Showing posts with label Nutrition. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nutrition. Show all posts

Monday, May 19, 2014

Eat More Fat!

In my last post, 'Crappy Carbs can Kill', I explained that the chronic overconsumption of nutrient-poor refined carbohydrates is at the root of metabolic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease and also a contributing factor to many other modern diseases. 

Well that was all a bit heavy, but the good news is that if you are willing to take control of your health it is relatively simple to eschew these crappy carbs and instead eat healthy real foods that our bodies have evolved to thrive on over millions of years. 

Eating a healthy, whole foods diet that is in line with our evolution enables us to live the healthy, happy and disease-free lives we are entitled to.  

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Still new to Paleo and trying to work out some substitutes for your favorite staple foods? Well here is a list of eight Paleo substitutes I frequently use. Some are fairly straight forward and obvious while others are a little more quirky. I'll give some basic 'how to' but for more detailed recipe just go ahead and Google them. 

1. Instead of white rice... try cauliflower rice

If you are going strict Paleo, if you want to restrict carbohydrates or lose weight then you may want to avoid white rice. Cauliflower rice is delicious, easy to make and more nutritious than white rice while being less energy dense and very low carbohydrate and high in soluble fibre.

  • Dice half a head of raw cauliflower in the food processor or as finely as possible with a knife. 
  • Place cauliflower in a big pot with about 1cm (1/2") of (boiling) water
  • Add sea salt and a couple of spoons of coconut cream (optional).
  • Bring to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes depending on how 'al dente' you want it to be. 
  • Drain the excess water then add seasoning to taste and maybe some grass-fed butter or olive oil to make it extra awesome.
2. Instead of cooking with canola/sunflower/other vegetable oil... use coconut oil

Refined vegetable oils such as sunflower, safflower, canola, corn, cottonseed and soybean oil are unhealthy and should be avoided as much as humanly possible. They are very high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 (linoleic acid) and have basically zero nutrition. 

Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil is amazing stuff and should be consumed liberally but only when raw. Even though coconut oil and olive oil have a similar smoke point the fact that coconut oil is a saturated fat suggests that it is safer to cook with than the largely monounsaturated fats in olive oil, which tend to denature at temperature and are more prone to oxidation. 

Thus, use coconut oil or ghee (clarified butter) for cooking.

3. Instead of wheat flour... use dried shredded coconut

Wheat = gluten = bad news. Stay clear! You have been warned.

The Paleo diet is so effective because it eschews modern, processed foods. While you can technically make delicious "Paleo" desserts and baked goods using nut flours, dried fruit and honey I really don't think it is a good idea to be regularly eating muffins, cakes, brownies and chocolate mousse just because they are made from "Paleo" ingredients. 

Almonds are very high in omega-6, fat and energy. So if you eat a cake with two cups of almond flour just think about how extreme this is. Imagine if you had to collect that many almonds yourself!

don't often eat things that require a flour substitute, however I do use dried shredded coconut in my banana coconut pancakes and they are amazing. I also occasionally make carrot muffins using only carrots, eggs, coconut oil, shredded coconut, baking soda, walnuts and a tiny bit of honey if other people will also be eating them. 

4. Instead of toast... try a sweet potato rosti

Image courtesy of 

If you really miss your toast and want some carbs with your bacon and eggs once in a while then try making a sweet potato rosti. Sweet potatoes are more nutrient dense than white potatoes and have a lower glycemic load. 

Side note: White potatoes are "not Paleo" because they are a nightshade and therefore contain some potentially harmful anti-nutrients (particularly in the skin). Also the carbohydrate in white potato is readily converted to glucose causing blood sugar control issues in some people. 

  • Peel a big sweet potato and then grate it into a bowl 
  • Add sea salt and pepper and toss
  • Heat coconut oil or butter/ghee in a frying pan
  • Take a big handful of the sweet potato and form it into a rough ball shape
  • Flatten this out into a patty and cook through, flipping once or twice. This should take about 10 minutes depending on the thickness.
5. Instead of ice cream... try coconut cream with berries

If you can find a nice, thick, delicious coconut cream (thickness and taste varies significantly between brands) then when it is cooled it makes a terrific substitute for cream. 

For a nice dessert add some berries and/or chopped banana to a couple of spoons of chilled coconut cream - and maybe even a little honey if you are desperate for sweetness. I personally don't use honey but I add some nuts, shredded coconut and occasionally shaved dark chocolate. This is my go-to dessert and it's bloody incredible! It all hinges on the quality of the coconut cream though. 

6. Instead of energy drinks... try Bulletproof Coffee

You couldn't get much further from Paleo than Red Bull, Monster or 5-Hour ENERGY. These drinks are simply awful concoctions of sugar and chemicals.

If you really need a Paleo power boost - especially in the morning - then you can't go past Bulletproof Coffee. Check out my post on it for more details but basically it is brewed black coffee blended with grass-fed butter and MCT oil. It is Paleo crack... In a good way!

7. Instead of pasta... try steamed vegetables

This may seem boring but it sure beats the post-meal crashes, bloating and moodiness I used to get after eating pasta. 

Next time you cook up a Paleo bolognese sauce with beautiful grass-fed beef (and bacon) try steaming some broccoli and cauliflower and using that as a pasta substitute. I also really like to use Brussels sprouts. Make sure you add some olive oil or butter to the steamed veggies to maximize nutrient-absorption... and taste. 

8. Instead of sweet snacks... eat 85% cacao dark chocolate

If you haven't noticed I have an (un)healthy addiction to dark chocolate. The stuff is amazing. 85% cacao dark chocolate is rich in polyphenols, magnesium and healthy fats. The mouthfeel is pure decadence and once you get used to the intensity of near pure cocoa it is the perfect balance of bitter and sweet. 

