure time as well temperatures along with some notes. Here was my data.

cold-puget

There are 3 phases to this kind of cold exposure. Phase 1 is the courage of dealing with the shock of exposing your body to cold. Phase 2 is dealing with being covered in cold water for a period of time. Phase 3 is the warm up phase.

Phase 1 took just a few experiences to overcome the shock. Phase 2 went from tough to easy – even relaxing – very quickly. Phase 3 is where I had the issues. I had a lot of trouble warming back up. It was highly stressful at times. Had I been able to step out of the cold water onto a sunny hot beach, it would have been have much better. But living in Seattle, I didn’t have that option, so I ended the experiment.

Hot Thermogenesis?

Earlier this year I started looking at ways to increase my body temperature, starting with some of the articles and ebooks by Matt Stone. So when he posted Hot Water vs. Cold Water Thermogenesis it really got my attention. He made an interesting point about the type of fat a mammal develops in response to the temperature of their environment.

What’s the body’s defense against icy cold temperatures?  Body fat – polyunsaturated body fat at that.  At the higher latitudes you see more and more polyunsaturated fat, and higher body fat percentages working its way into the local fauna. Even the amount of body fat in a fish is pretty closely tied to the water temperature.  That’s why you see omega 3 polyunsaturated fat accumulating in coldwater fish, as well as seals, whales, walruses, and other blubbery cold weather dwellers.

And high levels of polyunsaturated fat lead to a lower metabolic rate. So jumping into the cold lake will cause a huge caloric burn, but do it over and over and the body mounts its own self defense. It reduces metabolism by lowering body temperature. What are the effect of temperature on health? From the same post:

Cold temperatures in winter are not conducive to better health and a higher metabolic rate either - or at least not greater leanness.  Winter is fattening and exacerbates most health conditions, whereas the hot temperatures of summer or the tropics tend to favor greater leanness and lessen most health conditions.  Most on thyroid meds have to up their dosage in the winter time just to keep hypothyroid symptoms at bay.

After reading this, I did an 8 day experiment. I got a trial pass to a gym with a sauna and steam room. I went every single day during this period. Although I don’t think I lost weight, my sleep quality was amazing, getting 8.5-9 hours sleep most nights, which is rare for me, especially in June when the days are longer.

My Personal Conclusion

Now I only do enough cold exposure to widen my comfort range. I’ve found 30-60 seconds of a cold water between the shoulder blades once or twice a week is enough. During the winter, I’ll wear short sleeves to about 50 degrees. After that I’ll grab a sweatshirt.

I suspect that if CT works for fat loss those that will experience the most positive benefits will be endormorphic men with more than 30 pounds to lose. There is a shocking lack of information when it comes to women. Since thyroid and low metabolism issues are more likely with females, I’d be hesitant to do anything more than the minimal cold exposure.

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.

headache-coffee

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.

“Turn Up the Heat” – 1 Month Update

Actually this is the 1 month and 1 week update to my “Turn Up the Heat” experiment, where I am using ideas from the Diet Recovery 2 book as an attempt to increase my body temperature. I outlined the strategies I would use in the post My Plan for the “Turn Up the Heat” Experiment.

  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.

With the exception of #9, I have been very good about the items on the list. Because I must eat before going to sleep or else I’ll wake in the middle of the night hungry, I really don’t want to eat first thing in the morning. In one interview, Matt Stone talked about a 12 hour eating window. For me that means my first meal should be at 10 AM, not at 6 AM when I wake up. Not sure which rule is most important, but I really don’t want an 18 hour eating window. (UPDATE: I meant to say 16 hour eating window – 6 AM to 10 PM)

Cheese

Cheese by Anne Hornyak

Anyway, my body temperature is EXACTLY THE SAME. This means that either I didn’t follow the advice strict enough or I need to follow the protocol longer. Another possibility is maybe my body type doesn’t want to be warmer or as Richard Nikoley said, this might be a “parlor trick“.

With the exception of #9, I’m going to continue with the experiment, because they are all still sound ideas. My guess is 20 years of caffeine abuse is probably going to take a while to overcome. Even if it doesn’t help with body temperature, I am confident it will reduce my headaches. My coffee consumption is already down 35% in April from March. My plan is to continue lowering coffee levels as the weather improves.

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.

body-type-temps

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.

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.

Low Caffeine Weight Gain

Beginning in late September I scaled down my caffeine intake. Then in October, I went the entire month without coffee and 21 days without any caffeine. This month I have been on a very low caffeine intake, averaging just 1 cup of coffee a day. I covered that experiment in the article A Month Without Coffee. Well, today I confirmed a side effect that I suspected was occurring: weight gain.

I am now 7 pounds heavier than when I started my caffeine reduction experiment (was 187, now 194). And it isn’t muscle. Although I am still lean, ab definition is now gone. I’m not concerned though, because reducing caffeine has resulted in fewer headaches. I’ll take that trade any day. Plus I know how to lean out with minimal effort, so I can always get back to my normal weight – if I can do it without increasing headache frequency.

Why did I gain weight during this period? Some thoughts:

  1. Caffeine is an appetite suppressant.
  2. Seattle weather was terrible during this period. My non-exercise movement (walking) was minimal. This means I was home near my food supplies for a high percentage of the month.
  3. I had strong sugar cravings when I came off caffeine.
  4. When I did go to the gym to do my High Intensity Training, my focus was off. Either I went to failure faster than normal or I didn’t have the grit to push myself as hard. Although I strongly believe exercise plays almost no role in fat loss, I do think HIT has some fat loss applications, provided it really is high intensity and you aren’t just going through the motions like I was doing.
  5. Less morning fasting. I had less discipline on delaying my first meal without caffeine.

Photo by Länsmuseet Gävleborg

I’m even more convinced than before that my next caffeine detox will be in the summer. Then I will be able to distract myself with hours of low intensity movement away from my kitchen. But for now, I’m gradually adding back more Intermittent Fasting. My gym intensity is still below normal, but that just might take more practice of learning how to generate high intensity without getting jacked on espresso. If those strategies don’t work, I might increase my average daily coffee intake to 2, which is still half of what it was before I started reducing my caffeine levels. Of course I’ll only do that if it doesn’t result in more headaches.

Hunting Headaches – A Favorable Trend

In the last installment of Hunting Headaches, I reported that I finally appeared to be making some progress on solving my night headaches. By wearing a mouth guard, I was able to reduce my headache intensity by 45%. For those new to the site, I use spreadsheets to track health metrics. This allows me to figure what experiments work for me and which don’t.

During the month I went without coffee, my headache intensity dropped again to just 0.58. Even though my sleep quality was actually worse, it was my best month ever. To the data!

Headache Intensity is measured from 0 to 5.

My headache intensity using a mouth guard with normal caffeine was 0.82. This covered August and September. Since adding a little caffeine back, my sleep has started to improve a little without an uptick in headache intensity. But I’ll need more data to confirm that. My average headache intensity for my lower caffeine period of October and November is just 0.57. That is another 32% decrease. I now suspect that excessive caffeine is a factor in my headaches. I hope I’m on the right path. I should know in another month or two.

Did It! A Month Without Coffee!

I completed my most challenging health experiment to date. I went the entire month of October 2012 without coffee. No decaf either or any food that used coffee for flavoring, such as ice cream. For 21 days of that month, I went 100% caffeine free. My prior record was 100 hours set back in 1997. Despite having added an additional 15 years of caffeine addiction, I crushed my old record.

For someone that owns a website called INeedCoffee, this is quite the victory.

This morning I had my first espresso and boy has it made me jittery. Over two hours later and I can still feel it. This is what I experienced when I had my first green tea after 21 days without caffeine. Before the coffee cheerleaders and fear mongers add their opinion, I want to remind them that this experiment was primarily about developing caffeinated resiliency, not for health reasons. An ideal state is being able to perform at a high level with or without coffee. And this experiment is ongoing. I’m now in the caffeine resumption phase. I’ll be monitoring how I feel over the next few weeks as I dial in a new optimal espresso level.

The final write up of this experiment will be on INeedCoffee, probably in mid November. Once that article is ready, I’ll announce it here. Until then I’m just going to enjoy this win. Thanks to everyone that encouraged me during those times when I was ready to give up. And thanks to those who tried to get me to quit by testing my resolve. It was the perfect balance.

Welcome back old friend!

Hunting Headaches – Progress?

I haven’t posted about my night headaches since May. There are many posts about headaches on this site. When I started the project in March 2011, I was confident that I could figure it out quickly. But I didn’t. I tried many things and nothing seemed to help. Thousands of words have been written so far on this project, but all I’ve learned is what doesn’t work. Well, that is until recently.

In May I did a month test where I eliminated all fermented foods. The results were nothing. It had zero impact on my headaches. Then I decided to take a break from all tests to see if my stressing out about finding the answer was causing more headaches. So for a over a month, all I did was record 30 seconds of data each morning and not study patterns or run experiments. The result was still no change. Nothing was working.

Then things got better.

Headache by Rob Sheridan

Mouthguard

I was chatting with a friend about waking up with ear pressure. She had the same issue and told me it could be related to jaw clenching. She suggested trying a mouthguard. There was no dental evidence that I clenching my jaw, but I had a retainer that I stopped wearing years ago. I decided to give it a try.

  • 1.36:  Average headache intensity (out of 5) for the 16 months without mouthguard.
  • 0.75: Average headache intensity for 2.5 months with a mouthguard.

That is a 45% reduction. At first I was concerned that this reduction took place during a long period where Seattle got no rain, but the trend has held up since the rain has returned.

Sorghum and Millet

Although not as bad as wheat, I have learned that I have an issue with either sorghum, millet or both. I covered how I discovered this in the post Results From My 30 Days Without Grains Experiment.

Gin

I can’t drink beer, wine or cider. They crush me. So taking the advice from one of those headache books I read earlier this year, I decided to experiment with gin. Gin and vodka are supposed to be the cleanest alcohols for people prone to headaches. I bought a bottle of a local award winning gin. Gin is distilled from wheat. My test involved having just 1/2 a shot around 6 PM with food. The data was clear. It showed an over 50% chance of getting a headache and usually they were intense.

Since gluten doesn’t make it into distilled liquor, I am now wondering if my issue is with wheat or was it the alcohol? Since then I’ve had rum twice, which is distilled from sugar cane and had no issues. Clearly not enough data, but something I will be testing further. In the meantime, no more wheat distilled alcohol.

