Monday, December 13, 2010


Nutritional supplements are a hot topic, and are constantly covered in health related news.  Deciding what supplements you should be taking is important, because supplements cost money (sometimes a lot of money!) and are not "real food" so you need to be careful what you're adding to your food and body and understand WHY you're doing it.  When you are eating real and whole foods you are getting a large variety of vitamins and minerals so the standard multi-vitamin is something that is probably useless.  Take the money that you've been spending on that, and invest it in a few other things and you'll improve your health and how you feel. 

The following list is what I take from a supplement perspective and what I take reflects what I think is actually worth taking.  Take my recommendations and reasoning into account when you're deciding what supplements are worth your time and money.

Fish Oil
Fish oil contains DHA and EPA omega 3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory.  If inflammation = disease, than something that is anti-inflammatory is a good thing for your health.  Many processed foods, nuts, seeds and grains are high in omega 6 fatty acids, if you're eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) - note the irony in the acronym - you probably have a very high ratio of Omega 6's to Omega 3's.  In order to manage inflammation and promote health and longevity you want your ratio to be as close to 1:1 as possible.  To achieve this you can reduce the amount of  Omega 6's that you consume and take supplemental fish oil to help you reach that 1:1 balance.
One thing to keep in mind, for those that eat fairly clean, is that you also need to account for what your protein sources eat when you're thinking about what your 3:6 ratio looks like.  If you eat pastured/grass fed meats, eggs and butter, wild caught fish, and limit your nuts and seeds you may not need to supplement with fish oil at all.  However, most people probably eat some conventionally raised meats and eggs along with nuts and seeds, so keeping fish oil in your repertoire is a good idea if you're that person.
So how much fish oil should you be taking?  Now that is a tricky question...I go by the Robb Wolf Fish Oil Calculator hosted by Whole 9 for dosing recommendations.  I do increase my fish oil consumption after hard workouts or when I'm feeling really sore and run down.  I might also skip my fish oil for the day if I eat omega-3 enriched eggs and grass-fed meats for a day.  Try it out and see how you feel, and if you are getting blood work check your c-reactive protein and shoot for a value below 1 to see where your overall level of systemic inflammation is.  Note if this is high fish oil may help reduce it, but it could be high for other reasons, like hidden gut irritation, high stress, bad sleep, etc.  When you are buying fish oil look at what's in it, many less expensive varieties have a lot of filler in those giant pills.  Take a look at the EPA and DHA values listed on the back and use the calculator.  Right now I actually take the Nordic Naturals Lemon flavored liquid Omega 3 version - and remember you want only Omega 3 - not Omega 6's!  Flax is also another place you may find omega fats, but there is some science behind the way your body has to break down the ALA's that are found in flax seed that shows that its inefficient to try to get your omega 3's from flax.  Just get over your fear of the large pills or try the liquid out - I promise its really not as bad as you think if its flavored it tastes mostly like lemon.

Vitamin D
I read in a NY Times article that Vitamin D is the "it" supplement of 2010 and I agree that there should be an increased focus on your Vitamin D consumption.  Your body has the ability to create Vitamin D from sunlight, but in our now sun-phobic society that is terrified of skin cancer many of us are blocking our bodies ability to turn UVB rays from sunlight into Vitamin D.  Vitamin D isn't commonly found in most foods (primary food source is in fish like herring, mackerel, catfish, salmon...) which is why its added to some foods like milk.  When you cut dairy out, you need to make sure that you're getting vitamin D from somewhere since clothes and sunscreen block our bodies ability to make it from the sun.  Another way to take a Vitamin D3 supplement, I take between 1,000 and 2,000 IUs per day based on how much I'm outside that day.  In my last blood test, even taking some Vitamin D and being conscious about getting some sun exposure without sunscreen, my Vitamin D levels were just barely above the recommended lower threshold.  Vitamin D is vital to your health and is something that is difficult to get from food - unless you eat herring everyday - so should be something that you consider supplementing with.  It's commented that the current RDA for Vitamin D, even through just updated (and increased) is still very low compared to the amount that is most likely needed for optimal health.  Adding the Vitamin D test to your next set of blood work is inexpensive and worth it to help monitor where you are and how much you should be taking.  This is especially important on the east coast as we're entering the cloudy winter season, I'm planning on upping my Vitamin D dosage another 1,000 IUs for the winter months - this should also help keep any seasonal depression at bay.

