I’m Back!

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Wow! Almost one year to the day since I last posted! Where have I been? Did I suffer a heart attack from all the red meat and eggs? Maybe wasted away without all those heart-healthy, whole grains? Or returned to my childhood lifestyle fueled by Skittles and Mountain Dew? Not likely!

Without getting too dramatic, I came to some realizations regarding my personal training career. I was averaging over 35 sessions a week. Combined with preparing programs and diets, studying to earn Continuing Education Credits and stay up on current research, marketing my services, contributing to gyms administratively…I was busy every second of every day.

Don’t get me wrong – it was amazing to do what I loved, as a career. But the fact is, I hit a “glass ceiling” of sorts. I couldn’t accept more clients while still providing top notch service.

My second realization was that most Americans still rely upon a reactive model of health care, as opposed to improving lifestyle in a proactive manner. As part of this, exercise is viewed as a way of balancing out unhealthy choices made the rest of the day.

Easily 75% of those that came to me wanted to do 10 or 20 sessions to get them “in the swing” of exercising a few hours a week, convinced that this would ensure good health regardless of diet, genes, and other lifestyle factors.

images (1)Not only is the general public lacking information, but even many in the medical community have thrown up their hands in despair! During my last year of full-time training I had easily a dozen different clients that came to me only at the insistence of their doctor. Some of these people were 100 to 200 pounds overweight; some had cholesterol levels that no dose of medication could “control”; others went from a diagnosis of pre-diabetes to insulin-dependent diabetes in under a year.

Their doctors prescribed more and more medications. Patients were referred to Registered Dieticians and given USDA handouts recommending a grain-based diet (still 8 to 11 servings a day!) and cautioning against nutrient-dense sources of protein and fat found in nature. Regardless of all this, these clients’ health kept deteriorating until the only place left to look (and point the finger) was their activity and exercise level.

“Your body has lost its ability to properly use carbohydrates? The insulin injections we gave you to do the job of your failing pancreas is no longer helping? And eating more carbs while limiting other nutrients didn’t help? Well, you must be too lazy!”

“You’ve gained 200 pounds in the last 5 years? Noooo, don’t avoid high-calorie, low-nutrient, hunger-stimulating foods like bagels, pastas, and cereal – just peddle a stationary bike for 30 minutes a day!”

“Your iron levels are so low that we want to inject it into your bloodstream. But, if you insist on trying something less invasive, maybe you can give occasional strength training a shot. It’s not like iron is a nutrient found in plenty of foods, with well understood absorption rates.”

 

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Not only was I trying to reshape an individual’s understanding of a healthy lifestyle, but I was also fighting an uphill battle against rhetoric from other health organizations. Again, I don’t blame any individual person…unfortunately, a couple bad studies half a century ago led to the biggest misdirection in terms of nutrition that we have ever experienced.

So, I “sold out to the man” and got a boring 8 to 5 desk job. But, I’m almost 30 and had to accept that guaranteed pay for the hours I work (plus benefits) is necessary to ensure stability in my life. I did keep my most committed clients and I’m still doing everything I can to help any person I come in contact with. And, truth be told, I’ve missed having this outlet to share my discoveries and, let’s be honest, ramble about anything remotely health-related!

In conclusion, I am glad to say that I will return to posting every Monday.

If you haven’t yet, please click the “Follow” button on the right-side of the page – this will send you an email version of each blog post the moment I finish it. And, as always, feel free to contact me via email or phone (also on the right hand side of the page) if you’d like some input specifically for you and your needs.

Sorry for my absence and thanks for reading!

Caffeine Content

As most of my followers know, I try to vary my caffeine intake on a regular basis.

My reason for doing this is to avoid becoming dependent upon the stimulating effect of caffeine and maintain healthy hormone levels. Even though a small dose of caffeine has many benefits for the mind and body, it also raises cortisol, contributing to anxiety, fatigue, and more serious hormonal issues.

My main method of ensuring that I don’t always consume the same significant dose of caffeine is to pick different beverages and preparation methods.

During my recovery week from the gym, I have black or green tea instead of coffee. On weekends I may only have one shot of espresso instead of a large mug full of coffee.

