Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

The holidays have come and gone.  Overall, they provided a little bit of rest and a lot of food.  And with lots of food comes the extra “holiday weight” that we all can relate to.  Truth be told, this is actually the first year that I have added some extra weight without it disappearing a few days after cleaning my diet up.  Yep, this stuff isn’t just water retention, it’s the real deal.  It needs to go.

In the past, I would have taken care of this problem with the Carb Cycling protocol I laid out in my earlier series on the subject.  I know it well, it is easy to follow and I have had success with this strategy each time I used it.  But the prospect of doing it again seems boring to me and I felt like I needed to try something new in order to add a layer of excitement to the pursuit of my goals.

Enter Kevin Catlin (huh?).  Last week he asked me if I had ever written anything about intermittent fasting (IF).  He mentioned he might try it to prepare for a GORUCK challenge he hopes to do in the near future.  I said that I hadn’t because I have never tried it.  To me, it always sounded like some crazy strategy people like Scott Boggs used in order to justify his insect consumption.  Furthermore, I had always read that not eating for extended periods of time eventually leads to muscle and strength loss.  It seemed blasphemous to me to not eat throughout the day, especially before and after training.

Admittedly, I knew very little about IF so I decided to do some research.  The more I read, the more IF started to appeal to me.  From the literature, it appeared as if IF would allow me to drop fat and maintain or even add to my strength and muscle mass which is obviously the holy grail of training.  Along with this, IF proponents claim it allows you have a clearer, more productive mind throughout the entire day with no mid-day “mind fog”.  For those interested in the details of IF and how it works, here are the links I read:

T-Nation – Berardi’s Fasting Experiment

Leangains interview

IF general overview

It should be no surprise (especially by the name of the blog) that I am going to give this a shot for 2 months to see how it works.  I figure it will be a fun test for the efficacy of IF as well as provide some nice content for the blog.  Two birds, right?  In the end the goal is to provide a detailed log our members can reference if they want to give IF a shot.

The Plan

I have decided to do the most popular version of IF for athletes which is 16 hours of no food followed by 8 hours of feeding.  I considered making my feeding window from 7:30 AM – 3:30 PM because I normally train at 5:30 AM and wanted to start my window with a post-workout meal.  But after reading some different strategies, specifically one for morning lifters, I decided that I will keep my feeding window from 12 – 8 which is the more common approach.  Apparently, many IFers skip breakfast rather than dinner.  Also, this should work better for me socially as I am more likely to go out for dinner than I am breakfast.

One of the more attractive parts of IF is that the goal is to eat the same amount of calories you normally do but the difference is that you do it in a much smaller window.  I will be following the recommendations on the Leangains website where I will eat a surplus of calories on training days and less on days I don’t train.  I already eat this way and have been for some time so this will be nothing new except for the new 8 hour window restriction.  Initially, I plan to just cut one meal out on non-training days but I will adjust if necessary.  So, 4 meals on training days and 3 meals on non-training days.

For my dietary choices, I am going to continue to eat the same things I do now, just in a more condensed 8-hour window.  Lots of lean proteins, nuts, fruits, and some veggies.  This may horrify some of you but I will eat things like potatoes and oatmeal for post workout replenishment as well as to refuel after a hard training day.  I intend to include oatmeal or a potato in my first meal PWO which, as mentioned before, will occur around noon.  Once per week, I may eat out for dinner on a weekend night but I will let my results dictate if I do that or not.  I am not going to get too caught up on exact calorie tracking to start because everything I have read says this is not necessary but may possibly do this if results aren’t as expected.

Since I am training around 5:30 AM each day, this will leave significant time between the end of my training and my first meal.  This is completely foreign to me and something I am sure I will have a hard time accepting mentally because I have known only one way for so long.  But I will do it to test the plan at full compliance.  In order to prevent muscle loss on fasted training, it is recommended to take 10g of BCAAs before/during training and 10g of BCAAs an hour after training so this is what I will do.  I currently use BCAAs as a part of my regular training supplementation but will be interested to see how they work in this capacity.

