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Showing posts with label bulletproof coffee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bulletproof coffee. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


In this Ask The Paleo Model post I answer the questions of my mate Ross in Australia and Will in London, both of whom are relatively new to Paleo.

Ross, 30 - Melbourne

Hey man, how's everything in the US? I was reading your blog the other day and am pretty interested in bulletproof coffee. Do you know if I can get all the ingredients in Melbourne? Or are they hard to source?

The Paleo Model

Hey mate. Yes all good in the US and A! How's Melbs?

Dave Asprey, owner of Bulletproof Coffee may vehemently disagree with me but I reckon you can use any high quality coffee for bulletproof. Dave's trademark low-toxin specialty Bulletproof Coffee may give you slightly better results but it is very expensive and I like to try different coffees and buy small batches regularly so I don't use his brand. 

However I would agree with Asprey that the quality of the coffee is paramount. I'd recommend buying the best single origin coffee beans you can afford - preferably organic but not necessarily. Generally speaking, coffee from higher mountainous regions that use use non-chemical processing (with water) is the best. Roasting does not kill the mycotoxins (mould) in the coffee so freshness and also time at sea (distance travelled) affects the toxin level. 

If possible buy small amounts of coffee frequently and grind it yourself, or use it very soon after grinding. 

To make your coffee bulletproof you just add grass-fed butter and MCT oil. I think the Woolworths' home brand
butter is grass-fed so that's the cheapest. Make sure you buy UNSALTED! 

The MCT is going to be the hardest thing to find in Australia. I'd Google it. 1Lt should last you a couple of months and shouldn't cost more than $25. I personally use Now Foods MCT oil which I buy online for about $13 a liter, shipped to my New York apartment.

I use a plunger (French Press) for the coffee. About three heaped teaspoons of fairly coarsely ground coffee is my sweet spot. Add about 20g of butter (1/10th of a 200g stick) and start with one teaspoon of MCT, then titrate up slowly over two weeks up to about 4 teaspoons or 1-1.5 tablespoons of MCT. Decant your hot coffee into a blender or beaker, add the butter and MCT and then blend well for about 10-15 seconds. I use a stick blender. 

I recommend having bulletproof coffee in the morning as a breakfast substitute. I think it's good to take two days off a week from BPC and eat breakfast instead if you feel like it. 

Make sure you go easy on the MCT oil to begin with. You'll know pretty darn quickly if you've overdone it as you'll be running for the bathroom immediately. The MCT induced diarrhea, if you get it, usually sorts itself out after a couple of weeks. It's a fantastic laxative though if you overdose! 

Thanks for your question and I hope you enjoy your turbocharged mornings. Here's a full post on Bulletproof Coffee if you're interested:



William, 31 - London

Hey mate, I know it's been a really long time. I follow you on Instagram (and read a couple of blogs from Facebook) and the lifestyle you maintain is pretty impressive.

I've just made the move to London for a couple of years and lost 6kgs in 6 weeks (now 80kgs), just exercising. 

Chewing your ear off about Paleo would be great, but next best thing would be to know: can I go Paleo and cheat a little bit? A beer here, a burger there... or is it 100% or nothing?

Either way, really impressed with how you go about your lifestyle mate. I hope it doesn't sound weird to say it's a little inspiring.

All the best, Will.

The Paleo Model

Hey mate, 

Great to hear from you and thanks so much for your positive feedback. Sounds like you're enjoying London? I had to battle pretty hard in London not to turn into a fat, pasty blob! But rest assured - it is totally possible - especially with a great gym membership, some healthy shopping at Waitrose and quarterly vitamin-D getaways to Ibiza, the Greek Islands or Portugal!

That's fantastic that you've lost some weight. Exercise is a great way to lose weight initially but once you plateau you really have to keep bumping up the volume and/or intensity to maintain the weight loss, which can make exercise an unsustainable path to weight-loss in my opinion. That's why I preach that nutrition is key! 

As I keep saying Paleo is a lifestyle not really a diet, which means it's something you chip away at as a basic mantra but you definitely don't have to be 100% all the time. Life is for living!

