Friday, December 3, 2010

Book review, revisiting dairy, holidays...

So I finished my breakfast early this morning and thought I'd use the extra time to finally get my post reviewing Robb Wolf's book The Paleo Solution up on here.

First off, I have to say the book was almost wholly enjoyable. I found most of Robb's attempts at humor successful, and he didn't come off as a know-it-all too badly. Of course, Robb is a direct disciple of the Dr. Loren Cordain, who wrote the original book on The Paleo Diet.

Anyway, Robb's book is great, a pretty quick read, and he keeps it very light despite the intrinsically heavy subject matter. He doesn't go into the depth that Mark Sisson did in The Primal Blueprint , and he's not literarily awe-inspiring like Lierre Keith in The Vegetarian Myth or anything, but I'd definitely be remiss not to recommend you include it on your bookshelf. One thing I have to admit is that it's got me rethinking the issue of dairy.

It has always been my stance that those of us who tolerate dairy well should take advantage of this source of animal fat, protein, and other good things. The Maasai people provide an example of someone thriving on a highly dairy-laden diet.

But Robb Wolf makes the point that I used to think I was able to tolerate grain well, and that 30 days is a small price to pay to find out whether there's another level of wellness I'd achieve by going dairy free.

So I'm drinking my coffee with a coconut-based imitation of half and half that isn't half bad (wish I could say the same for my own sense of humor), and contemplating survival without copious supplies of cheese. I'm simply doing preparations now for a probable future endeavor into a world in which lactose is a bad word.

I would have to predict that I'll end up deciding that raw and grass-fed dairy products, especially fermented ones, are worthwhile inclusions into my dietary regimen, but at this point, I'm just getting ready for a post-holiday foray into cheeselessness.

That's all for now. I had a lot on my mind and I'm not sure it's all out there, so I reserve the right to edit this post. Leave me some comments!

Friday, November 19, 2010


Well, I've been a lazy blogger for some time, due partly to the fact that I'm not even sure anyone's still reading. Hoping to get back in the habit here and see what kind of readership I can stir up. Even a solid half dozen loyal readers is worth it to me, so keep checking back, leaving comments, or talking to me personally if you enjoy the blog.

So on to the real post. There was a free cholesterol screening at work the other day, and I decided to participate, just for the hell of it. My total cholesterol came back at 320. This is what the medical community would consider dangerously, astronomically high. The technician repeatedly told me that I should look into 30 minute moderate-intensity workouts. I had to stifle my laughter, explaining that I work out 5-7 days a week, vigorously, for several times that duration, that I follow Mark Sisson's rules about lifting heavy things, moving around frequently at a slow pace, and sprinting once in a while.

So back to my allegedly dangerous "cholesterol" (HDL and LDL are actually blood lipids. They carry cholesterol, but aren't themselves cholesterol). Of that 320, my HDL was only 71, which is on the lower side of excellent. My blood glucose was a meager 74, despite my large breakfast. That's at the very low end of the normal range for fasting blood glucose, so I'm basically anti-diabetic. (up to 140 non-fasting is considered "healthy" by our pro-carbohydrate medical community).

My blood pressure came out a bit high, which doesn't worry me because I know it varies, and that my average is actually pretty low, but otherwise, no numbers to worry about. Resting pulse in the low 60's, etc.

So today's task is tactfully explaining to my co-workers (with whom I freely shared my numbers, just like I am here) that the best evidence out there doesn't indicate cholesterol as the culprit in heart disease, that your liver makes about 3-5 times your "recommended" daily intake of cholesterol regardless of what you eat (and in fact makes up for the deficit caused by your USDA Food-Pyramid recommended diet).

So I'm bringing "The Great Cholesterol Con" and linking to Mark Sisson's primer on the subject of Cholesterol and what it is and isn't. Any other suggestions for quick and dirty summaries of where the medical establishment has the story so wrong with cholesterol would be greatly appreciated.

That's it for today. More soon, assuming I don't drop dead of a heart attack in the next day or two. Although I think jealousy directed at Richard Nicolay is likely the worst I'll suffer...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Training Continues

Busy training for another fight. No low and slow cardio. Occasionaly high intensity intervals (calves are aching from doing HIIT on the treadmill in my Vibram FiveFingers classics)... along with tons of training, which is an active form of play where you can control how hard you push yourself, so it fits right in with Mark Sisson's primal law about play.

I've actually been eating very few vegetables, but I'm planning to try to fill up on spinach and other low-sugar greens to fill my plate up and help me consume less. I'm walking around at about 4-5 pounds over fight weight without depriving myself of any calories or anything, just eating gobs of butter and chunks of cheese, mountains of meats, you get the idea. So tossing a bed of arugula underneath everything might help on a subconscious level, if not a physiological one, to limit how much I eat at each sitting. Of course, I'm intermittently fasting (with great ease at this point. 20 hours plus goes by without a single pang of hunger, feeling of weakness, sense of longing, etc...)

Enough rambling for today.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

You're welcome

I received a Thank You card today from my vegetarian-leaning grandmother today for a copy of Lierre Keith's brilliant opus "The Vegetarian Myth" that I sent her. Then I was playing around on Conditioning Research again and I saw this thinly veiled anti-vegetarian argument from a formerly meatless blogger.

Also found a few new sources for raw, grass-fed cheese. It's almost time to stock up for winter, as these items are only available during the sunnier months. Anybody know how long cheese stays good in the freezer?

Also, today is a huge day because Robb Wolff and Dr. Cordain's book comes out. I can't wait for my copy.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Last week's deadlift

I've often said that the deadlift is the single best full-body exercise around. I like to combine them with muscle-ups and call it a day after about 20 minutes. Of course, like all my big lifts, I like to go heavy and low rep.

Last week, I decided to try to break the 2.5x body weight barrier for a single rep. I would go so far as to say that the best measure of strength to weight ratio is deadlift/b.w., so I really wanted to get that 2.5 done.

