Category Archives: Nutrition

Keto Fail

First thing is to acknowledge the failure.

The second thing is to avoid scrapping everything and compounding the failure. “Oh crap, I’m out of ketosis! Well, I might as well eat a whole pizza.” This is an all-to-common reaction. We fall off the wagon and then compound that failure with an even worse failure. Self sabotage at its worst.

Recommit. Get back on track. The sooner the better. Steer the ship back on course.

Assess where you made mistakes and correct for those mistakes.

I woke this morning and knew I was no longer in ketosis. The past 6 weeks I have woken up with renewed energy and a body that felt younger and ready for action. Today I woke up groggy and sore. The past 6 weeks I have used that excess energy to workout almost every day. I skipped Monday and Tuesday and today (Wednesday) my body has no motivation to workout. These feeling were unmistakable signs that I had slipped out of ketosis. I took my blood readings and it confirmed that fact. My ketones were at 0.1 mmol/L (ketosis begins at 0.5) and my blood glucose was remarkably high at 10.8 mmol/L (normal range is 4 – 5.4). I took these readings at 7:30am and my last meal was roughly 12 hours before. I had only drank coffee in the morning so not sure why my blood glucose was so ridiculously high. 10.8 is indicative of metabolic derangement in the form of diabetes or pre-diabetes. Not really worried as long as I get my but back into ketosis.

What could have lead to this?

It probably started Saturday night when I indulged in wine with dinner with my friends. I still felt solid on Sunday and my workout was pretty good. Also Sunday I kept the diet under control so I thought maybe I was back on track. Solution is to go back to avoiding alcohol.

Another possible cause.

I added a little brown rice to my lunch. Even though I was cautious to keep it to 100g (approximately 23g of carbs), it probably pushed my total carbs over the limit.

I also snacked… a lot. Being a dad, I have access to a lot of uneaten snack foods. You give your kids something delicious and they don’t eat it and you decide to not let it go to waste. Once in a while that’s not a big deal but continuous grazing like this is an easy way to push your carb load over the limit.

Over the last week or so I have not been fasting. Usually I like to do an intermittent fast of roughly 14-18 hours. I stop eating roughly around 8pm and have my first meal around noon or later. When I do this regularly I feel great. A great benefit of this is that it shortens my feeding window and therefore I tend to eat much less. When I start eating upon waking (as is easy to do when the kids wake up hungry and I have to cook for them), I tend to eat 4 to 6 times per day. If I shorten the hours that the kitchen is open, then I only eat two or three meals. j

I’ve been eating less vegetables. The keto diet is a high fat diet and vegetables cooked in butter, olive oil, or coconut oil, are a great way to get good quality fats in your system along with phytonutrients and fiber. When I travel, nuts are the preferred fat source as they just travel better. Unfortunately, I got out of the habit of piling greens on my plate for the last couple of weeks. It is time to start piling on the greens again.

I have not been tracking consistently. I use an app called Macros + (My Fitness Pal is another similar app) to track how much I’m eating. It’s easy if you eat the same thing a few days in a row to get out of the habit of tracking. Also sometimes when you eat out, you can fudge the numbers and not completely track everything. Lots of excuses but the end result is less tracking means less compliance. It’s time to get back on track and enter what I eat into the app.

What have I learned?

First, Ketosis is real. I feel when I’m in or out. It’s noticeable and it affects my mood, my body, and my behavior. I feel crappy and I don’t work out.

Second, I have to fight “the creep.” “The creep” is that gradual relaxation of standards. When I started I was gung ho about doing everything right. As I got comfortable, I didn’t try as hard and I tried to get by with less effort. As my standards started to creep in the wrong direction it eventually affected my results.

On the bright side, I caught the error early. I did not compound the failure by eating a whole pizza. I know how to correct the error and am getting back on the horse. Tim Ferriss talks about jump starting ketosis in his book, Tools For Titans. He suggests a longer fast of 24-48 hours and some low-intensity cardio in the form of a long walk of an hour or more. So it’s time to put the headphones on and hit the streets.

The Sugar Problem

Sugar is possibly the perfect drug. It’s perfectly legal, it’s cheap, it’s highly addictive. Sugar is ubiquitous and quotidian. There is absolutely no barrier to acquiring it. To the contrary, it is so omnipresent that you have to go to surprisingly great lengths to avoid it. I believe that sugar is the most insidious drug facing our society today. I’m sure we can all point to lots of things that sound far worse at first blush. What about opioids? Unlike opioids, sugar doesn’t require a prescription or any illicit transactions to acquire and at least when you take an opioid, you are aware that you are taking a drug. We ingest sugar without a single concern that it may be harmful and addictive. Furthermore, our society is so accepting of it that we do not even bat an eye when purveyors of sugars begin to get our children hooked on it from birth. It is considered so harmless that I sound like a crazy person for even suggesting that it is the cause of a worldwide health crisis.

