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And the Grocery Bill Doubles….

cioppino2My 19 year old son, Lucas, is home from his first year at The University of Wisconsin-River Falls.  I have two boys (3 if you include my husband) and they could not be more different.  Dalton is our athlete.  He acts like an athlete, eats like an athlete and definitely SMELLS like an athlete.  He knows random facts about professional athletes that the typical person could care less about and even has a special alert on his phone that sounds when something “BIG” happens in the sports world.  Lucas has no desire to play or watch sports.  He is our intellect who can read a book faster than you could watch the movie, loves animals and nature and….is a vegetarian!  While I completely support his choice not to eat meat, it does make cooking and grocery shopping more complicated and more expensive.  It also worries me that he is not getting the nutrients he needs.  Thank goodness he will eat fish and seafood, so he can get some of his protein needs there, but the amount of protein he is putting into his body is far from what he needs and his caloric intake is way too low.  It’s one thing to hear people, like Paul, talk about how fueling your body affects your performance.  It’s another thing to see it first hand, and it’s not pretty.  (By the way Paul, I can’t wait for you to talk to him!)  We are in the process of forcing Lucas to stay awake while feeding him whatever we can.  He is in this vicious cycle where all he wants to do is sleep, which keeps him from eating, which makes him want to sleep more.  6 months ago, I may have thought that this was just typical behavior from a college student who just finished a week of finals and whose sleep schedule is off.  Now, I think differently.  This is not normal, even for a college student.  This is a body that has not been fed correctly and can no longer function properly because of it.  Mom to the rescue!

Tonight, a nutrient packed dinner for the boy!  Since he will eat seafood, I pull out the scallops from my freezer.  Since they have been in the freezer for a while now, I can’t just do the typical salt and pepper, sear in a pan with butter scallop…this will need some extra flavor.  I love cioppino!  Cioppino is a stew full of various types of seafood in a tomato based broth.  Since I don’t have a variety of seafood (remember, I am in Minnesota) I will make a scallop cioppino.  I think I will add some spinach to it too, since I add spinach to as many of my dishes as possible just to add a little bit more nutrition.  Since the boy is basically in starvation mode, I will serve this over some cooked white rice too!

After I made this recipe, I tasted it and thought…YUM!  You could substitute chicken, fish, veal or whatever protein of choice and it would still be delicious!

Ingredients

  • 10-12 medium scallops
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 16 oz can of crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 handful of baby spinach
  • cooked white rice

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a skillet, heat the coconut oil until melted over medium high heat.  Add the red onion and cook a couple of minutes, until transluscent.  Lower the the heat to medium/low and add the garlic.  Cook about 1 minute and add the coconut milk, tomatoes, italian seasoning and spinach.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until the spinach is wilted.

In a baking dish, arrange your scallops in one layer and pour your tomato mixture over the top.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes (this is a perfect time to cook your rice).  Scoop your rice into a dish, top with your scallop cioppino and enjoy!!!

Mediterranean Chicken and Quinoa

mediterranean chickenI think the dark is gone…for now.  I had the pleasure of meeting Elizabeth this past Saturday (the Crossfit workout Elizabeth).  She and I are not friends….As I finished the last couple squat cleans of my first round of 21, I was pretty sure that I would not finish this workout, but I huffed and puffed my way over to the rings to start the torturous round of 21 ring dips.  5 squat cleans into my second round of 15, I was positive I would not be able to finish…I thought to myself, “This is crazy!  How can I possible to this?”, yet I kept going.  I realized after getting through 5 more that there was no way I couldn’t finish.  This was not because of me by any means, it was because of all the people around me (who had already finished Elizabeth) who would not allow me to quit.  I mustered through the remainder of my workout to the sound of Jill and Pam cheering me on and finished with a time of 15:10.  This Crossfit community that I have become a part of is like nothing I have ever encountered.  Never have I met a group of people that get as much or more joy and pride out of another person’s success than they do their own.  It’s pretty surreal and I feel so lucky to have found Crossfit Templar.

Ok, on to the recipe.  I made this a couple of nights ago and just had leftovers for lunch.  It’s SO good!

I just recently was introduced to quinoa and have really tried to find ways to incorporate it into some recipes.  I like it because it is a gluten free high protein grain and pretty easy to make.  When I make it, I usually make an entire box of it and save whatever I do not use in my recipe for another use later in the week.  One cup of dry quinoa will yield about 3 cups of cooked, so you get a good amount from one box.  I also cook my quinoa using stock instead of water to give it more flavor.  If you have homemade bone stock, it’s a great option, otherwise and store bought stock will work.

I have to give props to Suzanne, the cook at the child care center I teach preschool at, for giving me the idea for this recipe.  Suzanne does a great job trying to incorporate healthy meals to the menu at my center and tries to expose the children to some foods they may not ever have tried otherwise.  She serves a simplified version of this recipe to the children and it’s one of my favorite lunches.

The recipe calls for feta or parmesan cheese, but again, if you have been strong enough to omit cheese from your diet, feel free to leave it out.

Mediterranean Chicken and Quinoa

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 lb cooked chicken, sliced or diced
  • 1 bag of baby spinach
  • 2 cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes with garlic
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Feta or parmesan cheese

Rinse your quinoa in a strainer for at least 2 minutes. Rinsing the quinoa removes its natural coating, called saponin, which can make it taste bitter or soapy. Although boxed quinoa is often pre-rinsed, it doesn’t hurt to give the seeds an additional rinse.  In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil and add rinsed quinoa.  Dry and toast the quinoa, letting the water evaporate (about one minute).  Add the chicken stock and salt and bring the mixture to a rolling boil.  Reduce heat to medium and add the remaining ingredients.  Cook until spinach is wilted and everything is heated though.  Serve topped with feta or parmesan cheese.

