Quick Review Of “Green For Life”

Health No Comments »

Lately I’ve been studying raw eating.  It’s definitely not the best way to eat, but incorporating more raw foods into your diet is great for improving health.  Latest of the books I’ve read about raw living is Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko.

Victoria was following a completely raw diet, but her health began slipping.  Then she realized that she was consuming hardly any greens, just a lot of fruits and nuts.  When she added in more leafy greens, her health improved.  Since then she started making green smoothie recipes for people following standard raw diets, and they all experienced better health as well.

woman_drinking_green_smoothie

Everyone will tell you that eating more veggies is a good thing, but they’re kind of vague about amounts.  (That’s why I like Dr. Terry Wahls’ advice to eat three cups a day, it’s a concrete metric to follow.  Check out her TED talk here: Minding Your Mitochondria)  Boutenko added greens to fruit smoothies to increase her daily intake while still having them taste good.

There’s some misleading information in the book, especially when using the chimpanzee diet as the gold standard for humans to achieve, but the general thrust is dead on: Eat More Greens.

If you want to read about Boutenko’s experience and how the lives of many raw foodists improved with added greens, check out the book.  If you agree that greens are good and you don’t care about other people’s experiences, skip it.

Here are three of the green smoothie recipes from Green for Life:

Minty Thrill

  • 4 ripe pears
  • 5 leaves kale
  • 1/2 bunch mint
  • 2 cups water

Weeds For Kids

  • 4 peeled mangoes
  • 1 handful wild greens (like purslane)
  • 2 cups water

Freshness

  • 8 leaves Romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 medium honeydew
  • 2 cups water

You can tell from these recipes that it doesn’t take much in the way of added greens to make dramatic health improvements.  Even if you don’t read the book or make smoothies, make an effort to take in more greens.

green smoothie

Skinny Fat

Exercise, Nutrition, Weight Loss No Comments »

What the heck does it mean to be “skinny fat”?

Here is a simple way to describe it: Normal or low body weight, high body fat (as a percentage), and low amount of muscle.

Someone who is skinny fat might seem like they have a fast metabolism, but everything they eat either goes right through them, or what does stick becomes a double chin, muffin top, or squishy butt.

muffin top

Skinny fat can be the result of excessive cardio training without resistance training to keep/build muscle, or else it’s the result of very low physical activity coupled with low food intake.  (Since both end up at skinny fat, seems like it’d be easier to eat less than to do all the cardio, right?)

Skinny fatters are usually quite weak, since they don’t have any lean muscle.

One of the biggest mistakes someone who is skinny fat can make is to try to do lots more cardio to burn off the fat, be it muffin top, booty, or neck.  But that shuts down muscle building/toning and can even cause muscle breakdown, enlarging the disparity between lean muscle and body fat – which makes the skinny fat dilemma even worse.

All the cardio is doing is using the nutrients taken in to fuel the activity, instead of using them to build muscle.

Fashion Week in Rio, Brazil - 17 Apr 2013

And skinny fatters can’t firm up much by just eating more, even if they’re just rocking protein and veggies six times a day.  It might work a bit, but the skinny fat solution is to focus on building muscle and tightening everything up, THEN embarking on a strategic fat loss plan (that probably won’t involve too much cardio training).

Besides robbing the body of nutrients needed for building muscle, excessive cardio also robs the exerciser of the energy needed for productive muscle building workouts.  The bod can really only focus on one goal at a time.

The trick is hard weight training and eating enough (of the right foods) to gain muscle without “overfilling the cup” and having it spill over into fat storage.  It’s a narrow line to walk, but it’s not too difficult for someone to find their sweet spot if they train hard, eat right, and pay attention to what’s going on in their body.

Most skinny fatters fear that a strategy like the one outlined above will make them fatter and heavier.  It might add a few pounds of lean and toned muscle, but it won’t make anyone into a heavyweight.  In fact, a skinny fatter who adds a few pounds of muscle will look leaner.  (It will also give them more strength, health, and longevity… but today the focus is on appearance :))

SKinnyFat-Woman-Body

Let’s take a bird’s eye view of what would change… Our hypothetical skinny fat subject weighs 120 pounds and has 30% bodyfat.  They are doing cardio four times a week in the “aerobic” zone and following a low-fat intermittent fasting plan (which is often just a way to disguise the beginnings of an eating disorder).  Now our subject has decided that they want to firm thing up and look better both in and out of clothes.  What might their new plan look like?

For starters, there needs to be some resistance training.  Bodyweight exercises, machines, dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, whatever.  Something has to be moved against the resistance of gravity with a goal of building some muscle and strength.  Three or four sessions a week.

Next, dropping the long and slow cardio for a few sets of hard intervals.  This will keep the metabolism revving and tell the body to hang on to muscle to power through the sprints.  Two or three short and hard sessions a week.

Finally, nutrition.  Focusing on protein with the right mix of carbs and fats to build strength and health.  Four or five smallish meals packed full of nutrition spread evenly through the day.  The low fat/intermittent fasting plan doesn’t give enough nutrients to build lean muscle

Making these changes is the way for someone suffering from skinny fat syndrome to become tight and lean.