The Perfect Drug

On average, Americans consume between 150 and 170 pounds of added sugar per year. That degree of sugar consumption leads directly to a condition called hyperinsulinemia, too much insulin in the blood. Hypersinsulinemia is the catalyst for metabolic derangement and chronic disease. Chronic diseases are conditions that last for more than 3 months and are largely self-inflicted and include such killers as coronary heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. Eighty percent of our health care expenditures goes to dealing with these conditions that are largely preventable. There is a mountain of evidence that shows sugar is horrible for you. There is another mountain of evidence that shows that removing added sugar from your diet will have almost magical effects on your health.

This situation of people flagrantly disregarding the overwhelming amount of evidence is not unlike the situation with smoking a few decades ago. For years people thought smoking was great, even healthy, then finally people realized that smoking caused lung cancer and then we got so outraged that the tobacco companies had lied and concealed this fact for years that we sued the tobacco companies and put warning labels on cigarettes. Can you imagine? Tobacco companies knowingly sold harmful, deadly cigarettes for years and all we did was put warning labels on them. People still smoke despite knowing how bad cigarettes are. It hasn’t changed much. But at least we don’t have as many ads targeting children.

The same situation is happening with sugar except the sugar people are marketing to everyone, kids and parents especially. Maybe one day we can bring a class action suit against the sugar companies. Maybe we can get warning labels placed on every product that contains added sugar. But the problem would be that would require us to put a warning label on almost every processed food. At that point nobody would really notice because everything they touched in the store would have a label. If everything has a warning label, then nothing has a warning label.

Maybe the best thing is to just get everyone to give up sugar. Sadly, I’m sure that will not happen. The companies that make all those sugar-laden foods, have too much at stake to let us just give up sugar. A company like RJR Nabisco, Coca Cola, and Pepsi have billions of dollars tied up in sugar-laden foods and beverages. They have lobbyists in Washington, DC. They have scientists putting out studies that say their processed foods are “healthy.” They have billions of money in marketing putting out propaganda that says sugar is perfectly fine and “exercise is medicine.” They put the burden on the consumer to try to out exercise their crappy diet.

As a recovering sugar addict, I know how hard it is to give up sugar. Hyper-palatable foods laden in sugar call my name every day. I can’t go anywhere without carbs staring me in the face and challenging my resolve. That’s just the way the world is. However, I know if I can resist them them, then so can you.

Should I Eat This?

People always ask me some version of this question. Sometimes it is phrased like “is this okay to eat?” “Is this Paleo?” “Is this bad/good for me?” Perhaps those are not the best questions to be asking. You, as an individual, need to assess where you are and where you are going. Nutrition advice broadly can be prescribed as eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. However, when dealing with the individual not everyone has to adhere so closely to every rule.

Where are you? If you are twenty-something and relatively fit, you have a buffer. You can eat some pizza and drink some beer. You can crush a pint of ice cream. Where do you want to go? If you want to be an extremely competitive athlete then there is less room for pizza, beer, and ice cream. If you are not trying to be super competitive, then it’s okay to make some less awesome food choices.

Conversely, if you are in bad shape and overweight, then you have less wiggle room and need to make better choices more frequently. If your desire is to lose weight, get off the medications, get into better shape, then stay away from dense carbohydrates, processed foods, and sugar-laden snacks. So whether or not you should eat something is more dependent on you and what you are trying to accomplish than the food itself.

It is not enough just say “it’s paleo” or “it’s vegan” or “it’s low-fat” because those are just broad guidelines to guide you toward better choices but they don’t always. For example, people always find a way to get their cheat foods in through loopholes, e.g. Paleo, Vegan or low-fat brownies. Another question you want to ask is how does this food affect me. Everything you eat will have some repercussions. Sometimes we are okay with a tummy ache if we get to eat our ice cream. Sometimes we decide that it is not worth the distress and find an alternative. So when someone asks whether something is Paleo. The more important questions are how does that food affect you? Does it make you sluggish? Bloated? Achy? Gassy? Practicing an elimination diet is a great way to find out if certain categories of foods agree with you. Take grains out of your diet for a month keep track of how you look, feel and perform grain-free. After 30 days slowly add grains back in and see what, if any, side effects come with those grains.

Good Fighters Don’t Need Water.