My goals are pretty straightforward.  I would like to reduce my weight and body fat to around where I was pre-holidays and maybe even lower.  Currently, I weigh somewhere around 187 and would like to get that down to 180.  While doing this, I also hope to gain strength and get back to my pre-injury weights and maybe even set some new PRs.  From what I read it is possible so we will see how it goes.

To keep myself honest and give you all some hard data to reference, I will be updating this weekly with these categories:

Weight: I will weigh myself every Thursday morning.

Body Fat: I will have Jamie take my body fat measurements every Thursday morning as well to monitor changes

Training: Here, I will report my week of training and how this went.  I will also comment on energy levels and how I feel during those training sessions compared to pre IF training. I will still be almost exclusively weightlifting so it should be interesting to see if I will drop body fat on a very small amount of cardio.

Diet: I will report generally how I ate the whole week and if I included any meals out or cheat meals.

How I Feel: This is where I will document how I feel each week (duh).  I will try to focus on how I am tolerating the fasting on both a physical and mental level.  I usually have no problem staying mentally strong on any sort of diet so I don’t expect this to be too much of a problem.  It is the physical part I am most concerned about.

So that’s the whole plan.  Let me know if you guys have any questions, would like more information about IF or want me to add any categories to the data I will be tracking.  If you like what you read on this blog and want updates every time something new is posted, you can subscribe by clicking the button on the left side.

Thanks and wish me luck!

The Next 30 Days: Part 2

Posted: October 10, 2013 in Advice, Nutrition

In the first installment, we delved into how Option 2 would look.  Basically it illustrated how, as humans, we are generally very bad at sticking with something long term, especially if it requires us to make a significant life change.  Actually, the more I thought about it the more depressing it became.  Think about it.  The overwhelming majority of people cannot make the dietary commitment needed to make a permanent change, even when this change is vital to long term health and wellness.  What makes this even worse is that fact that they have already stuck to a nutritional strategy that has produced the results they wanted and they still make the choice to regress back to their old habits.  To me it is mind-boggling.

History has taught us many things.  For starters, humans as a species are pretty damn dumb.  From “Jersey Shore” to “Dancing with the Stars”, we consistently celebrate the most mindless and insignificant parts of our culture.  So dumb, in fact, that we will eventually end up as a part of one of History’s second lessons: We will go through an extinction event.  The dinosaurs were eliminated by a meteor that hit off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and one day we will be gone too.  Of course the dinos couldn’t control their event but I will fathom a guess they we will be the cause of our own extinction.  The pieces are coming together.  With almost daily reports of genetic testing, viral mutations and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the end is inevitable.

Friends of yours, Jen Eby?

Our eating habits are also in the running for the catalyst that propels us toward oblivion.  Bad dietary choices lead to a plethora of life-threatening health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, etc.  Over many life cycles, these conditions can start to become genetic (through mutations) and will begin to effect future generations from birth.  Take Type-2 Diabetes for example.  According to the World Health Organization, “Rates of diabetes in 1985 were estimated at 30 million, increasing to 135 million in 1995 and 217 million in 2005.  This increase is believed to be primarily due to the global population aging, a decrease in exercise, and increasing rates of obesity.”

I can hear Scott Boggs and Erin Vroman (The Paleo Police) now, “PROCESSED FOODS ARE OUR EXTINCTION EVENT!”  Well, maybe that is taking it a little too far but you can see my point.  The cycle has started and, as those stats show, it is only getting worse.  This may not be the actual end of Homo Sapiens Sapiens (shout out to Maria!) but it could be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back.  Man, I really got off on a tangent didn’t I?  Lets get back on track.

Boggs saves another CrossFitter from the dreaded insulin spike!

So that is the bad news.  The good news for you is that you can choose Option 1. The good news for me is that you already know how to succeed at Option 1.  But 30 days is a small snippet in time.  How do you ensure success for the long term?