Got on the scale and calculated the weight I'd need to lift: 332 pounds. Well, I'm at a gym with 2.5 pound plates at the minimum. Got warmed up with 5 easy reps at 225, then a tough 3-rep set at 315. Added 10 pounds and successfully got a 325 lift. Decided to go straight to 335, which I think was the right choice. Got the weight off the ground and even above my knees, but couldn't fully straighten my legs. 2.5x will have to wait for another day.

It got me thinking though. I know everyone out there isn't doing muscle-ups (or even pull-ups) and 36 inch box jumps. But I do think everybody should be doing deadlifts, whether it's with a straight bar and weight plates or a sand bag in the back yard. Google some YouTube videos and get to work!

Back into the blogosphere

So, I took some time off from blogging to prepare for my first amateur MMA title fight. This isn't a blog about my fight career, but I made the weight easily (weighed in at 133.3) eating 2 big, fat-filled meals a day, limiting my "cardio" (not including training jiu jitsu) to HIITs, and doing an occasional carb re-feed using sweet potatoes, bananas, and other gluten free sources of starch. The fight went the full 3 rounds, and my conditioning was certainly not an issue. (Oh yeah, I won a unanimous decision, for anyone who's wondering).

Training for another fight at a lower weight class. Obviously I will be utilizing the same strategy that I was successful with last time for making the weight and getting myself in shape. I have just less than a month and about 6 pounds to go, so I'm planning on a smooth transition to Super Featherweight.

As far as food, I'm still trying to eat less conventional dairy. I have been eating pemmican from U.S. Wellness meats and I plan to place an order for some meats from them soon, just making a bit more freezer space.

Questions and comments are always welcome. Apologies for the sabbatical between posts. It won't happen again any time soon.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


This is in response to a question I received from a co-worker. Since I'm not one to repeat work that's already been done (especially when it's been done better than I could do it myself), I will defer to Mark Sisson for a change. The question was about blood type-based diets, and here's the Mark's Daily Apple post on this and metabolic typing diets.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Been unable to post due to time constraints. Here's a quick link that you may or may not be able to understand. I think I got most of it.

And because I rarely ever post links to Mark's Daily Apple, here's his post with recipes for different condiments you might like to put on your meatza or bunless cheeseburgers while eating real food.

My wish list these days is pretty short. I would like more time for sleeping inside and playing outside and sleeping outside and playing inside. I am in a bit of a transitional period working out how this is going to come into my life, so I can't promise regular posts or even coherent thought at the moment. Your forgiveness is appreciated in advance.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Links and re-statement

Okay, so today's post is just to provide a few links (some of which have been requested), including a few "get started" links from better bloggers than me.

The first is in response to a question about why I use stainless steel water bottles. One again,  Mark Sisson already covered the issue here.

The second is for people who might be new to some part of what I promote. I can't decide whether it's better to suggest you get Mark Sisson's new poster or whether you check out Kurt Harris's 12 steps. I'd actually lean toward the latter for the true beginner, but you definitely can't go wrong in either case.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Non-stick cooking with Deathlon

It has recently come to my attention that I'm amongst a vast minority of people unaware of the apparent dangers of Teflon. Even leaving an empty pan on the stove accidentally for a bit can release some pretty harmful stuff.

After all the trouble I went to of tracking down a good price on stainless steel reusable water bottles, it turns out I now need to replace my frying pans. Too bad they don't have some kind of substance you can add to stainless pans to make things fail to stick. It would be great if they came up with something you could just toss in there that would keep food from sticking, and maybe give you some extremely healthy, vital macro- and micronutrients.

That's all I got for you...

Sunday, March 28, 2010


I've been working hard to decrease my protein intake over the past few weeks. This means plenty of dairy for me, lots of sour cream and cream cheese and cream and other things with the word "cream" (but lacking the word "ice" as that stuff is full of sugar).

I have to say I've felt much better. Digestion has been ultra-problem free and I've felt good and strong, slept well, and had great results.

Last night, I went very protein heavy and a really hard workout today ended with some discomfort. Really strong evidence that Nora Gedgaudas has the whole "Low carb, moderate protein, enough fat to stay/feel full" thing down pat. I was also weighing in at 11th grade kinds of numbers throughout the week.

Here's one of the better articles extolling the facts about saturated fats and their unrighteous vilification. If you're not convinced of this by now, you probably wouldn't be reading my blog anyway, but this would be a perfect link to send to friends and family who may suspect you're nuts for eating butter and tallow instead of whole wheat pasta with sugar-laden tomato sauce.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Right out of my mouth

Mark Sisson, once again, has a post today that I could've written myself, were I a better writer with a greater knowledge base. Okay, a post I wish I had written myself then. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Well, today I'm very excited about my most recent major purchase. I spent quite a bit of money I can't really afford to spare on 10'x10' worth of Jiu Jitsu mats for my apartment. Justifying the purchase to myself afterwards, I realized that there's an issue I haven't addressed on here that I should have (and that I've had requests to talk about).

A customer I used to bartend for told the story of a friend who had put a deposit on a piece of real estate, only to have the seller file for bankruptcy the very next day. The friend showed up and requested his money back, based on the fact that bankruptcy doesn't happen overnight, and the seller had taken his deposit in bad faith. The seller refused, until the friend put it into simple terms. He said "You're gonna pay back that $1,000. You can give it to me, or you can give it to your doctor."

Grass-fed, grass-finished beef is expensive. But not when you consider the costs of eating cheap, processed, commercially-produced food in its stead. Compare the costs of treating diabetes, heart disease, and cancer to the price of eating grass-fed filet mignon for 2 meals a day, and you'll see how affordable it really is.

But there's good news. It turns out the USRDA for protein (something like 45-55 grams or so. Not even sure the exact numbers. You know I don't count calories or calculate macronutrient ratios) is entirely sufficient and reasonable (and going much over it can even have detrimental effects similar to those of eating carbohydrates). So you don't need all that steak. You need a couple ounces of good-sourced protein and a sufficient supply of healthy, natural animal fats (some olive oil is okay, coconut oil is better than okay) to feel satisfied and never be hungry. Delicious eggs can be bought at local farms for next to nothing (these may not be USDA certified as organic, but if you talk to the farmer, you can find out exactly what goes into the chickens that produce them, which you can't do at the grocery store, regardless of what the label says).