There’s an old expression in boxing: “Good fighters don’t need water. Bad fighters don’t deserve it.” There’s nothing wrong with hydration. You need to hydrate. The problem is that people use water breaks as an excuse to rest when they should be working. You simply do not need water during a 15 minute workout. You don’t. If you came to the gym hydrated and ready to work, you should be able to push yourself for 15 minutes without needing to drink water. There is no amount of working out in 15 minutes that is going to cause you to get dehydrated. The fact is, you want to take a break. You want to quit working.

My job is to push people out of their comfort zone. My job is to get people to push and work harder. Sometimes that means telling you to put down the water and get to work. Of course, some people push themselves really hard and it’s helpful to tell them to take a sip of water and take a break if they are red-lining. Don’t get me wrong, I encourage pregnant women and the old and infirm to take breaks during the workout. However, if you’re of a viable age with no injuries and in dire need of some fitness, I’m going to tell you to stop wasting time and keep working.

Hydrating should be done before you get to the gym and after your workout. Throughout the day, you should be drinking water. But during short high-intensity efforts, you should focus on pushing yourself. Then when you’re done, get yourself some water. If you are doing a longer workout, taking a moment for a sip of water, chalking your hands, writing down how many reps you’ve done are great ways to rest and pace yourself. That type of break should be earned. When I’m doing a longer workout, sometimes I tell myself that when I finish a certain amount of work, I’ll reward myself with a short break. Most people just need to embrace the discomfort and stop reaching for the water.

The World’s Most Vexing Problem

We tend to over-complicate things. Occam’s razor is a principle that tells us we should look for the simplest and most direct solution to a problem. In the case of many, many of the chronic diseases afflicting people worldwide, the simplest solution is to eat better and exercise. It is not merely that the western diet and processed carbohydrates in particular are bad, but they lead to sedentarism, inflammation, depression, and a host of other problems that compound our poor health.

Merely eating better and exercising is the cure. Specifically a diet of meats and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar combined with constantly varied, functional movements executed at a high intensity is the prescription for lifelong health and fitness. So simple that it is elegant and so elegant that it may be optimal.

The poor health that we are experiencing is made worse by a complex web of corporations that profit from our combined ill-health and sickness. Shitty processed foods are a profit center for the corporations that produce them. Adding refined sugars to food makes them more palatable and also highly addictive. This leads to sickness. Unfortunately, the problem with the medical profession is that it is more profitable to treat the symptoms of disease than it is to cure them. Why cure diabetes by regulating carbohydrate consumption when you can sell someone a drug for the rest of their life that eliminates some of the symptoms of diabetes without curing it?

As a society we cannot continue to do this to ourselves. We are digging our graves with our mouths. Beyond just the health concerns we are creating a huge burden on our economy. Our healthcare system is overloaded with costs associated with treating people with diabetes. I challenge you to look up the stats on diabetes (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318472.php). It is staggering. Then combine that with the costs associated with Obesity (https://stateofobesity.org/healthcare-costs-obesity/) and Coronary Heart Disease (http://newsroom.heart.org/news/cardiovascular-disease-costs-will-exceed-1-trillion-by-2035-warns-the-american-heart-association) and Cancer (https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-basics/economic-impact-of-cancer.html).

Do the math. We are snowballing downhill out of control. We cannot keep trying to put band-aids on this with drugs. We need to go to the root of the problem and get off the carbs and get off the couch. It’s not too late to turn the ship around.

Don’t Listen To Your Body

The common refrain is that we should “listen to our bodies” as if our body held some higher wisdom that we were deaf to. I certainly have pitched that phrase a number of times when at a loss for anything more intelligent to say. However, more and more, I find myself uncomfortable with that advice. Certainly, our body may manifest some warning signs that we should heed. However, more often than not, our body just lies to get what it wants.

If I were to compile a list of the most frequent requests my body makes it would be along the lines of:
1) gratify your sexual urges;
2) eat all the carbs;
3) lie down on the couch and watch netflix instead of working out; and
4) stay up late at night and hit the snooze bar and stay in bed in the morning.

Perhaps your body is giving you better advice. However, if your body is selling the same bad advice as my body, I encourage you to stop listening to it and do the opposite. I am a happily married man and, while I do love the female form, there is no benefit to me ogling women on the internet or in real life. Certainly in today’s climate it is best to find other hobbies. And taking matters into my own hands (as the euphemism goes) is a procrastination device that leaves me hollow and unfulfilled and diverts valuable energy away from productive activities. The goal should be to cultivate a better and more gratifying relationship with my spouse as opposed to spending that energy on more productive actions.

