Sunday, December 31, 2006

Deconstructing Nutrition

For the next couple weeks I will be posting about the idea of “Deconstructing Nutrition”.

My plan is to take many of the things that we believe to be the known facts of nutrition and check their accuracy against the actual scientific findings. Think of it as doing fact checking for the big book on nutrition.

I’m going to start with what I think is the absolute best place to start when studying nutrition – fasting. By studying fasting we learn what happens to the body when there is zero nutrition being supplied. Once we understand this, we will be better able to understand what happens to the body when we add nutrition.

Stay tuned for the first post in the Deconstructing Nutrition series.


Fasting Diet, Circuit Training

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Nothing to do with Nutrition

I reserve the right to every once in a while talk about something other than nutrition. Especially when it's a concept I need some help on.

I'll give you the background.

Two weeks ago I was at a DVD photo shoot with Craig Ballantyne and John Barban, running through a bunch of great body weight exercises with our athletes for an upcoming grrlathlete project.

About half way into the shoot Craig had the athletes do a bunch of "siff" squat and lunge variations. These are variations where you perform a normal squat or lunge, but you stay on the balls of your feet through out the exercise.

I didn't think much of it until the other day when John and I were at a meeting with a good friend of ours who is a bio-mechanist. During our conversation, we started talking about running and jogging, and our bio-mechanist friend mentioned the incredible stress that is placed on your spine during a typical heel strike (think about how your heel hits the ground first when you are running - that's a heel strike).

Then today, I was at my Krav Maga class, and I couldn't help but notice that when you are sparring, and moving around, you are always on the balls of your feet!

So this all started me thinking, if almost all athletic activity involves us being on the balls of our feet, why do we train flat footed when we are working out?

Now, my main "thing" is nutrition - It's what I know best. I love working out, and exercise science, but for questions like this I always go to the experts...

So hopefully I can get Craig, John and a couple of other people to chime in here and give us their thoughts...


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Friday, December 15, 2006

The Omnivore's Dilemma

As the old saying goes “Eat like everyone else, look like everyone else”.

OK, I think I made that up, but it’s still true.

The way you eat is a large determining factor in the way you look and feel. For this reason I highly recommend that you read the book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollen.

In a very in-depth and systematic approach, Mr. Pollen investigates the history behind what we put on our plates, and the driving forces behind the food choices we make.

I suggested this book earlier in one of my emails for, but now I consider it mandatory reading for anyone who is trying to eat healthy and live healthy.

The food industry is no different from any other industry -they want you to buy their product, and will tell you anything they can to get you to choose their product rather than its competition.

This constant barrage of "buy me" advertising creates a very blurry and muddled message, that leaves people confused about what they should and should not eat.

I'm often asked what's the best way to beat the obesity epidemic. Well, in my opinion, you can forget about fad diets and you can forget about drugs, because being an informed consumer is the best weapon you can possibly have against obesity.

If you want to learn the history behind the foods that people eat and the way they are manufactured, then I highly recommend you read this book.


Fasting Diet, Circuit Training

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Forget about Cheat Days

Back in July and August, I spent a fair amount of my time up in Northern Ontario Cottage country.

The cottage is a great place to hide out and get some reading and writing done, but sometimes it can be a horrible place to try and 'eat clean'. It's very easy to rationalize a couple bad days at the cottage as "cheat days".

For some reason, body building magazines and fitness "gurus" love to promote the idea of cheat days.

It is more than common for a dieting bodybuilder to spend 6 days out of a week eating as little as 1200 Calories per day, and then on the seventh day eat close to 10,000 Calories!

People rationalize being a complete glutton for one day with excuses like "reloading" and "refueling".

These types of excuses are based on what I like to call fitness magazine science.

Fitness magazine science is all of the theories that appear in fitness magazines that have no scientific backing. Take for instance the idea that you can't store the excess calories from cheat days. This is rationalized by stating that your metabolism increases because of the massive amount of foods that you just consumed, and therefore you burn off all the extra energy.

A perfect example of a theory with no scientific backing.

But here is the real deal, and its plain and simple math. If your target calorie intake is a 500 Calorie deficit, and you lower your intake from 2,500 calories to 2,000 calories, then you have created a 3,000 Calorie deficit over six days.