Whenever you have cravings try eating about 15-30g of the stuff and you should be good to go. Try not to eat as much dark chocolate as I do though or you may have to check yourself in to CA (Chocoholics Anonymous).  

Food is like sex - it is enjoyable for reasons that transcend its practical function. So indulge guilt-free in good quality, healthy and enjoyable foods - preferably shared with friends and family - and you'll be better off for it!

PS - Please subscribe by email to receive these posts straight in your inbox. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Here is a list of eight staple food items I buy every time I go to the supermarket (usually Trader Joe's or Whole Foods) and what I use them for:

1. Grass-fed butter ($3.19/227g)

Grass-fed butter is a great source of fat, contrary to all the 'saturated fat is bad for you' nonsense that has grossly slandered this incredible food. Trust me, butter is far healthier for you that "heart healthy" vegetable oils such as sunflower or canola and especially margarine. And as butter is almost pure fat there is basically zero milk protein (whey and casein) or lactose in it, which is why pretty much everyone can tolerate it. 

I put Kerrygold Irish grass-fed butter in my coffee, use it to cook (at lower temperatures), dowse my steamed vegetables in it to help absorb all those fat-soluble vitamins, which require molecules of fat to shuttle them into the cells. So make sure you include at least some fat with your veggies or green smoothie or you will miss out on much of the nutrition. 

2. Grass-fed (New Zealand) frozen ground beef ($5.99/lb)

I would love to buy beautiful steaks of fresh grass-fed beef from the farmers' market but unfortunately I can't quite afford it as a Paleo staple so instead I rely on a good quality frozen grass-fed ground beef from NZ. I use it to make chili con carne (sans beans), bolognese (which I have on steamed veggies) or burgers (on a big salad with a side of baked sweet potato). So good.  

3. Organic spring salad mix ($2.49/140g)

I eat a lot of salads and this is always my base. Kale and spinach contain a high level of oxalates, which are oxidants (they cause free radicals) that can be problematic to those susceptible to kidney stones, those with autism or inflammatory bowl issues such as IBS.

Oxalates are only generally an issue if you consume huge amounts of raw kale or spinach. Since I eat so much salad I've decided not to use kale or spinach as a base. It's better to lightly steam or sauté most greens anyway as mild cooking improves nutrient absorption and makes it easier to consume more. I still eat some raw spinach and kale but not as a Paleo staple. 

4. Unsweetened shredded dried coconut ($3.99/lb)

I love this stuff. I add it to my salads, use it as a flour substitute for my coconut crusted fish and banana pancakes, or sprinkle it on berries and coconut cream to add some texture to my dessert. 

5. 85% cacao dark chocolate ($1.49/100g)

Dark chocolate really is a superfood. It is a great source of magnesium and polyphenols. The polyphenols in cacao also act to block iron absorption though, which is great for me as I have mild iron-overload. If you are iron deficient though I wouldn't eat it (or tea or coffee which also contain polyphenols) within an hour of consuming iron-rich foods if you are trying to increase your ferritin levels. In contrast, alcohol and Vitamin C both increases the absorption of iron so keep that in mind. 85% dark chocolate is a huge Paleo staple of mine but beware, it is energy-dense so if you're trying to lose weight stick to no more than 30g a day.

6. Organic frozen raspberries ($2.99/340g)

Frozen raspberries are cheaper and more convenient than fresh ones. Of course I love fresh berries but I'd rather buy organic frozen ones than conventionally grown fresh ones given the choice. Berries are part of the dirty dozen so definitely something you want to go organic on if you can afford it.  

7. 100% pure coconut water ($3.49/L)

I try not to drink this by itself (unless I'm hungover or need some electrolytes post sweatier-than-usual workouts) but I do put about 100mL of it in my smoothies. I only buy 100% pure coconut water not from concentrate. Coconut water has about 8g carbohydrate (sugar) per 100ml so if you are trying to lose weight I wouldn't be sculling this stuff. 

8. Organic carrots ($1.29/lb)

I eat a lot of carrots. Hence my orange tint which I swear is not from fake tan! I probably eat too many carrots given my propensity to accumulate beta-carotene in my blood (a condition known as carotenemia) but they are such a great snack and I love them so I put up with my orange palms! 

Organic carrots are not much more expensive than conventionally grown ones so I always opt for organic. Don't listen to the "carrots are high on the glycemic index" nonsense. When you consider calories by weight they are extremely low in glycemic load and very high in soluble fiber so eat as many as you want... unless you fear getting accused of fake tanning!

If you haven't already make sure you read my most popular post, My Ideal Paleo Eating Day

Once again thanks for reading and a special shout out to those (Nick, Pete, Hobbs) who have been sharing my posts on Facebook and Twitter!

I've just started an Instagram too... @ThePaleoModel

Monday, January 13, 2014

In this guest post on the Blackwood Fitness blog I give an insight into my own personal health and lifestyle journey and share four transformative truths that I have learned along the way. Here is an excerpt: 

"At 13 years old, I was unhappy with my body. My pre-pubescent years of soy milk, McDonald’s and Kit Kats had left me with ‘puppy fat’ and little man boobs. With a new-found level of competitiveness (and therefore physical motivation) at High School, I decided I’d had enough of being a chubby kid. I took matters into my own hands, or more correctly, onto my own hands. My (re)solution was push ups... " 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The picture above is what I ate this morning and is a very typical bacon and eggs breakfast with no bread (aka “air toast”). 