Eating all the carbs gives me a dopamine rush. That hit of dopamine (and insulin) is what helps me stay addicted to carbs. The problem is that more I eat, the more I want. Listening to my body in this regard just makes me fatter and more sluggish. Then I feel worse about myself and my ever-growing gut. When my blood sugar gets low, I get depressed and want more sugar. Then the sugar high makes me feel good for about 15 minutes before it starts to fade and my blood sugar begins to drop again. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be stopped. Getting off the carbs is the right thing to do despite what my body keeps asking for.

My body seldom tells me to workout. It’s usually so full of carbs and tired from masturbating that it just wants to lie on the couch and binge watch some shows on Netflix. Also I am often sore from the few times that I do workout and my body convinces me that I need to rest. Certainly rest and recovery are important, but I rarely need as much rest as my body requests. A good way to tell is that when I finish working out I often feel better, less sore, and more energized. That is a sign that my body was wrong. On the occasions when I feel worse after working out, I realize that those are the times that I really do need some more rest. People often say that you should not go grocery shopping when you are hungry because you will make bad choices. That seems smart. Similarly, I would not make decisions about working out when you are on the couch. I recommend moving around and warming up before making a decision on whether to work out. It’s the law of inertia: a body at rest wants to stay at rest and a body in motion wants to stay in motion. Do not listen to your body when it tells you to stay on the couch.

When my children are tired it is really obvious to me, but they insist that they are not tired and fight hard to stay up. Sadly, I am no better at going to bed early and judging when I should pack it in for the day. Certainly as adults we have a lot of stuff that we need to get done, but also recognize that sometimes you just waste time at night vegging out in front of the tv or surfing online. Get your work done and then go to bed sooner. On the flip side, try to wake up earlier. Since having kids, I strive to wake up early and get shit done because the only time that I can get stuff done is before the kids wake up. If you want to be productive do not listen to your body and hit the snooze. Set the alarm a half-hour earlier and get up and get to work. Front load as much productivity into the first half of your day and then try to get your evening cleared up so you can get to bed.

The next time your body tries to tell you some bullshit and sabotage your best efforts to be great, ignore it and go be awesome!

N Equals 1: Supplements

I always get asked about supplements. What should I take? What’s the best? How about protein powder? Creatine? Pre-workout? Etc. Here’s the easy truth: you probably don’t need them. Here’s the hard truth: you are looking for a quick fix instead of doing the real hard work. That being said, you are probably going to succumb to the marketing at some point and try some supplements. That’s fine, but let me help you help yourself and empower you to not be a slave to the marketing machine and to make better decisions and obviate the need for supplements.

First, ask yourself why you want supplements at all. What are you trying to accomplish or correct with this supplement? “Supplement” is short for “Dietary Supplement” and that suggests that they should be used to get something that is not provided from your diet. So before you go spending your hard-earned money, try fixing your diet. Eat better quality foods and control the quantity of food that you eat.

If you are eating fast food and looking to take protein powder or creatine or some other supplement, don’t. Clean up your crappy diet. Whatever boost in performance is guaranteed by the supplement company can be matched and exceeded by simply eliminating fast food from your diet and cooking yourself some meat and vegetables. If you’re not willing to eat your vegetables, then buying supplements is a waste of time and money.

Still want to drop some money on supplements? Okay. How will you know if they work? You will need to conduct an experiment of n=1. You need to measure your progress in the gym. Get a journal and write down your workouts and how you performed. How much you lifted, how fast you ran and how many reps you did. You can also track other things like your weight, body fat percentage and how much you slept. Go to the doctor and get some blood work done. These are the types of things that you want to keep track of and measure before you take supplements in order to get a baseline, then again during the supplement trial, and, finally, after you stop taking the supplements to see if you return to your baseline.

Furthermore, how will you know whether any progress was the result of the supplements or something else, like eating less or exercising more? You will have to control certain variables so that they do not impact the results. At the very least, you must maintain a relatively constant daily calorie intake. To be more precise, you need to establish a baseline for how much of each macronutrient you are intaking every day. If you are not getting the proper amount of macronutrients in your diet, then that should be addressed before supplementation. You need protein for your muscles, carbohydrates for energy and fats for satiety. Eating too little will cause you to under perform and eating too much will lead to unnecessary weight gain. Finding the proper amount is a process that could take a few months, but it is worth more than all the supplements out there. It is only after you start tracking exactly how much protein, fats and carbs you eat during a day that you can then see how adding or subtracting something affects your performance.

I recommend doing the Zone Diet or Flexible Dieting and establishing a baseline for one month and then adding a supplement in for another month to see if there is any improvement and then discontinuing for several weeks at the end of the month. This will provide a contrast between your baseline and you on supplements. If you haven’t changed how much you’ve eaten and worked out for the month, then at the end you can measure the gains made by the supplement and also whether there was a drop in performance upon discontinuing use at the end of the month.