Have fun!

Research: Ashwagandha For Increased Testosterone

Health, Study No Comments »

Ashwagandha is an herb used extensively in Indian Ayurvedic medicine.  But does it have benefits for someone living in the modern world?

The research says “Yes!”

What is ashwagandha?

ashwagandha witheria somnifera plant

It is an herb that belongs to the same plant family as the tomato, and has oval leaves and yellow flowers.  It bears tiny red fruit.  Native to India, Africa, and the Middle East, ashwagandha is now grown all over the world.

The plant is called withania somnifera in Latin, which means “sleep inducing.”  This refers to the plant’s ability to relieve insomnia and reduce anxiety.  The translation from Sankrit comes out as “the smell of a horse” because the herb imparts the vigor and strength of a stallion.

black horse rearing

According to research, ashwagandha…

  • protects the immune system (and rebuilds immune function after illness)
  • combats the effects of stress and lowers stress hormones
  • improves learning, memory, and reaction time
  • reduces anxiety and depression without causing drowsiness
  • keeps blood sugar stable
  • lowers bad cholesterol levels
  • reduces brain-cell degeneration
  • helps prevent malaria
  • is a systemic anti-inflammatory

And now the spotlight benefit for today: Ashwagandha increases testosterone.

A study from India shows increases in testosterone up to 40% from ashwagandha supplementation.  Here’s where to find the study, if you’re interested:

Fertil Steril. 2010 Aug;94(3):989-96.
Withania somnifera improves semen quality by regulating reproductive hormone levels and oxidative stress in seminal plasma of infertile males.
Ahmad MK, Mahdi AA, Shukla KK, Islam N, Rajender S, Madhukar D, Shankhwar SN, Ahmad S.

The researchers focused on sperm, quantity and motility.  But they also measured testosterone.

The control group was 75 normal (fertile) men, and the ashwagandha takers were 75 men who were deemed infertile (low test, low sperm count, slow sperm).

Here is a chart showing the results:

ashwaganda studt chart

In infertile men with normal sperm, the supplement increased testosterone by 15%.

Men with slow moving sperm increased testosterone by 21%.

And men with a low sperm count increased testosterone by 40%!

Even if someone doesn’t have fertility issues, ashwagandha is a safe and natural way to increase testosterone.  You can find it in most health food stores and even in the supplement section of organic grocers – but you can source the same brands a lot cheaper online.  (Here is the brand I take Nutrigold Ashwagandha)

Taking 500 to 1000 milligrams twice daily is a good maintenance dosage, and 2500 milligrams twice daily is what we use to raise test levels in clients with low testosterone.

Research: Eating Kelp Helps Lower Estrogen (And Fight Cancer!)

Health, Nutrition, Study No Comments »

What is brown kelp? Wikipedia has the answer:

bladder wrack fucus vesiculosus

Fucus vesiculosus, known by the common name bladder wrack or bladderwrack, is a seaweed found on the coasts of the North Sea, the western Baltic Sea, and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, also known by the common names black tang, rockweed, bladder fucus, sea oak, black tany, cut weed, dyers fucus, red fucus, and rock wrack. It was the original source of iodine, discovered in 1811, and was used extensively to treat goitre, a swelling of the thyroid gland related to iodine deficiency.

Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley have found that brown kelp has an anti-estrogenic effect in the body.  They were looking for an alternative theory as to why Japanese women are less likely to develop breast, womb, or ovarian cancer.  These types of cancer are caused by estradiol, the predominant estrogen in the female body during reproductive years.

estradiol molecule

A traditional Japanese diet contains between 3 and 13g of seaweed every day.  Could this be the reason why estrogen-related cancers are relatively unknown in Japan?  The research points towards Yes.

The study below was a simple one: feed rats seaweed and see if it lowers their estradiol levels.  They gave rats either 175 or 350mg of seaweed per kg of bodyweight and measured estrogen levels.  The rats receiving the higher dose of seaweed lowered their estradiol levels by 40%.

Estrogen

Since eating seaweed definitely lowered estrogen levels in rats, the researchers next tested the effect of seaweed on human ovary cells.  And again, the higher the concentration of kelp, the lower the amount of estradiol the ovary cells made.

In the final part of this study, the researchers tested whether kelp would block estradiol and progesterone receptors in human cells.  Again, kelp beat estrogen.

The reason why kelp is such a powerful anti-estrogenic remains unknown.  All we can say for sure is that it definitely works.

Adding in seaweed supplements and eating foods containing seaweed on a regular basis will be a valuable anti-estrogenic tool for your health and nutrition toolbox.

seaweed salad

Here’s the citation for this study (it has graphs and lots more cool sciency stuff if you’re interested):

J Nutr. 2005 Feb;135(2):296-300.
Brown kelp modulates endocrine hormones in female sprague-dawley rats and in human luteinized granulosa cells.
Skibola CF, Curry JD, VandeVoort C, Conley A, Smith MT.