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Meat and Potatoes Reinvented – Horseradish Crusted Roast Beef with German Sweet Potato & Carmelized Onion Salad

meat & potatoes

Grassfed beef….all I can say is WOW!  We got our first bundle of grassfed beef just recently and I was very curious to see if I noticed a difference from our supermarket bought beef.  I am not gonna lie – I didn’t expect a big difference, but I was so wrong!  Not only is the flavor leaps and bounds better than our hormone filled supermarket beef, but the texture is what really got me.  If you haven’t tried grassfed beef, you MUST!  In our bundle, we got a beef roast…a beautiful, deep red, juicy grassfed beef roast.  I had to do this beautiful hunk of beef justice. No crock pot for this baby – we are making a gorgeous roast beef with this one!  Not just any roast beef either – we’re going hardcore…horseradish crusted roast beef is the only recipe that could do this piece of meat justice!  Now…what to make with this glorious main dish….

My husband, Andy, is 100% German and has a great Mom who cooks some AMAZING delicious and very unhealthy dishes.  I always told her how much we love going to her house for Thanksgiving because everything was so traditional and yummy.  During one visit in the summertime, she made her German potato salad and I fell in LOVE!  It was a warm potato salad with a tang from vinegar and saltiness from bacon and bacon fat.  I have had this idea to make my own version of this salad for a while now, and finally today, I found the perfect pairing…meat and potatoes!  This is a perfect Sunday meal as it does take some time to prepare and cook, but SO worth it!

beef

Horseradish Crusted Roast Beef

Ingredients

  • 5-6 pound beef roast (preferably grass fed)
  • 1/3 cup prepared horseradish
  • 2 tablespoons course ground mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt (I use the unground sea salt granules)
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Horseradish yogurt sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place the beef on a rack inside of a deep roasting pan.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients into a thick paste and rub all over the top and sides of the beef roast.  Place the roasting pan into the bottom half of the oven and roast until the middle of the roast reads 125 degrees on a meat thermometer.  Transfer the roast to a cutting board and let rest for at least 20 minutes to let the juices redistribute (this is a MUST if you want juicy beef!)  Slice thinly against the grain and transfer to a serving platter.  This is delicious by itself or served with horseradish yogurt sauce.

Horseradish Yogurt Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon stone ground mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives or green onion

Combine the ingredients and enjoy!

German Sweet Potato Salad

German Sweet Potato Salad with Carmelized Onions

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch rounds
  • 1 large red onion, cut in half and sliced into thin slices
  • 1/3 cup bacon fat
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
  • 3 slices of bacon, cooked and diced

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place the sweet potatoes in a pot of salted boiling water and cook for 8 minutes.  Drain the potatoes and let cool.  While the potatoes are cooling, heat 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat in large frying pan over medium high heat.  Add onions and cook until carmelized (about 30 minutes) stirring frequently.  The onions will be a rich brown and tender when complete.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining bacon fat, vinegar and mustard and continue cooking for about 5 minutes.  In a casserole dish, arrange the sweet potato rounds in a single layer, overlapping them slightly.  Evenly pour the onion mixture over the top of the sweet potato layer and sprinkle the diced bacon on top.  Cook uncovered for about 25 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender.  Turn your oven broiler onto high heat and broil the potatoes for a couple minutes just to crisp up the top a bit.

Carb Loading – Paleo Women of Crossfit Version

Tomorrow we are releasing our Metabolic Flexibility chapters that you get when you purchase a year long subscription for $49.95.  These chapters are written by Mike T Nelson who is considered to be the authority on the topic.  When I wrote this article Carb Back Loading was the only book that closely resembled what I teach.  With two volumes of Foundations and now Mike’s chapters on MetFlex I can safely say this is NOW the best information you can purchase specific to our sport (that being high intensity weight lifting and OLY lifting).  Not only do you get that but you get seminars and a private group with other doctors and Crossfit athletes to support your new performance journey (how cool is that?).

(Click here to jump to a summary of this article)

This is a big topic for the seminars:  “How can a woman keep a healthy amount of carbs in her diet while also mobilizing fat?”  I realize that it’s all very confusing at this point, because there’s been a lot of buzz over the past few years surrounding fat loss on a ketogenic diet.  There are certainly a lot of women who’ve made dramatic transformations by cutting carbs, but the results may have come at a cost; for a small percentage of women, symptoms like irregular menstrual cycles and compromised fertility go hand in hand with calorie deprivation and maintaining a low body fat percentage.  If this doesn’t apply to you, you probably can’t relate, but for a few of the ladies out there, a bell just went off in their heads.  Another group of relatively lean ladies have taken a less restrictive approach to eating, and most are quite happy with their body composition.

Exercise Differences Between Men and Women

Aside from the obvious differences, men and women are biologically quite different and respond differently to exercise in a few important ways.  For instance, women burn fat more easily than men do while CrossFitting; due to a significantly decreased oxidative work capacity, women have been shown to use up glycogen more slowly than men do.  They rely upon alternate pathways to supply ATP to the muscle cells during intense activity.  So if women burn more fat while exercising, why are some of them struggling to rid themselves of what they consider to be excess body fat?  Although it has something to do with neurotransmitters and adrenergic receptors in adipose tissue, we’ll just say that each person stores and mobilizes fat differently; it’s dependent upon so many factors that it would take an entire book to adequately explain.  Once again, this is a complicated question that is largely individual, but I have and will continue to argue that there is a process of analysis that must occur.  In the long run, the results are enlightening and will lead to important discoveries about your unique metabolism.