I recently started taking a magnesium supplement around bedtime, specifically Natural Calm (pictured).  You're probably thinking, magnesium I've never heard of anyone taking magnesium before, why do you need magnesium and what does that do for you?  Magnesium is a mild muscle relaxant and also works in tandem in your body with calcium and it is  important to have a balance of both for strong healthy bones.  Along with calcium, magnesium also helps to prevent osteoporosis by allowing your body to absorb the calcium you take in through dietary sources, as well as supporting your immune system and muscles. I take magnesium - specifically the fizzy kind as recommended by Robb Wolf - and have noticed that it has dramatically increased the quality of my sleep.  Another quality of Magnesium is that it helps reduce stress and helps me feel more rested when I wake up in the morning.  Personally it doesn't make me drowsy, but allows me to relax and calm down - as a go-go-go Type A person this is a big deal. 
Magnesium, like Vitamin D, is not found in notable amounts in many food sources, which makes supplemention worth considering.  The magnesium supplement is a little costly compared to Vitamin D, but worth experimenting with, especially if you're a person that doesn't have great sleep quality.  It could also help ease adrenal fatigue by helping you slow down and maybe even improve restless leg syndrome for anyone that has that need to move constantly even when you're supposed to be sleeping!

There you have it 3 supplements that I think are worth taking and you thought this was going to be a long list.  When you're eating clean you get more than enough vitamins and minerals through your food so supplementing becomes just that, assistance in areas where real foods fall short.  That being said, regardless of what you decide to take from a supplement perspective, your body is most able to use vitamins and minerals directly from the source - from food and sunlight - verses in pill form.  So as much as possible shoot for eating a wide variety of colors in your vegetables, good quality patured meats and eggs, and shoot for 20 minutes of sunlight a day and you should be covered for your body's nutritional needs. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Balance

How did you do this Thanksgiving holiday - Did you survive Turkey Day?  Did you stay true to your normal clean eating habits or did you "go off the rails" on a grain and sugar binge?  This holiday was the first holiday where I really felt comfortable maintaining my eating habits - I decided that I wanted to stay as close to my normal eating routine as possible and made the exception of having more "sugar" than I normally would by having some Paleo friendly desserts.  Both sides of my family humored me and made sure that there were things that I could eat - even altering traditional recipes so that I would also be able to eat it - which was very much appreciated by me!

One important thing about maintaining a Paleo lifestyle over the holidays is to stay true to your normal routine - eating clean and continuing to work out - but also finding balance.  Keep your normal routine, do a workout and eat clean for the holiday weekend and then make a cognizant decision to have one dessert or eat your mom's candied yams.  Just make sure you don't use the beginning of the holiday season as an excuse for why you are abandoning what you've been doing before the holidays started.  In addition to navigating the holiday meals, anyone that works in an office also has to face the piles of desserts, cookies, candies, popcorn, etc that begin to show up in office kitchens everywhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Remember to find balance, but also decide is eating that cookie really worth it?  Tasting some of my co-worker's famous home-made biscotti last year was worth it for me - plan what you're going to try and don't beat yourself up if you do have somethings that you wouldn't normally eat or drink over the holiday.  What is most important is that you CHOOSE to eat it or not, and that you don't use a small indulgence or exception to your normal eating and fitness habits as the catalyst to abandon all of the healthy lifestyle changes you've made.  Keep on track and know that you are in control of your food choices and maintaining your workout schedule - whatever those choices are they are yours.

So remember this holiday season is yours to enjoy and the choices you make are exactly that - choices that you can make.  Just like vacation (but the holiday season is a little bit longer) remember to live a little but do what you want to do!  There are many great Paleo or Primal alternatives out there that you can share with others as well.

Here are some great resources that I've found to help you stay on track over the holidays, and also to give you a little guidance when you slip up.  Are there any other resources you use, recipes you tried over Thanksgiving that were a big hit?  Please share what you tried.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Seasons and Periodization

As a Triathlete in mid-September I wrapped up my swim, bike, and run season.  As a Runner the end of November will mark the end of my outside running season - I don't train indoors on a treadmill anymore.  As a Crossfitter the colder months indicate my shift to indoor training and since I take a break with my other sports, its a great time to increase my Crossfit training.  I pick the winter months to ramp up strength training and really focus on Crossfit; however, Crossfit doesn't really have "seasons" since the majority of Crossfitters aren't training for sectionals, regionals, and the Games.  Crossfitters love their sport and with the lack of seasons and eagerness to get better tend to over-train.  Outside sports have weather and seasons to help athletes know when to ramp up and slow down their training, but Crossfit is constantly varied and is done all year round indoors and out, in the hot and in the cold.  One common criticism of Crossfitting is that there is no programmed rest and the concept of periodization doesn't really exist since most Crossfitters aren't training to peak at the Crossfit Games.

So what are you supposed to do as a Crossfitter?  When you are training for a run, like a Marathon, you follow a training plan that has built in taper weeks and increases your volume of training to help you peak on race day.  Crossfit doesn't have a 16, 12, or 8 week training plan to help you string together a combination of strength training and met-cons to help you peak for a certain event or around a certain time of the year.  You have to take responsibility for your training as a Crossfitter, and build in some downtime as well as review the mix of strength verse met-con that you do in order to reach your personal goals or training schedule.  Its important to not go 100% all year round, you need to give your body time to recover, you can't go 3 days on 1 day off 12 months in a row and every time you do strength go for a new 1, 3, 5 rep max.  It's important to remember that more (weight, reps,training sessions) isn't always better, and there is a lot of value in giving your body time to repair itself.  Over-training leads to injury and adrenal burnout, the best way to avoid this is to add periodization (e.g., training to reach peak performance and including some downtime) to your training.

In order to apply the concept of periodization, you need to define your personal goals and 'seasons' to help determine when you're going hard, when you're working to build strength, and when you're taking it easy.  I use my other sports as a guide to help me increase training in one area, decrease training in another, and make sure that I take some time off in between.  This year, I was training for Regionals and then the Games, and found that my Crossfit training and my running/triathlon training were conflicting with each other.  I was doing too many training sessions a week and trying to cram in runs, bikes, and swims as well.  It left me a little burned out, and a few weeks prior to the games I took a break because my training had stagnated and I was on my way to getting burned out - before my big event!  To help you plan your training, create a list of personal goals and work with a trainer to put a plan in place to realistically achieve them.  Track your workouts in a log book - I like to track mine on a monthly calendar so I can see what my training looks across a week, 2 weeks, and even the whole month.  I plan my workouts weekly, sometimes using a running or triathlon training plan and supplementing with Crossfit on the Interval or Open days.  One of the most important lessons I've learned through training for multiple sports and adding Crossfit in is the value of rest days.  Make sure they are included in your training plan as well - depending on your level and your goals the amount of rest days will vary.  But remember, rest days are not days that you don't do anything, they are days that you are letting your body repair and get stronger.

Now with some more information on periodization and its importance how will you apply periodization to your training?  Have you reached the point of burn out where you feel stagnated?  How are you going to change the way you plan your training going forward?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

To Grill or Not To Grill?

One of our favorite ways to cook is on the grill, so when I read Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival by T.S.Wiley and Bent Formby found a statement about carcinogens in barbecued meats I was pretty sad.  I gather a lot of my Paleo nutrition information from a combination of Internet and printed sources, and decided to try my luck at submitting a question to Robb Wolf's weekly podcast.  This podcast is a little geeky, but I find it fascinating (which probably makes me a little geeky too) and it has really helped increase my knowledge quickly since the podcast covers such a wide variety of questions.  If you're looking for an easy way to learn more about the pseudo-nutrition science of Paleo foods download some of Robb Wolf's podcasts and start listening to them when you're commuting, doing something mundane like checking all of your friends facebook statuses, or running 12 miles - whatever fits best into your schedule.

Here was my question to Robb and Andy, it was asked as #9 Grilling Meats in Episode 51:
I just finished reading Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival by T.S.Wiley and Bent Formby and have a question about a statement they made related to barbecued meats:

On Page 176 it says "The average serving of barbecued or burned meat imparts to you an amount of cancer causing particles equivalent to what you would get from smoking 250 cigarettes"

I understand the burned meat part, but what do they mean by barbecued?  I'm asking because I grill most of my meats/seafood for dinner - fish, steak, chicken, pork, turkey - it all tastes better on the grill.  Does grilling your meats- as long as you don't burn them or cook them to death - create the same carcinogenic compounds that they state in the book?  Since reading this I've been more cognizant of not eating any part that's burned but do I need to stop grilling too?

To hear Robb's response to my question, click here and fast forward to about 34:30.  I'm pretty proud that I asked a question that Robb has been dreading for years, the guy is a smart guy and gets TONS of questions! 

And the million dollar question, after hearing Robb break down the science of carcinogens and grilling meats what will I do, will I stop grilling?  In short no, I will make sure that I don't eat burned meat or burned anything for that matter and am going to grill less often - instead of grilling everything I'll mix in baking things in the oven and I'm even thinking about getting a pressure cooker and maybe a bamboo steaming basket for meats.  This is an instance where you can drive yourself crazy, but like Robb said, eating grilled burned meats even if they have some carcinogenic properties is still better than eating a bagel!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sugar, its not that sweet...

The average sugar consumption of an American has been steadily rising; the average American consumes 20 teaspoons of added sugar EVERY DAY and 120 pounds of sugar a year, approximately 25% of total calories consumed.