C’est Magnifique! Some Books On French Cooking You Should Check Out

Nutrition No Comments »

One of the biggest reasons behind the “obesity pandemic” in the US is the lack of a traditional food culture.

See, America is the forerunner of new foods and styles of eating that we don’t have traditional rules for.  Big sodas aren’t an old-school food, and being handed a meal via your car window isn’t a way of eating that can be guided by passed-on wisdom.  It’s all so new that our bodies and minds are thrown into a tizzy and we don’t have any traditions to guide us through.

fat flag stomach

The lack of a food culture first came to my awareness a few years ago when I read Michael Pollan’s excellent book Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. Pollan’s premise is that culture has a lot to teach us about how to choose, prepare and eat food.

Instead of deferring to science and industry for recommendations – where you can never be sure of the accuracy of the information or the motivation behind it – learning traditional ethnic eating habits can guide you with wisdom gathered over generations that has been proven time and again.

It’s only since losing these traditions that our health has spiraled downward and our weight has rocketed upward.

 The French Paradox

The French Paradox is the observation that traditional French cuisine is deliciously rich, yet the French have lower risks for heart disease, diabetes, strokes…. and they’re much thinner, too.

And we can’t claim it’s somehow genetic, French people in larger cities that eat more like Americans have the same weight and disease problems Americans have.

eiffel tower

So, there’s something valuable we can learn from traditional French food culture.

Below are some great resources that compile the cultural rules of French eating.  They are a must-add to your healthy eating library.

French Women Don’t Get Fat

I held off on reading this book for a long time.  I figured it was just another gimmicky fad diet with some magic secret like “drink a glass of red wine before dinner each night.”  Bleh.

Instead, it turned out to be a marvelous collection of the French food rules.  Literally a handbook of French food culture.  What a find!

Mireille Guiliano

Mireille Guiliano

There is a strategic weight loss strategy in this book that a few of my clients have tried.  Nothing gimmicky about it.  You just kick off your journey into traditional eating with a weekend (or even just a day) where you eat nothing but leek soup.

This is actually a great strategy for many people, the soup is very filling for being so low-calorie, and it will help rid you of water weight in the first few days so you’ll be starting your new food journey off with a great big win.  Plus, it serves as a “Reset” button on your current eating plan (or lack of a plan) so it breaks bad habits quickly and effortlessly, instead of small changes that take forever to make a difference.

The book continues to give French guidelines for meals and snacks and cooking and drinking and exercise and social events and and and pretty much everything else.  For a hardcore nutritional science guy like me to be so blown away by a “popular” book is quite rare, and I constantly recommend it to all of my health and fitness colleagues.

(For delicious recipes that fit this healthy style of eating, also check out the The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook)

The Dukan Diet: 2 Steps to Lose the Weight, 2 Steps to Keep It Off Forever

The Dukan Diet is a phenomenal plan by Dr. Pierre Dukan.  It’s sensible, simple, and most of all… it works!

Pierre Dukan

Pierre Dukan

One of the best features of the Dukan Diet is that it focuses on what to do after you’ve lost the weight.  So many diet plans are effective in the short term, then totally drop the ball on the follow-through – which leads to rapid rebound weight gain.

Not so with Dr. Dukan’s plan.  There are four distinct stages: Attack, Cruise, Consolidation, and Stabilization.

In the Attack phase, it’s a high protein, low fat, and low carb blast that lasts for a few days and can create a shocking amount of weight loss.  I’ve detailed it here: Scale Shocker Program

(Important Aside:  The main criticism of this phase seems to be that a lot of the weight lost is only “water weight.”  That’s great!  If your body is holding on to excess water it leads to higher blood pressure, swollen joints (ankle edema afflict anyone here?), disturbed metabolic function, and bloating.  When something in your body is going wrong, it holds on to as much water as it can.  Make thing go right for a change, and your body will gladly release the burden of all the extra water weight.)

The Cruise phase consists of alternating protein days with protein plus vegetable days.  You just go back and forth between the two until your reach your goal weight.  Dr. Dukan makes some great points about what a sensible goal weight should be and let’s you know that the weight loss will not be instant, figure on at least three days for each pound you want to lose: 20 pounds to go?  Figure on 60 days for the Cruise phase.

chicken

The protein plus vegetable days are a perfect time to eat some of the delicious leek soup detailed in French Women Don’t Get Fat ;)

Consolidation is the phase that makes the Dukan Diet really stand out.  Your body has a tendency to rapidly regain weight but this phase allows your metabolic functions to normalize at the new weight.  It also keeps you at your new weight while your mind adjusts to the new you – this is as important as the metabolic restructuring if you want to keep the weight off.

Plus, the Consolidation phase has a definite timeline: 5 days for every pound lost.  If you’re now 20 pounds lighter, stick in Consolidation for 100 days.

During this phase, you slowly reintroduce previously “forbidden foods.”  This slow reintroduction allows you to gauge how you feel with each addition, and to see how your body responds.  As an example, a client decided to re-try almond butter for the first time in months, and she literally put on 4 pounds from just two servings in one day.  The calorie math doesn’t add up, it was her body bloating up very quickly from the stress of a food she reacted badly to.

bloat

You also get two “celebration” meals each week.  Not to go hog wild, but to celebrate everything you’ve achieved.  The final piece of the Consolidation phase is that you have one pure protein day each week.