I think the biggest thing to be strict on is gluten though if you really want to see the best improvement. I'd definitely try at least 30 days strict as your first buy-in with zero gluten (including beer) and zero dairy if you want to see what it actually feels like to be 100% Paleo. After the initial 30 day buy-in then I think having a beer once in a while is ok if you don't react badly to it.

I had a couple of Guinnesses the other night, for example, when I was in London visiting mates. I've probably only had about for Guinnesses in the last 18 months, it's not a regular thing.

"Non Paleo" foods you can be more lax on are non-gluten grains like corn, rice and oats, sugar and dairy... but don't let them become staples. Some yoghurt here or there or corn chips once in a while shouldn't throw you off track if you're good most of the time. 

The 30 day buy-in is the ideal way to get started on Paleo but if that is completely impossible then you can gently wade into the Paleo lifestyle step by step. Even if it takes a year until you are at the point where you don't miss lattes, sandwiches and beer then it is totally worth it. 

And trust me, once you experience how good it feels to have boundless energy, stable body composition and no bloating or puffiness; and how shit you feel after eating a bunch of gluten then you'll find it even easier to permanently avoid those junky foods. 

Once Paleo do you have to be 100% strict, 100% of the time? Hell no! While I don't believe in a "cheat day" I think it's absolutely fine to eat a "non Paleo" meal once in a while. 

Dare I say that Paleo + beer is still a lot better than no Paleo + beer. 

Eventually I guess you have to find what works for you. Hopefully it is 90% Paleo or better. 

Now, I personally think wheat (and for the most part beer) are worth completely avoiding - although Corona for example has zero gluten so that's probably not too bad in the scheme of things if you're going to drink beer.

So if you're Paleo most of the time and avoiding things like wheat, industrial seed oils and most grains then I don't think you need to stress about having ice cream once in a while or a burger on a gluten-free bun or even a gluten-free pizza. I also go through phases of eating a fair amount of cheese, typically from goat or sheep milk.

Funnily I'm actually writing this from Bordeaux in France so I've definitely been more like 80/20 in the last few days on holiday. I even had some bread today which I haven't had for over a year. 

Anyway, glad you're giving Paleo a crack and let me know if you have any other questions. 

I think staying off the beer is a massive challenge in London but would definitely help the cause if you're trying to get lean. Maybe white wine, rose, vodka-soda or tequila would be the way forward... 

Here's a post on what to drink and why:


Cheers!

William

OK, that's the best lifestyle advice I've ever received in under 10mins!

I suppose the biggest thing to overcome is moving away from the 'staples' and wheat/beer, as you say, given the lifestyle in London. 

Thanks again, mate. Really appreciate the thoughts. Good to know it's something the layman can also achieve.

All the best. Will.

The Paleo Model

It's easily done mate. Just lay off the wheat (sandwiches, pasta, beer, kebabs, pizza) and instead go for salads, meat and veg, wine and spirits, kebab plate (no bread). Even bangers [sausages] and mash or curry and rice or sushi is better than pasta or bread when you're out. 

And when you're at home eat more veggies, eggs, fish, meat, nuts, fruit and lay off the cereals, sugar and grains. Easy! It's worth it.

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Keep an eye out for the next Ask The Paleo Model installment to learn how my friend followed some simple advice to lose 8kg for his wedding in just 10 weeks. 

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.

Recipe
  • 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 www.supideasypaleo.com 

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. 

Recipe:
  • 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!

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

How to Avoid Jet Lag



Like the dreaded hangover after a massive drinking session, jet lag is one of those annoying realities many of us Aussies are all too well accustomed to. Like a hangover, the longer the flight (binge), the more time zones (bars) you cross and the less sleep you get the longer and more painful the jet lag.

Currently I’m sitting in a lounge in Doha, halfway through one of the longest transits I’ve ever done… and that includes many 30+ hour journeys between Australia and Europe.

Since leaving my Manhattan apartment roughly twenty hours ago I’ve already flown 11,000km and crossed eight time zones getting to the Arab Emirates, and thanks to rescheduling caused by the epic Polar Vortex snow storm I now have a seven hour layover here in Doha. Then there’s another 14 hour flight and eight more time zones to cross until touching down in Melbourne sometime tomorrow. 