Cleaner Ice Cream

This year I ate a lot of ice cream. When I first started this experiment, all I did was make sure the ice cream didn’t have gluten in it. As the summer progressed, I selected brands that were more clean. I made sure they didn’t have carrageenan or corn syrups and favored brands with minimal ingredients. I include this on the list because it may have been a factor.

Progress?

I have learned that my headaches are caused by more than one thing. I hesitate to get excited, but I am pleased that headache intensity has dropped by 45%. Going without caffeine is the current test. There isn’t enough data to comment on that yet, but the downward trend has been maintained this month so far. Note that October 2011 was my absolute worst month for headaches, so this isn’t a seasonal bump.

Coffee and Caffeine Detox Update

The month is almost half over, so I thought I’d provide a quick update on My Caffeine Detox Plan. My last coffee was on September 30th. Then for a week, I continued to drink some tea. On Sunday October 7th at Noon, I stopped consuming all tea. I’ve been 100% caffeine free since then.

First the good news. My current coffee free streak is a new all-time record, beating my 11 day streak from last year. And this year I didn’t cheat with decaf coffee. Also, my 1 week without caffeine is a new all-time record, crushing my 100 hour streak from 1997. I think I’m going to succeed in my goal of going the entire month without coffee. I’m less confident that I’ll make the 15 days without caffeine goal.

The first day I had a slight headache. Since then my head has been fine, but my mood has been terrible. My sleep is awful. I keep waking up early and unable to get back to sleep. This morning I woke up at 3:30 AM. The result is I’m dead tired all day long. I’m having difficulty concentrating. It doesn’t help that the weather in Seattle went from a long streak of sunny days to darkness and rain.

I thought this detox would get easier by day 4 or 5. It hasn’t. My productivity has plummeted. The mornings are the worst. I’m going to power through today, but I don’t know if I’ll make it 15 days. This experiment is crushing me.

Someone mentioned a concept to me called “healing crisis“. The premise is that symptoms get worse when you first remove something your body perceives as harmful. I did some searching and found the article What is a Healing Crisis? by Dr Stanley Bass on a site selling water ionizers. :-? I’m at the point in my study of nutrition that I don’t believe anybody anymore. With that said, something feels right about that article. Either that or I’m so tired that I can’t determine what is credible and what isn’t.

This experiment has already taught me that my addiction to caffeine is much stronger than my addiction to coffee.

I’m actually craving green tea more than coffee. 

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

The Guinea Pig Diaries

During a recent trip to the library, I spied this book out of the corner of my eye under Staff Picks. Just look at that cover. I had to read it.

The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment
The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment by A. J. Jacobs

I pride myself on my nutritional experiments. Seems I’ve been thinking way too small. Writer A.J. Jacobs is much more imaginative. In this book he did experiments where he spent a month as if he were George Washington, living by his 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation. Another month he practiced Radical Honesty, where he had no filters on what he thought and what he said. My favorite chapter was The Unitasker, where he went to great lengths to perform only a single task at a time. This includes wearing a blindfold while talking on the phone, to prevent his eyes from engaging in another task.

This book was very funny. If you are looking for a quick enjoyable read, check out The Guinea Pig Diaries. I hadn’t really thought too much about extending my personal experiments into social experiments, although in a future post I will share a body language trick I developed to make strangers walking past you on the street more likely to smile.

My Caffeine Detox Plan

Last week I posted Caffeinated Delusions, which outlined my addiction to caffeine and my desire to overcome that addiction. It also covered how my prior detox attempts were flawed or too short. Well I started down the path a week ago. Immediately I dropped my intake by 50% and then yesterday I dropped my levels again. Now I am down to a single espresso plus tea. It hasn’t been easy. My thinking is fuzzy and my mood is much lower. I haven’t had any caffeine withdrawal headaches, but my performance is way down.

There have been a lot of posts on this blog about self experimentation. They can best be divided into two groups. Those that I believe that I’l have a high probability of success and those where I have far less faith. Those tests where I have higher confidence, I am more likely to post prior to the start of the test. Those were I am more filled with doubt, I keep to more to myself until the test is well under way. Of all the experiments I’ve done before, this is absolutely going to be the hardest.

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

I will go the entire month of October without coffee. No decaf either. During this time I will drink tea, but eventually ween myself off tea until I am 100% caffeine free. I don’t know how long that will take, but eventually I’d like to go at least 15 days with no caffeine. If I feel great after my goals have been met, I may extend the test longer.

Today I am boxing up all my coffee equipment and storing it away. That includes my espresso machine, grinder, press pot and home coffee roaster. I will have 1 espresso with the Coffee Club of Seattle on Saturday and one on Sunday. The coffee I have already roasted up will be given away.

Here we go.

See you November old friend. 

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. :)

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?

Better Than Bulletproof Coffee

I’ve received several requests to comment on Bulletproof Coffee. The reason I am being asked is not only have I been an active blogger on nutrition for a few years, but I’m also a coffee enthusiast. I run the site INeedCoffee.com and have been home roasting coffee since 1998. I live in Seattle and have taken espresso vacations to Portland and Vancouver. I’ve been invited to judge at barista competitions and I am the organizer for The Coffee Club of Seattle, which has over 500 members. In 2011 we visited 114 different coffee places. In other words, I like coffee.

Defining Bulletproof Coffee

Upgraded Coffee is the name of the coffee sold at the Bulletproof Exec, which invented the Bulletproof Coffee brewing method. I have not tried the branded Upgraded Coffee, but I have no doubt that it is excellent. I listen to the Upgraded Self podcast and I can tell Dave Asprey sourced a good roaster and importer. This post will not be about the branded Upgraded Coffee. It will be about the Bulletproof Coffee recipe.

To make Bulletproof Coffee you will add MCT oil and unsalted Kerry Gold butter to your brewed “mold free” coffee. This is supposed to taste wonderful and provide all sorts of health benefits. I am aware of the health benefits of doing a fat based Intermittent Fast. In the post Intermittent Fasting – The No Hunger Method, I posted on how I used a strategy outlined in the The Perfect Heath Diet to accomplish the same thing. Instead of butter and MCT oil, I used coconut oil and fermented vegetables. Both his method and my method are feeding the body short chain fats while depriving the body of glucose.

Cognitive Benefit and Taste

I have made Bulletproof style coffee using my home roast a few times now. Did I experience a cognitive boost? Nope. Maybe my body already has enough short chain fats and this style of coffee would be more beneficial to someone deficient. I didn’t notice any increased alertness, like I did with L-Tyrosine. The coffee beans I used were, as Dave suggested, wet processed coffees from Central America, as they are the least likely to get mold. I bought them from Sweet Maria’s Coffee in Oakland, who uses the importer Royal Coffee, which is used by several of the top roasters in the Pacific Northwest and San Francisco. So I will say that the quality of my beans is equal to the best roasters on the West Coast.

As for the taste, I found it to be disappointing, bland and borderline gross. I love the taste of coffee and I love the taste of butter. Mixing the two does not enhance the flavor, it negates it. If you like cream in your coffee then switching to butter might make perfect sense and be a wonderful pleasant tasting experience for you. I personally think it is criminal to acquire the best coffees in the world and then cover up their taste with anything, be that butter, cream, sugar or MCT oil. A better option for me would be to enjoy coffee in all its perfection and then go about consuming short chain fats.

Which source of short chain fats is superior is a topic I’m not interested in investigating. My guess is Kerrygold Butter, MCT Oil and coconut oil are all excellent choices. Just as long as they stay the hell out of my coffee.

Roast Your Own Coffee

Dave has a post on finding the best roasters in your city. It involves looking at Yelp, which in my opinion provides the worthless reviews of 20 year olds with little life experience that bitch about not getting a strong WIFI signal. There is one Seattle roaster that buys lower grade coffee that has a baggy taste with over 100 glowing reviews on Yelp. With enough milk and chocolate any drink can taste good, but that doesn’t speak to quality of the coffee itself.

A better method for locating the highest quality coffee would be to discover who is the most respected in the industry. Visit Coffee Review to find the best coffee roasters in the country. One might be in your town. Another strategy is to find out if there are any regional barista competitions and which cafes and roasters are being represented. Quality talent tends to work for quality coffee businesses. But sadly, most of the country has woefully bad coffee. The only way to guarantee you are getting the highest quality coffee outside of expensive mail order is to roast your own coffee.

There are many ways to roast coffee at home. INeedCoffee has entire section of home roasting coffee tutorials. It is a super easy and very rewarding hobby. And because your buying green coffee, you’ll save a lot of money. Like I said earlier, the beans I buy from Sweet Maria’s are some of the same crops the best roasters on West Coast are bidding for. On the Sweet Maria’s website, you can see the processing method used for each offering. To be Bulletproof compliant source the Wet Processed coffee. Each coffee is cupped by professionals before it is offered for sale. They taste for defects and only buy the best.

Screenshot from Sweet Maria’s website showing you how a coffee was processed.

Better Than Bulletproof Coffee

My coffee journey has turned me into a snob. I make no apologies for that. If I can’t have outstanding coffee, I will drink tea. Putting butter inside my wonderful coffee was a vile experiment that I do not ever wish to repeat. A better strategy is to source the best coffee green, home roast the beans and then consume the coffee black to appreciate the true flavor profile. Once you’ve finished your delicious cup of coffee, consume your short chain fats.

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.

Chlorine Shower Filter: 3 Month Update

Back in February I started a test I called Chlorination Elimination Experimentation. I wanted to see if using a shower filter that removed chlorine could positively impact my skin. I was a bit skeptical, but it was too cheap of an experiment not to try. So do I have the skin of angel now? Nope. Everything is still the same. I still get a slightly dry spot above my right eyebrow. Nothing has changed.

I also speculated in the post update that the chlorine in the water could be a factor in my headaches. My average headache intensity for the 75 days using the filter is 1.4/5.0. The 75 days prior to the installing the filter it was a little lower at 1.1/5.0. So this experiment showed there is no measurable connection between chlorine and my sinus headaches.

My results are just that – my results. Two weekends ago I met a guy that is super sensitive to water and soap. He uses a filter and swears by it. His skin gets red and inflamed without his shower filter. So perform your own tests. I will continue to use the filter. Maybe the benefits take longer than 3 months to see?

Photo by Steven Depolo

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.

Defending the Quantified Self

I got a healthy dose of criticism on Facebook for the experiment I outlined in the post My Chamomile Tea and Sleep Quality Experiment. To bring everyone up to speed, I design tests and collect data about myself. I am just one member of a growing movement called The Quantified Self. The purpose of my tests are to achieve better health and performance. Not for society, but for me.