Finally, the Stabilization phase.  You’ve re-trained your body and mind on what’s good for you and what isn’t, plus you know what a satisfying portion will be.  You can eat most foods following YOUR personal guidelines, and you take one pure protein day each week.

In short, the structure of the Dukan Diet makes it very effective and simple.  It can be adapted to paleo incredibly well too.  (If that’s your thing)

My Life in France

Ahh, Julia Child is awesome.  I thought so before I read her biography and even more so now.

Julia-Child

She became a master French Chef and worked incredibly had to put together the outstanding Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

And guess what?  Despite being very tall and cooking (and EATING!) rich French foods all day, every day; Julia didn’t put on any weight!  She cooked delicious foods from fresh ingredients and practiced self control.  That’s the kind of plan outlined in French Women Don’t Get Fat, remember?

Reading Julia’s biography has stirred me to experiment and enjoy myself more in the kitchen, I hope it will do the same for you.

I find that if I just taste everything and eat small portions I maintain my weight. – Julia Child

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously

This is the story of Julie Powell, who spent a year cooking all 524 recipes in Mastering The Art Of French Cooking.  This one definitely isn’t a diet or health book, it’s just a fast fun read of kitchen adventures.

French stew

It inspired my family to try a similar trek, we’ve since cooked every recipe in Everyday Paleo, The Primal Blueprint Cookbook, Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook, and we are now working on the recipes from Paleo Comfort Foods.

Even if you don’t get a wild hair to cook every recipe from a cookbook, Julie Powell’s story is well-worth reading.  (Skip her second book Cleaving though, it was horrible)

Going Forward With French Cooking

Is the French way of eating the be all, end all of diets?  Nope.  But if you’re ready to develop your own healthful food culture, it’s a wonderful and delicious place to start.

You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients. – Julia Child

 Bon appetit!

Add Fat To Lower Insulin Response? Nope

Health, Nutrition, Weight Loss No Comments »

It’s time to clear something up.

Books, magazines, and weight loss courses have all been spreading a bit of misinformation about eating fats and your body’s insulin response.

After vilifying  insulin response to foods, “experts” are recommending adding healthy fats to carbohydrates to reduce insulin in your blood after meals.  Here are just 3 examples I’ve seen today:

  • Adding peanut butter to your whole grain english muffin
  • Adding butter to your baked potato
  • Adding sesame oil to your steamed rice

english muffin with peanut butter

The idea is that the fats will slow/level out the rise in blood sugar in prevent a big insulin release after eating.

Nope.

Fat doesn’t cause an immediate insulin response, it’s true.  But when added to a protein or carbohydrate, fat either has no effect on insulin response or else it slightly increases insulin response.

Sorry, but it doesn’t slow insulin down.

But there’s good news!  When fat REPLACES an equal caloric amount of carbohydrates, the insulin response is reduced.

To really make it clear, let’s use one of the examples above.  If you add butter to your baked potato, your insulin response will be the same or a little greater than if you ate the baked potato alone.  But if you eat half a potato with butter (even if you replace, calorie for calorie the butter for half a potato) your insulin response will be much lower than if you ate the whole potato plain.

baked potato guinea pig

So the key to using fats to lower insulin response isn’t in adding them to the meal, as if they were an anchor being dragged to slow your food.  The key is to exchange carbohydrates for fat to produce lower insulin levels.

Most of the confusion comes from people’s failure to recognize the difference between adding fat versus substituting fat.

See, adding fat to a meal does (in fact) slow down the rise in blood sugar that follows eating carbohydrates.  Since your insulin response is usually – in healthy people – aligned with the rise in blood sugar, it makes total sense to assume that adding fat to a meal would reduce the insulin response to that meal.

It makes sense, but that isn’t what actually happens!

As I said before, it turns out that insulin is either not affected or it rises with the addition of fat to carbohydrates.

(This is probably related to gastric inhibitory polypeptide, which is a hormone secreted from the pancreas in response to eating fat and which can heighten insulin reaction)

What about the insulin effects of protein?  Everything so far has focused on carbohydrates.  Well, first off, protein doesn’t raise insulin levels as much as carbohydrate… not by a long shot.

But it does affect insulin levels a little (about 30% as much as carbohydrate).  There are three main factors that determine your insulin response to protein:

1.  Fat Content.  The more fat versus protein, the lower your insulin response.

2. Amino Acid Profile.  Sources that are higher in lysine (example: beef) bring on more insulin than other protein sources

3. Processing.  The more processed your protein is, the more it will raise your insulin.  Ground beef doesn’t require as much digestion as steak, so it enters your bloodstream more rapidly.  (Ground meat actually ends up giving you more calories as well, because you don’t use up as much energy during the digestion process.  For a fascinating look at how cooking and grinding food shaped human evolution, I recommend reading Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human)

t bone steak

Fortunately, protein stimulates glucagon release as well, so you don’t need to worry as much about the insulinogenic properties of protein as you do about carbohydrates.  (If you don’t know much about glucagon, think of it as the opposite of insulin).

What does all this mean from a practical standpoint?  How then can you control the insulin response to bread, protatoes, rice – to go with the examples from earlier in this post?

In fact, why worry about the insulin response to carbohydrates at all?

Well, to control the insulin response from carbs… stop eating so many carbs!  Use the insulin response with strategically timed meals, after a workout or as part of a carb cyling plan, for example.

turtle eating strawberry

And you should be concerned about bumping insulin when you’re eating fat because when fat is consumed while your body is in fat-storage mode (high insulin), it is more likely to end up as bodyfat.

When your insulin levels are high, everything you eat is more liable to end up in your fat stores.  Fat especially heads straight for your fat cells when your insulin is high, especially because insulin causes fat burning to stop.

Translation: Fat is fattening IF you are in a fat storing mode (high insulin).

Your solution is to not eat fat when your insulin levels are high, and keeping carbs low the rest of the time.  You want to keep fat and insulin producing carbs apart from each other.

One situation would be to have protein and fat at every meal except for one or two meals right after your workout.  Here’s a sample schedule:

7 am: Protein + Fat

11 am: Protein + Fat

2 pm: Protein + Fat

4 pm: Workout

5 pm: Protein + Carbs

7 pm: Protein + Carbs

Or if you workout in the morning:

6 am: Workout

7 am: Protein + Carbs

10 am: Protein + Carbs

1 pm: Protein + Fat

4 pm: Protein + Fat

7 pm: Protein + Fat

Another option is to have higher carb “refeeds” every few days.  This is a good strategy when you’re looking to gain muscle and lose fat.

Day One: Several moderate protein, moderate fat meals

Day Two: Same as Day One

Day Three: Moderate protein, low fat meals during the day, 3 hour high carb, low protein, minimal fat refeed after your workout

Day Four: Same as Day One

Day Five: Same as Day One

Day Six: Same as Day One

Day Seven: Moderate protein, low fat meals during the day, 3 hour high carb, low protein, minimal fat refeed after your workout

food log body

What a plan like this does is keep you in fat burning mode most of the time, but still bump insulin to keep you anabolic and allow you to build muscle.  If you have more fat to lose, you’d want to go longer between refeeds.  If you’re already lean and looking to build muscle, you can have your refeeds closer together.

So to loop back to the original point of this post, adding fat to carbs doesn’t benefit you from a hormonal standpoint, in fact, it makes it more likely you’re going to store that meal as fat.

EDIT: I was asked why, if adding fat to meals doesn’t help with insulin, does adding fat make you feel fuller longer?

The answer is simple: You ate more calories!

Your Blood Type And What NOT To Eat

Health, Nutrition No Comments »

When I was in college I was friends with an insanely strong football player.  He could jump out of the gym, lift more weight than anyone, and outrun the track stars…. Plus he was good-looking (the jerk).

And all he ate was buffalo meat, berries, and mountains of green vegetables.  A naturopath had told him that was the perfect diet for his blood type.  It definitely worked in his case.

red blood cells

In fact, over the years I’ve seen people have lots of success by following blood type based diets.  I figure it’s because people believe in them and thus stick to them – and sticking to your chosen diet is the key to making it work ;)

A quick search on Amazon.com showed 895 results for “blood type diet”, but the best known book is Eat Right 4 Your Type by Dr. Peter D’Adamo, and it’s where to start if you want more info on matching your food choices to your blood type.

Now, what does it mean in the title of this post when it says “What NOT To Eat”?

I think that blood type/food matching isn’t the first thing you should worry about.  Food quality, quantity, and timing are more important for weight loss and athletic performance.

And yet and yet and yet… This can be a big tipping point for losing stubborn fat and getting rid of nagging health issues.

Your blood type is actually better at informing you which foods you should avoid (yes, even some healthy foods) than telling you what you should eat.

The main reason for this is the lectins found in foods.

(For more than you ever wanted to know about lectins, check out this blog post: Chemical Warfare: Lectins Attack!)

lectin

Lectins are scary little proteins that work (or force!) their way undigested into your bloodstream where your body recognizes them as invaders and goes into defense mode.  Certain lectins bind to the surfaces of certain blood cells.

Besides causing an autoimmune response in your body, lectins also clump up and then destroy your blood cells.  You know…. those things that keep you alive.

Lectins also:

  • interfere with digestion
  • interfere with absorption
  • cause nutrient deficiencies
  • lead to food allergies
  • can cause inflammatory bowel disease
  • cause headaches
  • give you general achiness
  • give you diarrhea
  • can make you irritable
  • can give you anemia
  • contribute to diabetic problems
  • are definitely linked to rheumatoid arthritis
  • are definitely linked to psoriasis
  • can give you painful gas
  • can lead to immune deficiencies

Many of the effects of different lectins are blood type specific.  So you can avoid a lot of the problems with lectins by avoiding eating foods that contain the lectins that react with your blood type.