And further good news. The law of diminishing returns applies to eating properly just like it applies to anything else. Which means even if you eat conventional beef (not grass-fed), discount blocks of cheese (American cheese is typically not a cheese at all, but a soybean or other oil based "cheesefood." Avoid it like the plague), bleachy-white, flavorless eggs, and ultra-pasteurized milk (I'm assuming no dairy intolerance), you'll get the majority of the benefits of eating properly. You can supplement your diet with a few vitals that you're missing (because you'll undoubtedly have a omega-6 to omega-3 ratio that's way out of proportion), and end up far better off than your average turkey-sandwich-on-whole-wheat "healthy" eaters.

I hope I haven't strayed too far. If you want to read about supplements and micronutrients and everything, get Mark Sisson's book, or Nora Gedgaudas's. It's not my area of expertise (in fact, I claim no particular area of expertise). That's it for now.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Amazing Testimonial

You know it's not from my blog, as I have what I refer to as triple-digit readership. Meaning it takes 3 digits to count my readers on (rim shot).

Anyway, check out this amazing story from (once again) Mark's Daily Apple.

And Kurt Harris has an interesting question today...

Got my first sledgehammer workout of the year in yesterday. Today's a nap, hopefully in the sun.

Still planning to spend lunchtime in the fresh air and direct sunlight.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rest of the week

If the weather is as good as it's predicted to be the rest of the week, I'm taking all/most of my 30 minute lunch  break outside with my sleeves rolled up and my hat off. Please, if you know me, call me on this pledge... Will let you know when the dome is properly tanned and the D3 flows like milk and honey. (raw and minus the honey for mine, please)

Fresh shave, homework

I have some outdoor work to do tomorrow in the early spring sunshine, so I gave my head a fresh shave and I plan to wear a tank top-style undershirt so I can get some vitamin D the easy way. This was, believe it or not, the main driving force behind my decision a little over a year ago to go free-scalping. For the record, all the follicles on my head still produce robust, thick, brown hair, but the old Mach 3 nips them promptly in the bud 2 or 3 times a week.

The homework assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to watch a 6 and a half minute video of people moving as they were designed. You'll notice that these people are strong and look as proper strong people should. They are lean and muscular, but not hypertrophic freaks of nature. And they move beautifully. If this doesn't get you excited about the upcoming warm seasons (if you live in a place that has upcoming warm seasons), then you're missing the point!

Monday, March 15, 2010


Getting very excited about being able to work out outside, despite the fact that I still have to pay for my gym membership when I don't use it. Here's the equipment I plan on using:

Monkey bars at the local State Park. I plan to do all variations of pull-ups, some form of inverted rows, brachiation-esque moving about, straight-bar dips, and muscle-ups.

Sledgehammer and tire: Hit 1 with the other.

Heavy, uneven object. A big sandbag or a partly-full keg. Something I can squat and deadlift and lift and drop.

Trail running in my Vibrams. Beach running barefoot. Swimming a bit. And Jiu Jitsu, of course.

Tomorrow's going to be sunny and warm here. The biggest problem will be choosing.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Just for fun.

I recently came across an example of the conventional wisdom making people put blinders on to the evidence. It's a post called "Did Low-Fat Fail?"

I'll admit the logic seems good. But the data simply doesn't bear it out. This is the reason everyone should read Good Calories, Bad Calories (Taubes).

I'll just refute a few of the arguments and then proceed with my weekend, but I had to get this out there somewhere. Disclaimer of course that I'm not a doctor, not providing medical advice, not intending to treat or cure anyone or anything, go talk to a real MD, preferably one who knows anything about the continued failure of the diet-heart hypothesis to predict study results.

So, I'll let you read Brad's post on your own. Here's my comments:

First off, it should be noted that fat people actually tend to consume fewer calories than their normal-weight counterparts. This has been demonstrated repeatedly.

Secondly, the adipose tissue doesn't store excess calories. It stores fat. Would it make sense for your body to go into fat-storage mode when it's receiving a steady dietary supply, or when it's being denied that supply (and the plethora of fat-soluble nutrients that accompany it)? This logic may seem counterintuitive at first, but every well-documented study on the subject has always suggested (whether its authors recognized it in the summary or not) that appetite is driven by the fat cells. Specifically, a couple of hormones, primarily leptin and insulin. Without trying to get overly technical, I'll point out that insulin is produced in response to extra glucose in the blood, and that over-use leads to resistance, which probably causes all of the so-called diseases of civilization, including overweight. Excess glucose gets into your blood stream when you eat carbohydrates, not fat. Leptin is the master hormone, and regulates the secretion of other hormones. It's highly responsible for making you feel hungry, and it is primarily a fat-sensor. Meaning you feel full when you eat fat.

Back to my first point. The math of calories-in vs. calories out never matches the data. That's because your body isn't an internal combustion engine. Your body will make you feel energized, raise your body temperature, and take other steps to burn excess calories if it's fed a type it can feel free to use up. Your body will lower your energy levels and store fat if it's starved of the nutrients that accompany dietary fat. You will get fat and lose energy atthe same time because you deprive your body of natural, healthy, dietary fat. That bears repeating:

You will get fat and lose energy atthe same time because you deprive your body of natural, healthy, dietary fat.

Did low-fat fail? GCBC is basically a recounting of the history of the decades and centuries of science that Brad Pilon is either unaware of or outright denies that quite clearly demonstrate that low-fat (by definition high-carb) is a failure, for weight loss, diabetes and cancer prevention, and general well-being. Calorie-restriction fails. Low fat fails. Eating like your ancestors did, a diet with plenty of REAL fats (which part of the ear of corn does the oil even come from?!?), enough protein to allow your body to regenerate and repair cells, and little to no easily-digestible carbohydrates will not produce obesity. It may take time to cure it (google the term "broken metabolism"), but it basically cannot cause it.

