Showing posts with label insulin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label insulin. Show all posts

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Generally speaking, dairy products don't fall into a strict Paleo/Primal/hunter-gatherer/caveman diet because they were not consumed before the advent of agriculture. 

Imagine trying to sneak up on a wild bison to casually squeeze milk out of its teats... probably not a great survival strategy! 

You can see why dairy wasn't a viable food choice before agriculture and the domestication of wild beasts. Much better to kill the bison from a distance and eat its meat than take a hoof to the face with your side of bison cream.  

With the rise of civilization dairy began to play a significant role in many societies, particularly in Northern Europe where many of us can trace back our lineage. 

The fact that up to 95% of Northern Europeans now have lactase persistence - i.e. the ability to metabolise lactose after weaning and into adulthood - goes to show that a relatively rapid evolutionary adaptation has taken place in the last 10,000 years or so (Kresser, 2012). 

This would suggest that the ability to derive nutrition from this novel food source gave our neolithic ancestors a survival advantage. Hence the evolutionary pressure to propagate the lactase persistence gene was great and the gene mutation caught on quickly. 

In my opinion it is naive to take the position that since dairy was not available to our hunter-gatherer ancestors we shouldn't consume it today. This is typical of the flawed Paleo logic that any neolithic (modern) foods are inherently bad and should be avoided. I assure you, die-hard Paleoistas, that coconut oil, almond butter, bacon and sweet potato fries are all very new foods and were not available to our Paleo ancestors, even if they do fit in with a modern "Paleo template" and get talked about ad nauseam at CrossFit gyms across the world. 

So it seems that there has been a fairly rapid adaptation to dairy consumption. Yet the questions still remains, is dairy good or bad for us? Well, like most things nutrition, it is both. Let's first look at the shortfalls of milk and dairy consumption and when to avoid it. 

Lactose Intolerance 

Still today roughly 65 percent of the world's population cannot tolerate lactose, especially those of Asian decent (Cordain, 2014). If you are one such person, or even if you aren't necessarily lactose intolerant but do not handle dairy very well - for example your skin breaks out, you get bad gas, bloating or diarrhea, or if dairy hinders your weight loss, then you should probably avoid it completely at least for a few months before attempting to reintroduce it.


In the past dairy has been condemned as a pro-inflammatory food. The science behind this is pretty week and the quality and types of dairy are so varied that it is impossible to categorize all dairy as being either pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. It may be both, depending on the type of dairy and the person consuming it. 

The components of dairy that would tend to promote inflammation are the proteins (casein and whey) and the carbohydrate (lactose). Lactose and casein, in particular, can be very allergenic and problematic to susceptible people and in this sense will contribute to inflammation. 

The fats in dairy, in contrast, are generally benign and can even be anti-inflammatory. 

If your body is dealing with excess inflammation - from a poor diet, chronic stress, overtraining or disease such as autoimmunity, rheumatoid arthritis, acne, etc, - then you should largely avoid lactose and casein.

Milk, for example, is very high in lactose and has many undesirable characteristics, which will be covered below.

Effect on insulin

The protein and sugars in dairy are insulinemic: meaning that they cause an acute spike in insulin release into the bloodstream (Sisson, 2011). For the most part excessive insulin release is undesirable and can lead to insulin resistance, weight gain and eventually diabetes in an unhealthy metabolism. 

The effect tends to be less in full-fat dairy products. Given that the spike in insulin tends to be short lived, I dont think the insulinemic effect of dairy needs to be a deal-breaker in healthy individuals. However, it may explain part of the reason why some people struggle to lose weight while consuming a lot of dairy.  

Industrialized milk production

Pasteurization is the industrial process of flash heating milk to sterilize it. Homogenization is the industrial process of super blending milk so that the fat molecules are miniaturized and distributed evenly. 

We are also in the silly habit of removing most of the fat from milk - and therefore nutrition - offering mostly low-fat or no-fat milk and dairy products, which tend to be more inflammatory and insulinemic than full fat dairy. 

Additionally, factory farming operations promote an unhealthy environment for the cows - from poor corn-based diets, overuse of antibiotics (and even hormones), illness and ill-treatment. These practices all contribute to an unhealthier end product. 

All of the above factors severely diminish any potential health benefits of milk and increase the negative attributes of it. 

This is why I believe milk should be avoided by all folks, unless you can find raw milk and want to experiment with that. 

Unfortunately raw milk, which is infinitely healthier than the bastardized milk we find in stores, is illegal in most States due to overblown concerns about pathogens. 

So milk is bad, but what about other dairy products? 

Healthier Dairy Options

Generally speaking, the less lactose (sugar) and casein and whey (protein) a product has then the less problematic it will be.  

Full-fat dairy, particularly fermented types, from healthy sources of either raw or grass-fed, organic milk can be very nutritious foods and I personally incorporate them in my diet. 

Butter and ghee (clarified butter) are basically pure fat so these tend to be well tolerated by just about everyone. I recommend grass-fed butter as a cheap, healthy, nutrient-dense and delicious fat source. 

Next down the list is full-fat fermented dairy such as (Greek) yoghurt and kefir. Typically the longer the fermentation process the less lactose is remaining and the more beneficial bacteria. Kefir is particularly high in probiotics. 

Hard cheese such as parmesan tend to have less lactose and more fat than soft cheeses such as mozzarella so are preferable. 