Here are some time-tested strategies you can use:

  1. Set a weekly date with the grocery store:  This should be a no-brainer.  The only true way to control what you are eating is to buy and make it yourself.  Since most of you are following Paleo, you already know the foods that will fit that plan so the list shouldn’t change much.  Don’t give yourself the excuse to eat poorly because there is no food in your fridge.
  2.  Cook your food ahead of time:  Again, this should be another no-brainer. With Paleo being a pretty protein-heavy nutrition strategy, most of your meals will need to a cooked element to them because there are not many natural proteins that can be eaten raw safely.  Set aside one day a week where you will prepare your meals you can take with you to work, vacation, etc.  Weekends tend to be most convenient and Sundays work best for me because I make enough food to last me until then.  My favorite is the big package of boneless skinless chicken breasts.  Cut them in to 6 oz portions and place them in a baking dish.  Then, fill the dish halfway with lemon juice and cover the tops of the chicken with salt and pepper.  Bake for 23 min. at 400 degrees and you have a week’s worth of chicken at 2 breasts (insert bad joke here) per day. (more…)

Food Freakshow

Posted: May 30, 2013 in Advice, Nutrition



A few weeks ago, I twisted a bunch of you up on the CrossFit 717 Nutrition Headquarters when I posted a question about genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  I took a pretty contrarian stance in that I didn’t understand why they were so bad.  Here is an article by Nutritionist Brian St. Pierre that is pretty much right down the middle and talks about the pros and cons of foods that are modified from their original form.  I think it is good information for all of us.  Who knows, you might even learn something.

Question of Nutrition: Vol 6
by Dr. Jonny Bowden

Saturated Fat: The Real Story

Q: What’s the final word on saturated fat?

A: Asking about saturated fat is like asking about the war in Iraq: The answer you get completely depends on who you ask.

Since you asked me, I’ll tell you my opinion, but rest assured that if you ask a Stepford Wife Dietitian you’ll get an entirely different answer. Of course, if you were the type to listen to those idiots, you probably wouldn’t be reading my column.

For years and years the main rap against saturated fat is that it raises cholesterol, which in turn  “causes” heart disease. But the importance of cholesterol as a major risk factor for heart disease is beginning to be questioned. And the fact is that saturated fat sometimes raises cholesterol and sometimes doesn’t, and ultimately it may not even matter.

In 2008, The American Society of Bariatric Physicians in conjunction with the Metabolism Society presented an entire two day conference in Arizona entitled: “Saturated Fat and Heart Disease: What’s the Evidence”?  I attended that conference, in which some of the smartest researchers investigating this issue participated, and I can sum up the answer to the question “What’s the evidence?” for you in two words: Not much.

In my opinion, the “fate” of saturated fat in the body depends completely on what else is eaten. If you’re eating a high-carb diet, the effect of saturated fat may indeed be deleterious, but if you’re eating a low-carb diet it’s a whole other ballgame.


Hold the hashbrowns

“If carbs are low, insulin is low and saturated fat is handled more efficiently,” said Jeff Volek, PhD, RD and one of the major researchers in the area of diet comparisons. “When carbs are low, you’re burning that saturated fat as fuel, and you’re also making less of it.”

So, eat way less carbohydrates and way less sugar, and it may not matter how much saturated fat you eat.

One reason that saturated fat has been demonized, in my opinion, is that much of the research on diet and disease has lumped saturated fat together with trans-fats. Trans-fats weren’t even a health issue until relatively recently, and for decades researchers didn’t distinguish between the two when doing studies of diet patterns.

Why does this matter? Because manmade trans-fats really are the Spawn of Satan. They clearly raise the risk for heart disease and stroke, and, according to Harvard professors Walt Willett and Alberto Ascherio, are responsible for 30,000 premature deaths a year.

Another reason saturated fat has such a bad reputation is that much of the saturated fat people consume comes from really crummy sources. Fried foods are not a great way to get fat in your diet. Neither is processed deli meats nor hormone-treated beef. But the saturated fat from healthy animals — like grass-fed beef or lamb — or the saturated fat in organic butter or in egg yolks is a whole different story.

I’ve never seen one convincing piece of evidence that saturated fat from whole food sources like the ones I just mentioned has a single negative impact on heart disease, health, or mortality, especially when it’s part of a diet high in plant foods, antioxidants, fiber and the rest of the good stuff you can eat on a controlled carbohydrate eating plan!