Problems With the Test?

A few of the problems that were pointed out to me included sample size, length of test, beverage comparison, confirmation bias and placebo effect.

  1. Sample Size -My test with chamomile tea involved a single subject – me. Since I don’t care if chamomile tea helps others, I think the sample size of me is perfect. That is really the point of the Quantified Self. I’m testing ideas where the responses can be highly individual.
  2. Test Length – As for the test length, is 60 days enough? For me 60 days is about the most patience I will have with a single test. If I don’t see a measurable benefit in 2 months, then I assume that benefit is at best too marginal to continue investing resources in tracking. At that point it is better to move onto a new experiment. If I do see a benefit, then that is wonderful news. After all, that is what I’m seeking. That benefit may be short lived, but if I can see it, then it is real.
  3. Beverage Comparison – Another criticism was that I didn’t compare the chamomile versus other warm soothing beverages. My response is that I chose chamomile because it has best reputation for assisting with sleep. Also, my test showed it did not improve sleep quality. Had the test showed a positive outcome, I could have experimented with other warm beverages to gather comparison data. Note that my test was for chamomile tea, not all warm beverages. There very well could be a warm beverage that improves my sleep quality.
  4. Confirmation Bias – Since I only test ideas that I think might have a chance of showing a positive outcome, the possibility of confirmation bias does exist, especially early in the test. You want something to work, so that might influence the results. This is where having a lot of data helps. I have discovered on a few tests where data in the first 3-5 days tends to be more positive than the overall test. This is why I collect data over longer test periods.
  5. Placebo Effect – I wish I fell for the placebo effect. Life would be so much sweeter if I could go to a supplement store, imagine how great some pill was going to be and then have it all materialize. If I believed strongly enough that chamomile tea would improve my sleep quality and it did, then I would count that as victory. A win is a win. Unfortunately, in the year I’ve been doing testing that hasn’t happened yet.

No test is going to be perfect, but not testing is a sure fire way to lose. Spending a few minutes each morning in front of a spreadsheet for the past year has measurably improved the quality of my life. At the point when I stop receiving benefits to justify the minimal time commitment, I’ll stop collecting data. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon. I’ve only just begun.

My Chamomile Tea and Sleep Quality Experiment

One of the most often things repeated about Chamomile Tea is that it improves sleep quality. For many people that means being able to fall asleep faster. I wanted to test this assumption. For my experiment, I used a total Sleep Quality score. I brewed a single mug of loose leaf Chamomile between 3 and 5 minutes at a temperature around 200F. The beverage was consumed within 60 minutes before going to sleep.

After 60 days of data, here are the numbers. The Sleep Quality number is a score between 1 and 5, with 5 being perfect sleep.

30 Nights with Chamomile Tea = 4.17 average

30 Nights without Chamomile Tea = 3.77 average

Wow! At first glance it appears that Chamomile Tea is really helping my Sleep Quality. But this test overlapped with my Side Sleep Experiment. So I went back and just looked at the Chamomile Tea data taken after I adapted to Side Sleep.

26 Nights with Chamomile Tea + Side Sleep = 4.077 average

14 Nights without Chamomile Tea + Side Sleep = 4.071 average

I’m not a statistics guru (yet), but it now appears the sleep improvement did not come from the Chamomile Tea. It came when I switched from being a back sleeper to a side sleeper.

Chamomile

Loose leaf Chamomile by cjhuang

According to Ori Hofmekler, the author of the The Anti-Estogenic Diet and The Warrior Diet, chamomile is a “powerful estrogen inhibitor”. His book covers how estrogens are in the modern food supply and our environment. Excessive estrogens can make us sick and overweight. So I will continue to drink Chamomile Tea as cheap insurance against estrogens.

I don’t find the taste of Chamomile Tea that appealing, but I discovered that adding a pinch of red roobios tea makes it taste much better. Roobios is a South African bark tea that has no caffeine and its own health benefits.

Hunting Headaches – Side Sleep

One of the jobs I had in college was loading trucks for UPS. It was the most exhausting job I’ve ever had. It made Army Basic Training seem like working at a library. One night I came home so worn out that I couldn’t even turn to my side to go to sleep. After an entire childhood as a side sleeper, I became a back sleeper. And until recently I remained a back sleeper.

Me as side sleeper (2 days old)

On the night of January 23rd I woke up with a severe headache and discovered I was having trouble breathing. I was alarmed enough to spend a few hours researching sleep apnea. I had always assumed that because I am lean and do not snore that sleep apnea wasn’t possible. Turns out that was a false assumption. One of the things I learned was that you can increase oxygen flow by sleeping on your side. From the Wikipedia page on sleep apnea:

For mild cases of sleep apnea, physicians often recommend sleeping on one’s side, which can prevent the tongue and palate from falling backwards in the throat and blocking the airway.

I wasn’t even sure I had even a minor case of sleep apnea, but this was worth trying. I had assumed it was going to be a hard habit to switch from being a back sleeper to a side sleeper. Well, it took just 3 nights to break the habit. I must be getting good at this self experimentation stuff. I never thought I could break such an ingrained habit in less than a week. Anyway, some interesting data appears to be surfacing. I hesitate to get excited about this though, because I’ve been burned by initial trends too many times already.

Measuring Sleep Quality

Starting last August 21st, I began tracking sleep quality independently from headaches. Although they are correlated, that correlation is not 100%. Sleep quality can be improved by improving a response to a headache of a given severity. A poor response results in poor sleep quality. A good response results in an improved Sleep Quality score even at the same severity. Side sleep – so far – seems to be having a positive impact on Sleep Quality. To the data!

 
AVG Night HA
AVG Sleep Quality
# Bad HA (3+)
# Very Bad HA (4+)
APR 20111.07-62
MAY 20110.71-51
JUN 20111.37-95
JUL 20111.94-137
AUG 20111.68-96
SEP 20110.903.8752
OCT 20112.133.26146
NOV 20111.453.7686
DEC 20111.264.0695
JAN 20121.353.8152
FEB 20121.034.1462
BACK SLEEP (161)1.463.7047 (29%)24 (15%)
SIDE SLEEP (35)*1.064.148 (23%)2 (6%)

* The Side Sleep numbers uses 5 days worth of March 2012 data. AVG=average, HA=Headache, Headaches are scored on a scale of 5, with 0 representing no headache and 5 being the most intense. Sleep Quality is also ranked on a scale of 5, with 5 being perfect sleep. 

Looking at the data, it appears that there was some improvement when I went from being a back sleeper to a side sleeper. I hesitate to get excited, because I may just not have enough data to draw a true conclusion. My hunch tells me that sleeping on my side is increasing my sleep quality by delaying the headache until later in the night. And maybe by delaying the headache, it surfaces with a lower intensity.

Trading One Problem For Another?

Since I started side sleep, I have noticed many mornings that I wake up with pressure in my right ear. Almost like the first few times I flew in an airplane. It isn’t painful, but it is annoying. I’ll happily take a few hours of ear pressure over a sinus headache any day, as I don’t feel it until after I wake up. This might even be a clue to the root causes of the headache?

I’ll continue sleeping on my side and collecting more data. The hunt continues.

Hunting Headaches – Shampoo Up My Nose

It is time for a status report on my Hunting Headaches project. For the new readers, almost a year ago I started a quantified self project to track down the cause of my late night headaches. Many ideas have been tried and so far the headaches continue.

A few months ago I got an idea that my sinus headaches may have roots in some form of chronic infection. This troubled me, because I can run all sorts of self experiments, but if it was based upon some infection then I’d need to see a doctor. And you know how I distrust doctors.

The infection idea seemed weak, but at this point I’m running out of ideas. Then I heard a Chris Kresser podcast that gave me a bizarre yet effective idea for eliminating chronic sinus infections. You add a small amount of baby shampoo to your Neti pot. Yes, baby shampoo! The science is explained in the transcript and podcast titled The Highly Effective (But Little Known) Treatment For Chronic Sinusitis.

So I tried this Neti nose cocktail three nights in a row. My recipe was 8 ounces of warm filtered water, 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt, 1/3 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of J & J baby shampoo. As crazy as it seems the first time you use a Neti Pot, it is doubly weird to knowingly put shampoo up your nose. But I did it. It actually had a pleasant feel to it.

Did the shampoo up the nose trick work? No. In the week following this experiment, I had zero decrease in sinus headaches. I’m glad I bought the travel size portion and not a full bottle. I could see using this trick again if I exhibited sinus symptoms other than headaches. Oh well, the hunt continues. I do have an interesting development in Hunting Headaches that I’ll save for my next post.

UPDATE: I no longer use baking soda in the mix. Stings too much.

Chlorination Elimination Experimentation

Last week I ended my topical coconut oil experiment and started a new skin experiment.

A month ago I was poking around the Underground Wellness site when I found a post about shower filters. My first thought was skepticism. I understood why you filter drinking water, but was doubtful there were risks to city water hitting your skin in the shower. Then I researched it further and became convinced that showering in chlorinated water presented a potential health danger that was very inexpensive to eliminate. So I bought a shower filter.

One of the numbers I saw in several places was that taking a 10-15 minute shower with unfiltered water was like drinking 8 cups of chlorinated water. But it may be worse than that.Hours after I installed my shower filter, Chris Kresser did a long post on the topic titled Is your daily shower making you sick? In that post he discusses how in the shower we are inhaling the by products of chlorine which can go directly into our bloodstream, whereas chlorinated water we drink can be better filtered by the body. From the post:

Research has demonstrated that the cancer risk associated with chlorinated water may actually be due to showering and bathing, rather than drinking the disinfected water. (13, 14) This suggests that many health risks of chlorine may be specifically related to dermal and inhalation exposure. In fact, the chloroform dose from a single, ten minute shower is equal to, and possibly greater than, that from the average two liters of water ingestion on a daily basis.

If you are interested in this topic, I encourage you to read the full post. It has been many years since I looked at chemistry. What I do know is that since moving to Ballard I can smell the chlorine in my shower. Getting a shower filter is cheap insurance.

I bought a basic GE Shower filter. This is before I knew about the Vitamin C Shower Filters mentioned in Chris Kresser’s article. Amazon sells both. I was able to install it myself without any problem and no one has ever confused me with being a handyman.