Did low fat fail? Did Brad Pilon fail to do his research? I'm saying yes to both.

The upside of injuries, links, feedback

Last time I sustained a minor injury, I was unable both to train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and to perform many upper body exercises I had come to enjoy. This time, I will be unable to train, and unable to perform a lot of lower-body exercises.

Last time, I was unable to perform many lower body exercises because they required my upper body support the weight. I am thinking/hoping this will be less of an issue this way around. I'll keep you posted on what I'm able to do despite the minor problems I'm having with my knee.

On the bright side, this gives me an opportunity to be analytical, to put the way my body works under my own scrutiny and see how one joint affects the way I use the rest. I will also be able to use a bit more energy for strength training in general, since Jiu Jitsu training is out for a while. And the final plus to an injury is that I'll finally get some much-needed mid- and long-term recovery time, which can be hard to come by when you work out nearly every day.

If you have the time, here's a couple really good reads for your weekend downtime:

Here's Mark Sisson on Culture (or the perversion of the term "healthy")

Nora G on the Benefits of Butter

I'm getting to the point where the people I started the blog for really seem to get it. They're all reaching goals that once seemed unachievable and setting their sights even higher. I'm delighted by this fact, but it sort of eliminates the Big 5's raison d'etre.

I'm willing to continue struggling to squeeze time for the blog into my hectic schedule, but only if someone actually is benefiting and utilizing the information I'm compiling. If you want the keep the Big 5 alive, drop me a line, call me, text me, leave feedback, or otherwise let me know that I'm not speaking to an entirely empty room.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Today, a subject I rarely, if ever, see touched upon by the Paleo- and Primal Bloggers. Naps. For the past few years, I have become an increasingly large fan of napping. I've gone through a few periods where my work and workout schedules didn't permit the commonly endorsed 8-straight plan but left me a nice bit of time sometime in the 2-6 p.m. hours to get some shuteye. I found myself feeling more alert, energetic, with better digestion and emotional contentment when I made up for a missing a couple of hours overnight with 35-50 minutes in the afternoon. Several anthropological accounts I've read talk about so-called Stone-Age peoples napping a few times during the day while getting a very sub-8 hours of shuteye over night.

I'm certainly not condoning one of the extreme polyphasic sleep regimens that suggests you take a 20 minute nap 6 times a day and forgo all other sleep. I have heard both claims of success with those and hilarious stories of extreme failures, but nothing in our evolutionary history suggests this is ideal or optimal.

The bottom line, however, is that sleep is one of the most important and most overlooked factors of our health and well-being. Whether you feel better from sleeping all night and being awake for 15 or 16 hours straight, or prefer to supplement a shorter overnight-sleep with a few naps (which I do condone trying), neglecting your body's need for sleep results in what I believe to be a total state of disaster for your body. Studies show that lack of sleep leads to weight gain and impaired cognition, among other problems. Let me put it this way, you're way better off skipping a few hours at the gym than skipping a few hours of sleep.

On another topic, I've recently moved and have told many that I'm looking for a standing-height desk to work at (I think I remember Richard Nicolay posting about using an adjustable-height work bench) so I'm not sitting down any time I'm at the computer. Here comes the science.

One final note. Arteriosclerosis a/k/a atherosclerosis is almost always alleged as the work of saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet. As he so often does, Peter at Hyperlipid presents a theory that makes better sense of the data (and that I had to do a lot of dictionary work to understand, but I got the gist).

Hope that wasn't too wordy for you. I am trying to keep bringing up interesting topics, but I can always use more comments and suggestions to let me know how I'm doing and what else you'd like me to look into or discuss my experiences with.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What it's all about

The Big 5 is all about listening to your body's clues as to what it needs. I primarily focus on eating, but also touch on fitness and other aspects of wellness.

One phenomenon that has been occuring lately is that my body has been telling me often that it's satisfied with one meal a day. If I eat a big lunch, especially if it includes these, I feel satisfied all day and night. This is true even if I work out hard, and it's refreshing to have the free time I used to have to devote to constantly fueling surges and swells in my blood sugar.

While we're on food, I had a delicious Nachos-style meatza this past weekend. Talk about delicious and satisfying cravings for things I used to like to eat. (It's not the corn chips that I miss, so this hit on all cylinders). I'll let you do your own googling if you're interested in meatza.

One issue that has come up a lot lately is one I really have a hard time looking at with regards to myself, and that's overtraining. I don't mean to keep linking to Mark Sisson, but he keeps making it hard not to want to. He's been on the issue a lot lately, and I would recommend you read at least thisthis and this, as primers on the issue. Technically, the first link is about what he calls "chronic cardio," and the associated health detriments, but it really all speaks to the same issue.

I know I had more things in mind when I sat down to post, but I'm out of time for the moment and they've slipped my mind for the time being. I apologize for the length of time between posts. I really plan to try to make a little more time for resting (and specifically sleeping), reading, and posting and less time for pushing myself beyond what I can legitimately benefit from.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

1 More link

One more link everyone should read today. Everyone. No qualifications necessary...

Good Running, Bad Running

I'm sort of with Sisson on the whole idea of running in general. I love it in short, extreme bursts as part of HIIT or evo-/natural style of exercise regimes.

But if you want to really understand both that and why running shoes do more harm than good (and running barefoot/faux-barefoot a la Vibram Fivefingers), here's an excellent article that was pointed out to me by one of my readers.

In my opinion, it's not just running that necessitates our evolutionarily afforded posture and joint alignment. I do all my lifting, box-jumps, plyometrics, etc... in my Vibrams (who do not pay me for my endorsement, but I'm willing to negotiate!). I wear them to the grocery store and the mall and anywhere else I can, weather-permitting, and I'd wear them to work if they were permitted (Whoever designs the first steel-toe barefooting-type shoe will get my business for sure).