Here are some notes:

I usually only have one or two small slices of bacon here in the States as it is extremely fatty here. The fattiness is not a problem, per se, but because I can’t guarantee the health of the pig here and the industrial farms probably feed them a horrendous diet I err on the side of caution to avoid some potential toxins in the fat. It is however delicious and the rendered fat is perfect to cook the eggs and lightly sauté the spinach in. If I can buy bacon of the highest quality from a local farm that pasture-raises their pigs then this is not a concern.

Where possible I only buy eggs sourced from a local farmer that lets his hens roam free and doesn't feed them grain, or even better, doesn't feed them at all - just lets them scratch around for bugs and worms. I am fortunate to have a great farmer’s market in Union Square where I can buy a dozen real farm eggs for $4. 

This is the ideal (unless of course you can have your own chickens!) but if you don’t have access to a farmer then your only other option is to buy the best quality free range eggs from the supermarket that you can afford. The 'organic' and 'free-range' labels unfortunately do not mean a whole lot in this country. Organic eggs are preferable than non-organic, however it still does not guarantee the quality of the egg or the health of the hen.

Oddly, It is possible to get barn eggs from hens that have more space and access to the outdoors than 'free range' eggs - as the definition and enforcement of the term is lax at best. The quality of eggs ranges from farm to farm and it is hard to tell the much about the hens just from the label. Price is generally a pretty good guide though. I avoid cage eggs. I don't want to eat the product of an ill, stressed out, jail-bird for both health and ethical reasons.

Today I scrambled the eggs but usually I would poach or lightly fry them. It is best to have the yolks as raw and whole as possible. When you scramble egg yolks or cook them at high temperature they can become oxidized which may affect the fatty acids and potentially make the cholesterol in eggs less beneficial. It is pretty clear these days from the research that the dietary cholesterol in eggs actually raises HDL ("good cholesterol") and lowers LDL "bad cholesterol", which renders the whole cholesterol concern over eating eggs unfounded.

Amazing source of monounsaturated fat, fibre and nutrients. Delicious, satiating and one of those foods that no one can deny is healthy. GOOD FAT IS GOOD! Eat fat to burn fat.

Salt 'n' tomatoes
Tomatoes work well for me. I love them... provided they have salt on them! Don't use table salt. Spend a little extra on some quality sea salt, Pink Himalayan salt or other mineral-rich fancy variety. It's worth it. As a nightshade, tomatoes can be an issue for a minority of people with auto-immune issue. If this is you consider trying an uber strict auto-immune Paleo protocol which limits all nightshades. Good luck!

It's good to get organic spinach if possible - same goes for other salad leaves, broccoli, berries, apples, and all fruits and veggies whose exterior we consume. Think of it this way, if you sprayed paint on it, could you eat it without eating the paint? i.e. Avocado, banana, coconut, nuts - YES. Strawberry, grapes, spinach - NO. If YES, it's probably not worth buying organic in most cases. If NO, buy organic if you can afford it.

A breakfast like the above would contain roughly 20-25grams of protein, 40-50 grams of fat and basically 0 carbs and around 600 calories. This is a very Paleo macro-nutrient breakdown and keeps me satisfied and with good energy levels for 4-6 hours. This meal will definitely not spike insulin in a metabolically healthy person.

I used to eat something like this every single day but these days I rarely eat breakfast, instead going for a Bulletproof Coffee. When I do have breakfast though, this is it, or on the rare occasion I’ll have a banana coconut pancake.

“Form a habit. Forge a lifestyle.” - The Paleo Model

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I often don't eat breakfast, instead going for some of Dave Asprey's "Bulletproof Coffee" - black coffee blended with grass-fed butter and MCT oil (concentrated medium chain triglycerides derived from coconut). This is both for performance (mental clarity) and for convenience. When I do have breakfast though I usually stay away from carbs at least until midday.

Carb Backloading
Avoiding carbs in the morning actually goes against the current mainstream thinking whereby people assume it is best to eat carbs in the morning when you are more insulin sensitive. While this is indeed true - you are more insulin sensitive in the morning and therefore will tolerate carbs better - this does not necessarily mean you should eat carbs in the morning.

As John Kiefer argues in 'Carb Backloading' and 'Carb Nite', which I'm really getting great results from now, you are better off not raising insulin at all in the first part of the day and rather extending the natural fat-burning (fasted) state after sleeping.

You can achieve this either by skipping breakfast, OR by eating mainly fat and some protein for breakfast, thereby keeping insulin levels low.

Insulin 101
To massively oversimplify, insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas to control prednisone blood sugar levels. Too much glucose in the blood is toxic to the body so insulin is released to facilitate the transfer of glucose out of the blood and into bodily tissues to either be used as fuel (for the brain, muscles and other cell functions), to top up glycogen reserves in the muscles and liver (for that CrossFit work out later on in the day), or to be converted into fat and stored in adipose tissue (a major bummer if you want to look good in a bikini/speedos).

When insulin is high it prevents these stored fatty acids being released from adipose tissue to be burned as fuel. Hence, if you want to burn fat then high insulin levels = bad. The whole (flawed but useful) Glycemic Index of food theory (i.e low GI foods are better than high GI foods) is based on keeping insulin low.

The most effective way to increase insulin sensitivity (and therefore reduce the amount of fat-storing insulin released by the pancreas) is through resistance training. This is perhaps THE major benefit of weight training and why EVERYONE should lift heavy weights occasionally. To elaborate on CarbNite, Kiefer recommends that you do resistance training in the late afternoon (4-7pm) to increase muscular insulin sensitivity, which usually decreases as the day goes on. Check out my twenty-minute bodyweight workout here.