As far as flights go, this is an ugly one. But I’m feeling chipper! 

Recently I did some Google trawling through both the traditional scientific literature and also the more controversial bio-hacking sphere. My goal? To see what can be done to ameliorate some of the damage that arises when you squish humans into a metal tube and hurtle them through 24,000km of stratosphere at 39,000 feet. 

Here are what I have determined to be the biggest contributors to jet lag and some ways in which to combat them:


Dehydration

The commercial jet airplane is a very harsh environment for us delicate humans. Being in a completely sealed and insulated metal tube is great when you’re trying to maintain cabin pressure and not freeze to death or asphyxiate, but in most other ways it’s less than ideal. 

Firstly the cabin pressure is far lower that what (most of us sea-siders) are accustomed to. The cabin altitude (equivalent altitude for the pressure inside the cabin) of commercial airplanes ranges from 1,800m to 2,400m. So my flight is akin to sitting on top of Mount Kosciusko (tallest peak in Australia) for 23 hours. 

Being at altitude is very dehydrating because the air is not only very dry (typically 5-15% humidity in the cabin), but oxygen is more sparse so you need to breathe at a higher rate and therefore lose more moisture and electrolytes through exhaling. 

Secondly, the air quality is poor: recycled bleed-air from the engines will only add to dehydration, not to mention spreading bacteria and other nasties from your fellow passengers. Confinement and human density have been a challenge to us since civilization. Airplanes are a great place to get sick.

Thirdly, the physical structure of the plane amplifies already elevated levels of solar and cosmic radiation, as you are less protected the higher up in the atmosphere you go. Then there is the EMF (electromotive force) pollution from all the wireless devices and on-board electronics concentrated in such a small insulated space. 

As Dr Jack Kruse, neurosurgeon turned bio-hacker says about flying, it’s like putting a nice juicy steak in the microwave for a long time - it comes out completely dried up and tough. A similar thing happens to our body. 

I’m no fear-monger and I’m definitely not going to stop traveling by air but clearly flying isn’t the healthiest thing you can do. So how can you mitigate some of the damage?

Combating dehydration:
  • Drink a lot of good quality, preferably fluoride-free, filtered or natural spring water before, during and after the flight. 
  • Resist the urge to drink alcohol and caffeine before and during the flight. In my personal experience, getting stuck into the free booze during flights makes for terrible jet lag. 
  • Bring a massive water bottle (like a Kleen Canteen) and keep asking the air hostess to fill it up for you. They allow empty water bottles through security these days. [Side note: since departing New York I’ve drunk over 6 liters (1.5 gallons) of water in 24 hours, and I still feel dehydrated].
  • Rehydrate your skin often throughout the flight. I use coconut oil. [Added bonus - if the plane/airport food is totally inedible and I’m starving i’ll just eat some of the coconut oil out of my little carry-on tub].
Earthing Biohack

A second, more unorthodox recommendation from famous bio-hacker and Bulletproof Coffee inventor Dave Asprey is to “ground” yourself during the flight. You do this by placing your bare feet on the metal part of the seats in front of you connecting it to the floor. 

Airplanes are grounded for safety in case of lightning strike so Asprey posits that you can ‘earth’ yourself and get rid of some of the negative charge that accumulates in your body from being bombarded with EMF in flight (i.e. Kruse’s plane as microwave theory). I’m not sure how much science is behind this but I’m trying it on this trip nonetheless. 

Additionally, once you land in your destination try doing some barefoot activity outside with your feet in contact with the earth. This could involve walking along path, park or beach, hiking a trail or even just doing some yoga in your back yard. Asprey says that just 20 minutes of this “earthing” is enough to shake off most of his jet lag. 


Sleep

I think this is the biggest obstacle in long-haul flights. Like hangovers, jet lag is mostly a combination of dehydration and a lack of quality sleep. Unless you’re in business or first class and can lie flat it’s pretty hard to get comfortable on a plane. Here are some tips that help for me.