It seems like a lot of work, but there is a huge payoff. Doing the hard work of eating right will improve your performance and give you the keys to knowing objectively how you are functioning. It allows you to be objective about your nutrition and your performance.

Cook

Nutrition is a controversial topic like religion and politics. The chances of changing someone’s opinions about food are about as likely as changing someone’s sexual orientation. Nonetheless, we try and try. I start with the forrest and then eventually worry about the trees. You can (and probably should at some point) get very obsessive with counting the amount of proteins, carbs and fats you are eating (macros!). However, I believe the biggest improvement you can make to your nutrition is to start to cook.

Now anybody can put a chicken in the oven, but that don’t make them a chef. I am not saying you have to be a good cook, but outsourcing all your food prep to someone else is giving up control of an extremely important part of your life. If you want to improve or optimize your health and performance, you have to pay attention to your nutrition. When you start to cook, then you pay attention to the ingredients. When you start to cook, you pay attention to the portions. The process of cooking awakens you to so many things and makes you conscious of what you are putting in your body.

Ordering in, or heating up pre-packaged meals, is extremely convenient but makes it easy to take for granted everything that goes into preparing food. The gratitude you have for the food and the meal is heightened when you prepare everything yourself or when you cook with friends or family.

I am always shocked when I meet people that don’t cook, but they really exist. If you have never cooked, start small and work on making one meal. Maybe hang out with a friend and have them teach you how to cook. It’s not that hard.

Do It Tomorrow

Do It Tomorrow is a good book on time management by Mark Forster.  I read it years ago on the recommendation of a friend.  Unfortunately, I found it quite difficult to implement in my life.  The premise is simple: make a list of the most important things you are going to do tomorrow before you go to bed. Wake up, look at the list and get cracking!  This gives you the benefit of thinking through the most important things while you are calm and helps you create a map for the next day that you can follow in the event that you get bombarded and distracted by life.  It also allows you to sleep on it which can help your mind start working to solve big problems while you sleep.

Since starting “Flexible Dieting” or “Counting Macros,” I have found that the habit of choosing my meals for the next day the night before to be an enormous help.  I input all my meals and snacks for the next day and move things around so that I be sure to hit my numbers.  Sometimes I start with something delicious that I know I want to eat and then see what is left and start to fill it in.  Sometimes it’s merely copying and pasting todays food log to tomorrow’s log.  Then whenever I get a little hungry, I look at my app on my phone and it tells me what I should eat.

What this does is allow me to save one of my most valuable resources: self restraint.  If I wait until I get a craving or starting thinking about pizza and then look in the refrigerator, I most assuredly will not see anything I want to eat and then go to seamless and order something.  If I look at what is on my menu for the day, I merely have to go and get it and heat it up.  Ultimately, I still have veto power and sometimes go off menu, but having a plan going into each day is great help and I know, from past experiences, that doing it this way leads to much better compliance and results.

Tonight, before you go to bed, plan to make tomorrow the best day.

Conspiracy Theory

Most people that try to diet fail.  I have.  People get discouraged too easily and give up.  I don’t.  I keep trying because I learn something from every failure. Compliance with a nutrition or an exercise program can be extremely challenging.  Self control is a finite resource.  If we use all our self control trying to beat a craving for pizza, we stand a good chance of falling victim to the next grilled cheese that crosses our path.

I have a guilty pleasure of reading and listening to books about self improvement.  Jack Canfield, Bob Proctor, Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, Napoleon Hill, etc. are just a few of the authors that I turn to for words of encouragement. It so happens that this month I have been doing “Flexible Dieting” or “Counting Macros” and coincidentally I started listening to a Zig Ziglar book.  I don’t know if it’s related or not, but I find it much easier to stay compliant and exercise self control when listening to Ziglar.  Maybe the two things aren’t related but I think there is some benefit to having someone tell you how awesome you when you want to get down on yourself and cheat on your diet.

There is power in words and power in community and power in who you surround yourself with.  Doing a nutrition challenge with the gym is good when everyone is in communication and supporting each other.  It feels more normal when you’re eating out with friends and you all order salads and pull out your phones and take pictures of your food and plug your meal into your apps.  Positive self talk is a great tool to keep you focused as well.  I heard that listening to motivational speeches increases your dopamine, endorphin and seratonin levels.  So that might help explain that this might be more than a coincidence.

If you want to succeed you have to conspire and plan.  Surround yourself with the right people and fill your ears and brain with the right words and thoughts.  Every little bit helps.