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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!!!

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.

Ladies Cinnamon Roll Challenge

Cinnamon Rolls

If you are looking to optimize your nutrition so that you can perform at your peak, consider purchasing Metabolic Flexibility for Fat Loss.  You’ll be granted access to the Eat To Perform Science Lab and get the help you need every step of the way to accomplish your goals.

There are four common myths I am hoping to dispel with this exercise but the participants are under no obligation to confirm what I suspect.  The three myths go like this:

1.  Sugar is toxic (not only is it not toxic for athletes it can be used as a very effective energy source, the does always matters and since you will be eating it before bed your blood sugar will auto regulate.  So no cravings throughout the day.)

2.  Eating poorly hurts my workouts (this logically makes no sense in moderation, certainly if you have a 12 pack of beer the night before and attempt to Crossfit that might not work out so well.  More energy from an energy dense source should always be favorable in workouts)

3.  Calories in versus Calories out (I am actually a calorie agnostic, it’s really the only measuring tool we have so I am not a hater but even the most ardent defender of calories in calories out could not make a proper case for the concept when metabolism is not functioning correctly).

4.  Don’t eat carbs at night.

Here is how we will set up how you will eat

Eat under 30g of carbs throughout the day excluding fibrous vegetables (meaning you should eat these for size) and eat normal, no different than you normally might.  Delay breakfast for an hour or two and eat fats and proteins (no fruit).  For lunch let’s stick with fats and proteins still and as close to possible 0 carbs until about 6pm (once again veggies are cool).  Do not under eat in anticipation of your treat (I am on to you ladies).  Ground beef at lunch will help you for later workouts (taco salad kind of thing).  In the evening I want you to eat relatively normal with really no rules, ideally if you are working out the following day have some sweet potatoes.

Every morning you will weigh yourself

The numbers aren’t important I just need pluses and minuses and keep a log of how you feel.  Also you will keep a workout log, nothing too big (workout sucked or workout was awesome is fine).  I’m not going to tell you my expectation for this but you should know there is a risk the scale could go up.  However it’s only 4 days, so the risk of dramatic weight gain is pretty small.

Who should do this?

Obviously if you have diabetes this isn’t smart.  I would also ask those that are carrying a fair amount of fat avoid the challenge as well.  So you are lean but have that last bit of fat left to go.  Ideally you are a pretty clean eater and you are struggling to figure out how to get rid of that last bit of fat.

When do I eat the Cinnamon Roll?

30 minutes before you go to bed.  Here is what you will be eating.  You will be eating one of this each day for 4 days (yes with the sugar on top).  http://udisglutenfree.com/products/cinnamon-rolls/

Diets have it backwards

Met Flex for Fat Loss is simple, eat the majority of carbohydrates around your workouts.  This would work for people trying to gain or trying to lose.  When you buy the book you get Webinars where you can talk to coaches that will help you as you try to make sense of all of this.  Along with that you get the support of over 1,000 people in the Private Forums that are all on a similar journey.

Weighing-Scales

Whatever diet you are on is based on some sort of caloric restriction, some will even attempt to guess at what your daily caloric burn would be but I do not think that I have ever heard of one system that suggests what I am about to suggest.  Firstly let’s assume you have attempted to address inflammation in your body, even if you are not restricting calories at all you can significantly address your weight by addressing the level of fluids your body is holding.  Truthfully this is a lifelong process and unless you are extremely lean you are simply starting late, it does not mean you should not start at all.  You can significantly affect your health right now, so why not start?

Which brings me to my big suggestion

Why would you want to know how little you can eat? Would it not stand to reason that if you compromise your energy intake you would also compromise your energy output? So let’s assume you have started to make some changes, you are eating healthy fats, more vegetables and some fruits.  What I am going to suggest is that you should eat as much of them as possible and this is the one instance where the scale will help you.  Here is what I want you to do.  To start this process weigh yourself in the morning and whatever that weight is we are going to try and pack in as many healthy nutrients into your body daily with the end goal being to simply weigh that same amount.  This differs for men and women, for men I suggest a week, for women I suggest a month.  The reason for the difference is simple, women retain water differently than men unrelated to food intake.  Also if you view this as a way to gorge on pizza and ice cream you are missing the point of the exercise.  By the way, speaking of exercise do as much of it as you feel, there is no restriction at all, in fact, intaking more energy (food) should fuel your want to be more active.  Also, if you lose five pounds you did it wrong.  If you gain five pounds you really did it wrong.