On a related fitness issue, I've been trying to swim longer distances without changing strokes, while avoiding what Mark Sisson calls "Chronic Cardio." I was able to go 1/4 mile of freestyle easily just by pushing through the minor fatigue that I feel after 3-5 laps. I felt at the time that I could have done more, but I was late for an appointment.

I will probably not do much more distance without turning it into a high-intensity interval or hypoxic workout, where I only breathe every 10 or 12 strokes for increasing lung capacity by training the diaphragm muscle, but I don't think an occasional long cardio session is bad, so maybe I'll get in the pool one day and really push myself to the limit, train for a while doing no long swims, and then do it again to see how much progress I make. My hypothesis (which will have to remain untested) is that the distance I'm able to cover will increase more by me doing short, intense training sessions than it would increase were I to simply practice longer steady-paced swims.

That's it for now.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why you should read Good Calories, Bad Calories

I figured Kurt Harris was exaggerating when he referred to the book as "The Bible" on the "Livin' the Vida Low-Carb" show with Jimmy Moore. After reading the book, however, I think that may actually be an understatement.

My analysis is just buy it. If you want to understand why we live in a society that is so hell-bent against giving us the nutritional advice that tells us to eat in a way that probably causes type 2 diabetes, obesity, most cancers, Alzheimer's disease, coronary heart disease, arteriosclerosis, and all of the rest of the "diseases of civilization," despite the science (and why the definitive science fails to get funded in the first place), read this book.

If you are unsure of whether your high-saturated fat diet will cause you all the problems the mainstream media tells us it will (see above), if you're even remotely afraid to replace all the carbohydrates in your diet with natural animal-sourced fats, read this book.

If you want to see what good scientific investigative reporting and analysis look like, read this book.

That's basically it. I have linked to this great outline/summary before, but there's no substitute for really looking at the info Taubes presents.

The evidence mounts...

I really want to sit down and put my thoughts together after reading Good Calories, Bad Calories, but I came across a link (I found it from Conditioning Research, one of my favorite sources for links) that I couldn't wait to share.

The paleo/primal-blogger community (of which I sort of consider myself something akin to a junior member) do a great job of talking about the evils of carbohydrates and the need for dietary fat. Sometimes, however, I think there's a fear that jumping up and down about the benefits of saturated fats (butter, lard, tallow, cream, etc...) will alienate the laymen who might stumble upon the idea of going primal and want to learn more.

Well, here's a post that lays it right out there on the table, citing evidence new and old to back it up. And of course this follows perfectly with the paleolithic principle. In other words, like all good scientific theories, the idea that we're products of natural selection is predictive of the results we see in actual studies.

I'm thinking of reorganizing the concept of the big 5 anyway. Maybe replace the "fresh fruits'" spot with butter (although I was considering it a member of full-fat dairy" and specify that the vegetables should be what used to be called 5% vegetables (leafy, green kinds of things as opposed to starchy things that are delicious with balsamic glaze on the grill or in a rollatini).

Again, this is with the understanding that going 100% Big 5 is next to impossible for most civilized people. While it's been proven time and again that a basically 100% meat diet results in great health and vitality (not death!), I don't expect anybody to take the idea that far, and I don't expect anyone who would to be a reader of my little, silly blog.

That's it for now.  My full endorsement of the awesome of "Good Calories, Bad Calories" hopefully to follow later today.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Too long...

since I've posted. Been stuck in snow, away for the weekend without internet, dog ate my homework, etc...

I definitely plan to post this weekend about finishing "Good Calories, Bad Calories" a/k/a The Bible.

A couple other things in mind. Suggestions are always welcome and my apologies for the slacking.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Common objection...

One common objection that always seems to be made when I tell people the hows and whys of my dietary and fitness lifestyle is that tribal people all died too young to know whether they would have died from Coronary Heart Disease (although post-mortem atherosclerosis data, for one should negate that issue).

I've been putting off gathering data to refute this claim, which I know to be false from several anthropological studies I've seen and read first hand, but it looks like it's already been done in a great post by Don at Primal Wisdom, and I don't see any reason to repeat the effort when the internets make it so easy to just post a link.

Slightly snowed in at the moment, so further posting is a possibility. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Clearing things up...

Had an argument about this very issue the other day. As luck (and common sense) has it, I was right.

Today at work, I opened a can of coconut milk, which I ate with a few nuts and dried pieces of fruit (that unfortunately contained peanuts), a bit of cream cheese and carrots, and some whole milk plain yogurt. There was basically pandemonium about the nutrition information on my coconut milk. 39% USRDA for Saturated Fat. I had to point out that was per serving, and I had consumed an entire can, or 6 servings, for 234% USRDA.

This was after an evening at the grocery store where I had to send a text message to a few folks who know me because I was buying a fatty grass-fed tenderloin, beef liver, whole milk yogurt, several cans of coconut milk, a pound of pasture butter, heavy whipping cream (for drinking, not whipping), cheese, and a few other choice selections of health foods. When I got in line, I noticed the girl ahead of me with Kashi and South Beach products full of all kinds of healthy whole grains. She even had some kind of sprouted grain bread and low fat products of all types. I'd say she was "average" as far as body composition, meaning probably 25-40 pounds over her ideal weight. There I was, behind her, with my 10 billion USRDA or so of saturated animal fat (mostly from grass-fed sources) looking like this photo (that was taken last Saturday, which I've been debating posting):

This all served to remind me of the point low-carb proponents and primal/paleo-style diet pushers always make. The Dept. of Agriculture Food Pyramid wants you to eat 6-11 servings of grains per day. That's pretty much exactly what's given to feedlot cattle to fatten them up for slaughter. The science is there. The anecdotal evidence pours in by the thousands. There are no healthy whole grains. You're being lied to, people.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

All over the board...

I have some very non-contiguous thoughts I need to put on (digital) paper, and I don't promise smooth segues, but I'm going to jam it all in a single post somehow.