GE GXSM01HWW Shower Filter System

VITASHOWER SF-1 (Vitamin C Shower Filter)

Since my showers are already very short, I’ll probably be fine with the GE model for now. The chlorine smell is gone, so I assume it is working fine. In a month or two, I’ll report back if there is a change in my skin health.

UPDATE: Minutes after I hit publish on this post — on a whim — I did a search on chlorine and sinus headaches. Seems there is a link. The hunt continues.

The Topical Coconut Oil Experiment

When I returned from my trip to Ohio in December parts of my face were dry, slightly red and starting to flake. Damn you veggie oils and gluten! I had read about how some people use coconut oil to both moisturize and rejuvenation their skin. Could coconut oil restore my skin? I decided to do an experiment in my own unique way.

Instead of using coconut oil on my entire face, I decided that I wanted a control in the experiment, so I only applied the coconut oil to the right side of my face. I did this for two months. What I discovered was that the coconut oil did an excellent job as a moisturizer, however the dryness and redness healed at equal rates. After 2 months of use I can say that coconut oil provided no additional healing benefit to my skin. The left and right sides healed at equal rates.

Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, 15-Ounce Tubs (Pack of 2) – The brand I used.

Without having a control, I may have given credit for my improved skin complexion on the product and not the body’s ability to self heal. My guess is what I discovered may be true for other skin care products and procedures. Run your own experiments and find out for yourself. The worst case scenario is one side gets beautiful while the other remains constant. If that happens, start a “catch up” routine for the ugly side. Problem solved.

I’m ending the one-sided coconut oil experiment. A new skin experiment begins today. That will be the topic of a future post.

Hunting Headaches: Remaining Suspects in Early 2012

Last March I decided to finally figure out the cause of my late night sinus headaches. I started a headache journal, ran numerous tests and tried several supplements. Nine months later and I still haven’t figured it out. The good news is that many of the things I suspected might be an issue were cleared. Also I have learned how to better respond to the pain, so even though my headaches haven’t decreased, my sleep quality is gradually improving. I’m not ready to give up and surrender to a doctor. Partially because I don’t trust them, but also because I still have a few more ideas to test.

headache

Photo by FunkyPancake

Innocent Suspects and Useless Supplements

Before I list the new ideas, I will cover what I already tried and tested that didn’t reduce the frequency or intensity of my headaches.

  1. Seasonal Patterns – Headache frequency is the same throughout the year.
  2. Allergy Markers – Headaches have no correlation to pollen or allergen levels.
  3. Tyramine Restrictive Diet – Tyramine is often a problem with migraine suffers.
  4. Aromatherapy (ghetto) – I tried a cheap lavender fragrance dispenser. It did nothing. I might need to test an essential oil model.
  5. Dairy Free – I did a 30 Day Experiment without dairy. No difference.
  6. Nut Free – I also did a 30 Day Experiment without nuts.
  7. Chocolate Test – Could not detect any difference when removing chocolate.
  8. Netti Pot – For a long time I felt the Netti was reducing the intensity of my headaches (not the frequency), but recently I’ve been less of a believer.
  9. Daily Stress Levels – For 30 Days I tracked my stress level. I found no correlation to headaches.
  10. More water – Did nothing as well.
  11. Coffee Detox – This summer I dropped my coffee levels very low and then took 2 weeks off. It didn’t help, but I probably constructed this detox improperly. More on that later.
  12. Humidity – When I left Ohio, I thought I was onto something regarding the room humidity level. It turned out to be a false lead. I think a humidifier may reduce intensity on extremely dry nights, but it isn’t a cause of the headaches.
  13. Acupuncture – I did a few sessions of acupuncture, which did nothing to help.

Here is a list of supplements that I have tried that did nothing for my headaches.Note that there are infinite possibilities to test when you consider dosage, length of test, timing and quality of the supplement. I did my best when testing these. None showed even the slightest benefit. Had one did something, I would have tested it further with different doses or timing.

  1. Bromelain
  2. Quercetin
  3. NAC
  4. Ginger
  5. Feverfew
  6. Apple Cider Vinegar
  7. Niacinamide
  8. L-Glutamine

Headache Suspects in Early 2012

  1. Neck Stiffness – For years I’ve had intermittent stiff neck issues. After reading the book 3 Minutes to a Pain Free Life, I became more aware of just how correlated they are with my headaches. On mornings when I had a headache, my neck was more stiff. Did the neck pain cause the headache or did my headache cause my neck to clench? Dr. Murray Grossan wrote: “Real sinus pain is actually rare, even when the patient is blowing yellow mucous out the nose. In many cases the “sinus headache” is really “referred” pain from the neck. Feel the back of your neck. Does the pain travel to the front of your forehead? This is because of the hookup of the nerves; painful stimuli radiates to the front area above the eyes.” Even if my neck issues are unrelated to my headaches, I am working on getting them resolved. So far the exercises in the 3 Minutes book have been ineffective for my neck.
  2. Histamine – A few months ago I went to a cider tasting. After only a few ounces, my face turned red and I had splitting headache for a day. At first I assumed the cider had gluten in it or that it was the alcohol itself. There was no gluten in it. The book Healing Your Sinuses mentioned a histamine link to sinus pain. So I tested drinking vodka and gin, like the book suggested, and I had no problems. Recently I began making water kefir and I noticed I was getting the same flush sinus headache. Even though the alcohol level was extremely low, the histamines were present. So what other foods contain high levels of histamine? Sadly, I learned fermented veggies have high levels. That might explain why it feels like I had more headaches in 2011 than 2010. But, histamine has a very short half life. So I don’t know if that could be the cause of something that wakes me up 5 hours into my sleep. Also, I haven’t noticed a response when eating kimchi or sauerkraut during the day. Liquid histamine sources clearly affect me, whereas solids I am uncertain. Maybe quantity and length of ferment also play a role? More testing is needed.
  3. Tannins – This is something I am just beginning to look into. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of information on this topic. Some people are headache sensitive when they consume foods or drinks with tannins. What do I consume that has tannins? Tea, coffee and fermented foods. Yikes! One site mentions that the food addition carob bean gum is very high in tannins. I’ve never looked for it before, but apparently it is common.
  4. Mycotoxins – Frequent commenter GWhitney turned me on to a health podcast called Upgraded Self Radio. One of the topics that is frequently mentioned is the presence of mycotoxins in certain foods and our environment. Mycotoxins are molds that are present in many foods. Since I am mostly Paleo, I don’t get the ones from grains. However, I still consume hard cheese and cured meat. Mycotoxins are also present in coffees that are Dry processed, decaf coffees and robusta. This is a red flag for me. Over a year ago, I sourced a premium robusta bean for my espresso blends. My headaches did increase afterwards. But I don’t have great data going back that far. Also, I consumed decaf espresso during my detox. And the neighborhood coffee shop that I frequent the most switched to an espresso blend this summer that is all Dry processed. For 2012, I will avoid robusta, decaf and minimize my exposure to Dry Processed coffees. On the podcast, Dave advises ordering an Americano when the espresso is Dry Processed, as the steam used can kill the mycotoxins. Since I home roast coffee, I recently ordered nothing but wet processed coffee, with a heavy bias towards Single Origin Central American coffee, which tends to be the cleanest coffee one can consume.
  5. Caffeine – The coffee detox I did in 2011 was likely flawed. It probably wasn’t long enough and it didn’t address the caffeine I consumed in tea. My 2012 detox will be 100% caffeine free. No coffee, no decaf, no tea and no chocolate. It will be longer than 2 weeks. It will be miserable, but I need to know who I am in the complete absence of caffeine or caffeine withdrawal symptoms.
  6. Nightshades – Another class of foods that may cause headaches are nightshades. I consume very little white potatoes, eggplants or tomatoes. However, I do get my fair share of peppers in my kimchi. At some point in 2012, I will do a 30 Day Elimination test for nightshades.

Going Forward

I’m going to continue working on my neck stiffness. I’m also going to cut way back on the fermented veggies. I’ve already started reducing my coffee and tea intake. When I do drink tea, I will favor green and lightly oxidized oolong, as they have less tannins that the darker teas. I stopped making water kefir and I’m going to be on the lookout for any food items containing carob bean gum. And sadly, I have stopped fermenting veggies for the time being.

Nut Elimination Test Completed

I completed my 30 day elimination test with nuts. At the end of the 30 days, I reintroduced almonds, pistachios, cashews and pecans. The result is I have zero issues with nuts. This is what I expected. However, I did learn something interesting.

almonds

Almonds by Shelby Root

Nuts vs Dairy vs Double Nuts vs Double Dairy

I consider nuts and fermented dairy to be my high satiety food staples. Nothing curbs my appetite and allows me to sleep better than a handful of nuts or cheese. When I did a 30 Day No Dairy test earlier this year, I came to same conclusion that I don’t have any issues with dairy. But I learned that is not 100% accurate.

When I went off dairy for 30 days, I consumed double the amount of nuts and nut butter. When I went off nuts, I doubled my intake of cheese and yogurt. That is when I noticed some skin inflammation and very minor digestion issues. So the nut test helped me learn that I have an upper limit on the amount of dairy I can consume without consequence.

Going Forward

When I engaged in these tests this year, I got some push back from people that thought I was wasting my time testing foods that were almost certainly not issues with me. Turns out the tests were informative and I learned that my body works better on nuts than dairy. Going forward I won’t eliminate dairy, but I will favor nuts when snack time comes.

The Next 30 Day Test: Nuts!

My next 30 Day elimination test will be nuts.

Starting on October 29th, I will go 30 days without any nuts or nut butters. Then I will reintroduce nuts, probably almonds, for a period of 4 days and monitor my heath for changes. I don’t expect there to be a problem, but I won’t know for certain until I test it out. Nuts are a common allergen.

soaked almonds

Speaking of nuts, the comments keep coming in on the Someone Has Been Messing With My Almond Butter post.

Intermittent Fasting – The No Hunger Method

I started doing Intermittent Fasting over three years ago. My strategy has always been to just deal with the hunger. If you ignore it, it goes away. When I first began fasting, I’d think about my hunger constantly. These days, it barely grabs my attention. Recently, I was inspired by a post over at my favorite nutrition website Perfect Health Diet to try an alternate approach to Intermittent Fasting.

Before I go into the changes I tested, let me go over two benefits from Intermittent Fasting.

  1. By restricting carbohydrates for an extended period, you can shift your body into a state of ketosis. Ketosis has a host of health benefits. One of which is you burn fat at a quicker pace.
  2. By restricting protein, you can trigger autophagy. This is the process where cells consume and recycle their own damaged material. This results in many health benefits, including life extension.