Improving sleep potential:
  • Get the best seat you can. It’s very hard to get upgraded these days from economy but if you ask nicely and the flight isn’t too full you can usually wing your way into an exit row or aisle. My first flight was quite empty so I asked at check-in if they could block off the two seats next to me. Qatar were happy to oblige so I had a full row to stretch out on and lie flat.
  • Get yourself a quality sleeping mask and ear buds to cancel as much noise as possible. The free ones you get on long-haul flights are absolute rubbish. I found this (bra-looking) eye mask on Amazon for $10 and it works a treat.
  • Give sleep preference over that movie or meal. You’re better off skipping a crappy plane meal or Vin Deisel movie in order to get some extra sleep. 
  • If possible try and align your sleep on the plane with the timezone of your destination. 
  • I personally take a prescription sleeping pill when I need to get a good 6-8 hours sleep on a long-haul flight. This is the only time in my life when I take sleeping pills and I think it’s worth it. Being 6’2 is great for the fashion runway… not so great for sleeping in an economy airplane seat! 
Adjusting your circadian rhythm to the new time zone

Aside from dehydration and sleep deprivation the other key cause of jet lag is the change in time zone. The more time zones you cross, the longer it will take to adjust. However, here is a kind of hack to speed up this natural adjustment.

1. On the flight wake up at an appropriate morning time for you arrival destination. 
2. If you do caffeine the morning would be a good time to have a coffee - perhaps a Bulletproof Coffee.
3. Once you have arrived get some light exposure to help reset your body clock. This is especially important first thing in the morning. Try and do some light exercise outside… barefoot! 
4. Eat meals at the proper time. Favor healthy fats and limit sugar/starch during the day. 
5. Incorporate a little bit of carbohydrate in the evening to help regulate cortisol and serotonin and the production of melatonin. E.g. half a banana with a teaspoon of honey if you tolerate carbs. 
5. Try to stay awake until a reasonable bed time. 
6. Supplement with 1-3mg of melatonin one hour before bed to help you get to sleep. 

Do this for the first two or three nights until you have acclimatized to the new time zone. Do not take melatonin on a regular basis. It is a powerful hormone and should only be used very rarely so as not to interfere with it’s natural production in your body. 


Some final tips

Food
Airplane food is often highly processed, salty and heavy on the refined carbs. If possible bring some of your own food or at least snacks to help you stay diligent and resist all the junk… the little cardboard bread rolls, sugary yoghurt, milk chocolate and puddings. 

Raw almonds or macadamias, 85% dark chocolate and coconut oil are nutrient dense foods that provide real energy and will help you get through your (traumatic) flight. When you’re cramped, cursing over the delays, fed up with the grumpy security staff and noddy-headed goons drooling on you from their window seat just eat some dark chocolate, whack your eye mask on and try to relax! 

Another option is to use your flight as an opportunity to fast. I have done up to 24 hour fasts on flights before and if anything it really helped avoid jet lag. 

Drink
I can’t emphasize how helpful it is to abstain from alcohol and caffeine during these long flights, as tempting as they are. Drink way more water than you think you need. The extra bathroom breaks are a good way to get you up and about. 

Move
When you aren’t sleeping on the plane, get up and move as often as you can. Be that annoying guy that loiters around the rear exit doing yoga stretches… oh wait, that’s me! 

When you’re in the terminal walk around as much as possible and stand rather than sit. You’re going to be doing more than enough sitting on the plane so stretch while you can. 

Be Nice
Being friendly and charming to the ground staff and flight crew can go a long way. Ask and ye shall receive! Whether it be getting a newspaper from business class, an extra blanket or even talking your way into the premier lounge at Doha airport (I just asked the transfer desk if they could help me out on such a long layover and they gave me a complimentary pass), I find that a positive attitude can get you a long way in an industry where customers are often grumpy and rude. 

And that’s all I have to say about that. 

Thanks for choosing The Paleo Model for all your inflight tips. Please follow me by email (below) to get my articles delivered straight to your inbox. If you’d like to help me out I'd really appreciate you sharing this post or my website with friends and family. 