Even though these adjustments or substitutions are easy enough for me to pick, the caffeine content of different drinks is not always well known.

For example, whenever I mention to a group of people that I sometimes choose tea instead of coffee, at least one person will mention that tea has more caffeine than coffee – and believe it or not, this is true! Tea leaves have more caffeine, per weight, than coffee beans. However, far less leaf material is used in the steeping of tea than ground coffee beans for coffee. Also, the tea leaves retain most of their caffeine while the coffee beans release almost all of theirs into the coffee.

Due to these confusions, I thought I’d post a short and simple list detailing the caffeine content of common drinks.

Black Coffee (8oz) 100-200mg

Latte or Mocha (8oz) 65-175mg

Espresso (1oz) 47-75mg

Black Tea (8oz) 14-70mg

Green Tea (8oz) 24-45mg

Iced Tea (8oz) 11-47mg

Decaffeinated Coffee (8oz) 2-12mg

Decaffeinated Black Tea (8oz) 0-12mg

Herbal Tea (8oz) 0-5mg

Of course, this is merely a list of healthy drinks that contain caffeine. Most soft drinks will contain 20 to 100mg per 20 ounces and energy drinks can have up to 350mg per 16 ounces!

So, adjust your beverage choice according to your activity level, sleep quality, and severity of current stresses. Coffee and tea have many health benefits, but as with everything else, there are unhealthy levels of consumption!

What Does The Science Say?

As most of my followers know by now, I am quite critical of the Standard American Diet.

I believe that the USDA recommendation of a high-carb, moderate-fat, and low-protein diet, is a main cause of our nations staggering rates of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, along with hundreds of other autoimmune conditions.

However, it’s not just the level of each of these macronutrients that is problematic. The even bigger issue is the food groups we are recommended to consume to meet these macronutrient ratios.

Instead of eating a high-carb diet full of beneficial plants like vegetables, fruits, roots, and tubers, we are told that carbs should come predominately from grains. Even though grains became a very easy way to feed the masses during the advent of city-states, they result in a massive influx of sugar in the bloodstream with very little fiber and vitamin-content.

We are told that the majority of fats should come from man-made, refined vegetable oils such as margarine, soy, and canola oil. These are unstable chemically, resulting in oxidization and accumulation of plaque within the arteries. The most natural source of fat within the wild is from animals and fish. When plant sources of fat are consumed, coconut, avocado, and nuts are a much more natural source than oils crushed, bleached, and aromatized, from ears of corn and miniscule seeds.

Finally, our protein recommendations are so low that the aging population is expected to lose muscle-mass and bone density. What’s even more interesting is that we are told to consume higher amounts of the two energy sources (fats and carbs) than protein. Protein is used by the body for maintenance, and by the brain for neurological functioning, but carbs and fats are more readily used as fuel. Keeping all sources of fuel high is known to cause weight gain and unfavorable blood cholesterol levels.

Meals I recommend would look like the following:

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A full plate of vegetables, enough protein to feel full and alert, and adequate healthy fat and fruit to meet specific fuel-needs.

Although I avoid putting a name or title on a specific way of eating, my approach would fit in with the “Paleo Diet” or the “Ancestral Human Diet”. The reason I avoid using these titles is because it conjures up misconceptions and also includes the word “diet” which elicits thoughts of a short-term or temporary way of eating.

Due to the success I’ve seen by hundreds of clients, and read about from thousands of others, it is clear that anecdotal experience supports a way of eating based on how humans would eat in nature. Scientific mechanisms, such as the aforementioned oxidization of unstable fats in the bloodstream leading to plaque accumulation in the arteries, also support a return to eating that is in accordance with nature. But do any human studies actually support a diet based on vegetables instead of grains, allowing adequate consumption of nutrient-dense animals and fish, devoid of restrictions on cholesterol or fat?

Yes! Here is a list of the 22 most reliable studies comparing this way of eating with many others.