Yes this does mean you will have to track your foods for this time using a site like Fitday.com, Myfitnesspal.com or Fatsecret.com.  All work in a similar manner and have mobile options.  Also people think they eat more of a variety than they tend to eat, what you will find is that you eat the same foods over and over so the logging should not be that big of a hassle.  Besides, other than re-establishing your maintenance calories for a higher activity level you will not have to count calories going forward.

Simply check in with the scale occasionally to see if you are on track.  The mirror also can be helpful in this respect.  Most of us know the days where we get off track a bit and consume more than a few of the items we should avoid.  Let me give you a few examples I have learned doing this (my most recent one was 2895 a day, I was really mad at myself that I did not maintain 3,000 calories a day, oh well, there is always next time).

I suppose I should mention why this is important because it is not to just eat unrestricted, the exercise is to point out that the calories you can take in daily are often a lot higher than you think, especially when you rely less on energy dense foods for nutrition (think snack foods).  Also once you determine what your “maintenance calories” are in an unrestricted state it gives you a much clearer path to weight loss because you realize that losing pounds is as simple as just not eating sunflower seeds for a month (300 calories a day multiplied 30 is almost 3 pounds).

backward

Here are some tips to think about

1.  Every carbohydrate that you take in requires your body to store fluid, it is one of the reasons ice cream makes you so damn thirsty.  What this does not mean is to avoid carbs altogether but if you have an excessively high carb day and the scale moves a couple of pounds simply be more conscious of carbs the following day and prioritize fats (in balance) and proteins.  Obviously any day higher in sugars can move the scale causing anyone to panic, that is unnecessary, a reasonable amount of carbs the following day will allow your body to release that fluid.  Remember that the majority of your carbs are coming from vegetables and fruit.

2.  Let’s assume you do not eat wild caught salmon every single day, if this is the case you need to be conscious of your fats as well.  So all meat proteins high in Omega 3′s are gold as well as grass fed beef, if these are not options go lean.  Also be careful on nut butters, they tend to be high in Omega 6′s and also very energy dense.  You should always try to get your Omega 3′s from real food but most people can not, this is why I strongly recommend daily Omega 3′s from fish oil.

3.  Take in the majority of your carbs in the evening.  I realize this is contrary to everything everyone has been told for a long time but this trick works for a bunch of reasons.  When you save your carbs for the end of the day you naturally eat more fats starting the day, this provides your body with a more stable energy source.  Carbs also make you sleepy so you tend to be less fatigued.  Did I mention that carbs make you sleepy? Oh yeah, because when you go to bed you will sleep great and you will be full.  This is important in many ways but when you sleep better it is favorable is it relates to fat mobilization so you retain less water.

4.  Rely less on energy dense foods like snacks for your nutrition mostly because they are easy to overeat.  My strategy is just to keep them out of the house altogether.  That way when it’s time to eat I make a meal rather than graze on foods higher in calories.  While yes I do eat them I at least have to be inconvenienced to go get them and often times I just eat the good food that is in my house.  If you are not relying on snack foods for energy you may be surprised at the amount of foods you will be able to consume.

 

Preparation, Performance and Precision

The three p’s.  I often argue for preparation over precision but knowing your actual maintenance calories without restricting your activity is very enlightening.  Performance is different for everyone, for some people it might just be enough to walk more, others might feel motivated to start lifting weights or jogging.  No matter what they all may have a role in your journey but I suspect if you are like me and you can focus on them in the order I am presenting you will enjoy your journey a lot more.  Counting every calorie for life is not something most people want to do so as an alternative making sure there are fresh cut vegetables in the house and time allotted for activity probably makes more sense for most people.  If you want to count calories do it the opposite way, now that you have calculated the values of the foods that you eat for a week or month simply find some of the foods that you can either reduce or be rid of for a short time, earlier I mentioned sunflower seeds, when I am looking to lose a few pounds the seeds have to go.

 

 

Sleep Tutorial

Sleep Like a Baby

 

The role of sleep in terms of recovery can not be over stated.  Mike Nelson covered this heavily in his recent update to Met Flex for Fat Loss (it was on Metabolic Damage).