Firstly, my brother sent me a 3-character text message today. It said "167" and not another word. I knew exactly what he meant, because he's been trying to get his weight down to 165 pounds unsuccessfully for quite some time, and he's one of the reasons I started The Big 5.  He had been letting me know of all his just-under 170 readings for a bit (which were closer to his goal than he'd been in a long time). I suggested he try a form of IF, or intermittent fasting, to drop the last few pounds, and he googled it and told me that basically, that's how he'd been eating and partly why he had already lost the 6 or 7 pounds he'd struggled so hard to drop before. Getting to the gym more probably didn't hurt him, but I've also had great success with eating 2 meals a day, 5-8 hours apart and pretty much fasting in-between. I do put a nice dollop of cream or half and half in my morning coffee, but since I've been eating my lunch at work and a meal at 5 or 5:30 on weekdays, I've maintained a weight I used to struggle to make for competitions effortlessly and hungerlessly.

There are benefits to your endocrine, immune, and other systems of long periods of not eating (17-20 hours isn't really a long period, but it's probably enough to see a lot of the benefits). Remember that our ancestors probably regularly went much longer periods without any real nutrition and thrived and survived and eventually managed to create you.

The next thing I sort of have on my mind is the connection we lack with our food. I remember as a very small child asking my mother how come the food on my plate and the bird in my coloring book were both called "chicken." We just don't have any involvement with our food other than picking it out of an aisle and storing it in the freezer until we are ready to throw it in the microwave. It's really no wonder we make such terrible choices when it comes to how and what we eat most of the time.

Finally, I've found a new author/blogger/podcaster I really think everyone should read/listen to. This should be at the top of your reading/listening list if you care about yourself at all.

That's it for now. I'm learning a lot from Nora and various others about the hormonal response to eating and how blatantly obvious it is that humans are made to live and prosper on a high saturated fat diet.

That's it for the moment. I have thousands of things on my mind, I've promised to do some research and respond about my findings, and I'm still planning to do all of that. I wish I could find a little more time to do the homework for here, but those who know me understand I have a lot on my plate at the moment. Apologies to you all.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Grass-fed Beef

So my local mega-supermarket (is that redundant?) is advertising Australian grass-fed beef tenderloin for a ridiculously low price, and I decided to head over and pick some up. When I arrived, I had trouble finding the filet mignon-looking steaks, so I did a bit of searching and realized that they were selling whole tenderloins. The smallest one was 4.98 pounds.

So, like any rational primal eater would do, I made a phone call to ensure that I had access to sufficient freezer space to store most of my 5-pounds of deliciousness.  Here's what I whipped up the first night:

Super simple. I melted a bunch of pasture butter in a pan with a pinch of sea salt and tossed in some baby portabella mushrooms.  Put the mushrooms on a paper towel and tossed in my filet mignon. Let it cook for a bit, tossed it under the broiler, melted a little cambozola cheese (I think it's camembert with a gorgonzola mold) and topped with butter-drenched mushrooms. The steamed broccoli were really just for looks.

There are a few things I want to say about grass-fed beef. One, I've worked in many restaurants, but never directly in food prep. The first thing that struck me was that the meat smelled delicious out of the package. No cooking, marinading, tenderizing, seasoning or touching necessary. I had a serious urge to stick a big piece of the raw beef right in my mouth. If it hadn't been one of my fasting times, I would have done just that.

The second is that I'm just learning about the widespread omega-3 vs. omega-6 imbalance that we tend to suffer from in civilized society. Apparently, the ratio of these fats is all screwed up because we eat grain fed beef (which contains way more 6 than 3) and non-animal based fats (same problem). Fish oil is one solution, but I prefer to try to get grass-fed meats when possible.

Secondly, grass-fed beef is far more delicious than grain-fed. If you don't believe it, try it.

2 more notes. One is that there's been some further study of the way barefoot runners run. Apparently some of us primal-inclined people jumped all over the story and got some of it wrong. The authors of the study want to clarify their point:

"Please note that we present no data on how people should run, whether shoes cause some injuries, or whether barefoot running causes other kinds of injuries. We believe there is a strong need for controlled, prospective studies on these problems"

Okay, I say that's fine. But those of us who are familiar with the paleolithic principle know that we work best when we do what natural selection shaped us to do. Which is not just to run barefoot, but to lift things and climb things and move barefoot in all kinds of ways. It seems the science is a barefoot step behind the common sense on this one. Or the authors are just being careful.

The second is that I need opinions from my reader(s). If I have any. The question of whether I should post workout photographs of myself and the results of my extremely high saturated fat diet has been raised. I think seeing what I've achieved might give some credence to what I say, but I don't want to assault anyone's eyes against his/her will. Should I post, not post, or post on an external site and provide links, making looking at them optional?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Super quick update

Okay, I'm still in my relaxation phase of overcoming what I believe to be a case of overtraining syndrome. I'm still training (well, I took one day off following a neck adjustment), but skipping the gym until at least late in the week.

The two newest Big 5ers are having mixed results. One claims that he's lost "at least 10 pounds" as a result of cutting out the sugar and flour from his diet. The other says he hasn't lost a single ounce, and we're going to take a look at what he's eaten later on tonight to check if there's anything sneaking into his diet that shouldn't be.

That's all for now...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

New Big 5ers

A couple updates. First of all, 2 of my Jiu Jitsu training partners have taken up the Big 5. They've both  been working on it for about a week, and the transition seems to be going well for both of them. I know there have been a couple snafus with things like BBQ beef having a ton of sugary sauce, and meatloaf being full of bread crumbs, but nothing to jeopardize the major forward progress that I know they'll see, and about which I will be posting in the future (while maintaining their anonymity, of course). One of them is planning to compete in a major tournament in April, the other is simply looking to drop some pounds and have more energy. They are both already excellent athletes, so it will be interesting to see if the Big 5 takes them to another level.

Personally, I'm suffering from a bit of overtraining syndrome. I'll be taking a few days off from the gym, and training Jiu Jitsu with a bit less intensity than is typical for me. I've really pushed myself to get back from the injury, and probably went a little too hard right away. Listening to your body is definitely a Big 5 principle, and when you feel like you're pushing against a brick wall when you try to do anything physical, and when you sleep for 10 or 12 hours straight when you aren't setting an alarm, your body is asking for a little extended recovery time.