Why only 22 though? This number seems rather small considering that humans have been eating this way for over 2 million years. Well, these are merely the reliable studies – these involve no bias, no manipulation of data or results, and adhere to scientific research standards.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there are studies to support any claim or point of view. For example, The China Study and The Seven Countries Study support the low-protein, high-carb diet that has been the standard for the last 50 years. However, if you recall, these used highly unreliable methods such as eliminating data that didn’t support the researchers bias, or extrapolating health problems resulting from an isolated gluten and casein diet to a diet containing animal proteins.

If you would like a simplified review of some of these studies, follow the next two links:
http://www.marksdailyapple.com/is-the-paleo-diet-supported-by-scientific-research/#axzz3fUecaj5o
http://www.marksdailyapple.com/is-the-paleo-diet-supported-by-scientific-research-part-2/#axzz3fUecaj5o
These two posts from Mark’s Daily Apple are what inspired this post of my own.

All my followers know my recommendation by now, but I figured it was time to provide the actual studies to support this way of eating too!

Raw Milk

Milk is a staple within the United States. It has been integrated into every meal of the day. We even have modified versions for those that are lactose intolerant. Drinking milk has become so customary that we have forgot how strange and it really is.

No other creature goes out of its way to consume the dairy of another species. It is almost unheard of in the wild to see anything, human or otherwise, drinking milk after infancy.

What makes this even more unnatural is that we take a living, nutritious food and pasteurize it, leaving us with a dead product, pumped full of synthetic vitamins. Companies go one step further to remove the naturally occurring fats. This reduces the absorption of nutrients and leaves the consumer with a watery drink that is high in sugar and easy to over consume.

Pasteurization of milk was originally heralded as an amazing thing. However, it was actually a poor bandage, addressing a symptom of our nations worsening food industry.

Companies started warehousing thousands of cows in enclosed areas, miles from cities. To reduce costs and increase profits, no thought was given to sanitation, proper treatment of animals, or storage and shipment of the final product.

This culminated in an outbreak of typhoid and tuberculosis in the late 1800’s, leading to a major increase in infant mortality throughout the U.S. and England.

Fortunately, hundreds of years later, there exist farmers that raise animals in a safe and natural manner, providing the public with healthy raw milk.

After accounting for frequency of consumption, an individual is more likely to become ill from beef, eggs, poultry, produce, and seafood than raw dairy.

The last death from raw milk was in 1980, while approximately 5,000 people die in the U.S., every year from these other foods.

To put the risk into other terms, there is a 1 in 94,000 chance of becoming sick from raw dairy but a 1 in 8,000 risk of dying from a motor vehicle accident.

Consuming raw dairy is a risk, but the risk is rather small when put into perspective.

Dairy is not a necessary food. It provides no novel or special nutrients.

Vegetables and fish provide plenty of calcium. Eggs, fish, and meat provide more vitamin A, D, K, and E than dairy. Just one bite of organ meat (liver for example) provides more copper, iron, and manganese than a gallon of milk.

However, I love a strong cheddar cheese, the versatility of yogurt, and the growth benefits of milk post-workout…and I have no allergies or intolerances! So, I occasionally indulge in local, raw cheeses, I have Greek yogurt almost everyday, and drink a cup of raw, grass-fed milk after every workout.

If you tolerate dairy well, and it fits in with your goals, there is no need to avoid it. But I would still stay away from the man-made, processed versions available in most markets and gas stations.

As always – consume whole, living food, the way nature intended, to optimize the health and function of your body!

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Pancake Recipe

My typical breakfast on weekdays consists of 4 to 6 eggs, an avocado made into guacamole, a handful of fruit, and one or two bites of beef liver. This provides me with the protein and energy to get through the first half of my workday, an intense training session, along with the amount of nutrients found in most multi-vitamins.

However, this is very filling so, on weekends, when I don’t have scheduled workouts, I prefer something more light. Actually, on weekends, I skip breakfast altogether and just eat a brunch around 12 to 2 PM. This allows about 16 hours to pass from my dinner the previous night, to the first meal of the day on Saturday or Sunday.

This “16 hour fast” gives the body time to take a break from active digestion so it can repair cells. It also helps maintain proper hunger satiety and blood sugar levels. For all the benefits of intermittent fasting, click here.