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

Sleep is a common problem for so many people, but few learn to tackle it like they do nutrition; they barely give the time of day.   The importance of adequate nightly rest is vastly underrated, but it’s a vital component of keeping yourself healthy.  Sleep is the body’s time to perform routine maintenance and set up the endocrine system up for the next day.  It’s also a valuable fat burning window.  Unfortunately, people waste years of their lives lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering why they can’t catch some shut-eye.   From crying babies (or cats, let us not forget about cats) to stressing out over work the next day, sleep disturbances make a huge impact on the quality of your sleep.  On top of this, real sleep disorders like apnea (a condition where you stop breathing during sleep) exist that make every night a living hell.

No one should have the spend the night tossing and turning only to sneak in 15 minute naps during their lunch break when they should be eating.  You quickly reach a point where naps and caffeine don’t make a dent in your energy levels.  You become more and more stressed and fat starts hanging around your midsection.  You begin to look like a raccoon preparing for hibernation and walking to the other end of the office is a chore.  If mid-day fatigue, morning restlessness and a carton of 5 hour energy is your idea of making it through life, then you’re probably not going to look or feel very good.  Something must be done!

Cortisol and Sleep

A lack of sleep directly affects hormone function.  You begin to produce more of the hormone cortisol, at all the wrong times.  Cortisol is a key player in activating the sympathetic nervous system and stress responses.  When we’re scared or we feel threatened, cortisol jacks up our nervous output and helps us respond to the situation.  However, due to the way we live in modern society, this entire process is screwed up; we’re chronically stressed out.  We shouldn’t have to panic over our jobs, but we do.  We shouldn’t spend hours each night surrounding by lights, listening to cars racing in the distance, but we do.  As our stress response becomes overwhelmed, it becomes more and more difficult to function. Our appetite becomes ravenous and we need stimulants to get going in the morning because we are so worn out.  The system becomes overloaded and it crashes.

As you can see, at certain times of the day, you need elevated cortisol levels to get your blood flowing and stabilize plasma glucose levels.  One of the most easily predicted releases of cortisol occurs right as you wake up.  Low cortisol in the morning is usually tied to high morning blood sugar and low blood pressure.  Likewise, at night, when you should be enveloped in darkness, cortisol should be low.  Elevated cortisol at bed time interferes with growth hormone release, which will directly impact your ability to lose weight or gain muscle.

Top priority in resetting your sleep cycle is learning to react to natural external stimuli.  When you get up in the morning, immediately getting some sunlight is crucial to alerting your brain that its day time.  The same goes for bedtime; as the sun sets, you need to start turning lights down and turning electronics off.  If you don’t set up an environment that mimics our natural sleep and wake cycles, then it will be that much more difficult to establish a healthy sleep pattern.

Establish a Routine

A routine is key to getting good sleep.  That doesn’t mean living every day of the rest of your life in darkness from 6pm onward, but until you get a handle on your sleep, you need to follow a routine. It may seem boring going to bed early, but you’ll thank yourself later.  In the morning, open the windows and let the sun in.  It’s also a good idea to have a large, protein-dense breakfast.  When adjusting to a new sleep schedule, eating a lot of protein and exposing yourself to bright light will naturally balance cortisol levels.  This will also go a long way to stem cravings and hunger problems.

The Pre-Game Snack

Now for the evening; a huge protein meal won’t be beneficial in relation to sleep like it is in the morning.  In the evening, you’ll be winding down, so a different strategy is required. Fat can assist in regulating blood sugar levels throughout the night, and a slow digesting carbohydrate source will allow serotonin to level up with dopamine in the brain. A sweet potato with coconut butter is a surefire win here.  Trust me on this; when your hormones are up and running, your dreams will inform you that something is right.

This is an update from what I previously wrote.  In May of 2013 I started using Progenex’s Cocoon, it’s a slow acting protein with a key ingredient as a sleep aid L-tryptophan.  If you can afford it I would HIGHLY recommend this product.  I have used melatonin in the past but L-tryptophan gives me more “restorative” sleep and I wake up refreshed. When you order it through our site you get 10% off.

 

Don’t Go To Bed Hungry!