What about Carb Back-Loading?  That Seems Like a Lot of Carbs…

Later, you will read three testimonies from women who Eat to Perform.  Not all of them are CrossFitters, nor are they CBL zealots, but that makes their experiences much more informative and broadly applicable.  Each of these women has formulated a conscious approach to carbohydrate intake that works for them.

Once you hear from them, you’ll agree that the contrasts between these various athletes are eye-opening.  All of them do some version of what I describe in this article, adjusted for their activity level, at various times.  Some do it by feel, some count calories and some carb cycle BUT every single one of them agrees that a high-functioning metabolism involves some amount of carbohydrates.

Adjusting CBL for Women

Back-loading can be intimidating.  Kiefer talks about “slamming the carbs”; images of doughnuts and turnovers dance before your eyes.  This rubs people the wrong way sometimes, because it doesn’t jive with what they consider a basic tenant of human nutrition; it seems insane (and unhealthy) to suggest that eating baked goods and pizza could help you lose fat.  When I started this site, I wanted to start women down the path of thinking more openly as far as carbohydrates are concerned.  That started a discussion and here we are with almost 200,000 people participating (it will probably be more if you read this down the road).  That discussion led to experiments for a lot of people and better performance while eating moderate carbohydrates.  I think I can safely say that women trying to lose fat might do well to try something out of their comfort zone and add some carbs/starches to their meal plans.

This Is a “Non-Standard” Recommendation

It’s important that everyone understands that no recommendation works for everyone.  You have to take the reins, but this is a safe spot for most active women to start.  I just posted an article with a link and explanation of how to calculate your energy requirements based upon your activity level.  It’s very informative so you should give it a quick read.  In the articles coming up you will see examples of women using vastly different approaches as it relates to carb strategies that all make sense.  We’ll go over this more during the seminars as well, so don’t sweat it if these numbers don’t work for you.

  • For our example, we’ll use a woman in her mid-twenties, 5’4”, 125lbs who CrossFits a few times a week.
  • We’ll start her on 125g of protein a day.  If you are particularly light (under 125 pounds) then you can get away with 100g.
  • 125g of carbs (ideally eaten in a small window post workout at the end of the day, similar to the way it is described in the book).  Again, if you weigh less than 125 pounds, 100g is a good place to start.  If you’re particularly active (or you train in the morning), you may want to add 25-50g of carbs to your post workout nutrition.
  • 125g of fat.  This will provide the bulk of your energy throughout the day and turn you into a veritable furnace of fat burning.

Starch Sources in Your Evening Meals

Part of the problem with very active women following a Paleo-esque diet is that they struggle to find energy dense sources that come from mostly whole unprocessed foods.  Fibrous vegetables don’t count; eat as much of them as you want throughout the day but leave them out of your evening meals.  While they may be packed with vitamins and minerals, they will fill you up and you may have a tendency to under eat when it comes time to “slam the carbs”.  This is one of the reasons I recommend having dessert on your back-loading days (ideally, the day before a workout).  My coconut milk smoothies are a great choice; I have also seen women get very favorable results adding dark chocolate and wine into the mix (as long as it’s in moderation).

As far as more traditional options go, we’ll keep this simple: sweet potatoes, squash (kabocha squash pictured above) are great carbohydrate sources.  If you’re open-minded, you could occasionally try some white rice too.  Starches are important, as they provide a quick source of glucose to spur muscle tone (really muscle growth but I digress) and trigger the hormonal cascade responsible for fat burning.  I think you’ll get a great response from these.  Finally, variety is the spice of life, so try different things and don’t be afraid to have a cinnamon roll before bed to prepare for a particularly brutal workout the following day.

Workout Days Followed by Rest Days

Because men burn through sugar like there’s no tomorrow, they can get away with back-loading every day.  Women have things a little harder due to their decreased usage of glycogen as fuel during exercise.  If your goal is to mobilize fat, I would suggest reducing your carbohydrate intake on these days, while simultaneously increasing your fat intake.  It may seem like it contradicts the entire ideology of back-loading, but by eating relatively low carb after training, you will ensure a glycogen debt and maximize fat burning hormones.  Using the example from above, stay with 125g protein, 100g of carbs and add roughly 22g of fat (preferably from sources like coconut oil and grass-fed butter) to make up for the loss of calories incurred by lowering carbohydrate intake.  That would shift your macros to 125p/150f/100c.

These are just my thoughts; you can play with this many different ways.  My goal is to convey a more clear understanding that a reckless approach is unnecessary; you don’t need to eat turnovers and pizza to back-load.  I hope this helps a bit in clarifying that.  As always, these are guidelines and not rules.

Summary

  • Men and women utilize carbohydrate differently.  Women are, in general, better at burning fat than men so they need fewer carbohydrates in their nutrition plans.
  • Ketogenic/low carb diets can cause fast weight loss but they are rarely ideal for optimal performance.
  • While it may not be extremely common, some women suffer some unfortunate side effects when they get really lean and/or deprive their bodies of carbohydrates.  For this reason, it’s better to adopt a less restrictive approach to carbs.
  • Women should strive to hit their protein goals first, and then focus on carbs and fat; in general, women seem to do well on 100-125g of carbs on training days.
  • Rest days can be modified to include more fat and less carbs; 75-100g may be appropriate.
  • As with most things, experimenting with more or less carbs will help you arrive at a balance that works for you and allows you to look and perform the way you want to.
  • You don’t need to eat pizza and turnovers to carb back-load; go for starches like potatoes and rice, and be sure to include some vegetables.  Coconut milk smoothies are also a great option.