"Form a habit. Forge a lifestyle." - The Paleo Model 

UPDATE: I arrived in Melbourne having travelled for nearly 40 hours. Yet after a solid night’s sleep and some barefoot activity the next morning I felt a million bucks. I had no issue adjusting to the new time zone and besides a tiny bit of brain fog on the first day I basically avoided jet lag all together. Flying the other way back to New York some three weeks later was even easier... I think it works!

References

http://www.bulletproofexec.com/87-how-to-live-longer-than-most-people-with-dr-jack-kruse-podcast/
http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/in-focus-manufacturers-aim-for-more-comfortable-cabin-369425/


Thursday, January 9, 2014


WARNING: I am not a doctor or health practitioner. Just because I look good in Speedos does not mean you should take my advice or do what I do. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. Beware of people like me who take an N=1 experiment on themselves and get all preachy as if they have the answer… I'm looking at you, Tim Ferris. 
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Being a huge fan of the Paleo diet and the amazing results I have seen (body composition, energy levels, overall health) in the four years I have been eating in this manner I thought I'd toy with this idea of Intermittent Fasting (IF). In this article I first explain a bit about IF and then go on to describe what happened to me when I tried it for six weeks last year. It ends with some thoughts on who may benefit from IF and who should probably stay clear. 
What, IF?
Basically, Intermittent Fasting is an eating pattern that alternates between periods of fasting and feeding. Ramadan is an example of IF (although you probably won't get smitten by Allah if you don't observe this type of IF strictly). IF may involve alternate-day fasting, fasting one or two full days a week, fasting every day for an arbitrary number of hours or any other combination. 
The form I chose to do it involved a 'condensed eating window' of four to eight hours a day, every day. Some would call this a 16:8 or 20:4 intermittent fast. The timing and ratio changed daily but effectively I was not eating anything from around 9pm at night until some time between 1pm to 5pm the next day depending on when I trained. 
I was training in the fasted state. And by training I mean heavy weight training often paired with metabolic conditioning (high intensity interval training ala CrossFit). In hindsight I think this was a mistake, but more on that later.
From when I broke fast after my workout I would eat as much and as often as I liked during that four to eight hour period until starting the next fast. Thereafter it was just water and black coffee in the mornings until my next feeding window. Not that crazy, really. (Is it?? I can be a bit crazy sometimes... Who said that?) It's important to note that I was also eating low-carb at the time. Probably between 50-100 gm of carbs a day, which is very low for my activity levels and size. 

Why the F would you do that?
Good question! Well, firstly I am an inquisitive person and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. IF has become very popular in the whole Paleo-sphere and there have been quite a few (animal) studies over the years suggesting that calorie restriction and/or intermittent fasting could really have some potential health and longevity benefits. 
For example, in multiple animal studies rats that were fasted (usually alternative days of no food) ended up living up to 50% longer than the 'eat whenever you want' control group. It seems like the mechanism was somehow related to fertility - in scarce times when the body doesn't have enough energy to reproduce it will delay the aging process in order to live long enough to reproduce. The fasting rats' telomeres - the ends of chromosomes that shorten as you age - degraded at a slower rate.
I later found out that the latest research was suggesting that this longevity effect is somewhat overstated and nowhere near as prominent in primates/humans. In particular, one primate study suggested that severe fasting (one week on/one week off) for your whole life may increase life span by up to seven years for a human. Hardly worth it for a life of misery in my opinion! The theory is that unlike rodents, large mammals with long gestation periods (like humans, elephants etc) require relatively less energy to rear their young than, say, mice, for whom rearing young requires a greater proportion of their total available energy. Thus the longevity effect of fasting is far less for humans than rats. 
The other, perhaps more enticing suggested benefit of IF for a body-conscious sucker such as myself is an overall improvement in body composition (maintain lean muscle, lose fat) that IF proponents push. Basically, by fasting large portions of the day your body will be in a ketogenic (fat burning) state for most of the day, which should enable stored body fat to be burned for fuel rather than all the readily available glucose from that big bowl of sugar-nothingness known as cereal and large glass of refined fructose (Orange Juice) us fat Westerners have been told constitutes a “healthy breakfast”. In a sense, IF should turn you into a 'fat burning beast' as Mark Sisson calls it. 
My experience with Intermittent Fasting
So you're wondering how not eating most of the time worked out for me?
The Good
I did IF consistently for about three months last year while living in London. After the first few days I actually found it easy to not eat in the mornings. I was drinking a lot of black brewed coffee and actually felt really mentally alert during the fasted period. Kind of like when I was a kid playing football or doing Athletics and you have that semi-nervous, super-alert feeling when you are about to run out on the field. This is probably a good indication that my sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) was dominating during the latter part of the fasted state and not giving my parasympathetic nervous system (rest and recover) enough field time.
Anyway the first few weeks I was performing well in the gym, and was really growing to like the feeling of not eating for hours on end. It is strangely addictive and definitely gives you a buzz. It makes sense to me that our Paleo ancestors often went very long periods with no food and would often have to hunt in the fasted state and so I guess there may have been some evolutionary pressure on the ability to ramp up alertness when we are very hungry. 
Also, It is quite liberating knowing that you don't have to think about preparing food or snacking every few hours. I think it can help with productivity too. Sometimes around midday I would get quite strong hunger pangs that lasted for about an hour but they would always pass and I would feel great again. As soon as I started training I would feel very energetic - "on the hunt" I guess you would say. 
I have no doubt that we as a people these days do not embrace hunger enough. Instant gratification, greed and relative prosperity have made being hungry a frowned upon and unnecessary condition. It's a shame. Furthermore, I find the natural/Primal hunger you feel during a fast or when in the ketotic state is subtle and tolerable. Contrast this to the modern hangry (hungry + angry) food craving cycle most Westerners face every couple of hours when their blood-sugar plummets shortly after consuming a sugary/grainy meal or snack. I think the 'six small meals a day' myth is defunct for the average person.