If you’re suffering from any of the problems listed above, or if you want an extra nutritional edge to help you lose fat faster, stay away from the foods that react with your blood type.  Here’s how to do it – it’s only two steps.

eating broccoli

Step One: Find out your blood type.

If you already know your blood type, go ahead to step two.  If you don’t, you can donate blood and they’ll tell you.  You can ask your doctor.  Or you can get a home blood test type kit from the pharmacy or order one from Amazon (here’s a link: Eldoncard Blood Type Kit).

Step Two: Don’t eat the foods that react most strongly to your blood type.

Special Note: GMO foods usually have increased lectin levels, avoid all GMO foods.  The most common genetically modified foods in the US are: Corn, soy, cotton (the oil is used in foods), papaya, rice, tomatoes, rapeseed, dairy, potatoes, and peas.  Wheat is often heavily modified too.

What Not To Eat: Blood Type A

  • blackberries
  • brown trout
  • clams
  • corn
  • french mushrooms
  • halibut
  • flounder
  • lima beans
  • snow white mushrooms
  • sole
  • soy
  • string beans
  • tora beans

What Not To Eat: Blood Type B

  • bitter melons
  • black-eyed peas
  • castor beans
  • chicken
  • chocolate/cocoa
  • french mushrooms
  • pomeranates
  • salmon
  • sesame
  • sunflower seeds
  • soy
  • tuna

What Not To Eat: Blood Type AB

  • blackberries
  • black-eyed peas
  • brown trout
  • clams
  • cocoa/chocolate
  • corn
  • french mushrooms
  • halibut
  • flounder
  • lima beans
  • pomegranates
  • salmon
  • sesame
  • white mushrooms
  • sole
  • soy
  • string beans
  • sunflower seeds
  • tuna

What Not To Eat: Blood Type O

  • blackberries
  • cocoa/chocolate
  • french mushrooms
  • halibut
  • flounder
  • sole
  • sunflower seeds

Avoiding GMO foods and the foods that react with your blood type will help your body get back into it’s naturally healthy state and help ease the system stress that is causing you to hold onto stubborn pounds.

Plus, it’s really easy – just don’t eat the foods on your list!

personality and blood type

A Few Posts About Gymnastics

Exercise, Health No Comments »

For a while I was helping with a blog for a local gymnastics team.  Well, that blog is down but here are a few posts that will be of interest for gymnastics parents, coaches, and athletes:

10 Tips For Parents

RICE For Gymnastics Injuries

Basic Tumbling Skills

Research On Ammenorhea, Bone Density, And Female Gymnasts

5 Reasons Sugar Is Bad For Young Athletes

Push Up Variations For Mom And Dad

Research: Injury Rates In Gymnastics

Should Gymnasts Lift Weights?

Must Watch Gymnastics Documentary

Gymnastics Skill: Hollow Body And Rock

How To Increase Pull Ups

Beginning Bridging

SHARP Inflammation

Stretches To Help With The Splits

Female gymnast on gymnastics bar

Stretching Makes You Weaker (Sometimes That’s A Good Thing)

Exercise, Health No Comments »

“Ya gotta stretch before you work out!”

How often have you heard this advice?  Lots of times, I’ll bet.

But it’s only kinda sorta true.

Stretching is traditionally recommended pre-exercise as a way to reduce injuries.  Unfortunately, research and real life doesn’t support the stretching-reduces-injuries theory.

stretch armstrong toy

The Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) dug through all the research on stretching and injuries and concluded that people who stretch are no less likely to suffer injuries than those who don’t and that stretching does nothing to prevent injuries.

And even worse, several studies have found that stretching before exercise actually makes you more likely to get injured.

Stretching before a workout doesn’t make you more flexible either.  There’s a limit to how far a muscle can be stretched…

Picture a steak.  You can grab the ends and pull hard, and it will stretch a bit.  Keep pulling and pulling and it won’t stretch, it will rip.  Your muscles are like that steak.  There’s a limit to how far you can stretch before you start ripping.

overstretch tear hamstring

Stretching beyond your limits weakens your tendons and ligaments.  (Loose joints might give you a bigger range of motion though, at the high cost of greatly increased chance of injury)

The British Journal Of Sports Medicine stated that test subjects’s “flexibility index decreased significantly after stretching training.”

The warm-up aspect of stretching is also overrated.  Stretching doesn’t contract your muscles (muscles are designed to do only one thing: contract).  Contraction is what pulls blood into the muscle and bumps your metabolism to produce heat as a byproduct of effort.  No muscular contraction, no warm up.

Stretching before you are warm is another good way to injure yourself, incidentally.  Pulling the ends of a cold rubber band make it more likely to snap.  Cold taffy doesn’t stretch out, it breaks.  Your muscles do this too – a cold muscle getting stretched out will tear.

taffy puller

Stretching a muscle makes it weaker.  You have these little things called Golgi Tendon Organs in your tendons that are stretch sensors.  When they feel a stretch they try to contract your muscles to protect your muscles and joints from injury.  if you hold a stretch long enough (and without going too far), the golgi tendon organs “turn off” and allow your muscle to stretch a bit more.