 

Carb Back Loading for Crossfit and Paleo

Sweet PotatoesCarb back loading is probably the best version of what I refer to as a metabolically favorable way of eating.  The focus of this style of eating is not to create a deficit at all, it is to get your metabolism humming along like a Ferrari so when you enter your Crossfit gym you are ready to perform.  The points where I disagree with Kiefer are not significant but I think it should be brought up.  The fact of the matter is simple, if you are looking for the absolute best book to understand what goes on in your body and WHY this book does that better than any I have seen.  If I find a better one, I will put that one in the sidebar but, for now, this is the holy grail for a high functioning metabolism that allows you to burn fat.  The book is expensive, is it worth the money? I think it is.  Much of what I talk about on my blog and the associated Facebook page covers topics in the book.  The book however does a good job as a “one stop place” for an approach to eating with the scientific references to back it up.

Carb Back Loading is $53 dollars, when you consider all of the $109 nanos, $139 OLY shoes and the list goes on none of those will help your understanding of how your nutrition self and athletic self work together quite the way CBL will.

To Download your version of Carb Back Loading click here

This blog exists to help people understand their health and performance.  It is a business and as such I sell things.  I only sell things I use and I only promote products I believe in.  If you like this blog and you like my content and are considering buying this book I would ask you to use this link.

Can you do this Paleo?

Absolutely you can and it probably best describes how I eat.  I rely mostly on sweet potatoes for my carbs and occasionally white rice (many Paleo authors are starting to include white rice in their “safe to eat” foods for athletes).  My coconut milk smoothies are a perfect addition to the fat back load which is used in conjunction with carbs to get a better response before bed.

Cherry pineapple and Banana Chocolate Hazelnut smoothies

Some minor points of differences

Kiefer suggests A LOT of supplements in the book.  I wouldn’t necessarily say I disagree with his recommendations as much as I would say they aren’t necessary for all populations.  If you are eating a diet of mostly whole foods with adequate protein you have it mostly right.

Is this THE way of eating?

I think if you asked him John would describe this style of eating as the best strategy he has come up with for extreme athletic performance.  BUT IT IS JUST A STRATEGY.  It is not THE way, you could certainly take the concepts in the book and put the pieces together for an optimal way of eating designed for you.  As someone who coaches people on their diets there a lot of one off’s that you need to account for.

Even though people spend 100′s of dollars on personal trainers and Crossfit memberships they are often reluctant to spend the money for a book like this.  That is a mistake.  Even if you never carb back load you will learn infinite strategies related to how to eat to perform (catchy right).

Carb Nite Solution

The other book offered is called Carb Nite Solution, that will appeal to many people who will see it as the holy grail of fat loss.  You won’t however see see a link or it in the sidebar of this site because Ketogenic Diets (even good ones like CNS) are a metabolic train wreck for Crossfitters, especially women who have a history of extreme dieting.

He doesn’t seem to like us Crossfitters

The original versions of Carb Back Loading  was for PowerLifters and Physique Competitors (you see them as the testimonials).  His criticisms of our approach to fitness is legit for optimizing squatting 1,000 pounds or even getting shredded down to 5%.  So if those are goals of yours then you should understand that Crossfit isn’t a good method for reaching those goals.  Crossfitters are attempting different goals.  Let me put it to you this way, if you want to become the best version of yourself this book will show you a great approach to get there.  I also believe that if you play with it a bit, Kiefer describes his approach as Legos, it might take a bit to figure it out completely.  Certainly if you have any questions on how you can adapt this approach to eating to Crossfit leave a message in the comments and I will attempt to help you.

What about all of the donuts and turnovers?

You’ll just have to get over that part.  Think about it, people want an approach to eating that allows them to perform athletically WHILE ALSO allowing them to make some poor choices.  Is the turnover and donut approach vastly superior to a more Paleo approach? I have tried it, it didn’t feel right.  FOR ME.  I am a 44 year old man but I wouldn’t recommend the turnovers and donut approach to most populations.  Do I realize that it might describe an approach to the way some people want to eat? I certainly do.  If you are doing the 80% version of Paleo or even the version that Dr. Cordain recommends in the Paleo Diet for Athletes this can be easily accomplished with carb back loading and just/almost as effective for optimizing Crossfit as the donut approach might be.  Any differences would be minimal and unless you are an elite athlete those differences likely won’t matter for you and your progress related to Crossfit.

Tackling the Sugar Addiction question

First let me start off by saying I don’t make light of addiction.  I have been free of chemicals for 26 years, it destroyed my life as a teenager and I had to leave my family to get treatment for that illness.  So while things kind of worked out for me in the end I still deal with repercussions of that illness to this day.  Let me give you the timeline for this addiction.

- At 18 I was admitted to a treatment facility for 3 months where I underwent extreme psychotherapy

- I then was admitted to a halfway house in Minnesota (where I currently live), I stayed in that facility for 6 months as did most of the residents there.

- I am originally from New Orleans, La. one of the coolest places on the planet.  Most of my family still resides there or near there.

- After leaving the facility in Minnesota I decided to acclimate for a bit before heading back home.  New Orleans held a lot of temptation then and now so I really wanted to make sure I had it right.