The theory goes that post workout you can get away with eating significant amounts of carbs and will actually increase muscular growth due to this spiking of insulin. Interestingly, Kiefer points out that insulin causes ALL body tissue to grow - both muscle and fat - and so this essential hormone can act as both friend and foe.

At times it may actually be beneficial to spike insulin after weight training to get the muscles to grow, while at other times (i.e. when insulin sensitivity is low/insulin resistance is high) it would be counterproductive to raise insulin too much as this will cause adipose (fat) tissue to grow. Diabetics are insulin resistant all the time which is why it is so nizagara difficult for them to lose weight. This is why resistance training coupled with a low carb or even ketogenic diet seems to be the best way to treat diabetes (Patel, 2012).

Eat fat to burn fat
For the above reasons I strongly advise against eating too many carbs in the morning if your goal is to burn fat. Raising insulin early in the morning by eating high carb, especially with low fat and low protein, is just setting you up for blood-sugar crashes and fat storage throughout the day.

The irony is that this is exactly prednisone what the Standard American Diet is telling you to eat - cereal or "healthy whole grains" like a whole-wheat bagel or Cheerios with skim milk and a glass of juice! HORRIFIC for your metabolism and a sure-fire way to feel like shit all day and gain weight. Even "slow-release" oatmeal or muesli, contrary to popular belief, is not a healthy breakfast option. I'm not saying you have to eat bacon and eggs every day but I am saying don't eat bagels, cereal, low-fat yoghurt and fruit juice for breakfast! 

Bloody Oats!
I know a lot of you 'healthy' types love your oats, nuts, muesli, fruit and yoghurt in the morning (I was addicted to this breakfast for years!) Maybe you don't like the idea of eating bacon and eggs in the mornings, girls. But let me ask you to just try this for a week: cut the grains, fruit and other carbs in the morning and instead have something low carb, high fat. 

If the thought of bacon and eggs grosses you out how about a couple of hard boiled eggs and a handful of nuts, or if you can handle it maybe even some leftover meat or fish from the night before and half an avocado? I guarantee you will feel better, with lasting energy until lunchtime and without your typical 11am food cravings for sweet things. Just try it.

How About Green Smoothies?
I really believe that being strict on the zero carbs before midday is the best way to maximize fat burning, however, some people are obsessed with their green smoothies and that is totally fine.

If you insist on drinking your breakfast and are not interested in bulletproof coffee, I think a very low carb, high fibre, moderate protein and fat (green) smoothie could be fairly benign in the morning. Just leave out the high fructose fruit such as apple, pear, mango, pineapple or orange and instead throw in a few frozen berries if absolutely necessary - enabling you to keep net sugars to about 5 grams or less.

It is essential to include some fat in any green smoothie to enable absorption of the FAT SOLUBLE vitamins A, D, E and K. MCT oil, coconut oil, raw (pastured) egg yolks and avocado are a great source. I also would be careful of overdoing raw kale and raw spinach such a high load of oxalic acid can be problematic to some people. It's always better to lightly cook your greens and eat them with grass-fed butter to maximize their nutrition.

PS - Apparently the average American used to eat 5 eggs a day in the 1950s and look how slim they were compared to Americans today (Gundry, 2012).

PPS - I swear by this brand of MCT oil which I use in my Bulletproof Coffee and post-workout smoothies:

Related Articles:

How To Build Muscle, Honestly and Healthily

My Ideal Paleo Eating Day

The Big Three Weight Loss Myths: # 1 - Calories In, Calories Out


Asprey, Dave. 'The Bulletproof Executive', [Accessed 07 April 2013]

Gundry, Steven, MD. 'High Fat Diets: Good vs. Bad', Ask the Low-Carb Experts Podcast Episode 35, Jan 15th 2013,

Kiefer, John. 'Dangerously Hardcore', [Accessed 07 April 2013]

Patel, Rakesh, MD. 'Hacking your heart and preventing diabetes with Dr. Rocky Patel', Bulletproof Executive Radio Podcast 32, Nov 28th 2012,

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Image Source 2: 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Five Ways to Minimize Harm From Alcohol

Justifying Alcohol

I'm not going to lie to you, alcohol is great for a lot of things... but your health is probably not one of them. 

Having said that, I personally find that alcohol is worth the occasional indulgence. When I have given up drinking for a few months - which I've tried a couple of times - my social life has definitely suffered to some degree. 

Maybe one day when I’m old and boring I'll work out how to have fun going out and not drinking but until then I'm going to keep enjoying my occasional tipple and not feel too guilty about it. I mean, as a 28-year-old Aussie who recently moved to New York City being tee-total would be both un-Australian and un-American. 'Nuff said!

So once you've justified binge drinking the next step is damage control. There are many ways to minimize the ill-effects from consuming alcohol. 

Here are my top five tips for boozing without completely compromising your health and waistline:

1. Choose your poison

Alcohol is an organic compound that is toxic to humans. Depending on the dose it can be relatively harmless (or even beneficial) all the way to being lethal in very rare cases of alcohol poisoning. Being drunk = being intoxicated. 

Along with the actual alcohol, all forms of booze also contain toxins and/or other "non-Paleo stuff" (to use the technical term). These nasties can take many forms - from histamine in red wine, gluten in beer or added sugar or artificial sweeteners in mixed drinks. 

When you're drinking you want to minimize the intake of these additional toxins. That is, you want to consume the purest forms of alcohol - or those with the least amount of added crap. 

From a bit of research and a fair amount of self experimentation I've come up with this list of alcohol from least bad to most bad. (See infographic above).