The problem with relaxed golgi tendon organs is that they are designed to help your muscles contract.  Turn them off, and you’ve instantly become weaker.  This not only affects your strength, speed, power, and endurance; your muscles are what support your joints – and if you turn off your support system, you’re left with no protection from moving your joints beyond their range of motion.  Moving your joint outside of its range of motion = injury.

golgitendon organ

Weakened muscles from stretching also limit how effective your workout will be (while also making you more likely to get injured).  If you’re training to lose fat and re-shape your body, being stronger means you can exercise with more weights, go longer, do the exercises better, burn more calories, and raise your metabolism higher.

The American College Of Sports Medicine published a study that checked out the effect that stretching has on strength.  They tested hamstring strength and then the next session had subjects stretch their hamstrings before being tested.  Strength declined every time after stretching, even if the stretch was only held for 30 seconds.

So really, stretching doesn’t do anything that common knowledge holds it does.  Stretching doesn’t warm you up, make you more flexible, make you stronger, or protect you from injury.

Stretching a muscle weakens it.

Stretching your working muscles before practice (in athletes) or a workout is like going in overtrained and tired.  You’ll perform on an inferior level and be more likely to get injured.

That’s why you don’t want to stretch your prime mover muscles before exertion.  Weakened hamstrings, quads, and shoulders lead to injury and impaired performance.  Of course, what are the most often stretched muscles?  Hamstrings, quads, and shoulders…

team warm up stretch

Now, when is stretching a good thing?

You can slightly increase a muscle’s range of motion with stretching if it’s not done too vigorously.  And stretching is ideally done an hour or so after your workout, when the muscles are still warm but not firing lots of electrical signals that cause contraction.

As your strength and mobility improves, your workouts themselves become active “stretches.”  Sitting into a deep squat is a real world exercise that ensures you keep a big range of motion.  (Doing real-world movements like squatting, pulling, pushing, and lunging means you’ll move freely, without even a risk of becoming “muscle bound”)

It’s time for the big idea: Sometimes making a muscle weaker is a good thing!

martha stewart good thing

Really.  After all the slams on stretching so far, sometimes you really do want to make a muscle weaker.

When a muscle is in a contracted position all day, it shortens and becomes very tight.  This can pull your body out of alignment and really mess you up when you try to move.

So you can stretch that muscle to weaken it and let your joints get back into alignment.

Time for a few examples of when stretching a muscle to weaken it is what you should do…

Calves – Wearing shoes with a heel all day keeps your calf muscles shortened and they tighten up.  Then when you go to exercise you can’t keep your feet flat on the floor, your knees shoot forward, and your back goes wonky.

high heel x ray pic shortened calf and achilles

So stretching your calves to weaken them allows you to keep your heels down when you exercise so your body is aligned and you have less risk of injuring other joints.

One caveat with stretching your calves: you don’t want to stretch them so much they’re weakened before doing power jumping exercises.  In this case it’s better to warm them up with little hops and active squat stretches (like toe grab squats) instead of stretching.

 Chest – Sitting hunched over in front of a computer (or on any chair, really) draws your shoulders forward and shortens your chest muscles.  This in turn weakens the muscles of your back and raises your shoulder blades which weakens your shoulders and makes them more likely to get get injured.  A tight chest is no bueno.

computer back tight chest x ray

Opening and loosening your chest will let you activate your back muscles and keep your shoulders in place.

Again, you don’t want to weaken your chest muscles if you’re going to be doing aggressive chest exercises, but anything involving your back or lower body – go for it.

Hip Flexors And Piriformis – This is a big one.  In fact, the most popular post on this website is all about just stretching your hip flexors (Here it is: One Exercise To End Lower Belly Pooch).

Sitting shortens these muscles and tips your hips out of alignment, which throws all of your exercise onto your lower back and prevents you from engaging your abs and glute muscles.

When your hip flexors are tight, your low back is going to hurt.  And you see all the benefits from your core and butt exercises.

if your hip flexors are tight

And a tight piriformis can cause shooting pain (and a shortened range of motion) through your low back and the back of your legs.

Weakening these two muscle groups with stretching is one of the best things you can do for yourself.  We sit so much that it affects everything, and these are two great weapons you can use to counterattack.

There’s no caveat here, do the hip flexor stretch and the piriformis stretch as often as possible.  I start every one of my workouts and the workouts of my clients with these two.  Plus, stretch again throughout the day.

Wrap Up

What doesn’t work about stretching:

  • Doesn’t Warm You Up
  • Doesn’t Decrease Injuries
  • Doesn’t Increase Strength
  • Doesn’t Increase Flexibility
  • Doesn’t Improve Power Output

What stretching does:

  • Slightly Increase Muscle Length
  • Turn Off Contraction System

When stretching is a good thing:

  • To Deliberately Weaken A Muscle To Improve Alignment

wake up stretch dinosaur

The Cheetara Diet

Exercise, Nutrition, Rant 1 Comment »

One of my very favorite cartoons is Thundercats.  I loved watching it as a kid and I still enjoy it now.