- 26 years later I am still here, I met my wife about 6 months after leaving the halfway house.  I often get asked “what makes a person come from a warm weather place that seems as cool as hell to a miserable wasteland (their words not mine, it’s really not so bad and Prince is from here)” my simple retort is often “had to be a woman, right?”

- My children have a great life and our family is well supported by people that care for us but it’s incomplete.  It’s a little tough looking your father in the eye as he tears up because he is being robbed of seeing his “grand babies” grow up.  That is one small casualty of addiction.

So yeah, I take addiction real serious.  As a drug treatment counselor I heard many stories of people who stole their grandmothers microwave to buy crack or compromised their humanity to get a fix.  So while sugar is a powerful chemical can we at least set the bar as a SEVERE consequence that possibly compromises who you are as a result.  Before anyone suggests obesity, let’s not confuse not knowing WHY with uncontrollable behavior.  So let’s start there.

The insulin hypothesis

The insulin hypothesis goes like this, if you can keep insulin suppressed it solves body fat storage because insulin is said to be a “storage hormone”.  Let’s be clear about this, body fat can store without the presence of insulin through multiple channels.  Insulin is more accurately described as a building hormone.  Eat correctly and it builds muscle, eat incorrectly and it BUILDS/stores fat.

It has been proposed that if you can control insulin you can control your health, that is the basis for all low carbohydrate diets.  As many of you know that frequent this page/blog I recommend eating carbohydrates with strategies related to the time you workout or even eating in a smaller window in the evening.  No matter which macronutrient we are talking about I believe you should have a strategy as it relates to that macronutrient.  I also believe that you should have some general idea of your overall intake needs daily and adjust those needs related to your activity level.  Let me give you an example of what that might look like, for protein I try to get around 160g a day, each gram of protein equals 4 calories, so I need 640 calories from protein a day (you don’t really need to count calories daily to have a good idea of your protein intake but it might be helpful for a week or so just to check, knowledge is powerful).  Through massive trial and error I have found a good balance of about 200g of carbohydrate, up to 300g if my activity is higher, once again, I do this intuitively but as most of you know I am pretty good at this whole nutrition thing.  Carbs also equal 4 calories per gram so I need 800 to 1200 calories of carbohydrate to support my daily activity.  While yes I realize carbohydrates are a non-essential macronutrient they are very favorable as it relates to metabolism.  I know this because I basically cured my hypothyroidism related to chronic dieting once I went down this road of discovery related to my intake needs.  Which brings me to fats, through various ways including dexascan and bodpod testing as well as trial and error I know that I need about 3000 calories a day to support my activity levels.  Once again I don’t actually count this stuff but I am also not naive as it relates to the caloric values of the foods that I eat and also know what those foods represent in my body.  Which is another article for another day and not germain to the discussion of sugar addiction.  So fat calories basically equal the rest, if I get 640 calories from protein roughly and 800 calories from carbohydrates that leaves me with 1560 calories coming from fat, fat calories (as most of you know) equal 9 calories per gram, so my fat intake represents more than half of my calories, which is right about 170g a day of fat alone.

For the ladies in the crowd I will use my wife as an example without all of the dirty details. Protein 120g, carbohydrates 150g, total calories for her (she is a crossfitter so quite active) are 2400 a day (she doesn’t count either but eats in an intuitive manner similar to the way that I do).  So her fat calories represent also over 50% of her calories at 1320 or roughly 146g from fat.  From what I have seen my wife is pretty average but I would like to put out there that everyone’s life journey should be a bit more self discovery.  In a lot of ways that is why I made this blog and my accompanying Facebook page, it is my life’s mission to help people navigate these personal struggles.

If you think you don’t need to eat that much to support your activity level you are almost certainly wrong.  Even if you are right it is only minor degrees.  I am not saying this as someone using two people as an example, I have many case studies that prove this.

So let’s start there as it relates to your sugar intervention.  Until you actually KNOW these types of numbers and have worked towards this level of self discovery and you haven’t had to miss carpool to prostitute yourself for a twix bar (you are going to have to imagine this in Jeff Foxworthy voice switching our redneck for sugar addict) “you might not be a sugar addict”.  Just so people know I am not stereotyping I pick up carpool for my children and I can say to you “god willing” I haven’t had to miss carpool for a twix.

So why so much fat?

I like fat as a primary fuel because it’s very stable, I have heard it said that over reliance on glucose (carbs) for energy is like burning a fire with kindling and fat is like putting a log on the fire.  At rest, for most people, fats are a great source of daily energy levels.  Fats also keep insulin blunted and while it seems odd fats can be a good STRATEGY as it relates to your body fat levels.  I highlight the word strategy because my way and my wife’s way might not represent the best way for you.  That will be part of your self discovery but stick with me and I will give you some clues on how to get there.  Don’t be fooled though, the insulin hypothesis goes like this,  keep carbs out of your diet and you will be in fat burning mode all of the time.  Not only is this wrong it’s borderline irresponsible and has left many people broken with eating disorder type behaviors as a result.

The effects of Carbohydrate on a Ketogenic approach to eating

In an attempt to figure out if they are in ketosis many people pee on their hands each morning to check their ketone levels.  I don’t mean to make light of people working towards a better style of eating but there is a crucial aspect they are missing.  Carbs are said to be a non-essential macronutrient because your body can exist without them, the body requires glucose (a fuel source readily available through actual food) so much that it actually can turn fats and mainly protein into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis (I misspell this word non-stop).  It’s an inefficient process and can often leave the user with headaches as a result.  The brain functions mostly on glucose but I don’t want to get ahead of myself, it can however function on Ketones which is the by-product of fat metabolism.  So while yes if you can suffer through the bad workouts and the headaches it is indeed possible to use fats as a primary fuel source but the net result as it relates to body fat mobilization becomes dependent on the amount of fats you eat as a result.  The process is relatively inefficient for athletic populations and virtually impossible as a strategy for Crossfitters that want to excel.