Now on the seventh day, if you gorge yourself and eat yourself into the 6,000 Calorie range (which is hard, but definitely not impossible to do), you have just undone almost all the dieting you did during the week. There is no magic that makes those calories disappear.

Your body is amazing at storing energy. Sure, you lose a little to heat production and some ramped up metabolic processes, but at the end of the day the practice of cheat days is destructive. Like I said in my previous post on metabolism, the effect that food has on your metabolism is actually very small.

The idea that your body can't store all of these calories, or that somehow these extra calories don't turn into fat is a myth and a lie that will never die. It’s OK to reward yourself with ice cream every now and then, but full out cheat days with the soul purpose of gorging yourself should be avoided, plain and simple.


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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Doctrine of Signatures

It is an unpleasant fact that science will always become outdated.

I am sure that a hundred years from now, schoolchildren will laugh at the principles we currently believe to be absolute scientific truths, just like how we now laugh at what was once "truth" centuries ago.

Take for instance the doctrine of signatures, which states that resemblance is a good indicator of effectiveness. If a particular plant resembles a human ear in its shape, then according to the doctrine of signatures this plant would have some sort of useful relevancy to the ear, perhaps being able to cure an earache.

While this now seems very arbitrary and somewhat unreliable, the doctrine of signatures still could be found in mainstream medical texts well into the 19th century and today is still the main principle of homeopathic medicine.

In fact, the doctrine of signatures can still be found in some nutrition myths that are still popular today. I know it's hard to believe that we would still use the doctrine of signatures with all of the research and scientific advancement that has happened in the world of nutrition, but take for instance fat, protein and cholesterol.

Many people still believe that eating fat will make you fat, that you need to eat large amounts of protein to build large amounts of muscle and that eating dietary cholesterol will make your blood cholesterol levels go through the roof.

Even though many of these "facts" are now largely disputed within the research community, people still believe them.

Why? You ask.

I think the reason is that these days science outdates itself so quickly that we no longer know what to believe. However, don’t blame the scientists for this.

You see, the job of science and scientists is to add to the existing body of research - To do their small part in answering the big question. However, most mainstream journalism and media need quick answers and they needed them yesterday! And this is where the major mistakes happen.

While scientists look at their work as something that helps answer a small piece of the puzzle, media looks at it as “THE ANSWER”.

This “jumping to scientific conclusions” can have dire consequences, as illustrated by one of my favorite articles, written by Gary Taubes and published in The New York Times back in 2002.

I think this is a very important piece of work that everyone should read, so please check it out by Clicking Here and let me know what you think of Gary's take on the last twenty years of nutrition research and policy.


Fasting Diet, Circuit Training

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Rules To Shop By

After a quick trip to the grocery store this morning, I realized how confusing it can be trying to pick out the good foods from the bad foods.

Food companies are jumping on the health claim bandwagon, and just about everything is now 'healthy this' or 'reduced that'. So here's a quick tip - The quicker it goes bad, the better it is for you.

Fruits, vegetables, meat and fish all go bad quickly, whereas cereals, boxed food and frozen food can last forever. Now there are some exceptions to this rule (nuts can last, especially if you keep them refrigerated), but generally this is a nice clean rule to go by.


Fasting Diet, Circuit Training

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Fat Wars, and Why I Cook with Butter

I've been following some very interesting stories in the news lately.

The first story concerns the City of New York. It seems that the Board of Health for New York City has recently voted to make New York the nation's first city to ban Trans fats at restaurants.

I found this story to be very interesting because as little as two decades ago Trans fats were introduced into our diet as a way to "save us" from the evils of saturated fats like butter and lard. And now research is starting to be published that questions the dangers of saturated fat, while trans fats are being banned by an entire city and David Kats, the director of the Yale Prevention Research Center is describing Trans Fats as "basically a slow form of poison!"

Then just this morning, I read on that an Australian company has just lunched a new "healthy milk" in China. This "healthy milk" has had all the animal fat removed and replaced with vegetable fat.

mmmmm yummy.

It seems to me that in our never ending quest to blame the foods we eat for our health woes, we keep making Frankenstein versions of food that inevitably come back to hurt us even more than the original versions.

My advice is the same as always. Eat lean and green. Fill your plate with as many vegetables as it can handle, don't be afraid to add as much color into your diet as possible, and try to limit the amount of food you eat that comes in a box.