The Perfect Health Diet post Ketogenic Diets, I: Ways to Make a Diet Ketogenic is a detailed explanation of the ketogenic metabolic pathway. The part of the article I found most interesting was how the use of coconut oil, which is loaded with short chain fats, can accelerate the production of ketones.

This means that if you eat a lot of coconut oil (which is 58% short-chain fats), you deliver a lot of fat to the liver for disposal. The disposal process for fat is conversion to acetyl CoA followed by either burning in the TCA cycle or conversion to ketones.

Since that post was written, I have done many fasts where I consume nothing but 1 to 3 tablespoons of coconut oil. I find it has a slightly sweet taste and it does lower my hunger level. To confirm I was still hitting ketosis, I used Ketostix to measure ketones. After a 16 hour fast with coconut oil, I was measuring Small to Moderate ketones. Pretty cool.

Ketostix

Ketostix

Well coconut oil by itself may not be enough for the hungry. Have no fear, the Perfect Health Diet book came up with another idea. It said you can consume fermented vegetables on a fast. Wouldn’t the carbs from the vegetables interfere with achieving ketosis? Nope. From the book:

Most vegetable carbohydrates are intercepted by gut bacteria, which digest vegetable fiber into short-chain fatty acids.

If the book is correct, I could eat coconut oil and sauerkraut and still go into ketosis. I decided to test it out.

  • Monday night: My last food intake was at 10 PM.
  • Tuesday 10 AM: 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, 100 grams of cortido sauerkraut.
  • Tuesday 1 PM: 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, 100 grams of ghost pepper sauerkraut.

The cortido sauerkraut has some carrots, so I was concerned that those carbs might be enough to prevent ketosis. But it didn’t. At 2:30 PM, I tested Moderate ketones on the Ketostix. Victory!

cortido sauerkraut

Cortido Sauerkraut – Ketosis never tasted so good!

So if you’ve put off Intermittent Fasting, because you can’t deal with the hunger, you now have no excuses. Get yourself some coconut oil and make some fermented veggies.

My First Week Back on Coffee

In the post What I Learned During My Coffee Detox, I covered the results that I experienced by gradually lowering and eventually taking a full 2 weeks off from coffee. As informative as that test was, I have learned more about how my body reacts to coffee since I resumed espresso drinking just a week ago.

The comment by Txomin really resonated with me.

A 30 day experimental window might be sufficient for foodstuffs. It is definitely insufficient for addictive substances.

Although my total caffeine detox project exceeded 30 days, the full coffee detox was just 14 days. During that time, I still getting some caffeine from tea and dark chocolate. Because I was doing 30 day food allergy tests at the same time, I applied the same principle to coffee. That was wrong. Food allergy tests are used to measure adverse responses to protein. Coffee is not a protein. It is an addictive substance. I think Txomin is correct and that 30 days is likely insufficient.

My first week back on espresso was highly educational for me. Here is what I learned.

Taste Surprise

I fully expected the first espresso I had would taste amazing. It didn’t. Nor did the 2nd, 3rd or 4th espresso. It was a let down. I was hoping that the 2 weeks off would have reset my palate. Either the espresso in Seattle just had an off week or I needed a longer detox. Maybe both combined with elevated expectations?

I did talk with a top barista who told me he routinely will take a month off from coffee to reset his palate. 14 days was probably not long enough.

My first cafe espresso after the detox was “OK”.

The Napping Link

I tried to nap 4 times this week. All were unsuccessful. My espresso intake varied from 2 to 4. My last coffee time (prior to nap attempt) varied from 10 AM to 1 PM. Despite being tired, I couldn’t sleep. If there is a sweet spot for napping and espresso, it has to be earlier. More tests will be run.

Energy Level Plummets

This was totally unexpected. Although my morning mood was better, by the afternoon I was dragging and had difficulty focusing. At times I felt exhausted. I read the symptoms of adrenal fatigue and found I had several of them this week. It is interesting to me that I felt it more pronounced after the detox period than before. I would have expected the opposite.

Under Estimating My Addiction

I under estimated just how strong my addiction is for espresso. Although I really enjoy regular coffee, it is espresso that I crave. It isn’t just the caffeine. It represents coffee at its best potential. The flavor stimulus is far greater. Although it has less caffeine, from an addiction standpoint, I am starting to believe that espresso is to coffee what crack is to cocaine.

Now What?

If it were sunny and 70 right now, I’d resume another detox immediately with strong confidence. But it is cloudy and 60 and espresso is pouring oh so wonderful right now. I’ll try and keep my addiction in check, but more than likely I’ll descend deeper into this mess for a while.

What I Learned During My Coffee Detox

The last time I did a serious coffee detox was in 1997. I was long overdue. I got down to a single espresso by August 22nd. In the end, I went 14 days without coffee. During this time, I did still drank tea. I returned to coffee on Saturday. Here is what I learned during the coffee detox.

First some background. I began tracking my headaches and coffee intake on March 24th. Below is a chart showing my daily coffee intake. The red line is a 3 day moving average.

Sinus Headaches

I think I have enough data for me to know the relationship between my intake of coffee and my late night sinus headaches. I want to specify the “me” aspect in this post. What I learned applies to “me” and maybe not others. If you research this topic online you will see caffeine listed as both a possible cause and a potential cure for sinus headaches. As a fan of coffee, I wanted to discover exactly what role coffee was playing in my sinus headaches.

Throughout the past 6 months I consumed varying degrees of coffee from high to low to none. For me there is no clear connection between coffee intake and headache frequency. However, I still have some questions regarding headache intensity. I suspect that headache intensity *may* decrease the earlier in the day that the coffee is consumed. It isn’t that caffeine makes the headache more intense, it is probably more likely that less caffeine results in deeper sleep, which has the side benefit of reducing headache intensity. I will be constructing a new test soon that explores this possibility.

Can coffee cure a sinus headache? Absolutely. But so can patience. One of the reasons I did not go 30 Days is because on the mornings when I had sinus headaches they would persist for much longer when I didn’t have coffee. Instead of knocking out a headache in 30 minutes with an espresso, I would suffer for hours sometimes without coffee. Tea did little to speed up recovery.

Season and Location

It is much easier to forgo espresso in the summer. Once the temperature drops in Seattle and the sun disappears, it is time for coffee. I should have started my detox earlier in the year. Next year I will.

Welcome back old buddy!

Cortisol and Stubborn Fat Loss

Besides eliminating dairy, another thing elite fitness professionals state is that coffee spikes your cortisol levels and prevents stubborn fat loss. Maybe that is true and maybe I need a longer test to prove the merit of that wisdom, but I experienced no body composition changes throughout the detox or reduction period. Again I am already lean, your mileage may vary. So either I have no adrenal fatigue or I have so much that I need a much longer detox period. My caffeine intake has been on a downward trend for a decade now and my energy level is much better now.

Napping

I have always had problems taking naps. No matter how tired I get, I can’t seem to fall asleep during the day. I fall asleep super fast at night, but napping has always been a challenge. Well, during the coffee detox I was able to easily nap. Probably the best thing to come out of this experiment was figuring this out. I had been experimenting with white noise generators with poor results.

Coffee as a Stressor?

I think we all understand how day in and day out coffee consumption can be a stressor. That is why we do these detox protocols. I did a very slow gradual detox so I would experience no physical withdrawal symptoms. Not that the pain is intense, I just find it distracting. However, I learned that about 10 days into the detox my mood started to turn for the worse. Lack of coffee was stressing me out. That first espresso has a calming effect that I missed.

Future Strategies

Soon I’m going to start my next test. I’ll still track my coffee intake, but I’m also going to track when I had my last coffee. Combined with a sleep quality score – my goal is to dial in an optimal range for coffee consumption that gives me both great sleep at night and a great mood during the day. My guess is the optimal range will look very similar to the nutritional and fitness waves I described in the post The Paleo/HIT Cyclical Approach to Fitness and Nutrition. Coffee intake will be inversely correlated with hours of sunlight (more espresso in the winter) combined with random variations during any given week including a “fasting” day with no intake.

PS – Every time I post something about headaches, I get a wave of comments giving advice for ideas that I’ve already addressed numerous times in other posts. My headaches are sinus. They are not related to caffeine withdrawal. I have no symptoms that would make one think this was a medical emergency. At the point I give up, I will seek a health professional. But I still have a few more ideas and every test I do tells me more about myself. Although the idea of taking control of ones’ health frightens many, I enjoy the process.

30 Day No Dairy Test Complete

Although I messed up a few times, which forced me to restart the test, I have now completed a 30 Day No Dairy test. One of the methods to test to see if dairy is a problem is to completely eliminate it for 30 days. Then reintroduce it for a few days and monitor for symptoms. Symptoms might include skin inflammation, digestion problems or headaches. I was about 90% certain that dairy was not a problem for me, but I wanted to eliminate that 10% of doubt.

For me, I had four things I wanted to test regarding dairy removal.

  1. Would it result in a reduction in headache frequency or intensity?
  2. Would other symptoms surface upon reintroducing dairy after a 30 day removal?
  3. Would there be any body composition changes (increased fat loss)?
  4. Could I really be disciplined enough to go 30 Days without dairy?

Headache Frequency and Intensity

Eliminating dairy had no impact on my sinus headaches. Intensity and frequency have been consistent throughout this year, with a greater spike during the summer. The chart below shows headache intensity (0-5) since mid-March. The area under the red is the period where I was dairy free. Dairy is innocent.

Other Symptoms?

None. Skin and digestion are the exactly the same after dairy reintroduction.

Fat Loss?

One of the things you hear repeated over and over in the elite fitness community is how removing dairy can help you remove stubborn fat. Stubborn fat for a man would mean lower abs and love handles. It may help others, but I had zero body composition changes during the test.

Discipline

I was shocked how easy it was to eliminate dairy from a cravings standpoint. I did mess up twice and had to restart the test. Both were cases where I was outside the home and I just momentarily forgot about the test. I used coconut cream in place of yogurt. Instead of putting butter on my veggies, I added coconut oil.

I was going to post a summary on why self experimentation is great, but I already did a post on the topic: My Case For Self Experimentation.

Sluggish

I haven’t posted much this week, because I’m feeling really sluggish. I’ve dropped my daily coffee intake to a single espresso (double ristretto). That might not seem extreme to some, but I live in Seattle and INeedCoffee! Today is Day 5 of just 1 espresso. Below is a chart of my coffee intake going back to March 24th. For fun I added a 3 Day Moving Average.