Going Paleo means changing your food and eliminating processed foods as well as other food categories primarily grains, legumes, and dairy from your diet - which to a person eating the typical American diet can seem pretty extreme. I didn't change my diet overnight to Paleo, and actually started with a No Sugar challenge. I'm urging you to try a No Sugar challenge on your own and by excluding sugar from your diet I'm not just talking about sugar that you add into things like coffee and rice crispy cereal or switching from Coke to Diet Coke, I'm talking about cutting out ALL added sugar that isn't found naturally in food. So don't worry about the sugar that occurs naturally in the apple that you're eating, as long as you're eating the whole apple or the lactose content of the glass of whole milk you just drank - the sugars in those foods are not the sugars that I'm worried about you over consuming since its hard to eat 15 apples in one sitting or to drink an entire gallon of whole milk in a day (Warnek excluded).

Sugar is pretty sneaky, especially added sugar. It goes by many names like our friend High Fructose Corn Syrup, Honey, Agave, Cane Sugar, Cane Syrup, Tapioca Syrup, Maple Syrup, Brown Sugar, and Sugar Alcohols: sorbitol, maltitol, xylitol, and mannitol.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cleaning out your pantry

Its approaching that time of year again when you start to see charities collect food for families in need for the upcoming holidays.  This year, I suggest you take a look into your pantry and think about what you can donate - but instead of giving away your can of beans, soup, and box of pasta and then replacing it - make it a challenge to be healthier and remove the package food that you know is not making you healthier from your repertoire for good. 

After you have made the commitment to change your food, to eat cleaner and healthier, you've probably noticed that when you're hungry you're reaching for something in the fridge or on the counter verses stored in a package in a cabinet in your kitchen.  So take the opportunity this season to say goodbye to all of the package foods that are sitting in your cabinets tempting you, and donate it to a local food drive.  If you don't have it around, then you are less likely to eat package foods.  I recently made a donation of pasta, pasta sauce, canned soups, canned beans, rice packets, and about 20 gluten containing bars to a local food charity in the Philadelphia area.  I am sad that food drives can only accept non-perishable packaged foods (which tend to make them unhealthy) but I was happy that I was able to give the food to someone instead of throwing it away.  Make cleaning out your pantry part of your commitment to becoming a healthier person or family today.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mark's Daily Apple - Iron Chef Challenge

Those of you who have been following Mark’s Daily Apple’s 30 Day Primal Challenge will recognize this entry for his Primal Iron Chef contest. Mark challenged his readers to come up with a primal recipe a la the cooking show Iron Chef America.

Here are the details on the Contest: Primal Iron Chef from Mark’s website:

Cue the dramatic music, take a bite of your favorite vegetable, steel your fiery gaze at the audience, because it’s time to play Iron Chef: Primal Edition!!! (hold for applause). Reader Nate came up with the idea for this one. For anyone not familiar with the popular Japanese import cooking show, chefs are tasked with creating an assortment of dishes that all include one secret ingredient. For the MDA version…

1. Create a recipe using the secret ingredient.

2. Write a step-by-step walk-through describing how to make the recipe in 1000 words or less.

3. Include pictures of the finished recipe as well as pictures showing the process.

SECRET INGREDIENT: COCONUT. In whatever form you choose”

3, 2, 1....Go! Keeping the timed theme of the Iron Chef show, for Iron Chef Primal addition my creation can be made in about 20 minutes. Now that you've changed you lifestyle to eat primal, what do you do with your ice cream maker?  For today’s challenge  I'll show you how to make a great primal dessert...
Coconut Ice Cream!

What you need: An ice cream maker and an already cold insert and a few primal ingredients that you may have on hand already. Coconut ice cream can be made simply with just coconut milk but it gets more exciting when you add a variety of ingredients - be creative with what you have around. In the past I've added unsweetened cocoa, strawberries, bananas, mango, bits of dark chocolate and various nuts to create different ice cream variations. Try one version and see what other flavor combinations you think would be delicious together.

Coconut-Banana-Almond Primal Ice Cream

Ingredients used for today's challenge

1 can of coconut milk

2 bananas (preferably frozen)

1/4c unsweetened coconut flakes

A handful of chopped almonds

Cinnamon for garnish (optional


Pour in coconut milk first

Turn the ice cream maker on, and immediately add the can of coconut milk already chilled if possible. Then add in the 1/4c of unsweetened coconut, it adds some additional texture to the ice cream and keeps the coconut flavor prominent. To freeze bananas, cut them into small pieces first and thread them on a wood skewer, put them in a baggie or container and stick them in the freezer. Keep these frozen bananas for a tasty frozen treat or to make things like smoothies and primal ice cream.  To use the frozen banana, take the banana off of the skewers and mash it up a little bit, to a consistency that you want in the ice cream. I like to mash them a bit so the flavor is incorporated throughout the ice cream instead of eating big chunks of banana mixed in. If your banana is fresh, you should mash it a little more since the banana isn’t already cold.