When I do finally eat on weekends, my favorite meal in the summer is pancakes topped with fruit. But, as most of you know, typical pancake recipes will be loaded with sugars and man-made fats. Even the healthy varieties contain refined grains, high levels of gluten, or just way more carbs than the typical American needs.

To help all my followers avoid the pitfalls of such a beloved American breakfast, below is the recipe I use for pancakes:

  1. In one bowl, mix 2 tablespoons coconut flour, 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon baking powder, and a pinch salt.
  2. In another bowl, mix ½ cup coconut milk, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and a drizzle of honey.
  3. Combine powdered mixture and liquid mixture and stir. It’s important to wait at least 5 minutes for the flaxseeds to absorb the liquid, thereby creating the typical pancake batter we are all so fond of.
  4. Grease nonstick pans with coconut oil and set heat to low. Pour batter into pans and cook at least 5 minutes on each side. Once several bubbles have developed in batter, you know its time to flip them.
  5. Serve with desired toppings and enjoy!

The best thing about this recipe is that it will provide 3 large pancakes without a great deal of ingredients. What other pancake or waffle recipe only calls for 4 tablespoons of ground mix?

Another amazing thing about this recipe is that it can be modified to meet your tastes or needs.

If you are active, load the pancakes with bananas, top with berries, or drizzle maple syrup on top. Something I’ve recently tried is to pour the entire mix into a blender along with a ripe plantain. This provides the same flavor as a banana, with less sugar and more fiber and nutrients. It also doubles the resulting number of pancakes.

If you prefer a richer and more sustaining breakfast, top with almond butter and maybe add a tablespoon or two of powdered 100% cacao into the mix.

No matter what fruit, nut, or natural product you add, these pancakes will provide far more nutrients, with far less detriments, than typical flour pancakes, or even gluten-free alternatives.

Let me know how they work out for you!

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The Misconceptions of Aging

Within the United States, there are endless misconceptions regarding development of disease, reversal of health, and loss of function, as we age. Through my experience with clients, I have noticed that the average American expects a major yearly decline, starting before they are 40 years old.

If we look at indigenous tribes, free of many modern diseases and living a more natural lifestyle, or take an evolutionary perspective to examine how humans aged over the last 2 million years, we do not see such a marked decline in quality of life.

Humans may move slower and sleep less as they age, but it isn’t until their last week of life that they experience such a massive difference. One week they are extremely fatigued, maybe stop getting out of bed or eating, and then peacefully pass away in their sleep between the ages of 70 and 80.

Clearly our hormonal profiles change a great deal between the ages of 30 and 50. But this change occurs simply because we have already met our (theoretical) biological imperative of reproduction and proliferation of the species.

In Paleolithic times, early humans were active, healthy, and disease free into their late 60’s and early 70’s. Infant deaths and deaths from injury, infection, etc skew the data and leave us with the false belief that the average “caveman” only lived to 25.

Between our unhealthy lifestyles, full of empty calories from processed foods and devoid of activity, and pharmaceutical companies telling us what ailments are “normal”, our expectation of a major health decline becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Let’s look at some examples of how the “affects of aging” are dependent upon lifestyle factors.

Type 2 diabetics are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Some individuals may have genetics that predispose them to blood sugar regulation issues but, ultimately, diabetes is caused by choices we make regarding diet and exercise.

Low blood cholesterol levels greatly increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and dementia. Unfortunately, a few researchers found a weak correlation between cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. Because of this, the average American will do anything (including taking Statins that can cause diabetes) to lower their cholesterol.

Bone density and osteoporosis result because our diets don’t include enough magnesium and protein and our lifestyles don’t provide necessary vitamin D and load-bearing activity. We developed this notion that bones are rigid structures no different than concrete. Maybe if we swallow enough calcium, without concern for absorption factors, we can keep bones hard. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Bones are living tissues that must be used during exercise, and fed with proteins, to maintain density.

Lean body mass also decreases as we age. At first we linked this loss to a change in hormones and wrote it off as an inevitable outcome of aging. However, with adequate strength training, protein consumption, and a nutrient dense diet, it is possible to maintain lean body mass and prevent an increase in body fat as we age.

A properly structured strength training programming will not only benefit bones and body composition, but also will ensure better cognitive performance and balance.