It has been well known for a long time that when you eat in a ketogenic way and then cycle your carbs that stimulates metabolism whether it by intraday, bi-daily, weekly or whatever floats your boat.  When you eat low carbohydrate and then you have a carbohydrate re-feed (you eat a good amount of carbs) you not only mobilize fat but the net result tends to be more favorable than the “eat less do less” model of eating.  This is because a low carbohydrate way of eating suppresses the hormone leptin which is the primary mover as it relates to body fat mobilization.  Suppressed leptin levels can lead to hypothyroid like symptoms and is often the result of extreme dieting.

So low carbohydrate dates get to a point of diminishing returns as it relates to body composition.  I will say there are always outliers where it can work but those are not the majority of folks that go down the low carb path.

I am going to stop here because this is going long

I am not going to make any promises related to WHEN I will write the second part of this article but you already should have some thoughts flowing through your head related to “sugar addiction”.  The next article is going to focus more on strategies related to eating that will allow to better understand your bodies signals.  Let me end on this note though, most people who think they are sugar addicted are underfed, plane and simple.  Since low carb dieting is not favorable as it relates to metabolism down the line people often need to reduce their fat intake to try and chase their body composition goals which is like driving towards a point that is continuouslyy moving.  Those that aren’t underfed are simply relying more on glucose (carbs or sugars) as their primary fuels and this can be handled easily by adjusting their diet patterns.  Here is the deal, you miss the sugar because the brain really really likes sugar, if you gave the brain sugar all of the time it would just ask you for more because, well, brains are gonna brain.  That’s what they want.  If you provide your brain adequate nutrition with strategies related to how the rest of your body manages your fat the equation for optimal health starts to appear.

I am thinking the next article should probably be called “The case for responsible energy management” but let’s be honest, no ones gonna click that.  So I’ll probably call it something like “The Sugar Addiction Cure debunked”.  I’m tricky like that.  Oh yeah, Doctor Oz can suck it.  I can’t believe people still think his information is even remotely responsible.

Some conjecture and Science on why Fats are important

grass_fed_steaks

It might seem somewhat ironic but “Carb Back Loading” is a book about eating fats most of the time and using carbs to most effectively use those fats.  You can support this site and get a free science lab membership by purchasing items using the links on this site (much of which you probably already buy or want to buy).  Check this link out for directions on how that happens (or you can now purchase a Science Lab membership for $4.95 monthly).

Fat cells are part of the endocrine system, and, as I’ve discussed before, they have the power to influence the degree to which muscle cells prefer glucose versus fats as an energy source. They exercise this control by releasing two signaling peptides: leptin and adiponectin. Adiponectin promotes glucose consumption by the muscles, and it also acts directly on the fat cells to encourage them to take up glucose and convert it to fat. Leptin, on the other hand, stimulates the muscles to prefer fat consumption over glucose consumption.

For several decades now, Americans have come to believe that the following two practices are foundational in a healthy lifestyle:  eat a low-fat diet, and  stay away from the sun. Additionally, if people consume adequate amounts of calcium, then all three nutritional deficiencies that have led to obesity will be overcome: vitamin D, calcium, and dietary fat.

Lack of Dietary fats is a precursor to metabolic syndrome

The lack of adequate dietary fat contributes to the metabolic syndrome in at least four ways:  vitamin D is only available in fatty food sources because it is a fat-soluble vitamin, calcium uptake is more efficient when the calcium is consumed with dietary fats, calcium uptake depends critically on the presence of vitamin D, which is deficient due to (1) above, and the burden of fat cells to manufacture fatty acids from sugar is alleviated by the dietary availability of fats from ingested food sources.

I would also argue that one should make sure to ingest adequate amounts of dietary fat, especially dairy fat . Whole milk (assuming you are not intolerant) is particularly outstanding because it contains substantial amounts of calcium and vitamin D, and it contains the necessary fat to assure that these two elements will be well utilized rather than just passing through the digestive system unabsorbed. Animal fats such as bacon are good sources of vitamin D, while also supplying fatty acids to help with energy needs. Fatty fish such as salmon and sardines are particularly good because they contain both omega-3 fats and vitamin D. One should assiduously avoid the trans fats found in processed foods such as cookies, crackers, and margarine. Butter and eggs are also healthy choices. Egg yolk is particularly good because it contains both fats and vitamin D. Nuts, particularly walnuts, almonds, and macademia nuts, are excellent sources of omega 3 fats.

The fat cells are able to influence the muscles to preferentially take up fats rather than glucose by releasing certain hormones into the blood, hormones that also have a powerful influence over appetite. One of these hormones is leptin. While leptin influences the muscle cells indirectly through its signaling in the hypothalamus, it also stimulates the muscle cells directly, and influences them to oxidize fatty acids in their mitochondria. Leptin also encourages the fat cells to release their fats through lipolysis. All of these actions work in concert to redirect fuel usage away from glucose. The programming of the muscles to preferentially consume fats aligns well with the fat cells’ infusion of fats into the blood and absorption of sugars through their fat-producing factories.