In other news, I messed up on my 30 Day No Dairy Experiment. I bought some dark chocolate on sale, and I didn’t realize until a week later that one of the bars had milk fat. Then Sunday I was out with friends and I ordered a gyro salad without thinking that it had feta cheese on it. So I had to restart the clock on that experiment too. Today is also day 5 with no dairy.

No dairy and low caffeine, besides making me sluggish, is giving me sugar cravings. I’ve made almond butter cookies three times this week.

 

Do Cold Showers Lead to Fat Loss or Fat Gain?

There seems to be some contradictory opinions on whether cold temperature exposure leads to fat loss or fat gain. Before I share my current thoughts, I do want to say that regardless of fat loss, I find cold weather training to highly beneficial for the reasons I listed in the post My Cold Weather Challenge To You. Read that post for the full list, but the two primary reasons are to expand your comfort zone and to build resiliency against minor stressors.

Ice close up by Lucid Nightmare

Mixed Opinions

Richard Nikoley spoke briefly about his positive fat loss results with cold exposure during his Ancestral Health speech Self-experimentation: the best science. In the audience was Seth Roberts, author of the Shangri-La Diet and a leader in the self experimentation field. Seth mentioned that he gained weight doing cold showers and then lost it once he stopped.

That was interesting to me, so I located his blog post Cold Shower Report (2). In this post, Seth mentions his weight gain was 2 pounds and that his shower time was between 4-5 minutes. He also mentioned a study showing female swimmers lost less weight that those that exercised on land, presumably because the water was cold.

Finally, I have to mention the Ice Age chapter in The 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferriss. That chapter details a cold exposure protocol that helped his case study client lose 28.6 pounds of fat in 6 weeks. Like other things Tim has written, it isn’t the instructions I have an issue with, it is the expectation. Also, Ferriss lost a lot of trust with me with his From Geek to Freak chapter, which I cover in the post How Tim Ferriss REALLY Gained 34 pounds of Muscle in 28 Days.

My Experience

I really felt cold temperature exposure helped me lean out. I used a combination of not wearing a coat in the winter and cold showers of varying lengths. However, once I was lean I didn’t find cold exposure to be of any help with getting ab definition. In fact, I suspected that like Seth, I was starting to gain some weight. I scaled back on the cold exposure and am leaner now.

My Hypothesis

I think I can resolve all the differences or at least I am going to try. Cold exposure on a body that already has a decent amount of fat won’t trigger the growth of new fat, as that body is already well insulated. That body would respond to the cold threat by triggering the activation of BAT (Brown Adipose Tissue) which could lead to fat loss. This works up until a point. Once you have flat abs, how would the body respond to chronic cold stress? Possibly by gaining fat to protect core temperature.

2 Different Strategies

If you are overweight, I don’t think you have anything to lose by attempting some cold temperature exposure protocol. You could use cold showers, not wear a jacket or place an ice pack between the shoulder blades. Monitor your progress and adjust accordingly.

If you are already lean, you still want the benefits of cold exposure, but you don’t want to risk fat gain. Earlier this year, I came up with a protocol to deal with this challenge, which I outlined in the post A High Intensity Approach to Cold Weather Training.

While studying the High Intensity Training approach to weight lifting, I wondered if those concepts could be applied to cold temperature exposure. HIT workouts are extremely intense, very brief and highly effective. The goal is to trigger certain physiological and hormonal responses and then allow the body to respond.

I also described my Cold HIT protocol.

At the end of your daily shower, turn the water to as friggin cold as you can handle without having a heart attack. Do deep slow breathing and relax. Aim the cold water directly between your neck and shoulder blades. Hold this for 30 seconds. End the shower. That is it.

The shoulder blades are the region with the highest concentration of Brown Adipose Tissue. None of the cold water is aimed at my core. My temperature tolerance is just as strong as it was when I did extended cold temperature exposure. And I have been able to stay lean.

Note that I am just a dude with a blog and not a health professional. This is all speculation. Your results may vary.

My Case For Self Experimentation

In 2008 I did something that completely changed my outlook on personal health. I embraced the idea that the way to resolve disagreements on what is best for optimal health could be addressed with self experimentation. In the post Intermittent Fasting – Fears and Motivation, I discussed how I was torn between the arguments for and against fasting.

In the end, I decided that I needed to know if Intermittent Fasting would work for me. Both sides of the IF debate knew more science and nutrition than me. Only my own tests would answer the question. If I lost muscle or strength, I could end the experiment and resume the old way.

In the past 3 years, I’ve learned a lot about what levels of fasting work best for me. And it was all because I embraced self experimentation. Self experimentation is empowering. Instead of surrendering to experts, you take charge, because no health professional will know your body better than you. Now to be clear, I am not referring to emergency situations. If I get hit by a bus, I’ll go to the Emergency Room, not PubMed.

A snapshot of data from my most recent self experiment.

During the same time I was having success with Intermittent Fasting, I did self experiments with Cold Weather Training and a low carbohydrate diet. Both were successful. My health was improving and it was a direct result of my self experiments. Later I would cure my rosacea by eliminating wheat from my diet. Currently, I am tracking variables that may or may not be contributing to my sinus headaches.

Every experiment is a success, because even if it doesn’t get you the results you expected, you’ve learned something new about yourself.

In a speech titled Self-experimentation: the best science at the Ancestral Health Symposium, fellow Paleo blogger Richard Nikoley said this about the motivation and philosophy behind self experimenting:

…I got to figure this out for myself. And it is a process of learning, trying, experimenting, moving on – without any authorities. There are no authorities, what there is is information.

I agree 100%. Information is too free these days. Taking charge is liberating.

Hunting Headaches Take 3

This has been a rough summer for me. Things haven’t turned out like I expected. In addition to personal and financial setbacks, I still have not solved the riddle of my headaches. When I began actively researching a solution to my headaches back in March, I had high confidence that I’d figure it out. After all, I cured my rosacea, gotten leaner and solved my back pain. All I needed was more data.

Well, not only have I not solved my headache problem, it has gotten worse. And although the advice I have been getting is well intentioned, most ignores the conditions I’ve described or strategies I’ve tested already. Also, my goal is not to cure the pain once it surfaces, but to prevent it from occurring. Removing the headache is simple. I just lift my head into an upright position and be patient. But, that sucks when it is 3 AM and you really want to sleep.

Background

Hunting Headaches – Background describing headaches and my initial efforts.

Hunting Headaches Take 2 – Four new strategies.

30 Days Without Cheese – Eliminating tyramine as a cause.

My Headache Journal – Data going back to March 24, 2011.

It’s Not a Tumor

A few have suggested that I immediately seek out medical care, because it may be a tumor or something equally dangerous. I looked into this and I have none of the symptoms that are common in those with brain tumors or that have neurological damage. Having me throw away $10,000 to eliminate a slim possibility is not going to happen. Also, it doesn’t explain why my sister gets the same headaches, unless we both have the same exact rare condition. Ridiculously slim odds.

I know we live in a fear mongering climate, but I do not consider my headaches to be an emergency situation. I’ve had them for many years and all other aspects of my health are stellar. So, I’m not surrendering to medical professionals. At the point where I’ve exhausted all avenues, I will. I’m not there yet.

Dietary or Environmental?

I’ve been criticized for approaching this problem almost solely from a dietary perspective. There are a few reasons for that. One, diet is very critical to our health outcomes. Two, I already know at least two dietary factors play a role in my headaches: gluten and alcohol (both have long been eliminated from my diet). Three, my environment has not only changed throughout my adult life (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, San Diego, Seattle), it is something I have less control over. In the end, I expect the cause of the headaches to be multi-factor. If I can eliminate or isolate all the dietary causes first, then I can pursue the environmental side with cleaner data.

The Glass Half Full

Although I haven’t solved my headaches, I have eliminated many potential causes as prime suspects. I’m also eliminating many supplements as potential solutions. This is a good thing. For example, I no longer need to fear chocolate as a potential cause of my headaches. I have enough data show it is not a problem. There is also no correlation with local pollen counts. So every failed test is not a failure. That is beauty of self experimentation. You learn what makes your body tick.

The Next 30 Day Test

It is time to bring out the big guns. I’ve tried many supplements and none have demonstrated that they can reduce the intensity or frequency of my headaches. Combine this with the fact that I already eat super clean and I’m coming to the conclusion that it is not a nutrient deficiency. If there is a dietary component, then it is likely something I’m consuming regularly that my body sees as problematic.

There are two potential causes that come to mind: dairy and caffeine. They are also consumed by my sister as well. My plan all along was to get off the caffeine this summer, but it has proven way too difficult for a number of reasons. And please don’t comment that my sinus headaches are really caffeine withdrawal. They aren’t in the same region of the head and they feel completely different. Caffeine headaches are trivial compared to what I’m going through. Also, I recently did a test where I consumed low doses of caffeine during the night. It made no difference.

That leaves dairy. Dairy is mentioned as a common sinus allergen in the book Healing Your Sinuses. So is wheat and since I’ve already determined that wheat makes my sinus problems worse, logically it makes sense to test dairy next. I can’t recall a single day in my life that I didn’t have some dairy.

I am going to eliminate all dairy for 30 Days and then monitor my outcomes.

I’ll also keep striving to reduce caffeine and practice stress reduction, especially on days where I wake up without a headache. The hunt continues!

30 Days Without Cheese

I completed another 30 Day experiment. This time I went 30 days without any aged cheese. This restricted me to just cottage cheese and cream cheese. All other types of cheese were eliminated during this period. I was motivated to see if this would have an impact the the frequency and intensity of my headaches.

Mouse Cheese by arbyreed

In the post Hunting Headaches Take 2, I decided to see if tyramine was a culprit in my headaches.

The good news is I may not need to give up dairy. After Marians comment, I went back and took a deeper look at dairy. It seems aged cheese has something called tyramine, which is a trigger for migraines. Now, I am still not certain that my headaches are migraine in nature, but Im willing to give this a try.