Mash and then add the frozen banana

Stir the ice cream liquid to incorporate the banana if necessary, and then let the machine do the work for about 15 minutes. You can pass this time preparing another dish, cleaning any dishes you just got dirty, or even squeezing in a few primal sprints outside!  You can serve this dessert to a group of primal eaters or to a group you are trying to convert, it has a great flavor and consistency and will especially appeal primal kids in the middle of summer.

Almost done, nice a creamy

At the 15 minute mark take a look at the consistency, it should be thickening up now looking more like whipped cream than like the liquid you started with. At this point, add the chopped almonds if you’re including them and then leave the ice cream in the maker for another 5 minutes (for a total of 20 minutes).

Turn off the ice cream maker, and scoop the fluffy coconut ice cream into 4 small bowls. Dust with cinnamon if you want to, and serve with a spoon and eat immediately. The final product looks and tastes delicious and is a special primal treat.
Makes 4 servings

Ready to eat!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On the home stretch

Those of you who are doing a 30 day challenge - how are things going?  What new things have you incorporated into your life and foods that you like?  Are you finding it hard to adjust or easier than you thought?  How do you look, feel, and perform?  Have you noticed any changes in your mental clarity, your athletic performance, how you feel when you wake up in the morning?

This 30 Day challenge has been the easiest its ever been for me, since now that I've consistently cleaned up what I eat I have found that when I do go super strict that the things I do miss are the occasional Paleo treat and being able to enjoy a glass of wine  - but its not so bad knowing that I can have them again soon.  I have definitely seen benefits from my clean eating so far - on Sunday Sept 12th I competed in my first Olympic Distance Triathlon (1.5K/.93m Swim, 40K/25m Bike, 10K/6.2m Run) and did great finishing with a time of 2hr 45min in the top 12% in my age group and top 12% of females in the race. The race was The Nation's Triathlon in Washington DC and we actually set a Guinness record for the most participants in an Olympic Triathlon with over 5300 athletes competing.  I felt great during the race, and was back to doing a hard crossfit workout on Tuesday.

Laura Left-Center Red Shirt, Kristin Right-Center Pink shirt

This past Sunday Sept 19th I decided to jump in and run the Philly Distance Run - Half Marathon with a friend,  Kristin, that is training for a full marathon in November.  I was taking a small leap of faith that I'd be able to run that far since the most I'd run was 8 miles 3 weeks earlier.  I had just completed the Tri and knew that I could do over 2 hours of "work" so I decided to give it a shot.  Kristin did great and turns out she would have slammed that 13.1m run on her own, I was just along for the ride :)  I was a little sore on Monday, but by Tuesday felt great again.  I really think that the combination of crossfit workouts and eating a really clean diet are the two contributing factors to helping my body repair itself so fast and push itself so often.  You don't have to do a race to notice increased recovery, anyone else noticing better recovery and performance too?  Post to comments what's going on, how you're doing, what you're having trouble with, and any new things that you want to share that others might want to try.

Keep checking out what I'm eating for ideas, the pictures have descriptions of what I'm eating:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Getting Better Faster

As an athlete that is training for running a race, competing in a triathalon, competing at a Crossfit competion or just trying to be better at whatever other sports you do-you should consider incorporating High Intsity Training (HIT) and Intervals into your workouts because it helps you to get better faster.  Most athletes want to get better but don't always understand how.  Too many of us fall into a training rut and continue to do what is comfortable - always doing the same flat 5 mile loop, biking at a comfortable pace, not pushing yourself during a WOD in Crossfit.   So how do you break out of your trianing rut and actually get better and in most cases faster?  In Crossfit we talk about "getting comfortable with being uncomfortable" which allows you to train your body at a higher intesity and reap the benefits of a great workout that doesn't take that much time.  Let's take a practical example, in running if you want to get faster you can't just add more miles of long slow distance.  To run faster you need to practice actually running faster; pushing yourself at a higher intensity and achieving a faster speed - a novel concept right.  How many runners out there actually do this regularly?

So how do you actually do this practicing "fast" stuff?  Through high intensity training and doing sport specific interval workouts lilke 400m, 800m, and mile repeats where you run almost as fast as you can and your goal is to get faster each time, achieving negative splits, with a reasonable amount of rest/recovery in between.  Doing repeats and tempo runs (where you run for a set/goal pace for a set amount of time or miles within a run) are how you get faster when you're training for a race - running longer at a slower speed only gets you to a point where you can cover more distance in a single run - which has its time and place in trainign as well but you don't have to do it as often as you think if you throw in more high intestity workouts.  I have to admit, I find every reason not to do the repeat workout or tempo run that is scheduled into my training plan because they are tough to do - especially on your own.  One reason I like to have a running training plan when I'm training for a race is because it schedules speedwork into my week, so that it's harder to avoid doing it because I have to write on my plan that I missed or didn't complete that workout.  Once I started adding these "speed" workouts to my training regime, I  quickly noticed better results and faster times both in my regular training runs and most importantly in my races.  At first it was difficult for me to realize that I can get a better workout in 20 minutes when I'm working at a high intensity, verses working out for a full hour at a much lower intensity.  Like most people I come from a background where I thought longer was always better than faster; people ask you how far you biked, ran, or swam not how fast you do it.

So how does my Crossfit training fit into all of this?  Crossfit is fundamentally based around the concept of using high intensity training to make you better, especially in workouts like FRAN one of the Crossfit benchmark WODS.  21-15-9 reps of Thrusters (65# Ladies / 95# men) followed by Pull ups as fast as you can is meant to push you HARD.  

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Another Option for a 30 Day Contest

Looking for a different twist on a clean food challenge? Mark Sission (from Mark's Daily Apple) announced today the start of his 30 day Primal Challenge - this is similar to the Whole 9's Whole 30 program but may be something that is a little appealing to you. Check out his blog post that he released today for the details - oh and he's giving away prizes!

Mark's Daily Apple 30 Day Challenge

A few additional things I'm incorporating into my 30 day per Mark's recommendations:
1. Eating Clean and Organic as much as possible
2. Getting adequate sleep - going to bed earlier
3. Intellectually challenge myself - through getting more blog posts research and posted in September

Saturday, September 4, 2010

What I'm eating

This time for the Whole 30 that I'm doing for September I'm not going to keep a food journal but decided that I would try to take pictures of my meals and post them to a web album to give anyone else giving this a try some ideas on other things to eat.

I'm trying to take a picture of everything...but can't promise I'll get everything but I'll do my best.  Post to comments if you try anything or want to add suggestions for others.

Here is the web album where I'll be uploading my food pictures:

Monday, August 30, 2010

Staying on Track

With Labor Day weekend fast approaching, I've been doing some thinking about how to stay on track over a holiday weekend.  For me, staying true to my food choice of no grains, dairy, and legumes is pretty easy since when I eat grains I don't feel well and when I eat dairy I break out.  Beans are not that tempting for me so they are pretty easy to pass up.  I still have occasional treats and indulgences, and with my first Olympic Triathlon coming up on September 12th I decided to clean up my diet and stay super strict for the next two weeks prior to the triathlon.  So how do I get back on track, well this is a first for me so what I'm thinking is that I"m going to go back to the Whole 9's Whole 30 program and cut my current 'vices' which are wine, dark chocolate and paleo treats like paleo cookies and fudge babies.  Starting officially on Sept. 1st (since that's easiest to count from really) I'm going to go strict with my diet because I know that it helps increase my athletic performance and makes me feel great - plus I think its a great way to get in tune with how your body processes food and how it really makes you look, feel and perform. 

With the official end of summer nearing, is anyone else willing to try to shape up and get back on track...or just tweak what you're doing to be a little better?  Post to comments if you're in and let me know what kind of information you want as I go through my journey for the next 30 days.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Milk, Does the Body Good?

There are conflicting opinions when it comes to dairy; I mean, Milk does the body good right?  We live in a country that eats more calcium than any other population yet also as the highest occurrence of osteoporosis.  Something doesn't seem to add up in this scenario.  So let's break it down, do you need to have diary in your diet?  And if you remove it how do you get enough calcium and other vitamins - like Vitamin D that most milk is fortified with?

Milk and dairy products are made up of carbohydrates, fat, and protein like most other foods.  The carbohydrate in milk is Lactose, the protein is Casein, and the fat is Saturated fat.  Now that you know that eating fat doesn't make you fat, I hope you're reconsidering all the skim milk you've been consuming.  Even though I don't include dairy in my diet, I think that dairy is something that can be included in a paleo/primal lifestyle in moderation and from the right sources if it works for you - that's the most important point.  Ideally a Paleo diet that still included dairy would be raw milk straight off a farm.  A general rule of thumb is that the closer the dairy products are to their original state and the aninimals were to eating and living in their natural state the better quality of the product you're eating.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mexican for dinner

I love mexican food and used to eat tacos quite frequently - so how to do you make tacos work when you're eating a paleo diet?  Enter Mexi Salad from Whole9  This is a quick and easy meal that is always delicous, we seem to make it once a week and leftovers are great for another dinner or lunch.  Trust me you won't even miss the cheese.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Eating fat doesn't make you FAT

Contrary to popular belief, eating fat doesn't make you fat.  The current nutritional buzz is focused on eating low fat foods, for every full fat food there seems to be a reduced fat, low fat, or fat free version of the same thing.  As a nation we are afraid of fat, yet still have sky high obesity and diabetes levels.  What if eating fat doesn't actually make you fat...

Now for a little science - you need a little science to back things like this up! Many clinical studies have been run trying to prove the fat-lipid hypothesis, which basically states that eating fat (particularly saturated fat) makes you fat, and eating cholesterol raises your cholesterol and both lead to heart disease and obesity.  Nutritional studies are difficult to implement because there are so many variables; however, time after time the fat-lipid hypothesis has been tested and has failed to show a correlation between eating fat and blood serum cholesterol levels and obesity rates.  The notion that eating fat makes you fat and eating foods that contain high cholesterol make your cholesterol rise seems to make sense, so when Americans were contracting heart disease at alarming rates in the 1940s and 1950s the Federal Government decided that they needed to do something for the greater good of the American population.  This resulted in the birth of the USDA Food Pyramid and nutrition guidelines.  The trouble is that through conjecture, they defined the rules of the USDA Food Pyramid and began to stress a low fat diet without determining that a low fat diet could actually solve the heart disease issues. 

It's all in the hormones...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What's on your summer reading list?

In need of a good book that could actually make you healthier?  Here is a list of recommendations and books that I've read that have contributed to my nutrition knowledge base.  If you want to learn more try out some of these books.

What to start with (not as science-y, e.g. you don't have to be geeked out on this stuff to find these books interesting and useful):
  • The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy - Mark Sisson
  • Real Food: What to Eat and Why - Nina Planck
  • The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Food You Were Designed to Eat - Loren Cordain

Want to learn more about where your food comes from, why food quality matters, and the state of food in America today:
  • Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About It - Participant Media **Note this is also on DVD
  • In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto - Michael Pollan
  • Food Rules: An Eater's Manual - Michael Pollan (a supplement to In Defense of Food)
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals - Michael Pollan
 Want to learn more (you're getting geeked out on nutrition):
  • Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival - T. S. Wiley
  • Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health - Gary Taubes
  • The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet - Robb Wolf (currently pre-order only)
I've read all of the books listed here, and am currently about halfway through Lights Out and a third of the way through Good Calories, Bad Calories.  I have Robb Wolf's book on pre-order and am excited to get it soon!

Monday, August 9, 2010


I pack my lunch most days, once I changed to eating primarily fresh non-packaged food I quickly realized I needed new Tupperware.  I love the glass Pyrex kind, because you can microwave it without worry and it seals really well.

So what's in the lunchbox?  Salmon and zucchini (left over from dinner), blackberries, and sweet potatoes with cinnamon.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What's for Dinner?

Typical dinner for me is a protein (meat or fish) and double vegetables...not that hard to do right?

Monday, August 2, 2010

What is Crossfit?

At the beginning of this year I started to get more serious about Crossfit and make it my primary workout. So what is Crossfit? Crossfit is based on constantly varied functional movements, including running, rowing, Olympic lifting, body weight exercises (squats, push ups, pull-ups), and basic gymnastic movements. Crossfit has a Workout Of the Day, a WOD, and each day there is a prescribed workout that you do as a crossfit community (when you work out at a Crossfit gym or follow the workouts from the main page

Crossfit WODs can be as short as 2-3 minutes or as long as an hour, it depends on the WOD. They are primarily divided into 2 groups, metcons (metabolic conditioning) or strength, and the workouts are either done for time (as fast as possible) or for reps/rounds (AMRAP = as many rounds as possible). There are 'benchmark' WODs that are defined WODs with names like Fran (21-15-9 Thursters 65/95, and pullups), Cindy (AMRAP in 20 mins of 5 pullups, 10 pushups, 15 squats), and Angie (100 pullups, 100 pushups, 100 situps, 100 squats for time) that are used as a standard that Crossfitters can compare themselves to others to see how you measure up against other Crossfit athletes. Crossfit is universally scalable, so if you can't do the workouts as listed - referred to as prescribed or Rx - or you scale them to your level of ability - using less weight, doing less reps, using bands to assit with pullups, etc. As you continue to do crossfit, you will be able to get closer and closer to doing the WODs as prescribed as you get stronger.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Did you know...

Did you know that eating Paleo improves your overall health including your teeth? At my latest dentist appointment the hygienist told me that my teeth and gums look healthier than they have ever before. What had I done differently...changed my food.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Whole Gains = Wholesome Goodness?

What we think we know about grains based on everything you've heard and been told by your friends, family, doctors, the food pyramid, your health teacher, and the media is that whole grains are healthy and good for you and should be a staple in your diet.  Whole grains are included "as part of a complete breakfast" and to help fulfill you RDA, Recommended Daily Amount, of vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. Americans regularly eat bagels, donuts, pastries, cereal, muffins, toast - all grain based breakfast foods in addition to sandwiches, pizza, rice and pasta at lunch or dinner.

So why did I change my diet and go from eating a loaf of bread a week as a high carb/low fat believer in whole grains to going Paleo and no longer eating grains at all? I started to learn more about grains and found that grains aren't as much good as 'they' say.

First, lets define what is a grain?

Wheat, Rye, Barley, Flour (made from any grain), Oats, Cereals, Corn...yes corn is a grain, Rice, Quinoa*, Couscous
Why I don't eat Grains:

Grains contain Lectins that cause inflammation and cause auto-immune responses:

Lectins = Proteins found in grains (Gluten is one of them) that cause an inflammatory response and break down and actually attack your intestinal lining because your stomach acid is unable to break them down.  When they attack the lining of your gut, it creates small holes that enable both lectins and other things to 'leak' outside of your digestive system and into your blood stream.  When this happens both harmful and non-harmful particles can enter your body, so your body attacks them causing an inflammatory response often associated with auto-immune diseases (like Multiple Sclerosis, Celiac Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis).  In addition to the inflammatory response your body is attacking itself and diverting attention away from being able to attack other things.  With constant re-exposure to grains your gut never has time to heal, and therefore the damage persists and gets worse each time you eat more grains.

Celiac Disease = extreme form of reaction to the lectin gluten, so for people that are gluten intolerant the attacking of the gut lining and response is extremely bad. Robb Wolf, a former research biochemist turned Paleolithic Nutrition and Strength & Conditioning coach, states that all people are gluten intolerant to some degree; try taking grains (especially ones containing gluten) out of your diet and see what clears up...allergies, colds, energy spikes and lows, stuffy nose in the morning, headaches and more.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Did you know...

Eating grains, legumes, and dairy cause inflammation in your body because your body actually identifies portions of them as foreign? You can reduce inflammation by removing these things from your food; however, it takes about 30 days to allow your gut to heal from the damage that grains, legumes, and dairy cause. Are you ready to try it for 30 days? Try the Whole 30 program from the Whole 9 as a challenge.

Monday, July 26, 2010

What am I supposed to eat?

We are constantly bombarded by messages about how to eat and be healthy. Sparked by Crossfit and learning how to eat for better performance I began to take a deeper look at what is actually healthy and what is not. Did you know that the food pyramid created by the US Government was made up by politicians who needed a quick answer to Americans that were getting fatter and sicker?

So, how much of the information that you hear/read/see or think of as truth is actually true? Some of the latest buzz is that Stevia is healthy…but who says so and what proof do they have? Where is the information coming from? Did you know that the heart healthy claims on packaged foods are earned by the food company paying the American Heart Association to use a heart healthy tag line on their packaging? Makes you reconsider why you’re eating oatmeal every morning doesn’t it.

With all the misinformation out there, how do you know what you should eat, what actually is good for you, and what makes you healthier? The root cause of many chronic diseases: Heart Disease, High blood pressure, Dyslipidemia, Type 2 Diabetes and most cancer is excessive inflammation in the body. Eating things like grains, legumes, and dairy actually causes your body to attack itself, within your gut and intestines (where you digest your food) resulting in inflammation and reducing the ability to attack other foreign things that it should be spending its energy on instead of the food that you eat.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Going Against the Grain

Over the past year I have discovered that "common knowledge" and "conventional wisdom" on food, nutrition, and fitness often steers us in the wrong direction and the things engraved into our brains about what we think is healthy is most often based on myth. Through my research into food and fitness I have developed a new perspective and outlook on life - one that I've found tends to be a bit controversial and different from others at times. . . or in this case Against the Grain.

My involvement in Crossfit lead to me learning about how to eat for performance, which soon developed into a new nutrition hobby. I've become really involved and dedicated to doing Crossfit - a type of workout focusing on constantly varied functional movements: lifting, gymnastics, running, rowing, and body weight exercises. I have been learning about how what I thought was healthy - running long distances, eating low fat foods, not eating red meat and butter - actually isn't and why. It’s been an eye opening experience to learn the science behind exercise and nutrition: learning how and why you should get stronger, how your body actually processes food at a macro nutrient level (fat, protein, carb), and how foods that I had traditionally avoided actually positively impact your overall health and well being.

Every chance I get, I have been trying to share my perspective and learning about food and fitness with my friends, family, and co-workers hoping they wouldn't tag me as being too crazy. I wanted to start this blog to share what I've been learning, why I do the things I do, and to help guide other people as they are trying to navigate through all of the information that they think is fact and why you shouldn't blindly follow what THEY say:the food pyramid, what you learned in high school health class, paid health claims on packaged foods, things you read in magazines...

I hope you find my blog interesting and helpful, and that it sparks your curiosity and has you considering why you should consider going 'Against the Grain' too.