Of course everyone reacts differently to different types of alcohol and we all have our own preferences. This list is a general indication or scale from most pure ("Paleo friendly") to most impure (least "Paleo friendly"). This is not an expansive list but contains most types of booze:

1. Tequila
2. Non-grain based clear spirits (potato vodka, gin)
3. Grain-based clear spirits (vodka, white rum)
4. Other dark distilled spirits (scotch/whiskey, bourbon, dark rum)
5. Dry Champagne
6. White Wine
7. Red Wine
8. Liqueurs
9. Dessert Wine
10. Barley malt/rice/corn beers (Most larger/pilsner e.g. Bud, Heineken, Corona)
11. Wheat containing beers (Hoegaarden, Blue Moon, etc)

In addition, there are cocktails and premixed/ready-to-drink beverages that will fall somewhere on the scale depending on their ingredients. E.g. Martini = not so bad (gin + dry vermouth), White Russian = not so good (vodka + coffee liqueur + cream).

The how: Choose drinks from towards the top of the list (left of infographic), such as distilled clear spirits. Avoid beer, sugary mixed drinks and liqueurs. 

The Paleo Model (TPM): I drink tequila, soda water and half a fresh lime on plenty of ice as my main drink of choice.

My Vegas shopping cart from my only trip there back in 2012... Not my finest 72 hours!

2. Don't bastardize your drink

Try to stick to your drink of choice. Mixing up many different types of alcohol is bad news. Try sticking just to vodka-soda or tequila-rocks all night and I guarantee you will feel a lot better than switching from red wine to white wine to gin and tonics to tequila shots.

How: If you are drinking spirits, either drink them neat, on the rocks or with soda water and fresh lime. Do not add juice or soft drinks as your liver will then have the added burden of metabolizing fructose as well as alcohol. Alcohol spikes blood sugar so adding refined carbohydrates such as coke, tonic water, pineapple juice or cranberry is just fueling a fire you are trying to control.

3. Supplement your drinking wisely

  • Eat a healthy meal containing some safe starch before you start drinking. For example, have a grass-fed steak or some tuna or salmon with sweet potatoes or other root vegetables. 

  • Drink lots of water before, during and after boozing. Order a glass of water with your alcoholic drinks. Fill up your empty beer with water and drink that before your next beer. There's no shame in rehydrating.  

  • Coconut water works very well when you are hungover and dehydrated. Drink some before bed and upon waking.

  • Supplement with Milk Thistle before and after drinking. Milk Thistle is a natural herb extract that boosts liver function. I'm very cynical about supplements in general but this stuff seems to work for me, and even if it doesn't it is cheap and has no downside so take it for the placebo! How: Take 300-500mg of Milk Thistle extract morning and night in the days leading up to and after your binge.

  • Supplement with Vitamin C before and after drinking. Vitamin C is necessary for alcohol metabolism. It is an excellent antioxidant to fight free radicals formed during the break down of alcohol. How: Take a 500mg tablet before, after (and even during your session if possible). 

  • Supplement with Activated Charcoal. Activated charcoal is magic stuff. When consumed it attracts and binds toxins. It is highly adsorptive. Its porous structure means that just 1g has a surface area of over 500m2. Activated charcoal is what they give patients with alcohol poisoning in hospital. How: After a big session pop up to 2g of activated charcoal to help bind some of the toxins from alcohol. 
TPM: I think charcoal helps really well with hangovers. Note that it can also bind the vitamin C so try and separate ingestion of these by about two hours. Activated charcoal is cheap and readily available. 

  • Eat another small Paleo meal after your drinking session. I know it's tempting to eat burgers and kebabs when your inhibitions are down and when all your drunk friends are doing it but try to well up a bit of willpower and instead choose a Paleo-ish alternative. Get a kebab plate with rice and salad and no bread. 
TPM: If I can't find a Paleo drunk food option I'll wait until I get home and eat some leftovers and maybe a banana and some dark chocolate to stave off cravings.

4. Know when to stop and get adequate sleep

Ideally get your drinking session in early, stop drinking a couple of hours before bed and still go to sleep at a reasonable time. Clearly late nights and booze go hand in hand so if you do have a late one still try to stop drinking a couple of hours before bed. 

Typically the most fun is had earlier on in the night anyway. As soon as you can see the night heading into a fast downward spiral (usually around 1am) switch to just waters (or soda water and lime if you want/need to look like you're still drinking). 

TPM: No matter what time I go to bed I'll try and get eight hours sleep in, even if it means wasting part of the next day. Sleep debt will come back to bite you in the ass so I suggest sleeping in but also trying to get to bed at a normal time the following night. Your body can use the extra sleep as it's trying to recover from the havoc reeked on your metabolism from binging.  

5. Don't let a hangover get in the way of healthy eating and exercise

If I know I have a big night coming up I will try to avoid doing an intense training session on that day. Alcohol completely stunts recovery and I actually think that doing a workout before drinking can be worse for you than taking a rest day. 

I find that working out the day after drinking is better option. It forces me to get back on track and if done at the right intensity can definitely help minimize the fog of a hangover or even eliminate it. 

How: Hit a moderate bodyweight circuit for 20 minutes, some yoga or stretching then a 10 minute sauna and finished off with a cold shower. Works a treat! If you have access to a beach a dunk in the ocean is even better!

TPM: The day after I stick to my usual Paleo diet. If I'm feeling a bit more vulnerable than usual then I'll up my carb intake or perhaps have some "borderline naughty" foods... There are Paleo ways to indulge too - perhaps a take away Thai curry with white rice or if I feel like cooking something sweet my Paleo Coconut Pancake

Don't fall into the trap of feeling sorry for yourself or feeling guilt associated with over-indulging in booze. I think it's ok to get a bit drunk once in a while so long as you are generally disciplined with your diet and exercise and lead an otherwise healthy lifestyle. Everyone needs a vice… or four!