I'm also going through some extra stress factors at the moment that aren't related to my diet or fitness routines. This isn't the place to vent about them, but viewing these matters as being entirely separate from physical well-being would be naive at best.

As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Busy, busy

Been very busy lately, but getting my eats on and my workouts in. For the past few weeks, I've been eating nearly all my calories (most of which come from animal fat) during 2 big means during the day (one around noon, one around 5 p.m.). At least during the week. Weekends have been less regimented. I've lost a significant amount of weight. Somewhere in the 7 pounds range, putting my body fat probably near or just into the single digits. My exercise regimen has been good, but not the most intense I've put myself through by a long shot.

Climbing the TreadWall seemed easy last week, when I stayed on continuously for nearly 22 minutes with the height set slightly worse than vertical and the speed on 4 and a half. This week, I think they moved some of the holds (and a few were loose), and I wasn't able to stay on continuously for quite as long, but I broke a hard sweat, burned 225 kCal according to the machine (which I don't trust) in just over 25 minutes.

Been doing box jumps even more since my shoulder (which is nearly 100%) was injured. I'm not sure how high each of the risers are that I put underneath the step upon which I jump, but I've recently graduated to using 16 of them for 5 sets of ten jumps. This comes up to my waist, right around where the belt loops on my jeans would be. This resulted in me scraping up both shins, but a lot of awe-stricken comments from other gym members in the locker room. I do this in my Vibram Fivefingers, of course, so I'm jumping with an anatomically correct posture, shoulders over hips, knees over ankles, and all that.

Dr. Loren Cordain, the guy who wrote the original "Paleo diet" has published a new paper with a few colleagues. It basically re-states the "Paleo Principle," which says that what we evolved doing is what works best for us, and references a bunch of data from some other papers that have studied the dietary and fitness habits of several extant tribal peoples. I highly recommend reading it. See if your diet and fitness habits line up more with heart-disease, diabetes, atherosclerotic modern agricultural man, or tall, strapping, ripped-abs, buffalo-stabbing paleolithic man. Then adjust accordingly. By following the Big 5.

I have also found a relatively local source for raw milk, farm-fresh eggs, and some other less-processed versions of beef and dairy products. I'm currently weighing the cost-benefit analysis of skipping a workout or skipping a nap one day a week to go food shopping. The rule of 80/20 is pushing me towards losing one of the workouts. Now that I can lift heavy again, I really like the idea of 1 day heavy pushes/pulls with the upper body, 1 day heavy lower body (which has to include Glute-Hamstring Raises, or at least Good Mornings to bvalance out Squats and/or Farmer's Walks), and one day full-body split after at least one recovery (nap) day, to include "climbing," muscle-ups, box jumps, and a clean or snatch. In addition to 7 days a week of Jiu Jitsu training, which I know I should be better about taking days off from.

Questions and comments continue to not pour in. You know who you aren't...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Not a correction to anything I have said here so far (although I am sure those will come in plentiful supply if I keep up), but rather to something I hear all the time. As I've mentioned, I started this blog for people who know me in real life and ask me nutrition and fitness advice. While I hope people jump on the "primal" or high-fat diet bandwagon (for their own sake), it's not really my intention to act as a missionary.

That being said, my diet habits are often the subject of conversation from people who are merely curious (i.e. co-workers around the lunch table). I have no problem explaining without preaching. It's something I've become very accustomed to. But inevitably, someone will utter the phrase "But I couldn't live without _______," with the blank inevitably filled by either the word "bread" or the word "pasta." Sometimes, "I couldn't live without pasta" is prefaced with the very scientific fact of "I'm Italian." Despite the apparent logic to these statements, it becomes very hard for me to bite my tongue at that point.

So I just want to make a correction. This isn't written to anyone in particular, it's for posterity and to get it off my chest. Here is the correction:

You have no idea how well you could live without bread and pasta.

Just ask me if you really want to know, I'll tell you.

Here's a promised update, while I'm at it: Workouts are going well. Finally getting to the point where swimming isn't so much a clumsy splash that happens to move me through the water in a sometimes horizontal position, but rather occasionally I break into a gliding movement where I'm actually meaningfully propelling myself in the top 18 inches of water. This simply means I have to swim harder and/or longer now to reach the same intensity. Or use it for hypoxic training, which I've not been doing lately.  Haven't been to the gym with a TreadWall this week, and tomorrow's a scheduled recovery/nap day, so it looks like Friday. I'll make a note of whether I'm able to stay on the wall for a longer period of time.

One other addition to my lifting is the "Farmer's Walk." This isn't technically a lift as much as an exercise, but one I'm really planning to see benefits from. You simply hold heavy dumbbells and walk with good posture. Like the deadlift, my grips seem to be the first point of fatigue. Not sure if this means my hand/wrist/forearm complex is weak or that my legs and core are strong. Also, played around with parallel squats today, with the bar across my shoulder blades, rather than my usual ass-to-the-ground squats with the bar up on my traps. I can basically add 35-40 pounds to the lift this way, but I'm still a fan of the increased range of motion of the high-bar ATG version.

My books and documentary are yet to arrive. Prepare for many, many posts in the days following their arrival. That's all for now.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Evidence to back the Big 5...

I can't remember where I saw the link to this summary of the book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes, but I immediately ordered 3 copies upon reading it. If you aren't sure about the hypothesis that man should eat what he evolved eating (un-trimmed meat from freely roaming animal sources, some plants, very few or no grains), you really should at least skim the notes. It seems like the kind of work that will leave no doubt in the minds of former fence-sitters, if not completely turn around proponents of the conventional wisdom.

Also, I was alerted to another article about the dangers of running shoes on Vibram Fivefingers's Facebook page. It starts out "Knee osteoarthritis (OA) accounts for more disability in the elderly than any other disease." If that's not enough to make you rethink your Reebok's, I don't know what is.