So what’s the verdict? Though there may be certain cases where saturated fat could be a problem — i.e. those with the ApoE4 gene making them more susceptible to Alzheimer’s seem to benefit from avoiding too much saturated fat — for most people a healthy diet of moderate calories that’s low in sugar shouldn’t have any problem with saturated fat from whole food sources.

Of course that won’t stop the diet dictocrats from continuing to tell us how “a low-fat diet prevents heart disease,” but inconvenient facts have never stopped the American Dietetic Association!

Hey, Honey

Q: Some people claim honey is a health food. Is it really good for you or is it just more sugar?

A: Well, there’s two separate questions here:

1) Is honey good for you?

2) Is honey just more sugar?

I’ll take the second one first. From your body’s point of view, honey is sugar, plain and simple.

From the point of view of glycemic impact — how quickly a food makes your blood glucose climb up to the ceiling — it doesn’t much matter if you’re scarfing down turbinado sugar, “Sugar in the Raw,” evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, honey, or any of the seventy-gazillion variations on the theme, including, by the way, the latest craze in “healthy” imposters: agave nectar syrup, which has an even worse composition than high-fructose corn syrup!

So, if you’re trying to cut out sugar, honey counts. But the first question — Is it good for you? — is a little more complicated and depends on your definition of “honey.”

If by “honey” you mean the crap you buy in the supermarket that comes in a cute little plastic bottle that looks like a teddy bear, the answer is “not on your life!”

If by “honey” you mean raw, unfiltered, uncooked, unpasteurized organic honey, the answer is “maybe.”


Real honey, no plastic bear required.

While it’s true that both types of honey will raise your blood sugar about the same, that doesn’t mean they’re nutritionally identical. Raw, unprocessed honey — straight from the comb — has a number of nutrients and enzymes and is an actual whole food, albeit a sweet one. If you don’t have blood sugar issues, raw honey can be used judiciously as a sweetener.

Generally speaking, the harder the honey the better. The strength of the crystallization (hardness) determines the level of live-state nutrients and heat-sensitive enzymes. Some unprocessed honey is even sold with part of the honeycomb in the jar. Real honey also contains flavanones, flavones, and flavonols, known for their antioxidant activity.

Two companies producing unprocessed honey that I like are Really Raw Honey andTropical Traditions.

But remember, processedhoney, like the squeezy bear kind, is just another highly refined food that’s had all the good stuff boiled out of it leaving nothing more than a sweet tasting golden liquid that’s essentially about as good for you as Frosted Flakes!

Fake “Health” Foods

Q: What’s a food that dedicated gym-goers eat that they shouldn’t eat? In other words, what’s a common “pretend” health food?

A: I thought this was a terrific question to put to my informal panel of experts, and not one of them hesitated to render an opinion, all of them good ones.

Gregg Avedon, one of the world’s most successful fitness models, singled out sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade. “They’re designed for endurance athletes and pro-athletes who burn crazy calories and deplete muscle glycogen very quickly at a very high level, yet you’ve got the average fitness enthusiast training at a mid- to low-level range drinking these beverages without thinking twice.”

Celebrity nutritionist and exercise physiologist JJ Virgin, PhD, chose energy bars, which are often packed with chemicals and even sometimes trans-fats and high-fructose corn syrup.

Gina Lombardi, host of Discovery Channel’s Fit Nation and author of Deadline Fitness, singled out baked chips. “High in sodium, chemicals, and processed carbs!” she notes.

Top New York group fitness instructor, model, and personal trainer Angie Lee chose fruit juice. “Way too high in calories and sugar,” she observed, “and people have a harder time tracking liquid calories.”

But in my opinion, the Academy Award for health-food imposters goes to the smoothie offerings at Jamba Juice.


Jamba Juice: Just say no.

Most of them are high-carb, high-calorie, high-glycemic nightmares and will make your blood sugar race to the ceiling faster than a Border Collie on methamphetamine. Example: The banana berry smoothie with 112 grams of carbs and 480 calories.

Don’t be mislead by these fake “fitness” foods!


Yes, a few days late but I wanted the Miranda interview to linger.

Question of Nutrition: Vol 5
by Dr. Jonny Bowden

Measure Your Belly!