"Eat Paleo. Train. Get Tipsy."

The Paleo Model.

PS - Happy Holidays! It's my first Thanksgiving so I'll be practicing what I preach this week. Please share this post with your boozy mates and we might be able to improve our collective hangovers somewhat!


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Against The Grain: The Nutrient-Density Argument

Grain v Fruits & Vegetable Smackdown

To sweep a wide brushstroke, grains are not "Paleo". In fact, grains are pretty much public enemy number one of the Paleo/Primal community. In caveman speak: "ME PALEO. MEAT GOOD. PLANTS GOOD. GRAINS BAD! NO EAT GRAINS!"

Now while I agree that grains are not an optimal food source for us humans I'm not going to take the caveman approach here and bash grains for the Primal hell of it. The Paleo Model is all about sense, reason and open-mindedness.

Nutrition is not a chess board - there are no clear dividing lines; no distinctions of black or white; no neat squares to define dietary friend from foe.

Nutrition is more of a spectrum. Like a grayscale you have black (unhealthy) on one end and white (healthy) on the other with infinite shades of gray in between.

So unlike some Paleo peers I'm not willing to say, categorically, that all grains are bad for all people all of the time. That's a bit extreme. Personally I avoid grains completely except for the occasional white rice if I feel like some safe starch after intense workouts.

I am, however, going to give you what I think are the best arguments as to why grains generally fall on the darker end of the spectrum of optimal health.

Grains are a new food
Grains are a relatively new addition to the human diet - only becoming a staple in the last 10,000 years of our 2.5m year evolution (i.e. we've been eating them for only 0.004% of our history).

It seems odd to think of grains as a new food at first. Grains have played a central role in civilization and are featured prominently all throughout written history and religious texts. They are ingrained in our modern culture.

However, if you remove our natural bias towards weighing recent human history as more important - or at least more relatable - than our distant past, and instead take a broad view of our entire evolution, we've only been eating grains for an instant.

Look at it this way: if human history started with the birth of Christ, then we've only been eating grains since the iPhone was released. Or if you consider human history as being a 24-hour period, we've only been eating grains for six minutes.

The evolutionary argument that follows from this is that humans probably haven't had enough time to make the complex genetic adaptations it would take to be able to thrive on grains and that this may explain why grains are so problematic for so many people.

But even if we completely ignore this argument the case against eating grains is pretty compelling either way, so let's skip the evolutionary basis for avoiding grains and get to the less controversial stuff.

Grains are not particularly nutritious
First and foremost, contrary to how they are marketed by the grain-centric food industry, grains are relatively nutrient-poor compared to vegetables, fruits, meat and seafood, especially when you consider the bioavailablity of said nutrients.

Just because a food source is high in iron does not necessarily mean that the iron will be readily absorbed by the body. Anti-nutrients also contained in the food, such as lectins and phytates tend to bind with the iron and prevent absorption.

Think of it this way, if you're trying to pick up a girl/guy you want them to be available. There's no point going to a bar with a high concentration of girls/guys if they are all aready hooked up and therefore unavailable. You'd rather go to a bar with a lower absolute number of girls/guys but more single and therefore available ones. Makes sense?

So even if oats have a greater absolute amount of magnesium than bananas, you're likely going to absorb more magnesium from the banana because it is more bioavailable.

All you need to consider here is that you can't take the amount of nutrients in a certain food at face value - the bioavailablity of those nutrients also counts. And it appears that the nutrients in grains are not particularly well assimilated by the human body.

Anti-nutrients are definitely a compelling reason to think again about grain consumption, but as I said earlier I don't want to get all 'pseudosciency' on you so let's also ignore anti-nutrients for a while and just look at the absolute nutrient content - bioavailable or not.

Carb Rich, Nutrient Poor
For the most part grains are a rich source of carbohydrate and often in soluble fiber, but that's about it. Grains are inferior to other whole foods in basically every other way.

Grains are inferior as a source of solube fiber (the good pre-biotic stuff) to green leafy vegetables. Grains are inferior to animal products and seafood as a source of complete protein. Grains are inferior to nuts and seeds as a source of healthy fats.

No matter what micronutrient (vitamin or mineral) a certain grain is touted to have, I guarantee there is a better (more bioavailable) source in a non-grain alternative. In other words, you are not missing out on anything by eschewing grains.

Let's look at some examples of grains, their proposed benefits, and how they actually stack up against fruits and vegetables.

I've chosen three common health claims of grains: oats are high in fiber, quinoa is a great source of protein and whole wheat is high in iron, magnesium and B vitamins. The best way to compare nutrient density is by calorie rather than by weight or serving.

Fiber (Oats v Raspberries)

100 calories of oats contains 6.8g of fiber (and 21g of active carbohydrates*).
100 calories of raspberries contains 12.3g of fiber (and 10g of active carbohydrates).

Protein (Quinoa v Brussels Sprouts)

100 calories of cooked quinoa (a "faux" grain) contains 3.8g of protein (and 17g of active carbohydrates)
100 calories of Brussels sprouts contains 8.3g of protein (and 10g of active carbohydrates)

Iron, Magnesium and B Vitamins (Whole Wheat Pasta v Kale)

100 calories of whole wheat pasta contains 5% DV** of Iron, 7% DV of magnesium and 3% DV of vitamin B6 (and 18g of active carbohydrates)
100 calories of cooked kale contains 18% DV of Iron, 17% DV of magnesium and 27% DV of B6 (and 6g of active carbohydrates)

*active carbohydrates = total carbohydrates less dietary fiber
**daily value based on 2,000 calorie diet

As demonstrated in the above examples, not only are grains poorer in nutrients but they are richer in active carbohydrates.