The Bad
While my performance was good in the gym for the first few weeks it kind of plateaued after that. I also seemed to lean out a couple of kilos in that initial period but by around week three or four I was back to my normal size/weight again. It started to become obvious that IF wasn't going to turn me into a freak that could walk around at 5% body fat with veins popping out of my abs and bench-pressing 200kg. Don't worry, I'm fully aware that these are unrealistic goals and I not particularly desirable! But I was hoping that this would be a kind of cheat to being super-ripped all the time while also being able to gorge, drink booze and eat a bit less clean than usual. Spoiler alert: It isn't… for me at least.
When you fast for 16-18 hours everyday and it finally comes time to eat, you overdo it. At least I certainly did. I'm always a big eater. I'd say I average 3000-4000 calories a day. I'm very active and I eat high quality whole foods and relatively low levels of carbohydrate so I can get away with an energy-dense diet. When you are trying to get in all your daily calories in just a few hours you really have to eat a lot. 
I am a bit of a fat-kid at heart so I kinda like gorging myself. I think many people would struggle to get enough calories in for the day in just 4-8 hours which is probably why IF is so often heralded as a great weight-loss tool. By default people fall into a substantial calorie deficit and the weight just comes off. But for me it just meant I was eating massive meals and grazing for the rest of the eating window. 
I would routinely eat a whole 100gm block of 85% cocoa dark chocolate in the evening, after already consuming a can of coconut cream, sometime a whole chicken (they are small in the UK) and copious amounts of vegetables, salads and fruit. Ironically, I think I was eating more than I used to eat when not doing IF. More troubling though, I was eating more of the energy-dense foods that I try to limit such as the dark chocolate, coconut cream and nuts. It makes sense that I was probably going to these foods to get the calories quickly and easily as my time frame for eating was restricted. (There are only so many salads and vegetables one has time to prep and eat in 5 hours). I didn't gain weight but I started to feel sluggish.

The Ugly
Around week 10 or 12 I started to feel pretty flat. I wasn't sleeping well, my performance was declining in the gym and I started to feel more anxious. It became clear that the honeymoon period had ended and my body wasn't so happy with this new normal. When I couldn't get to sleep at night I knew something was wrong. My body was under stress and not recovering as it should. 
My sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) was in overdrive. I knew it was probably a cortisol issue, adrenal fatigue, a slow-down in thyroid function or most likely a combination of the three. All of these physiological responses are very typical of type-A personalities (me) who push themselves too far, overtrain, under sleep, go too low-carb and are generally addicted to adventure, stress and stimulation… and caffeine!