Leptin influences appetite

Leptin also has the effect, via the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, of suppressing appetite. Adiponectin is another hormone released by fat cells, and it is generally agreed that adiponectin induces hunger. Leptin and adiponectin levels would ordinarily fluctuate throughout the day, with leptin levels rising at night to encourage a switch from glucose-based to fat-based energy management. However, in the obese person, the leptin levels are typically high all the time, and the adiponectin levels are kept very low. High levels of leptin in the blood signal to the appetite center in the brain a sense of being full, whereas high levels of adiponectin are hunger-inducing. This means that the obese are being informed both that they are full, and that they are not hungry. You would think that this would protect them from overeating. However, it is likely that the observed insensitivity to leptin as an appetite suppressant in the obese is also related to calcium depletion, because the signaling mechanisms that respond to leptin in both the hypothalamus (Details) and the pituitary gland (Details) depend on changes in internal calcium concentrations.

Confusing signals cause deficiencies related to blood sugar 

The result of these three deficiencies is defective glucose uptake in both muscle and fat cells. The obese person becomes trapped in an endless metabolic cycle of trying to supply the energy needed for a steadily increasing demand. The fat cells are at the center of the storm, because they are burdened with the arduous assignment of converting the excess consumed sugars and carbohydrates into fat. The fat cells must do this because the muscle cells are impaired with a malfunctioning ability to metabolise sugars. Even if the metabolic problem were not fixed, if the obese person simply ate more fat, and therefore consumed fewer carbs, the fat cells’ burden would be greatly alleviated. In addition, getting plenty of vitamin D and calcium, either through diet or sun exposure, would alleviate the core problem of impaired glucose transport across the cell wall. Now that the heart and muscles can utilize sugars directly, the excessive burden on the fat cells to expand and proliferate is relieved, and the body fat will inevitably melt away.

The metabolic syndrome is a term used to encapsulate a complex set of markers associated with increased risk to heart disease. The profile includes insulin resistance and dysfunctional glucose metabolism in muscle cells, excess triglycerides in the blood serum, high levels of LDL, particularly small dense LDL, the worst kind  low levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol) and reduced cholesterol content within the individual HDL particles, elevated blood pressure, and obesity, particularly excess abdominal fat. I have argued previously that this syndrome is brought on by a diet that is high in empty carbohydrates (particularly fructose) and low in fats and cholesterol, along with a poor vitamin D status [Seneff2010]. While I still believe that all of these factors are contributory, I would now add another factor as well: insufficient dietary sulfate.

Why being “fat adapted” makes your body run better

Glucogenesis is the process where the body breaks down proteins and possibly fats for energy, what this means is that in the absence of glucose the body can make glucose which is important for brain function.  This is also important for all those people that think they need carbohydrates every fewer hours to maintain their energy.  When a good majority of your energy comes from fats you are said to be “fat adapted” and less prone to voracious hunger related to blood sugar changes.  There is nothing wrong with glucogenesis, nor is there anything wrong with carbohydrate restriction. A glucose fueled body and a fatty acid fueled body are both healthy body’s (the latter arguably more health promoting and anti inflammatory). Insulin in and of itself has little to do with body weight and weight gain. The liver, pancreas and brain take care of this. One could potentially eat a ‘perfect’ diet totally devoid of carbohydrates, and still gain weight. if whatever you are eating is spiking your blood sugar and your pancreas is not releasing efficient amounts of insulin to clear the spike, then in turn you will store fat. This goes the same for EVERYTHING YOU EAT. Insulin is required to live, without it you would die. I think people are missing the point when the carbohydrate junk is thrown around, as well as the fear of blood sugar rises.  To suggest that one macronutrient is “bad” or “good” misses the whole point, conditioning your body to be able to exist on either is not only healthy, it’s optimal.

Lets say, for example, you do a 20 minute heavy lifting session in a fasted state (like first thing in the morning). Your body is PRIMED to produce a spike in blood sugar regardless of what you eat. NOT TO STORE FAT, but to reinstate hormesis in your muscles and deliver nutrients. This is the job of amino acids, but to deliver it you need insulin.

Protein is Simple – The Basics Version

(Click here to jump to a summary of this article)

After water, there is nothing more abundant in the human body than protein.  Protein should serve as the foundation of your nutrition and be derived from food that delivers a wide variety of amino acids, especially the branch chain amino acids and essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and protein is required to keep your body together.  Meat is hands down the best source for amino acids and muscle repair.

The essential amino acids, which cannot be synthesized and must be obtained from food sources, are:

  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Valine
  • Lysine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Histidine

On the other hand, non-essential amino acids can be made by the body from other amino acids.  The non-essential amino acids are:

  • Arginine
  • Alanine
  • Asparagine
  • Aspartic acid
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamine
  • Glutamic acid
  • Glycine
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Tyrosine

Each amino serves a different purpose. All of the aminos are important in the biosyntheses of hormones, enzymes, membrane channels, and ion pumps. Protein also enhances the immune system and can be used in the production of energy.

Getting protein from real food instead of supplements, shakes or powders leads to a better satiety and decreased appetite.  Most liquid protein will only leave you satisfied as long as the mixture is in your stomach.  On the other hand, full digestion of solid food can take quite a long time to complete, leaving you feeling full for longer.  Protein intake from real food also produces less ghrelin (a hormone synthesized in your gut to signal hunger when your belly is growling) as opposed to carbohydrate or fat.  A prolonged suppression of ghrelin secretion leads to fewer cravings.  While carbohydrates and fat serve as very palatable foods, you lose your motivation to keep eating chicken breasts once you are full.  Butter poached chicken breasts are much more palatable, lending to an overall higher food consumption.