Well if you have been following my headache journal, you can see that my headaches didn’t decline last month. In fact, they got worse. So cheese is innocent, therefore tyramine is not a problem for me. Although it is discouraging that I still haven’t solved my headache problem, it is good news that I’ve eliminated another suspect. And a delicious suspect at that. :)

The Internet provides endless amounts of information and opinion on what you should or shouldn’t eat. The best person to listen to is yourself. Doing 30 Day tests are a phenomenal tool for taking control of your own health destiny. Eliminate a food for 30 days, keep everything else the same and then monitor. At the end of 30 Days, reintroduce the food and monitor for 4 more days. Did things get better, worse or stay the same? You have your answer. No doctor or blood work required.

As for my headaches, the quest continues. I’ve got a book on the topic, which is something I should have picked up months ago. I’m also testing two new supplements. I’ll figure this out.

 

Concluding Seasonal Strategies For Fitness and Nutrition

About a year ago I decided to alter my diet and activity level based upon the season. I was motivated by the differences I saw in the approaches to paleolithic diets. Some of my nutritional mentors favored higher fat levels, some higher protein levels and others had a more relaxed opinion to carbohydrates. Instead of picking a favorite, I theorized that I could reconcile the different beliefs by altering the approach based upon the season.

The outstanding book Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar and Survival helped me outline my seasonal approach. From my review:

Lights Out is mostly about the evolutionary and hormonal aspects to light and sleep. Longer days (more light) tell the body via hormones that it is summer and that means eat sugar now before winter comes. Shorter days (less light) tell the body to sleep more and eat less.

The short version is summer is for growth and winter is for repair. More carbohydrates are available in the summer. Less in the winter. We are more active in the summer and rest more in the winter. At least we are supposed to. Artificial light and access to endless supplies of food year round have put modern man in a constant hormonal state of summer. This is not ideal for fat loss or health in general. From that same review:

The problem is we are not only in constant Summer Mode from endless supplies of carbohydrates, we are in constant Summer Mode from excessive lighting and shortened winter sleep cycles. Winter Mode is for repair. When that repair doesnt happen (no Winter Mode), it can result in obesity, cancer and mental illness.

Nephropal wrote an excellent primer on Summer vs Winter Mode.

Summer in Seattle

The Strategies

How Did I Do?

I was able to get to get to the leanest point of my adult life using this method. During the winter months I had some of the deepest and most relaxing sleep ever. For me the experiment was a rewarding experience. I had no problem following the seasonal approach, but I am probably a special case. I was already lean to start with and had no night time commitments during the winter months.

Recommendations

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. Since most of us are in endless Summer Mode, the season we need to repair the most is Winter. Here are the 2 most important seasonal steps you can take during the winter to improve your health.

  1. Sleep more and reduce exposure to artificial light at night and in the evening.
  2. Reduce your carbohydrate intake. Less activity and more rest means fewer carbs.

What “Winter” means can vary from person to person. For someone in perfect health, they may use the calendar definition. For others in poor health, they may extend their “Winter” to undo the damage caused by a lifetime of endless hormonal Summer. Also, how far you live from the Equator will play a role.

Going Forward

I am a few months into testing a new strategy that combines the best ideas from the seasonal approach with the flexibility of modern life. The new plan is more in line with my Minimal Effort Approach. If it goes well, I’ll share it in a future post.

UPDATE: My newest strategy is The Paleo/HIT Cyclical Approach to Fitness and Nutrition.

Hunting Headaches Take 2

In the post Hunting Headaches, I shared my headache journal and my inability so far to solve my headache problem or even isolate what type of headaches I’m getting. In the comments, I got a lot of good ideas for things to try next. I created a brand new tab on my headache journal spreadsheet.

http://tinyurl.com/my-headaches

4 Things To Track

The new tab does not track weather, pollen, chocolate, Netti pot use, supplements or the time of the day when I drank my last coffee. None of those variables seemed to matter. From the comments on the last post, I pulled 4 ideas of things to try and track. Now with diet, I normally try and test one variable at a time. That is because the ideas I’m trying have usually been tried successfully by many other people and I’m already at an ideal weight.

With headaches, I’m clearly not in an ideal state. There is something wrong, so trying 4 independent strategies at the same time might help me solve my headache problem. If this works, I can then remove each of the methods until headaches are retriggered to find the guilty party or parties. And if Headache Hunting Take 2 doesn’t work, then I can more quickly eliminate 4 more ideas from the guilty suspect list.

1- Reduce Caffeine

My plan all along was to cut back my coffee intake in the summer. Then Seattle got the Northwest Coffee Festival, which was 10 days of excessive coffee consumption. Last year I did a new style of caffeine detox that worked extremely well. It was a slower detox than the ones you see online, but it was painless and the results were longer lasting. My hope is that reducing my caffeine intake by 50% will result in a measurable decline in headache frequency and intensity.

2- Eliminate Aged Cheese

Giving up dairy completely is not an option for me. I believe I’d lose muscle without dairy. A man can only eat so much beef and bacon. And I rather be in pain than be a Stick Boy. The good news is I may not need to give up dairy. After Marian’s comment, I went back and took a deeper look at dairy. It seems aged cheese has something called tyramine, which is a trigger for migraines. Now, I am still not certain that my headaches are migraine in nature, but I’m willing to give this a try.

cheese

Cheese 101 by Steel Wool

In addition to aged cheese, I found out it also appears in some other foods that I eat. Tyramine is found in sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and Marmite. Oh no! After some deep Googling I discovered that fermented veggies do not have near the levels of tyramine that aged cheeses do.

The ebook Meal Ideas and Menus: Avoiding High-tyramine Foods Made Easy (PDF) by Kathrynne Holden, MS, RD actually has real numbers on tyramine levels. Here are some.

Attention: The internal data of table “13” is corrupted!

Who eats just an ounce of cheese? Also, look at the Sauerkraut numbers. Kind of wide range and it is measuring 4 oz. Kimchi is “believed to be high”, but the fermentation for kimchi (using nappa cabbage) is much shorter, so it is most certainly lower. Miso soup is also “believed to be high”. I was consuming Miso daily in small doses after the Japan accident, but have since cut back to twice a week. I’m also a fan of Marmite, but could easily take a break from that. Another data point I see quoted is that “aged” chicken livers are very high in tyramine. Who ages chicken livers?

UPDATE: I did some digging into the “avoid liver” recommendation in the post Is Liver High in Tyramine?

By eliminating aged cheese and Marmite, I should be cutting out over 90% of the tyramine in my diet. If that doesn’t result in a reduction of headaches, then I can conclude tyramine is not a cause. I’m not cutting out sauerkraut or kimchi. I’ve seen too many positive health benefits from those foods, plus I had these style headaches long before I discovered fermentation.

3-Mobility: Neck, Shoulders, More

I liked Justin’s comment about addressing postural issues with the neck. Because I push pixels, I am at risk for having more neck tension issues. Currently, I do neck and shoulder mobility work every 5th day. I’m going to increase this and add in a few minutes of deep breathing exercises.

4- Aromatherapy

I’ve never thought about aromatherapy for a second. I always assumed it was something sold to old ladies, but then I followed up on GWhitney’s comment about lavender. There are several studies that show improved sleep and health benefits associated with lavender. Since I also love the smell of lavender, I’ll be trying this as well. I’m just glad it is lavender and not orange peels. I’d rather have a headache every night than smell orange peels. :)

 

A High Intensity Approach to Cold Weather Training

It has been a while since I last posted on Cold Weather Training. For those new to the site, I began experimenting with cold temperature exposure back in 2008 as way to “toughen up” after living in the perfect temperatures of San Diego for seven years. What I learned was that not only does cold temperature exposure increase your personal comfort zone, but it has many health benefits including fat loss and a stronger immune system.

I thought I had nothing new to add to this discussion until about a month ago. While studying the High Intensity Training approach to weight lifting, I wondered if those concepts could be applied to cold temperature exposure. HIT workouts are extremely intense, very brief and highly effective. The goal is to trigger certain physiological and hormonal responses and then allow the body to respond. I love Dr. Doug McGuff’s analogy of hitting an elevator button. Once the button is pressed, pressing it more won’t make the elevator arrive faster.

When I approached cold weather exposure, I gradually increased the duration I spent outdoors as the temperatures were falling. I went from requiring a jacket at 65 degrees to spending hours outdoors in the 30s with just a short sleeve shirt. It took several months, lots of planning and raw grit to get the benefits. My experiment was interesting to others, but not inspiring or empowering. It also violated my Minimal Effort Approach philosophy.

Is there another way?

Photo by espensorvik

What if one could do a High Intensity approach to cold temperature exposure that achieves the same benefits in far less time? This is all theory and self experimentation. I have no clue if this will work, but I’m thinking it might. After taking two months off from cold weather training, I started this method about a month ago. I’m getting rapid adaptations. It could be my prior training or it could be the new method. I want to find out.

Welcome to version 1 of High Intensity Cold Weather Training. Here is how it works.

Cold Water Exposure

At the end of your daily shower, turn the water to as friggin cold as you can handle without having a heart attack. Do deep slow breathing and relax. Aim the cold water directly between your neck and shoulder blades. Hold this for 30 seconds. End the shower. That is it. If you want you can do a quick rinse on your legs, but that is optional.

Cold Ambient Temperature Exposure

I don’t know if cold water alone will build temperature resiliency. For this you will need to go outside when it is chilly. Wear one less layer than you normally would. Go for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, many people will discover they have already started adapting to the colder temperatures. Most people baby their metabolism. Force it to work for you! After five minutes, you can put your jacket back on. Do this repeatedly and you’ll soon discover the need to always grab a jacket will disappear.

This post was written as we head into summer. This means take advantage of early mornings and late evenings.

Feedback

I’d love to get feedback from others if they try High Intensity Cold Weather Training. I’m already well adapted to both cold water and cold ambient temperatures. For me this method is about maintaining my temperature resiliency. I have no desire to swim a mile in icy water. I also suspect that extreme exposure to cold temperatures could have the opposite effect on fat loss, as the body would respond to the chronic temperature stress by increasing body fat.

The three things to look for are:

  1. Increased temperature comfort zone. You should begin to feel more comfortable with lower temperatures.
  2. Fat loss. I covered this in the post The Media Discovers Brown Fat.
  3. More energetic. Nothing like a blast of coldness to jump start your day!

Are you ready to try High Intensity Cold Weather Training?

Be Your Own Dermatologist

From about the time I was in college until two years ago I would occasionally get rosacea outbreaks on my cheeks and forehead. Rosacea is a skin condition that manifests as redness. It is mostly just a cosmetic annoyance. A flare-up can make you look like you are blushing. In 2008, I decided to see a skin doctor to treat the problem.