Heavy cream and sour cream also have relatively low amounts of lactose and high amounts of fat so may come next in line in terms of dairy to experiment with. 

Soft cheeses, ice cream, (low fat) cottage cheese and cream cheese are relatively high in lactose and casein so are less preferable in terms of their inflammatory, allergenic and insulinemic properties. 


Dairy is by no means a necessary addition to the Paleo diet. For anyone starting Paleo for the first time I always recommend that they remove all dairy (except for butter) for at least the first 30 days. After which time they can experiment with the slow reintroduction of a few healthier dairy options, but only if they really want to. 

If you have inflammatory conditions or are trying to lose weight I also suggest avoiding dairy until these issues are resolved. 

There are no essential amino acids or fats in dairy that can't be obtained from other Paleo food sources. And contrary to popular belief your bones wont disintegrate through lack of calcium if you give up dairy completely. Dairy remains a "grey-area" Paleo food for good reason. It is problematic for many people. 

Having said that dairy can be a very healthy food in the right circumstances. It is also damned delicious and adds a huge amount of flexibility to your diet if tolerated. This is why I incorporate dairy in my diet as one of my Big Four Paleo Exceptions

Aside from butter and a small serving of kefir most days I do try to limit my consumption of dairy and instead focus on seafood, meat, eggs and vegetables, which I know to be optimal food sources for me. 

I'd still rather get egg on my face than a bison's hoof...



Cordain, 2014:
Kresser, 2014:
Kresser, 2012:
Sisson, 2011:

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I do not consider the Paleo diet to be a weight-loss diet. In fact, as I've mentioned several times I don't consider Paleo to be a diet at all. The word 'diet' is too strongly tied to ideas of short term 'restriction' or 'reduction' - negative associations that almost certainly doom those attempting it to fail. 

This is why I view Paleo as a habitual way of eating that is healthy, sustainable and enjoyable. Paleo is a lifestyle that one forges through smart, positive, empowering choices. 

Having said this, Paleo is extremely effective at achieving short term weight loss goals, particularly for those trying it for the first time and coming from a standard Western diet of processed food. 

The following is a Facebook conversation I had with a very good friend of mine, Cam, who was weeks away from his wedding and wanting to lose a substantial amount of (fat) weight in a short period of time. I gave him the most simple, straight-up Paleo advice that I thought would be the easies to adhere to. 

Please note that Cameron was not in terrible shape to begin with, is very disciplined and exercises regularly and at intensity. 

Cameron, 28 - Melbourne:

Hey mate! 

[As the wedding rapidly approaches] I have 10 weeks to drop 8 kg (18lb). Any tips for some rapid weight loss?

The Paleo Model:

Mate that's awesome. I sure hope I'm back in Australia for your bucks!

Ok tubby. If you're serious about rapid weight-loss here's what you have to do: go very low carb and cut out insulin-spiking food such as sugar and dairy. You can still eat as much as you want ASIDE from this:

1. No beer
2. No grains or faux grains (including all wheat, rye, sorghum, corn, maize, polenta, rice, cereal, pasta, bread, cous cous, quinoa, etc)
3. Cut out all dairy except butter
4. No white potatoes including fries, chips, mash, etc
5. Not too much fruit (less than 3 serves a day)
6. Avoid processed foods (packaged goods including dips, biscuits, processed meat, snacks, peanut butter, fish fingers, salad dressing, protein bars, chips, cordial, sports drinks, soda, frozen meals, desserts, etc)

Eat as much as you want of:
Meat (doesn't have to be lean), chicken, fish, eggs, bacon, avocado, butter, olive oil, raw nuts (not peanuts), coconut cream/milk/oil, all vegetables except for white potatoes, including sweet potato. 

If you want to drink alcohol have white wine, champagne, or clear spirits either straight up or with soda water - no mixers. 

The main thing is to limit refined carbs including all grains and potato and also give up dairy for 8 weeks. Unsweetened black coffee only. 

Make sure you're eating enough. Hit the weights hard once or twice a week and you'll just drop the weight. 

You need to be 100%, even when you're drinking or hungover. 

The less alcohol you drink the easier it'll be. 

In Godspeed son! Any questions?


Good stuff mate! I will be following this religiously for the next 10 weeks! I am planning a paleo beef casserole for tomorrow night.. Is beef stock paleo?

The Paleo Model:

Beef stock should be fine, especially if it's gluten free. 

If you want to understand some of the science behind why the aforementioned works so well for weight-loss you'll have to check out my blog. Particularly these posts:


Will have a good read today mate! Today it has started! I weigh 82kg (the heaviest I have ever been). Target is 72kg. Had a paleo breakfast this morning of eggs, avocado, tomato, mushrooms and bacon! Paleo casserole tonight!!

The Paleo Model: 

Awesome man. Just stick to it. 8 weeks of your life. You'll feel shit for about 4-7 days, then amazing. Let me know if you need any support or answers. If you have food cravings eat some 85% cacao dark chocolate.


Cam lost over 5kg (11lb) in the first 21 days and easily made his target of 8kg (18lb) in time for the big day. 


If you liked this post please share it with your friends and family. Spread the #PaleoLove!

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 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 prednisone all the time which is why it is so 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 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 nizagara 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 prednisone 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,

Image Source 1:
Image Source 2: