Father Andrew's Hot Body Gym

April 2, 2010

Big Pharma Finally Catches the Fish

Filed under: diet — Tags: , , , , — Mara @ 7:49 pm

In case you were wondering if you really need to start taking (more) fish oil, you can now add one more set of voices telling you it’s good for you. You’ve heard it from Josh, you’ve heard it from Melissa Urban at Whole9, you’re heard it from CrossFit, and you’re heard it from Marks Daily Apple.  Now you can hear from Big Pharma USA.

Introducing . . . Lovaza!

Of course, if you’ve watched Food, Inc. or read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, that may be more off-putting than enticing. The fact that the FDA approves of this treatment does not bring a sigh of relief. But no, just because most of what they endorse ranges from merely unnecessary to potentially bio hazardous does not mean that because they approve something you should avoid it.

At least in this instance, the FDA has something right. the Omega-3s in Fish Oil are really, really, good for you. In fact, they do something, with zero harmful side effects (other than fishy burps), that people have been trying like mad to accomplish with all kinds of nasty chemical combos: lower their triglycerides. Cholesterol, saturated fat, and triglycerides are the bugbears of the Baby Boomer generation, eliciting an astonishing level of fear and (gasp!) proactive response, a willingness to actually make changes that the rest of us would do well to imitate, only not in the form of taking statins or avoiding all fat. While recent research has stolen some of cholesterol’s thunder, and even saturated fat is beginning to be recognized as perhaps only a red herring, triglycerides still stand as the ultimate killing machine.

What a terrible situation to find ourselves in! The monster is upon us! Whatever shall we do???

But hark, what light through yonder window breaks? It is FISH OIL, and it will actually help!

Some of us can now bask in our feelings of intellectual and scientific prescience, because we’ve known about this miracle drug for months, maybe even years. Oddly enough, this medication has been approved since 2004, but Josh and I have never seen anyone reference it, anywhere.  Why is that? I’m not sure I want to know the answer.

What’s clear is that fish oil is good for you. Really, really good for you. The jury is still out on exactly how much fish oil is optimal, but everyone agrees that you should take some. At least a 1 gram of DHA/EPA per day. MDA recommends about 3 grams. Whole9 a homeostasis of about 6 grams and thinks that a higher dose at first will accelerate its benefits.

So if you’ve been dipping only your pinky toe in the fish oil pool, or if, heaven forbid, you have yet to incorporate the Mighty FO into your daily routine, let this be the final nudge that pushes you in, cannonball style.

However, you should keep in mind that fish oil does function as a blood thinner and therefore CAN be dangerous at prolonged, extremely high doses. Crossfit does caution soldiers or anyone who might be severely injured in their line of work to keep their doses on the lower side. But these worries only become an issue at levels above 6 grams for several months. So do exercise some caution; you do not need to take 30 grams a day.

But do take some. Hey, if you don’t care about silly things like your memory loss, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, you can always take fish oil to increase your libido!

February 11, 2010

Agave – The Great Debate

Filed under: diet — Tags: , — Micah Vandegrift @ 10:06 pm

Back in October Mara wrote this post on using agave as an alternate sweetener to sugar. Since then we have all been gung ho about the option, using it in all our drinks and desserts. Then, a few days ago Crossfit Invictus dropped a bomb, in this post ripping agave a new one for being “not Paleo and it’s definitely not good for you.” Ahhh!! Where is the truth?

Stepping boldly into the blogosphere Mara added a post to Mark’s Daily Apple, a blog on primal fitness that many of us read and follow. So far the post is getting some great responses. Read it here and please add comments!!

Where do you fall on the great agave debate?

January 20, 2010

Sleep 101 – An Introduction to Physical Well-Being

Filed under: real talk — Tags: , — Lady Who Cooks @ 5:51 pm

Sleep, it’s no new revelation that it is essential to our daily lives. When we get enough sleep we feel better, more relaxed, we’re more coherent, have more energy, and generally we eat better.  I once saw a documentary about this rare hereditary disease that caused the unfortunate sufferers to wake up one morning and to never again fall asleep. The person suffering this rare disease would steadily go insane and then they would eventually die within a month or two. Ok, so happy story I know, point being that extreme lack of sleep is very bad but what about too much sleep? Some research says that too much sleep is almost as bad as too little sleep. I know when I get more than 9 hours of sleep I tend to feel groggy and tired all day.

Wikipedia states:

Researchers at the University of Warwick and University College London have found that lack of sleep can more than double the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, but that too much sleep can also be associated with a doubling of the risk of death, though not primarily from cardiovascular disease. Professor Francesco Cappuccio said, “Short sleep has been shown to be a risk factor for weight gain, hypertension, and Type 2 diabetes, sometimes leading to mortality; but in contrast to the short sleep-mortality association, it appears that no potential mechanisms by which long sleep could be associated with increased mortality have yet been investigated. Some candidate causes for this include depression, low socioeconomic status, and cancer-related fatigue. …In terms of prevention, our findings indicate that consistently sleeping around seven hours per night is optimal for health, and a sustained reduction may predispose to ill health.”

Furthermore, sleep difficulties are closely associated with psychiatric disorders such as depression, alcoholism, and bipolar disorder. Up to 90% of adults with depression are found to have sleep difficulties.

As the old saying goes, “Everything in moderation” is especially relevant when it comes to sleep. How do you know if you’re getting too much or too little? Listen to your body, it’ll let you know if something is off kilter. If you have no daytime sleepiness or dysfunction, then you are getting adequate sleep. So what is the appropriate amount of sleep? Is there even a specific amount? Most sources state that anywhere between 7-9 hours is required of adults, but what about the quality? If you get 9 hours of restless sleep your body is still not getting what it needs. A person’s sleep is inefficient and inadequate when it occurs at the ‘wrong’ time of day. The timing is effective when the following two circadian markers occur after the middle of the sleep episode and before awakening:

-maximum concentration of the hormone melatonin, and

-minimum core body temperature.

I’ve read where quality sleep is more important than diet and exercise. Which makes sense because if you’re eating well and exercising but not getting enough sleep, your body is still not able to repair and restore itself like it needs too. So if you’re not sleeping but trying to do your body right, it will be like you’re swimming upstream, in a bad current, and you don’t know how to swim. So get some dang sleep!

What should you do if you are not getting the quality of sleep you need? Here are some simple tips from Mark’s Daily Apple:

1. Eat a light dinner tonight.

Keep the portions small this evening. Going to bed on a full stomach is not healthy, and it also keeps you from getting the deepest possible sleep. You don’t have to go to bed hungry. But do not stuff yourself simply because it is now the weekend.

2. Have a glass of wine.

One fine glass will relax you and help you unwind from the week’s pressures. More than that may cause you to have intermittent sleep at best. It’s tempting to go out and let loose a bit on Friday, but practice moderation so you’ll feel your freshest tomorrow. If you’re typically a Friday night reveler, just try this – it will change your whole weekend.

3. Toss back a handful of nuts.

The magnesium and tryptophan in nuts – just before bed – can help you get to sleep faster. Just a small handful, though, and choose salt-free.

4. Write it out.

By Fridays many of us are frazzled and stressed out. We want to relax and sleep peacefully, but we’re still wired and thus wake up feeling crabby Saturday morning. Take just five or 10 minutes to write out everything from your week – the accomplishments, the tasks, the stress, the worries, the pressing concerns. It’s easier to arrive at solutions if you don’t try to consciously force them. Get them down on paper. Let your sleeping mind do the work for you. You’ll wake up feeling clearer and more positive.

5. Watch instead of read.

Reading is better for your mind than watching television. But sometimes it’s a wise idea to intentionally do something mindless. So tonight, if you were planning to dig into that new book or finish up paperwork, maybe a movie rental is in order. Of course, if reading helps you fall asleep, do what works for you.

Those are some great tips, right?  Here are a few things that I personally do to to ensure I get a full night’s rest.

1. Reading:

I personally find that reading puts me to sleep pretty fast, especially if I’m resting in comfortable position.

2. Keeping the bedroom for sleep only (well…maybe not just for sleep):

Micah and I don’t have a TV in our room nor do we usually read in bed. This keeps our minds associating the bedroom with sleeping.

3. Activity:

I tend to go full throttle all day. I don’t take naps and rarely slow down till it’s an hour or two before bed. By around 10 or 11 o’clock, I’m pretty much passed out.

4. Don’t over indulge:

I love wine but I find the nights where I over indulge are usually the nights I’m wide awake at around 3AM. Same goes with food.

5. Routine:

I try to go to bed at the same time, it doesn’t always work but it helps my body gets use to knowing when it’s time for bed.

Hope you find this helpful, there will be more to come for sure. There’s plenty of information regarding the subject of sleep but I didn’t want to write a novel and I feel this is a good introduction. I think the most important thing is to remember that sleep is rated above diet and exercise.

Some additional reading:

Here’s some more details on the different stages of sleep ( anyone experiencing some N3 bed wetting?):

NREM sleep

Stage N1 This stage is sometimes referred to as somnolence or drowsy sleep. Sudden twitches and hypnic jerks, also known as positive myoclonus, may be associated with the onset of sleep during N1. Some people may also experience hypnagogic hallucinations during this stage, which can be troublesome to them. During N1, the subject loses some muscle tone and most conscious awareness of the external environment.

Stage N2 is characterized by sleep spindles, during this stage, muscular activity as measured by EMG decreases, and conscious awareness of the external environment disappears. This stage occupies 45% to 55% of total sleep in adults.

Stage N3 (deep or slow-wave sleep) This is the stage in which such parasomnias as night terrors, bedwetting, sleepwalking, and sleep-talking occur.

REM sleep

Rapid eye movement sleep, or REM sleep, accounts for 20%–25% of total sleep time in most human adults. The criteria for REM sleep include rapid eye movements as well as a rapid low-voltage EEG. Most memorable dreaming occurs in this stage. At least in mammals, a descending muscular atonia is seen. Such paralysis may be necessary to protect organisms from self-damage through physically acting out scenes from the often-vivid dreams that occur during this stage.

November 25, 2009

‘Tis the Season to Cheat – Part I

Filed under: diet — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Mara @ 2:05 pm

The earth has tilted on its axis, bringing dark evenings and a chill in the air. Here in Tallahassee, leaves are finally turning yellow and orange and drifting to the ground. Sweaters and boots are in vogue, albeit with the cursed skinny jeans tucked in between. Intoxicating scents of cinnamon, cloves, and sweets fill the air. The rich foods of winter – root vegetables, cookies, pies, casseroles, and steaming sweet drinks – call to us, appealing both to our light-deprived seasonal urge to put on protective fat and our holiday-induced desire for edible festivity.

In short, we are being called to cheat. To not do so would be an affront to the season, to our families and friends, to the very spirit of life at the present. Only the strongest will resist, and even those of us walking the same unusual path of a primal diet will likely think them extreme, deriding them and their inability to let go in secret.

So we’re going to cheat. There’s no way around it. The only question is, are we going to throw the rules out the door and eat stuffing until we fall into an insulin induced coma or are we going to attempt to maintain some degree of responsibility?

I urge you to choose the former. Cheat responsibly. Your body and you conscience will thank you.

Just because you’re not going to be able to (physically or mentally) create and consume a strict zone/primal meal or avoid every Christmas cookie that looks your way does NOT mean you should forget all the principles of healthy eating you have worked so hard to follow. There are ways to cheat that will allow you to enjoy some of the holiday foods you love without completely sacrificing your ideals or your waistline.

First, relieve yourself of some of the guilt you might experience by reminding yourself that cheating is actually recommended, in moderation. Mark Sisson of MDA recommends an 80/20 principle, where you eat primal 80% of the time and eat whatever you want 20% of the time. This is shown to reduce the mental stress of deprivation and thereby encourage you to stick to the plan longer than you might if you were strict 100% of the time.

One important thing to remember, particularly with sweets, is that the pleasurable effects of sugar consumption follow the law of diminishing returns. This means that the more you eat, the less good it feels. 70% of the dopamine produced by eating those Christmas cookies or that slice of pie will be released after the first bite. So to cheat smart, limit your portion to only a few bites – one cookie or a miniscule slice of pie. It may look sad, but eat it really, really slowly, and savor that flood of hormones. Disabuse yourself of the notion that eating another piece will produce the same pleasure that the first piece did. It will only produce insulin, nausea, guilt, and chub. Check out this post on MDA for more about eating sweets responsibly.

Urban Gets Diesel offers some insightful commentary on the subject of cheating in three posts. First, she reminds us that while cheating clearly has some mental benefits, it does NOT have any physical benefits. Bad fuel is bad fuel, no matter how you spin it. Second, she looks at some ways to cheat smart. She recommends: spreading that 20% out throughout the week rather than packing it all into one meal/day; being intentional about only cheating with things you really, really love; eating only enough of the forbidden food to satisfy your craving (ala the diminishing returns principle; savoring the consumption process slowly and with focus, i.e. not downing a pint of ice cream while watching a movie; and finally, figuring out how different cheat foods affect you and choosing the lesser of the available evils. For example, for her, a cheat of grain (pancakes) leaves her much better off than a cheat of dairy (ice cream). In her third article, she examines the danger of introducing habitual cheats and thinking they do not have negative consequences because you don’t feel immediate side-effects. She writes of the experience of re-introducing dairy, grains, or sugary foods after following a stricter diet:

After eating those foods, you may not notice an immediate reaction in any of your body’s systems. However, your body is still experiencing some, if not all, of the negative internal effects associated with those foods, such as inflammation, gut irritation, and insulin spikes.

Dallas explains, “Even infrequent consumption of foods (or food products) that contribute to elevated levels of insulin, cortisol, or the pro-inflammatory eicosanoids will set you up for inflammation-driven disease processes. Most of us already know the effect that chronic consumption of processed carbohydrates has on the development of Type II Diabetes, but this is only one example of how a previously asymptomatic (“silent”) inflammatory process can manifest itself as overt disease. Unfortunately, just eating a bagel and a yogurt for breakfast once a week is enough to trigger grain- and dairy-related inflammation, causing an uptick in all the inflammatory processes in your body for days or even weeks afterward. You might not be able to feel a bagel and yogurt invading your system, but you cannot avoid the pro-inflammatory effects of those foods.”

Basically, if you start cheating and enjoying it, don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s not really so bad to have that cereal for breakfast or those oreos for dessert a couple times a week. It is still bad for all the reasons you cut it out to begin with, and those “calendar” cheats will come back to haunt you one way or another.

Now, what do you do about all this with the biggest cheat day of the year staring you in the face?

Here are some of our ideas:

1) Bring approved sides that will supplement the lack of clean veggies and non-sugary sides at a typical holiday meal. Abby posted on this idea here and offers recipes for Roasted Vegetables, Paleo Sweet Potato Casserole, and Paleo Sweet Potato Pie. I am using a similar tactic for our meal at a friend’s house. I’m bringing green beans and carrots, Pureed Cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes, fresh Cranberry Sauce sweetened with stevia and agave, and Abby’s Sweet Potato Casserole. This should guarantee that there are plenty of acceptable sides to accompany the meat.

If you haven’t tried Fauxtatoes yet, you need to. You’ll never miss the carb-loaded traditional version. The key is adding plenty of yummy fat. I don’t usually measure, but here’s a guestimate of how I make them.

Pureed Cauliflower Fauxtatoes Recipe

Steam one head of cauliflower, cut into chunks, along with 2 cloves of garlic and a bit of chopped onion until tender. Blend in food processor or blender with 1/2-1 cup cream, 1/2 stick butter, salt and pepper to taste until smooth. Texture is key here, so keep blending until you don’t see any chunks. Substitute coconut milk or regular milk for cream if desired. Voila!

2) Load up on meat and veggies first. The good thing about Thanksgiving is that there is always some form of meat available. This means you don’t have to worry about the disaster of arriving to a dinner party to find only various forms of process carbs available and no protein in sight, such as I did at a pasta dinner with spaghetti, bread, salad, and cake. Use this fact to your advantage. When you fill you plate for the first round, give yourself an unusual portion of meat and whatever clean vegetables you can find. Eat them first so you will be full of the healthy stuff, and then go back for whatever bad stuff you’re craving. If your belly is already rumbling happily with a dose of protein and good fiber, that steaming stuffing will look at least a little bit less like heaven.

3) Don’t deny, just ration. Instead of trying to ignore the existence of Grandma’s pecan pie or that marshmallow-topped sweet potato concoction, allow yourself to sample everything in moderation. Remember Sisson’s teaching about the first bite: all you need is a tiny scoop of each item to get almost the full benefit of sensory pleasure. So following with point #2, load your plate so full of meat and clean veggies that you can only fit a tiny daub each of potatoes, stuffing, candied whatever, and no roll.

4) Be selective. If you’re like me, there are certain parts of a meal that I can take or leave, and there are other parts I dream about all year and would rather die than not eat. For me, stuffing falls into the latter category, while a store-bought yeast roll or marshmallowed sweet potatoes fall into the latter. If this is you, then pick and choose your poisons carefully. Choose two or three of your favorite naughty sides and enjoy them to the fullest, but pass over those that only whisper your name instead of shouting it.

5) Be really, really careful with dessert. A decently portioned meal can be utterly ruined by three slices of pie with ice cream. Don’t undo all your hard work. This is coming from a self-admitted sweet tooth, so don’t tell me you can’t. I think one of the best strategies is to stuff yourself so full with the meal that you can barely fit a few bites of anything else down your gullet. Then, be selective if you can, choosing only one option to sample. If you’re like me and love all desserts and have to try everything, that won’t work. In that case, insist on serving yourself, and try only a 1/2 inch sliver of each pie. Then chant that diminishing returns stuff like a mantra as you let each bite dissolve in your mouth so very slowly.

If you’re into making your own, try using Agave and/or Stevia instead of sugar. I used a ratio of 1 Tbl Agave and 1/8 tsp stevia powder for a tasty but low-carb combo. There was no Stevia aftertaste, but I made a 13×9 pan of sweet potatoes casserole with only 2 Tbl of Agave. I’m not sure exactly how to substitute that for sugar yet (without just taste testing, which is what I do), but I’ll be working on it.

6) Pre-game. If you can’t count on anything clean other than maybe some turkey, you may have to resort to pre-party damage control. This is what I have started doing when I am going to a mystery meal, where anything from spaghetti to vegetarian burritos to french toast could be served. After a couple of ruined evenings spent waiting out insulin hangovers, I finally realized that you just cannot count on a decent protein source, let alone clean veggies, when eating with others. It’s shocking how far their ideas of good meals can be from ours, but it’s a fact for which we have to be prepared. My solution is to down a glass of protein powder and milk (with about 30 grams of protein) before leaving for the event. That way, I can sample whatever form of processed carbs they put before me without having to rudely refuse or worse sit in a silent, semi-vegetative state through the night’s conversation because an insulin spike and crash. With 30 grams of protein in your belly, you can face just about anything that’s thrown your way. It’s like liquid courage! This is less likely to be necessary with Thanksgiving, because a big hunk of meat is usually the centerpiece, but just know it is always an option.

Those are the tips I’ve come up with to cope with the potential perilous holiday meal. If you have any other ideas, please share in the comments!

Part II of this series will explore other holiday temptations and how to indulge sensibly, without compromising the festive spirit.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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