The dermatologist hammered me with antibiotics and creams. And they worked. My skin improved by 90%. I was satisfied, but she wasn’t, so she upped my antibiotics dosage even more. I went back to see her every few months. Occasionally I would get a minor flare-up, but the trend was improving.

Me and my rosacea from July 2000.

Then I started to suspect that the medicine was making me sick when, on one of those rare occasions, I had a stout at a local brew pub. The dermatologist assured me that was impossible. I was also spending a lot of money on the pills and creams. I started to lose faith that the treatment prescribed by the dermatologist was sustainable.

It was about this time that I started running my own health experiments with intermittent fasting and cold weather exposure. In the spirit of self experimentation, I decided I would figure out the minimum dose among all the medicines that could get me the most results with my rosacea. I quickly discovered that the $7 cream was the only thing needed and it was only necessary maybe 2-3 times a month. Everything else was wasted money.

Photo by Charles Kaiser

When I cut bread and alcohol out of my diet, I didn’t need any medication. Not even the cream. Never once did the dermatologist ever bring up the idea that changing my diet could cure my rosacea. Now I know that I could have saved a few hundred dollars by running my own tests.

I’m not a doctor, but I know enough now to recognize that the body is trying to tell us something when our skin gets inflamed. Be it rosacea, acne, a rash or a sunburn. The body is signalling that something is wrong. Discovering if there is an external or internal toxin should be the first avenue of investigation. I am fortunate that I stumbled onto the solution and was able to stop masking the symptoms with pills and creams.

Me without rosacea (or medications) in November 2009. Bread was 99% eliminated from my diet by then.

Now I am not going to give medical advice, as your skin condition might be far worse than what I had. However, I will say that a 30 day test can tell you a lot. Eliminate common skin allergens from your diet for a month and see what happens. For me it was bread. For others it might sugar, dairy or soy.

There are quite a few posts on this site that discuss how certain foods can make us fat or irritate our gut. The skin is another indicator that we should be paying attention to. When I eliminated the bread, not only did I get leaner, but my skin cleared up. A sure sign that my body sees bread as a toxin. Eliminating bread from my diet was a free treatment that required no doctor visits.

Ending the 30 Day No Sugar No Fruit Experiment

Almost a month ago I started a new 30 Day experiment of going a month without any sugar or fruit. My goal was to once and forever determine if there was a link between sugar and my frequent headaches. I didn’t think there was, but I wanted to run an additional test to confirm.

On day 4, I accidentally consumed a few grams of sugar in a BBQ sauce. Then mid-month I learned that Sriracha sauce has trace amounts of sugar, so there was another gram. All in all, I was doing pretty good. However, the headaches didn’t go away. In fact, they started to increase in frequency. So last Saturday, I ended my 30 Day experiment a few days short. Giving up sugar was easy for me. Giving up sugar while sleep deprived from headaches not caused by sugar just started to seem pointless.

Photo by brx0

The good news is I can eliminate sugar from the guilty suspects causing my headaches. I don’t consume much and I do think going almost a month without sugar reset my sweet cravings that spiked during the 2nd month of 16 hour daily fasts. Now I am back to normal. I’ll resume eating blueberries and dark chocolate.

Last week I did get a good lead on the cause of my headaches. It is way too soon to discuss, as I only have 5 days of data. When I know more, I’ll share the details. But for now, I’m going to get some chocolate. :)

 

30 Days Without Sugar or Fruit

I love a good experiment and I’m about to start a new one. I’ve done 30 days without sugar and 30 days without fruit, but not at the same time. Yesterday I realized that if I really want to test the effects of removing fructose from my diet, then I need to remove both for 30 days. I may have drawn false conclusions from my previous test.

Although I had intended to cut my sugar and fruit intake over winter to near zero, I haven’t been successful. The daily 16 hour fasts have had both positive and negative effects. One of the negative effects is my sweet tooth, which was dormant for so long, seems stronger than before. Note that my idea of a “sweet tooth” is not the same as your average food court customer. It is much lower, but it is still double from my normal low levels.

This winter I’ve had more headaches than I’ve had since giving up gluten over a year ago. The headaches come on while I am sleeping (around 3 AM to 4 AM) and are sinus in nature. I don’t think it is a fructose issue, but I’m not 100% sure, which is why I am doing this 30 day test.

Tomorrow is March 1st. It begins then.

See you April Mr. Chocolate?

Cold Weather Training Guide Now Up

Today Seattle got some snow and the temperatures dropped into the 20s and low 30s. This was also the first day of the season that I wore more than a short sleeve shirt. I wore a thin long sleeve shirt over my short sleeve shirt. That was enough to keep me warm.

How did I get resilient to cold weather? Check out my latest Best-Of Guide.

Cold Weather Training

Photo by MAS

Life Without Gluten

I am a fan of doing experiments on nutrition and fitness. And although I understand most people do not share my enthusiasm, if I were to pick a single 30 day experiment for mankind it would be to go gluten free. Go 30 days without bread, pasta, beer and cereals. Then after the 30 days, eat a meal with gluten and then monitor your health for a few days. This will let you know how sensitive you are to gluten.

Grains are not healthy, so going 30 days without grains will not be bad for your health. How are grains unhealthy? I could repeat the reasons, instead I invite you to read Why Grains Are Unhealthy over on Mark’s Daily Apple. That is a comprehensive post on the topic.

When I gave up gluten, I did as part of an overall lower carbohydrate approach to eating. I wasn’t going directly after the gluten at first. By September of 2009 I was 100% gluten free. Since then I have done two tests to see if I really have a problem with gluten. I do. Some people get intestinal issues and skin problems are also common. For me it was massive headaches and some skin flare ups.

cake

Cake time? Not anymore. 

There is no nutritional reason to eat gluten containing products. If you absolutely must have grains, look into the time consuming practice of soaking and sprouting grains practiced by traditional cultures. Personally, I do not miss bread at all. I’m leaner, have less headaches and my skin is better.

If you are overweight, have skin problems, IBS or headaches, I encourage you to go 30 Days Without Gluten. Even if you don’t have an issue, at least you’ll know. You may even lose a few pounds.

After 30 Days Without Sugar

I completed my 30 Days Without Sugar challenge. It wasn’t hard at all. Actually it was quite easy and it just got easier. The purpose of the test was to see if I could detect any positive health benefits by going from a low sugar diet to a zero sugar diet over 30 days. I isolated four metrics for comparison.

  1. Fat Loss
  2. Better Skin
  3. Fewer Headaches
  4. Gut Health

When I dropped gluten from my diet I saw benefits in all these metrics. Not for sugar. Up until the very last week, I saw no improvement in my health by going to a zero sugar diet. On the last week, I did notice a slight amount of fat loss. Very slight. It may have had nothing to do with sugar.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream covered in espresso

Going forward I will adopt a more seasonal approach to sugar. During the summer months, I will have my ice cream and dark chocolate. During the winter months, I will keep my sugar intake to as close to zero as possible. This matches the food supply cycles of our evolutionary past.

Note that my results should not be extrapolated to others. Removing gluten had a far greater positive effect on my health than removing sugar. You may be different. Do your own tests.

No Jacket Required Revisited

In December 2008, I did a post titled No Jacket Required. It detailed my experiment with cold weather exposure. At the end of that winter I shared my results in the post Still No Jacket Required. Since I didn’t post about it this past winter, you might be wondering if it was a one time test. Nope. I did it again.

When I returned from the heat of Thailand back to Seattle in December, the temperature was in the 20s for a few days. During that week, I wore either a long sleeve shirt or a sweater. Then it seemed like we didn’t really have a winter. Very few days were in the 30s. There were mostly days in the 40s. As a result, I didn’t wear a coat once last winter. I almost always wore short-sleeved shirts. The adaptation that I went through last winter carried over.

A kindred spirit! Photo Winter Party by Watt Dabney

At an art walk recently, someone remembered my test from the previous winter and then noticed that I was the only person in shorts that wasn’t the slightly bit cold. He inquired how to develop this skill. Here are the two tips I shared with him.

  1. Wear Fewer Layers – This is the best strategy to pursue during colder weather. The discomfort goes away quickly, especially if you are moving. The body learns how to be comfortable at a wider range of temperatures.
  2. Cold Water Rinse – At the end of every shower, do a cold water rinse. Aim the cold water at your shoulder blades, legs and arms. It doesn’t have to be ice cold. Work up to it. When I started with 30 seconds of moderately cold water, it really shocked my system. Now I can yawn through 3 minutes of an ice cold water rinse. This strategy is perfect for the summer and is probably the reason my first winter adaption carried over.

Why would you ever want to do this? Check out My Cold Weather Challenge To You.

Nutritional Confidence

On the post My Exercise Program – April 2010, I got a great comment from DHammy regarding my statement that I am much more confident in my knowledge of nutrition than I am in fitness.

Im going to take a shot here and suggest that it would be wise to be much less confident in your knowledge of nutrition. The more I learn the more humbled I become. We all subscribed to the idiotic lipid hypothesis for decades and look how wrong we were. Most of the population still follows that conventional wisdom.

Heres what I know and I think youll agree to.
1. Processed foods bad.
2. Sugar BAD, including cane sugar, HFCS, etc.
3. White flour, other highly refined carbs, bad.

4. Now MAYBE we know the difference between good fats and bad fats now. I think I do. But how can we be certain?

Beyond that who the hell knows? I am certainly not confident in how many fruits and vegetables should be in my diet. What are appropriate omega-6:omega-3 ratios and does it even matter? Im sure as hell not confident.

My confidence that I’m nutritionally on the right path comes from a change in approach I took in 2008. No longer would I seek the optimal path, but I’d make slow and steady changes and then observe the results. In the post I’m Not a Vegetarian, I chronicled how I went from one rigid diet to another seeking the optimal path.

Now I know there is no such thing as a nutritionally optimal diet. Rules change. New evidence emerges. Even the location of where you are eating will dictate different rules.

The gradual physique hacking approach gives me the flexibility of always making slight improvements, knowing that I don’t know – nor can I know everything. My nutritional confidence comes from understanding I have a methodology that has worked for me for two years now that is superior to everything I’ve done before.

So I don’t know the perfect Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio. I tweak my diet one thing at a time and experiment. I believe that by design we are supposed to be healthy and achieving that through diet should not be complicated or require massive amounts of willpower. One of issues with the paleo blogging community in the past year is they have taken something simple and made it overly complex. This may be interesting to a handful of us, but I think it sends the wrong message.