And gotta admit it: I kinda had a crush on Cheetara.

Cheetara

Who wouldn’t?  Bright orange leotard, sweet bo staff skills, and the ability to run over 120 miles per hour.

She’s based off the idea of a cheetah; Cheetara’s main attribute is her wicked fast speed.  The thing is, it takes a lot of training and nutrition to run like a cheetah.

So here’s some food for thought if you want to be a Thundercat, it’s the meal plan of the cheetah sprinters at the San Diego Zoo…

It goes on a 3 day cycle:

Day 1 – Sprint Demonstration Day

  • 1-2 x 100m @ full effort – simulates hunting in natural habitat
  • Fed 1/2 of 3 day caloric intake after running to simulate a successful hunt

Day 2 – Recovery Day

  • Easy long slow walk in the park
  • Fed 1/3 of 3 day caloric intake

Day 3 – Rest/Light Activity Day

  • Fed 1/6 of 3 day caloric intake

Pretty cool!  It mimics a hunt, then an easy day with some food left over, then a very easy day, and the next day the cycle starts over with another hunt.

This plan keeps the cheetahs lean and mean.

cheetah running

An interesting thought experiment with this is to think about how you could apply some of the same principles to your personal training and nutrition plan.

Doesn’t the cheetah plan above look a little like how a hunter might have eaten and lived during the paleolithic period?

paleo bodies

Hard sprint, hard effort to take down some big meat, then a feast with your friends and family.

The next day, since there’s still food left you hang out and play around camp, not eating as much.

Day three you scout around gathering fruits and veggies and check out where the game animals are browsing.

Day four you go for the hunt and it all starts again…

Life was probably a lot like this for hunter/gatherers.  And it’s doubtless why intermittent fasting, carb backloading, and other calorie cycling plans work so well for fitness and fat loss – it’s how our genes want us to eat.

Now, I’m not saying the cheetah plan above will turn you into Cheetara – you’d have to be a noble cleric from the planet Thundera for that.

But what can you take from this?  What about the plan would work for you?

Here’s a very simple adaptation for someone wanting to get fit (who also loves the Thundercats):

Day 1: Power And Sprint Day

This is the day you get to hunt and feast.  Rigorous effort followed with a delicious prize to follow.

mammoth

Weightlifting session focusing on big exercises – Snatch, squat, deadlift, bench press, clean and jerk, and other BIG movements.

Follow this with some anaerobic sprints – Sled pulls, hill sprints, bike intervals, and other locomotive movements that will push your system to the max.

And then eating time.  You brought down the wild boar with all your hard work.  Now you get to enjoy it!

Assuming a 2500 Calorie/day diet, half of your three day average would be 3,750 Calories.  You could make this one lots of meat and organs, the best parts of your prey.  Smaller eating window, since butchering and cooking the meat would take time.

Day 2: Play And Build Day

There’s still some meat left over after yesterday’s hunt, so you stay close to home.  You play with the kids and spend some time making camp more comfortable.

camp

“Bodybuilding” Movements – Curls, triceps extensions, chest flyes, calf raises, and other smaller movements; nothing too strenuous (this is the building and moving stuff around your camp)

Play! – Tag, slacklining, frisbee, wrestling, ping pong, or anything else fun that you would do hanging out with fit healthy people you enjoy being around.

For food, you’d still have some meat, and some easy to pick fruits and veggies that you could gather without venturing too far.  So add in some produce and have some of the leaner meat (not as prized).

At that 2,000 Calorie/day average, one third of your three day average would be… 2000 Calories.

Day 3: Light Scouting Day

Time to do some more gathering and plan your next hunt.  You don’t want to wear yourself out too much, in case you end up with an angry auroch charging you tomorrow.

Auroch Enichires

Looking around to check out the areas where game feeds and gathering more hard-to-find plants since you’re already out and about.

Walking or hiking, lots and lots.

And something to help relax you and get you ready for the hunt, like some yoga or tai chi.

You’re about out of big game meat, so you have some smaller, leaner animals for protein and fat.  But you gathered a big assortment of greens and herbs so you have a small amount of protein and some huge salads.  Based on the 2000 Calorie/day number, one sixth of your three day average would be… 1000 Calories.  Not a lot, be enough to ensure you’ll be motivated to hunt tomorrow.

Conclusion: Sight Beyond Sight

sword of omens sight beyond sight thundercats

Again, this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive plan for you to follow.  Just a little food for thought.

Too often we get caught up in a certain daily rhythm, and our sight stops extending much beyond that.  The thing is, if you want to keep your body changing, you can’t lock into a set routine.  You’ll make progress for a while, then your body will plateau with whatever you’re doing, and then finally start making negative changes.

If you want to keep progressing, you have to keep changing your stimulus.  Calorie and activity cycling plans like the cheetah-inspired one above are two ways.  I’ll write about some more in the future…

The important thing is to keep things new and fresh, so you don’t get bored and your body doesn’t stop adapting.

Oh, and…. Thundercats Hooooooooooooo!