A general rule of thumb regarding protein consumption is to eat 1 gram per lb. of bodyweight you carry.  I personally prefer to go by lean body mass, so it’s slightly less than overall body weight.  An individual in need of more repair, or someone looking for increased muscle mass may want to add extra protein. The overall need for nitrogen and state of body composition may also factor into one’s protein requirements. When in a caloric deficit, the liver can use protein to make glucose.  This could lead to a lower muscle mass, slower metabolism, and elicit an overwhelming stress response, making weight loss or muscle gain incredibly hard.  All that said, the thought that protein is a simple way to add muscle is wrong, but I will delve more into that later.

Essentially, protein should not have to recycle itself to be useful.  The benefit of good protein sources would include the attachment of animal sourced dietary fat. These can be PUFA’s, MUFA’s or SFA. Most store bought meat will be higher than normal in Omega 6 PUFA, so going for leaner cuts may be wise.  If sourcing your meat and protein from a grocery store, using an 85/15 lean to fat ratio is about as high as one should go (remember also, in regards to grass fed beef, this turns a slight negative into a big positive). This should also be coupled with up to a pound of salmon a week, to balance the Omegas. Remember, balance is good; excess is bad.

Muscle Gain or Retention

As someone who gets themselves tested at the University of Minnesota every couple of months, I keep very good track of both fat loss and muscle gain.  Both of those numbers can be manipulated greatly in a very short period of time.  Depleting your glycogen stores, drinking less water and taking away supplements can cause dramatic decrease in weight and lead to what’s referred to as “dry muscle”.  A beginner a month into lifting has “wet muscle” show up on a composition test, which is not muscle; it is simply water retention.  Gaining 3-5 lbs. of pure muscle (which is a very significant amount of mass to gain) in one month is just not possible by most standards.

Just as the food industry likes to promote their products with claims of health benefits, the supplement industry loves to jump with a slogan.  “Gain 15 pounds of muscle in one month or your money back!”  Like dieting, this is totally bunk. (There are of course situations where a person with very little muscle mass and no training background can accelerate the process, but I am speaking in more general terms.  I hear from people that say they gained 3 pounds of muscle in 2 months, and they feel disappointed when they should be elated.)

If you are a veteran weightlifter but have taken time off, your muscles do have a ‘memory’ so to speak, and you are likely to regain muscle quickly once you begin training again.  Gaining real, solid muscle is hard work and requires not only patience, but being in tune with your body.  You need to be able to tell when it’s ready to work and when it’s in need of rest. There are no “magic supplements” you can take to gain muscle.  The key to building muscle lies in the kitchen, your food choices, and lifting heavy stuff for many years.

Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) are not magic either, but they can help you retain muscle and mobilize fat.  BCAA’s offer insurance against muscle catabolism.  Supplementation has been reported to decrease exercise-induced protein degradation and muscle enzyme release.  They can’t replace actual nutrition, but they can be a valuable addition to your regiment.

Protein Is Just Not That Complicated

I am not a fan of protein shakes.  Too many athletes believe they can drink protein as a way to build muscle and in turn make poor dietary decisions.  No matter what your goals are, success is met when the majority of your foods are whole.  Foods outside that parameter should be enjoyable; I doubt that a protein shake filled with enhanced synthetic vitamins, fillers and artificial sweeteners is all that satisfying to imbibe.  If you regularly drink more protein than you chew, it may be one of those situations where you ask yourself if it’s really any better than a Snickers bar.  In the end, a grass fed rib eye can’t be beat. 

Summary

  • Protein is comprised of amino acids.  There are essential aminos that cannot be synthesized by your body, and then there are non-essential aminos that your body can make itself.
  • Each amino acid has its own function; leucine is one of the most important aminos as far as building muscle goes. 
  • When protein comes from a whole source, it is very satisfying and goes a long way to help control hunger.  Most of your protein should be chewed; powders should be used as supplements around workouts.  You cannot live off of them.  Go for meat, fish and nuts!
  • The “golden rule” is to eat around 1 gram of protein per lb. of body weight. 
  • When you eat protein without carbohydrates, some of the protein you consume will be used to create glucose for your brain and organs to run on.  When you’re trying to build muscle or lose fat while preserving muscle mass, including some carbohydrate with your protein is a good strategy.
  • No matter how much protein you eat, gaining muscle is a slow, patient process.  The law of diminishing returns applies here.  While you’re new to weight lifting, gaining 15lbs. in a year isn’t out of the question, but gaining 1 lb. of muscle a month is a realistic goal beyond the initial stages of training.
  • Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) may be a valuable addition to your workout nutrition, whether you want to build muscle or just preserve what you have already.

Works Cited

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protein_(nutrient)
  2. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism August 1, 2006 vol. 91 no. 8 2913-2919
  3. Int J Obes. 1990 Sep;14(9):743-51.Effects of a high-protein meal (meat) and a high-carbohydrate meal (vegetarian) on satiety measured by automated computerized monitoring of subsequent food intake, motivation to eat and food preferences. Barkeling BRössner SBjörvell H.Department of Internal Medicine, Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.
  4. EFFECTS OF PROTEIN AND AMINO-ACID SUPPLEMENTATION ON ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE. Richard B Kreider PhD . Exercise & Sport Nutrition Laboratory, Department of Human Movement Sciences & Education, The University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee 38152.
  5. Carli G,Bonifazi M, Lodi L et al (1992). Changes in exercise-induced hormoneresponse to branched chain amino acid administration. EuropeanJournal of Applied Physiology 64, 272-7

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