Besides highly active people or athletes, there really is no reason to consume a diet high in carbohydrate, and many reasons not to. The case for loading up on empty carb calories from "healthy whole grains" makes sense to just about no-one except for our mates at Kellogg's.

That marketers of breakfast cereals can still get away claiming that a bowl of Cheerios (with skim milk) constitutes a healthy start to the day is an injustice to public health.

Given that excessive carbohydrate consumption - particularly of refined foods derived from grains - seems to be at the root of many modern diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, the richness of carbohydrates in grains is certainly not a benefit and is more likely a detriment for most people.

So if grains are trumped by other real foods as sources for all essential micronutrients, and they are also a vehicle for the overconsumption of potentially harmful carbohydrates, then why eat grains at all?

This is the crux of the nutrient density argument against grains. Even if grains didn't have some potentially harmful effects on human metabolism - and they do - then why even eat them when there are healthier alternatives?

Now of course there are issues of food scarcity and accessibility to whole plant and animal products across the world but fortunately you and I have the luxury of choice.

While pasta may be a lot cheaper than kale, and oats cheaper than raspberries, there are other cost-effective ways to get healthy calories in - olive oil, grass-fed butter, sardines, eggs, and fruits and vegetables from the market.

Either way, maximizing your health will minimize overall costs in your life - from medical expenses to new clothes for your expanding waist. Spend more on good food and you'll save in the long run.

Grains make for crappy carbs
As a final nail in the coffin, all derivative products of grains - processed foods and refined oils that unfortunately make up the majority of the Standard American Diet - fall on the dark side of the health spectrum. Pretty much without exception all junk food contains grains and grain derivatives such as high fructose corn syrup. By avoiding grains you are also avoiding these unhealthy foods.

Grains are strongly embedded in our culture. Modern civilization and grain consumption were both born of agriculture. Wheat/corn/rice are the backbone of Mediterranean/Latin/Asian food culture and many populations subsist on grains still today.

But from an optimal health perspective, grains are not all that great. In fact, for the most part grains are not a healthy food at all, and often quite the contrary is true. I believe gluten is one of the most damaging substances you can eat, but that's a story for another day.

Grains are a relatively new addition to the human diet. Grains contain anti-nutrients making the micronutrients in them less bioavailable. Grains are high in carbohydrate and are the base for most processed industrial foods. But that's just the background noise.

The most compelling argument against eating grains is that in terms of nutrient density grains are an inferior food.

In other words, given the choice, there is no compelling reason to choose grains as a source of nutrition when far healthier (Paleo) options, like my salad mountain, are available to you.

Still blinded by the "healthy whole grains" dogma or distracted by your Italian Nonna waving ciabatta in your face? Here's my suggestion - go against the grain, stictly, for one month and see how you feel.

"Eat Paleo. Train. Live life." - The Paleo Model.

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Sources (and resources)
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Thursday, October 31, 2013

I've been in the routine of skipping breakfast and instead downing a ‘Bulletpoof Coffee’ first thing in the morning. Bulletproof coffee (BPC) is a phenomenon sweeping the Paleo/Primal/Low Carb world at the moment. 

It was invented by bio-hacker Dave Asprey who, although he sells a lot of expensive and unnecessary supplements on his online store, is a super intelligent dude who puts out a lot of great free information and is one of my most respected health gurus. 

Dave’s podcast Bulletproof Executive Radio is one of the best out there. He is a keen interviewer and attracts the most interesting and relevant guests week after week. I listen religiously. 

Apparently Dave first came up with the idea of putting fat in his coffee after a trip to Tibet where he noticed the locals adding Yak butter to their tea, tried it, and noticed a significant boost in his cognitive function. 

So what is this magic stuff?

Basically you brew some high quality (e.g. single origin, water processed, chemical-free beans grown at altitude) coffee - Dave recommends his own 'Upgraded Coffee' of course. I use organic, single source beans from the best source I can find, which I brew in an Aeropress. 

French Press is Dave’s brew method of choice. Any filter method will work well (drip, pour-over, Clover, etc) and you could even use espresso coffee such as a long-black/Americano. However, I think the higher absolute caffeine content of a full cup of filter coffee adds to the buzz. 

Once the coffee is brewed, decant it into a blender - I pour it into a beaker and use a stick blender. Add 10-30g of UNSALTED grass-fed butter and 5-25mL of MCT oil (start on the lower end). If you don’t have MCT oil you can substitute regular coconut oil but as Dave and many other people have noted, you won’t get the same cognitive and energy-boosting effects from the more concentrated shorter-chain fats in MCT oil. Blend for 5-15 seconds until creamy. Enjoy. (Bathroom sprint x 1 rep).

WARNING - MCT/Coconut oil can have a strong laxative effect if you aren’t used to it. This effect is multiplied when consumed with caffeine, first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach! Start very small with the butter and MCT/coconut oil and titrate up over a number of days. As your body becomes used to a bolus of readily absorbed fat in the morning this laxative effect will wane. 

I was skeptical at first about Bulletproof Coffee. It seems utterly absurd to add 10-50g of pure fat to black coffee, blend and drink. Conventional dietitians and doctors would have a heart attack just at the thought of it! However, when you experience the amazing cognitive buzz, satiety, and sustained energy for many hours after, it is hard to deny the fact that it works extremely well. I am still amazed at my newfound productivity in the mornings since adopting BPC into my daily schedule. 