I was becoming mildly addicted to the buzz of the fasted state, but then obsessing over food more than usual. I had the gut feeling that this wasn't a sustainable or healthy endeavor for me. 
IF's and buts
I stopped IF and went back to a more normal routine, eating breakfast most days. I think my issue was probably with the fact that I was eating too low-carb, training too intensely and trying to do IF all at the same time. When you do intense CrossFit type workouts that are very glycogen (muscle glucose) dependent you really need enough carbs in your diet to replenish the glycogen stores or you will literally run out of gas and start to feel like crap and get all those symptoms I mentioned above (poor sleep, fatigue, anxiety, brain fog, etc). It seems obvious but sometimes you just have to learn for yourself, the hard way!
I've learned my lesson now and when I train intensely I make sure I get enough starchy carbs from things like sweet potato and occasionally white rice. This seems to be working really well for me right now and I'm looking, performing and feeling great - as Robb Wolf would say. (Love that little guy).
I still do the odd IF day now and again but would never do it for prolonged periods of time. It can be a good tool for some people, with the following caveats…
Who should definitely not use IF:
IF is probably not a good idea if you are: highly active or a professional athlete, a person prone to eating disorders, pregnant, highly stressed, partying a lot or working irregular night shifts, suffering adrenal fatigue, diabetic or otherwise metabolically deranged. 
People who could get away with IF a few days a week:
I AM NOT RECOMMENDING INTERMITTENT FASTING. However, if you are healthy, moderately active but not an athlete, sleep well, eat well but are a bit overweight and need a new simple strategy to lose some fat then this could be an option. If you are lean and want to try IF, ask yourself why? Make sure your motives are genuine. 
Take aways from my dabble with IF:
  • Hunger is good, natural and largely absent in our society
  • Don't do IF with low-carb and high intensity training. This is a recipe for disaster! 
  • Used wisely IF can work well for some people
  • I believe IF would work best as a random, sporadic practice rather than doing it every day for extended periods of time. Randomness breeds adaptability, resilience and robustness. 
  • If you choose to do IF I would highly recommend taking one or two days off a week.
  • Take everything I say with a big pinch of iodine-enriched salt as this is purely an N=1 experiment. We are all unique snowflakes who require unique lifestyle guidelines. 
12-month update:
About six months ago I began to do what Dave Asprey calls “Bulletproof Coffee Intermittent Fasting” (BPCIF) This involves the same 16:8 intermittent fast that I was doing except with the addition of consuming one ‘bulletproof coffee’ in the morning. Dave proposes that you get most of the benefits of IF (cell autophagy, insulin sensitivity, improved body composition etc) due to the fact that you are still fasting from carbohydrate and protein. However, the fat from the butter and MCT oil gives you the fuel necessary to get you through the morning and optimize brain function and performance. I personally find that BPCIF works very well for me. I do this most days of the week. I don’t think it is good to keep exactly the same routine when it comes to meal frequency and size. I try to mix it up to keep my body guessing. 
If you found this article interesting or helpful you can do me a HUGE favor by sharing it with your friends using this link for Facebook.

Thanks for reading. You might want to check out my post on Bulletproof Coffee next. 

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Some links from sources I trust on IF and potential benefits and problems:
http://chriskresser.com/to-intermittent-fast-or-not-to-fast-that-is-the-question
http://www.bulletproofexec.com/a-bad-combination-for-women-intermittent-fasting-and-paleo/
http://robbwolf.com/2012/06/14/restricted-feeding-window-4-months/
http://chriskresser.com/intermittent-fasting-cortisol-and-blood-sugar
The mice study:  Hatori, Megumi (2012). 'Time Restricted Feeding Without Caloric Intake Prevents Metabolic Diseases in Mice Fed a High Fat Diet'. Journal of Cell Metabolism, June 9, 2012.
Image Source: http://agrenlay.deviantart.com/art/Il-buono-il-brutto-il-cattivo-168619986

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!