Q: I’ve read that your belly measurements can be the best indicator of your overall health. Is that true? If so, what are the guidelines to go by? 

A: For years we nutritionists have been using a low-tech shorthand for insulin resistance: a 40 inch or greater waist for men, a 35 inch or greater waist for women. If your waist measures that high, you can safely bet the family farm that you’ve got insulin resistance and may be headed for some serious trouble down the road.

Interestingly, those waist measurements were exactly the numbers that correlated with the doubled risk for death when compared with smaller waists — less than 34 inches for men, less than 28 inches for women — in a recent study.

Each 2-inch increase in waist circumference added about 17% increased risk for mortality in men and about 13% increased mortality in women. Earlier research showed that these same numbers — 40″ waist for men, 35″ waist for women — indicated an increased risk for stroke.

Measure Your Belly

No insulin resistance here!

I usually don’t like terms like “the best indicator for overall health” because there are so many interrelated factors that come into play, but if there was such a thing as the single best indicator, belly fat would have to be a serious contender for the title.

You see, all body fat is not created equal. The fat stored around the butt hips and thighs — also known as subcutaneous fat since it’s right below the skin — might drive you crazy and make your jeans fit badly, but it’s not nearly as dangerous as the other kind. Belly fat, stored around the middle — also called VAT or visceral abdominal fat — is a metabolic nightmare.

It’s stored deep inside the abdominal walls and is a metabolically active fat that directly increases the risk for all sorts of health problems, among them metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

In the study mentioned above, researchers looked at data from almost 360,000 Europeans who were followed up for ten years. The men and women with the largest waists had virtually twice — that’s two times! — the risk for premature death compared to the folks with the smaller waists.

This was true even after allowing for all extra factors like smoking and drinking. “There aren’t many simple individual characteristics that can increase a person’s risk of premature death to this extent,” said the lead author, Tobias Pischon, MD, MPH.

So yup, belly fat tells you a lot. It might not be the best single indicator of overall health, but if it’s not, it’s damn close.

Fight Fat with Water?

Q: Hey Dr. B, what’s up with that new study showing that drinking extra water in the morning can help with fat loss?

A: Well, don’t get too excited. As one reporter correctly pointed out about this study, “The impact is modest and the findings are preliminary.” If you’re looking to cut up, water’s not exactly going to replace Winstrol.

But there is evidence that water helps you burn some extra calories, and since the benefits of water for other things are so numerous, you should definitely drink it if you aren’t already doing so! And if you’re not already doing so, you’re an idiot and probably wouldn’t be reading this column.

So here’s the deal: Researchers in Germany tracked calorie expenditure among 14 men and women who were both healthy and not overweight. Within ten minutes of drinking about 17 ounces of water, the subjects’ metabolisms increased by about 30%, reaching a maximum after 30-40 minutes.

Interestingly, there were differences between the sexes — the metabolic increase for the men involved burning more fat, whereas the metabolic increase in the women involved burning more carbs.

Remember though, 30% sounds like a lot, but if you figure the resting metabolism for a 150 pound person is about 1.2 calories per minute (roughly 75 calories an hour), a 30% increase only brings you to 93 calories, for an increase of about 20 calories. Still, when you figure it out, consuming an extra 1.5 liters a day would burn up an extra 17,400 calories or about five pounds a year.

Not much weight loss, but here’s the thing: Water is needed for virtually every metabolic process in the body. It helps flush wastes and toxins out. It helps keep joints lubricated and skin fresh and moist. And — somewhat paradoxically — it helps prevent bloat. So you need to drink it anyway, and if it helps you drop an extra half pound a month, that’s a bonus.

Fight Fat with Water?

For you trainers working with weight loss clients, I have a formula to suggest. There’s absolutely no science to back this up, mind you, but it’s been my experience that it works really well for most people: Take your current weight, divide by 2, and aim for that number of ounces a day. (I was happy to see recently that this is the same formula the great holistic doctor Deepak Choprah uses). For a 180-pound person, that would be 90 ounces a day.

Drinking that much certainly won’t hurt you and it might just help a lot.