Suggestions and comments aren't exactly pouring in, but I'm determined to keep putting my thoughts out there, with the hope that it benefits at least a couple people who might have otherwise been led down the dirty back alley of false health food (whole grain bread, HFCS-loaded fat-free yogurt, etc...) and harmful exercises that are supposed to be good for them...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Update/What I read/Some thoughts on why I blog

Well, today I got to the gym and found that I didn't have my goggles, so swimming, which I had planned as the 4th element to my rehab workout, was out of the question. So I climbed the TreadWall for just about 20 minutes, at which point grip fatigue had pretty much set in completely and I couldn't stay on the wall for an extended period any more without really dialing down the intensity of the workout.

Then I went to do some lateral jumps with Tabata-esque interval timing and intensity. For those unfamiliar, Tabata intervals are when you do front squats as fast as you can for 20 seconds at a time, with 10 second rests in between, for 4 minutes. The goal is to get your heart rate way up and then give it inadequate time to come back to normal before making it work all over again. It's an awesomely crushing 2 minutes and 40 seconds of actual work, even when applied to other exercises. I put 5 supports under one of those 80's-style ladies step aerobics things and stood on one side of it, and started up my interval timer. I got halfway through the 4th 20-second work interval when I had to call it quits. And I was truly pushing myself. I can't wait to work up to a full Tabata protocol and finish the 4 minutes.

Next, I decided to fulfill the Tabata protocol on the rowing machine. I had a few intervals where I was having a hard time really pushing myself because my Vibram fivefingers shoes tend to loosen the straps and I was coming undone. In any case, I broke a hard sweat and finished the 4 minutes.

Then, in place of the swimming, I decided to do some more interval work by running. The location I was at today has a 1/28th mile track. It's tiny. I did ten laps at a full sprint with ten laps at a jog separating them. More high intensity interval work.

So I'm going to consider where I'm at today the starting point. I'm still doing some of my heavy lifts (squats, hang cleans, glute-hamstring raises), but those are a control anyway. We'll see how my "primal" workout compares to the other stuff I normally do.

Mark Sisson over at Mark's Daily Apple recently posted a "What I read" list. It got me thinking about a few things. One was doing a "What I read" list of my own. The other is "Why do I exist if all this good stuff is already out there?"

First, the list. These are the things I check out on a near daily basis:

Hyperlipid - I admit that I don't understand a lot of it, but what I muddle through very much informs me on matters of diet and saturated fat vs. carbohydrate intake)

Conditioning Research - This is a great blog on its own, but also a source where I find myself following a ton of links

Free The Animal - Even after toning down the seething vernacular, Richard Nikoley is proving that he can still effectively debunk conventional wisdom. Here's an awesome example

Mark's Daily Apple - Already mentioned. Sisson is one of the gods of the primal lifestyle movement.

So, the next question is this: If all this information is out there, why am I necessary? Well, in a nutshell, I'm not. I started this blog for some friends, family, and acquaintances who were always asking me to "write down my diet" and then "come up with a workout program" and "explain why you eat butter but not bread." This blog isn't supposed to be about me, although I obviously can't write from any other viewpoint with any kind of legitimacy.

In other words, I know there are only a handful of people out there reading my blog on a regular basis. I've made it clear the kind of subjects and issues I want to write about. I need feedback on what people want to know about, or know my thoughts about, so I can keep this thing going. I can easily post links to interesting and pertinent information every day or two, but it would make more sense for everyone to just click through the "What I read" list above. I eagerly await the feedback...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A recent injury has kept me off the Jiu Jitsu mats and condemned me to about a month without doing any real upper-body exercises in the gym. It also affected my lower body lifting because I was unable to support a bar across my back to do squats or in my hands to do deadlifts.

I hate to admit it, but I did engage in a few dreaded leg presses (Not a bad exercise per se, but a poor substitute for the high-bar ass-to-the-ground squats I typically engage in).

I'm well on my road to recovery. I'm reintegrating exercises into my routine as I become sufficiently healed to do so. That means I can do pull-ups and dips, but no bench press, no snatches, etc. I have replaced everything that's missing with a sort of paleolithic style of workout that I hope will allow me to keep gaining strength despite the holes in my typical routine.

Unfortunately, winter in New Jersey is not conducive to running around trails, swinging from tree limb to tree limb, swimming through rivers, and hopping on rocks MovNat style. Because of this, I have to do indoor versions of everything this time of year.

I've joined a new gym recently, and one of its 2 locations has a TreadWall. If you're not familiar, it's an apparatus that allows you to wall climb a continuous loop, sort of like a vertical treadmill with hand- and foot-holds. Your weight turns it, but there's a lever to adjust the resistance (labeled: speed) and another that regulates the angle of the wall, so you can alter the resistance. I am learning quickly that my grips fatigue first (even when I do a good job of keeping my weight on my feet), and this is forcing me to find other ways of using my hands and wrists to grab. While I welcome the grip work, I think that the compulsion to use my hands in other ways is going to benefit my in a lot of ways. I'll update everyone as to how this works out.

Next, I've increased my swimming from something I was using just as a lungs/diaphragm workout (hypoxic laps have been one of my secret workouts for most of a year now) to something I do for strength training. I'm trying to swim more interval-style than old-fashioned cardio style, but I'm taking it a little bit easy with the injury, so I'm not currently swimming with the intensity I'd like.

For my real high intensity intervals, I am using the new interval timer I got for Christmas along with the rowing machine to really get my heart rate up into the 180's or 190's. I love the rowing machine as a full body workout that incorporates an upper body pull (literally, the row), unlike many others. It's also one of those exercises where you can really push yourself and exert a lot of effort in a short period of time.

I'm still doing various squats, pull-ups, dips, cleans, and back extensions on a machine (to replace my romanian deadlifts) in addition to all this stuff. I will post soon when I have an idea how it's working out. I'm optimistic and hopeful, as it follows the paleo principle to some extent, and to a lesser extent, imitates some of the MovNat stuff.