Another major health issue that plagues our country is cancer. The majority of oncologists agree that 30 to 35% of cancers can be linked to diet.

Arthritis is another condition widely misunderstood in our country. The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis can be caused by abnormal joint development, but more often than not, it is caused by injury, improper movement, or excess body fat.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that can be avoided, or reversed, through diet. Vegetable oils (corn, canola, etc) are extremely inflammatory and prone to chemical degradation in the blood. Grains, particularly refined wheat flours that are high in gluten and gliadin, will puncture the gut lining, resulting in proteins traveling through the blood, wreaking havoc elsewhere in the body.

Finally, deficiencies in the B vitamins, iron, and essential fatty acids, are extremely common in the U.S., and are responsible for deteriorating neurological function.

Vitamin B12 and iron are best obtained from red meat and shellfish. Fish and animals fed a natural diet (grass-fed cows, pasture-raised pork) provide the proper form of Omega 3 (known as DHA) that our brains require. Unfortunately, most of us consume too much of the wrong fatty acid (Omega 6) or, when we do consume Omega 3, we consume it as AHA (from plants), which humans cannot use.

At the end of the day, age is just a number. I have clients that are 90 years old and performing better than other clients that are 30.

Rather than using age as an excuse, use it as an extra reason to be proud!

Instead of saying “I’m 70 so I can’t use that big barbell”, say “I’m 70 and I just squatted with the equivalent of my own bodyweight on my back”!

Instead of saying “I’m over 50 so my knees can’t tolerate running anymore”, say “I’m over 50 but I still got a better time than a 30 year old in my last half marathon”!

We can’t stop ourselves from aging, but we can change how it affects our bodies!

But What Does the Science Say?

As most of you know by now, many of my recommendations are at odds with “conventional wisdom”.

I believe grains are a poor food group to base a diet upon. I believe red meat is one of the healthiest protein sources if the animal is raised naturally. I do not believe in fortified foods, multi-vitamins, and pharmaceuticals as a first-line of defense.

Why do I believe these things?

Because science can be conducted, or reported, in a way that distorts or completely ignores facts and truths.

For example, the Seven Countries Study suggested that saturated fats from animals are unhealthy. However, the researcher excluded many countries that consumed a high-fat diet yet had superb health, and also compiled meat consumption statistics during lent.

Years later, The China Study had a similar conclusion – that all animal protein is unhealthy and causes cancer. Upon examination of the research methods, it was revealed that the researcher first exposed rats to cancer-causing toxins and then fed them a diet high in casein (an inflammatory protein isolated from dairy). The rats being fed the most casein experienced a growth in their cancer cells, leading to the final conclusion that all animal protein, and particularly meat, causes cancer.

How could these faulty and weak studies possibly guide public policy and became the basis for our nutritional guidelines? Unfortunately, the explanation is well beyond the scope of this single blog post. But I will say that the emotional fear of a cardiovascular epidemic, along with lobbying, special interests, and potential profits, all played a role.

The real point of this post is to bring the faults and manipulations of science to light. Take a quick look at the following graph:

Cancer

This charts the number of medical studies showing what foods cause cancer or protect against cancer. For example, 6 studies suggest wine protects against cancer while 3 claim it causes cancer. Further down, 4 studies “prove” coffee protects against cancer, 4 studies show the exact opposite, and 1 study concludes that coffee doesn’t affect cancer risks.

Since these studies are flawed to begin with, we need to stop relying upon science done by others.

Instead, educate yourself on a topic, whether it’s a macronutrient, food group, or specific food. If something seems beneficial, or at the very least non-threatening, try incorporating it in your diet and track your results.

For myself, I discovered eating 4-6 eggs a day drastically raised my HDL (good cholesterol) while having no affect on my negative blood markers. Conversely, if I eat grains multiple times a day, my digestion suffers and blood sugar levels become erratic.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what the newest headline or study suggests. Science is conducted by humans and therefore is not infallible. Explore the chemical makeup of certain foods, which cannot be misrepresented, and then rely upon experiences that you can see, feel, and track in your own life. And remember there are always professionals, such as myself, that are eager to help!