Why I think it works…
I have Bulletproof Coffee instead of breakfast, and often don’t eat for 3-6 hours thereafter. With my typical 20g butter + 20mL MCT oil this is a nice little 360 calorie dose of fat. As there is no protein or carbohydrate it does not raise blood sugar or insulin, meaning there is no mid-morning blood sugar crash. 

Furthermore, MCT/coconut oil helps boost ketone production, maximizing your ability to tap into this fuel source and, in a way, continue your overnight fast. Add to this the fat-burning and stimulant effects of caffeine and it starts looking like a potent little morning cocktail for those looking for productivity and fat loss. 

Not for the feint-hearted…
Please understand that Bulletproof Coffee - the “biohack” du jour - has no real scientific backing as yet, although I think Dave is working on some research. There is a small chance that I’ll look back one day, laughing, and say, “Holy crap! I can’t believe I used to drink saturated fat for breakfast!” 

But I doubt it. As a caffeine addict, coconut oil lover (I literally rub it into my skin) and butter fiend, Bulletproof Coffee is the next logical step in my crazy quest for optimal health. 

Is BPC for you? 
Before you jump headlong into the BPCC (Bulletproof Coffee Cult) and start drinking hundreds of calories of fat for breakfast you may want to take a look at the rest of your diet. If it isn't so "bulletproof" - that is, you are eating a lot of refined carbohydrates, sugar and other crap - then perhaps adding so much fat to your mornings is not the best idea. 

Then again if you are otherwise healthy and tolerate fat well, given BPC's magical powers of suppressing hunger and cravings and the thousands of testimonials from people saying they've lost a bunch of weight since incorporating it, The Paleo Model sure isn't going to stop you getting in on this whacky biohack! 

Try it with caution and let me know how it goes… #bulletproofcoffee 

UPDATE (Feb 2015):

Even though I continue to consume BPC on occasion - probably once or twice a week at most - I am still skeptical about the possible long term effects. It continues to grow in popularity and I am not surprised why - it is convenient, addictive and it really does have astounding positive effects when it comes to both satiety and mental performance. However, I am seeing more and more backlash against BPC from other ancestral health experts. 

The major argument against BPC is that even though butter and MCT oil both have some beneficial properties, they are relatively energy-dense and nutrient-poor compared to eating real foods. This begs the question, are you really doing yourself any favor by drinking pure fat for breaking or would you be better off eating a real breakfast of, for example, eggs, kale and avocado. 

And if you wish to intermittent fast why not just have black coffee and not interrupt the fast with a large bolus of fat?

While I don't have the answer to these questions I do encourage you to consider how often you consume BPC and to continue to track your lipids in case you are a hyper-responder to dietary fat and therefore risk a substantial increase in your LDL-C and lipoprotein particle number. 

Personally, I will continue to use BPC as an occasional supplement rather than an every day ritual. 

Here is the MCT oil that I swear by and I'm pretty sure it's just as good as Asprey's... and about half the price!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Salad Mountain: My Everyday Lunch

I eat a massive salad pretty much every day for lunch. It is usually my first real meal of the day and often it is after training so I like to make it very substantial.

The photos really don't do justice to the size and density of this salad mountain. Honestly I think it would weigh about 1kg (2.2lb). It only takes me around five minutes to make, depending on which vegetables I have to wash and chop.

It is very low carb, moderate protein and moderate fat and absolutely packed with micronutrients, especially when the ingredients come fresh from the farmers' market.

The base is always the same - it is purely a filler - mainly watery vegetables with basically no caloric content but plenty of soluble fiber, nutrients and pre-biotics:

  • Mixed organic green leaves
  • Tomato
  • Red onion
  • Diced red cabbage
  • Grated carrot
  • Peppers/capsicum
  • Cucumber
  • Raw or lightly steamed broccoli, cauliflower or kale (or other leftover veg)
The protein source varies but typically I opt for seafood, with the most common being a can of (pole-caught) tuna in olive oil. Other favorites include:

  • Wild caught salmon
  • Prawns/shrimp
  • Sardines
  • Leftover meat (pork, beef or chicken)
  • Roast chicken
  • Boiled eggs (2-3, preferably pasture-raised from a local small farm)
I don't go too crazy on the protein. I think 20g as a minimum and 40g as a maximum is totally sufficient for me, espiecally if I've had a post-workout meal or shake containing protein. 

The remainder of the calories from this salad come from the liberal addition of quality fats. The real beauty of this salad is that it is satiating, nutrient-dense and gives me the energy I need to last the often 4-6 hours until dinner. This is the case because I add upwards of 50g of fat to it in the following forms:

  • Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Dressing: 2 parts olive oil, 1 part balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, salt and pepper)
  • Avocado (1/2, chopped)
  • Olives
  • Shredded dried coconut
  • Nuts (e.g. half a handful of chopped raw almonds or walnuts)
  • Bacon 
The last three items would be considered more of a condiment than a main ingredient. 

Finally, if I want some more carbohydrates (or have any leftover) I will throw in some roast or steamed sweet potato or yams. 

HOT TIP: Any good salad is made with love, but more importantly it is MIXED BY HAND. Get your hands dirty and feel the goodness. No tongs can compare to a (clean) pair of human hands. Trust me, it makes a difference to the taste and is satisfying to get intimate with your food... but not in an 'American Pie' kind of way.

Related Posts:

Concerned about mercury in your fish? Read Fat Eggs, Rabbit Starvation and the Mercury Myth
To see a full run down of my typical day read My Ideal Paleo Eating Day
To explain why good fats should be friend not foe read Eat More Fat!

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"Eat Paleo. Train. Live Life."

Salad Mountain example with leftover beef and dried seaweed