Hunger stresses you out, you produce more cortisol, and you wake up.  See where I am going with this?  The chain reaction of hormones that wake you up in the morning will also keep you awake at night.  You’re making your life a lot harder if you’re avoiding food (and particularly carbs) at night so you can lose weight.  You brain will be unable to shut down for sleep if you’re hungry.  A hungry brain is a never ending brain of revolving thoughts.

One Hour Before Bed

Start your nightly routine; wash your face, brush your teeth and dim the lights.  No distractions, no electronic devices.  This is the perfect time to look out the window at the stars, stretch, meditate, or read a book by candle light.  Make falling asleep at least as big of a priority as your favorite television show and give it one hour nightly.

30 Minutes Before Bed

Decaffeinated tea can help you wind down, as well as spending some quality time with your family or roommates.  It’s likely that if your children were asked whether they’d like to spend the last 30 minutes of the day with mom and dad, or watch an all new episode of a hit Disney show, they’d want the television. Tough cookies though, they also need to eat their vegetables regardless of the fuss. This works the same way.  My wife will often read poems from Shel Silverstein.  Sometimes, we have the kids read to us.  It is optional activity though; you have to want to be there and they do too.

Bedtime Means Lights Out!

I mean complete darkness.  That little light blinking in the corner or your DVD player?  Get rid of it.  Get new curtains if the street lights are shining in.  Darkness tells your brain to produce natural melatonin.  When first starting the routine, you may feel uncomfortable and squirmy in bed. It takes the body and mind a little bit of time to synchronize. Don’t expect everything to resolve itself over night.  Instead of being anxious about getting to sleep, think of this as “me time”.  This is where you can clear your thoughts, close your eyes and just enjoy the cozy comforts of your bed.

You should be setting aside 10 hours for this; one hour to get to bed, and nine hours for sleep.  You may not think you can sleep for nine hours, but give it time and you will.  Even if you only sleep 6 or 7 straight hours, that is six or seven restful hours.  The worst thing that can happen is that you simply wake up early and get some extra work done.

If You Still Can’t Sleep

If none of this stuff works, it might be time to see a doctor and ask for a 24 hour cortisol saliva reading.  A greater degree of hormonal derangement may require assistance from a sleep specialist.  You can put a band aid on the sore, but since sleep is such a big deal, you’re better off covering all your bases and getting sleep help from someone who helps people for a living.

My Trial

I gave up coffee for 30 days when I started this; I just needed to know if coffee was the problem.   I slept better and it seemed, at the time, that coffee was indeed to blame.  It was uncomfortable for a while, but I adjusted after a week or so and I was getting nine hours of sleep regularly.  I eventually re-introduced coffee and found that I was okay now.  In the long run, everyone is different.  I definitely believe that reducing my caffeine intake played a role in reducing my cortisol levels overall, and that was a good thing.

Mental Games We Play With Ourselves

The messages we send ourselves when alone need to change.  If you get five hours sleep one night, do not sweat it. You may want to lay off the five espressos to get you through the day though, because the routine will start again that night when you’re still wired from caffeine. That is sending your brain mixed signals.  I know people think they can drink coffee up until noon and “half-life caffeine.”  You will never truly know, until you are less reliant upon stimulants, if they really are affecting you.  I am drinking espresso right now because I have established my routine but when you are first starting off, you might want to try and lose the stimulants.  Lastly if you take a stimulant BECAUSE you are tired, ask yourself if you really want that added stress on top of an already stressful situation.

Summary

  • Sleep is one of the most underlooked aspects of achieving health and recovering from stress.  The importance of a good night’s sleep in regulating hormone function cannot be disregarded.  It’s also a great time to burn fat! 
  • Dysfunctional sleep can lead to chronically elevated cortisol levels and low levels of growth hormone, resulting in poor body composition and overall health.
  • Exposure to light and dark can help you establish a more natural sleep cycle.  Get some sun during the day and try to spend less time on the computer at night.
  • Eat protein and good fats during the day to keep insulin levels low, your blood sugar stable, and growth hormone up.
  • Eat carbohydrates at night to maximize fat burning and anabolic signaling during sleep.  Don’t go to bed hungry!
  • Once you’ve developed a routine, stick to it and eventually it will become second nature.
  • Cut back on stimulants (like caffeine and energy drinks) when you’re trying to regulate your sleep cycles.  Excessive use can really aggravate the problem.  In general, try to avoid coffee after the morning is over and make sure you drink plenty of water.

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