And lastly, try cooking with butter. Yes butter. It tastes great, it cooks evenly, and at least with butter you know you are adding 2-3 grams of fat to your food, as opposed to some of the alternatives, in which you are adding 2-3 grams of 'who knows what' to your food.


Fasting Diet, Circuit Training

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The Women's Workout Blog

Finally, after what seems like years of me begging, my friend John Barban has finally started a blog.

John has a wealth of experience when it comes to sports conditioning and fat loss. He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, a varsity strength coach, has his masters degree in nutritional science and human physiology and is one of the authors of grrlathlete's fat loss manual - ShapeShift. Talk about an impressive resume!

John's new blog - The Women's Workout Blog, specializes in training female athletes and females for fat loss. Take a look at his thoughts on training, including some of the fun workouts he'll soon be posting.


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Monday, December 04, 2006

Why Goat's Milk?

A couple of days ago in one of the grrlathlete newsletters I recommended that people give goat's milk an honest try (If you don't receive the grrlathlete newsletters, I've put a sign-up box on the top right column of my blog).

Since then, I've had more than a few people ask me to elaborate on why.

Well, firstly, because most of us have been drinking cow's milk since the age of two. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against cow's milk per Se, except that for many of us, we have been drinking it for more than a couple decades! So switching it up for a change may not be a bad idea.

Aside from the novelty, here are a couple more reasons that goat's milk deserves a fair test...

Goat's milk is the milk of choice in most of the world.

Because the protein in goat's milk has a different make-up than the protein in cow's milk, many people with cow milk allergies can tolerate drinking goat's milk .

Compared to cow's milk, goat's milk has similar amounts of protein, fat, iron, vitamin C and vitamin D. Goat milk has more natural vitamin A, more vitamin B , and less lactose.

Unlike cow's milk there is no need to homogenize goat's milk. While the fat globules in cow's milk tend to separate to the surface, the globules in goat's milk are much smaller and will remain suspended in solution.

So give goat's milk a try. I'm not claiming that it's some miracle food, but rather a tasty drink that many people are missing out on.


Fasting Diet, Circuit Training

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sparring with the American Diabetes Association

Looks like Adam Campbell of Men's Health magazine has found himself in a verbal sparring match with the ADA.

It all started with a very well written and well researched article that Adam wrote about diabetes and carbohydrates. If you'd like to learn more about Adam's article and the American Diabetes Association's response then Click HERE to visit Adam's Blog.


Fasting Diet, Circuit Training

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Metabolism Myths

For the longest time I believed that if you dieted to strictly your metabolism would slow to a crawl. This was Bodybuilding dieting gospel.

Skip breakfast? Now you've slowed your metabolism down for the entire day. No way you’re burning any fat now!

Turns out, your metabolism is not that complicated. The idea that you have to keep your metabolic furnace stoked with food is a complete myth. Just another example of "experts" trying to make nutrition more complicated then it needs to be.

The portion of your metabolism that is affected by what you eat is very small. The largest part of your metabolic rate is set by your body weight. If you weigh more your metabolism is higher (especially if it's muscle), if you lose weight, your metabolism will go down.

The foods you eat effect your metabolism by something called "the thermic effect of food", which is the energy it takes your body to process the food you eat for storage or use, but again this is very small compared to the amount of energy it takes just to "run" your body.

It makes no difference metabolically whether you eat many small meals or one large meal. What does make a difference is the make up of these meals. Protein, carbs, fats and different ratios of each all have very small effects on the "thermic effect of food" which then has a very small effect on your metabolism.

Bottom line- It's still very important to eat "lean and green" and there are definite benefits to eating smaller meals throughout the day. But if you are looking to your diet as a way to control your metabolism, you're missing the boat.

The best way to increase your metabolism is with exercise. Other than drastic changes in bodyweight, this is the one way you can control your metabolism. Effective weight loss programs like Craig Ballantyne's Turbulence Training program or the ShapeShift program over at are examples of good workout programs that can increase your metabolism.

Remember, if you miss a meal or cut your calories a little too low it doesn't mean you've shut down your metabolism. Your diet is still incredibly important in the fat loss process - (In my opinion it's even more important than your workouts), It’s just not the main regulator of your metabolic rate.


Fasting for Weight Loss , Circuit Training for Women

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