Dear Mark: Bodyweight or Barbells, Restaurant Traps, Primal Egg Coffee Stability, and Post-Exercise Insomnia
Today’s Dear Mark is a four-parter with some fantastic questions (and passable answers, I hope!). First up, I answer a reader question from the comment section of last week’s Barbell Dogma post. Second, I discuss the number one nutritional trap of restaurant foods, and it has nothing to do with grains, sugar, or carbohydrates. After that, I field a question about the stability of the yolks in Primal Egg Coffee allowed to sit in a thermos for several hours. And finally, I present a few strategies for combating the insomnia resulting from a post-exercise late night cortisol rush.
I’m a bit discouraged by this article. Mark’s PBF seems to say bodyweight is a great way to be strong, fit, and lean. But he clearly says in this article that barbell is the superior way to go – only he’d basically be more tactful in communicating that to people depending on where they are on the journey. I’m confused, is he basically saying if you can get access to barbells, you’re better off in the long run?
Sorry for the confusion, guys. Allow me to clarify my position.
If you’re interested in getting as strong and powerful as possible, you will want to incorporate barbells. If you’re a football player, powerlifter, weightlifter, or strongman competitor, you’re going to use barbells in your training. If you’re training to be an “elite athlete,” you’ll want to lift some iron bars with weight plates at either end.
That’s not everyone, though. Or even most people. If you just want to be fitter, stronger, faster, and healthier than your old self and the people around you while maintaining your mobility well into old age, bodyweight training is perfect. That’s exactly why I suggested it, and why I use it as the foundation for my own training: it’s effective, protective, adaptable, and totally mobile. Everyone regardless of age or health can benefit from it without consulting a professional or buying equipment. It can get you strong and fit “enough” (to play, to maintain mobility, to look good naked, etc).
Revisit Primal Blueprint Fitness if you haven’t in awhile. You’ll find that bodyweight training is recommended as the most inclusive form of strength training, but it’s not touted as the pinnacle. I even suggest that further progression with all the movements will require added weight, whether that’s a weight vest, a sandbag, or a barbell.
Everyone can benefit from barbell work, provided they can use them safely and their primary goal is more strength. Everyone can benefit from bodyweight training. That was the point of last week’s post – it (mostly) all works! There is no one answer. The answer depends entirely on your context: your goals, your mobility, your injury status, and a host of other factors.
We try to eat the right things at restaurants. What, in your experience or analysis, are some of the worst seemingly primal restaurant meal “traps”?
I’ve read as many of your blogs near this subject as I can, nothing seems to squarely address it.
How to Eat Healthy Dining Out seems closest but doesn’t quite talk about the dangers, or the seemingly-primal-but-aren’t traps.
The biggest, sneakiest offender is the seed oil most restaurant food swims in. The stuff is incredibly cheap and pervasive. Taste-wise, it’s pretty inoffensive unless your senses are honed to pick up on it. I can usually tell if something has been cooked in it. Fast food restaurants (even just driving past them) smell like burnt oil to me.
Grains are easy to avoid. Sugar, easy. But vegetable oil? Very hard.
You could get the Mongolian beef sans rice, think you’re made off like a bandit, only to end up consuming five or six tablespoons of soybean oil in a sitting.
You could get the steamed veggies instead of the fries, only to get a plate of broccoli and cauliflower that was soaking in a seed oil-based brine before steaming.
You could find an Indian joint that cooks “in ghee,” only to find out that the chicken tikka masala you ate was made with vegetable ghee, a trans-fat-laden partially-hydrogenated disaster.
I’ve got a good trick I sometimes use if the restaurant just won’t or cannot cook in butter, olive oil, or another safe fat: bring your own. Seriously, keep a little flask of good olive oil in your pocket. Or maybe a small jar of coconut oil, or a stick of butter. And if you really like the place and plan on frequenting it, ask the management if they’ll keep something on site for you. I used to have a great Thai place nearby that kept a big jar of coconut oil on hand for me. This way I could have all the delicious Thai stir fries I wanted without that awful omega-6 overload, and I could even call in ahead. I became known as “coconut oil guy,” a moniker I was proud to have. You’d be surprised at the number of places that will do something similar. Most restauranteurs are happy to help. But you’ve got to ask.
First of all, your work on this site and your books (etc.) is amazing – it was through MDA that I revolutionized my lifestyle and my health has only benefited, so a HUGE thank you to you!
I have a question: I have been taking a thermos of (decaf) Bulletproof Coffee to work daily, and I start drinking it anywhere from 10AM to noon. I prefer the taste of the Primal Egg coffee you wrote about recently, but I have not tried taking that in a thermos. Would the time sitting in a thermos (up to six hours) have any negative effects on the yolks?
Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
There might be some minimal oxidation of the yolks. I mean, you expose fat and cholesterol to heat, oxygen, and time, you’re going to have some oxidation. Is it enough to worry about? No, not in my opinion. The real oxidative offender is spray dried egg yolks, where egg yolks are subjected to high heat, high amounts of oxygen, and high pressure.
Plus, the coffee should actually be a protective shield against oxidation. Coffee (even your decaf coffee) is imbued with tons of phenolic compounds that impede the oxidative process, and coffee (when consumed) has even been shown to decrease the oxidation of cholesterol particles in the blood by incorporating those same coffee phenols into the particles themselves. If coffee phenols can make it into your LDL particles just by drinking them, I’d imagine that adding them directly to egg yolks would be even more protective. Adding other phenol-rich stuff to the coffee brew, like cinnamon, turmeric, or dark chocolate, could increase the oxidative stability even further, but I think we’re getting a little ridiculous. If anything, add those ingredients because they make your coffee taste really, really good.
If you’re still worried, you could be the really crazy guy around the office and add the yolks to the thermos right before you’re ready to drink. Amp the crazy up even higher and bring a stick blender with you.
I am loving the primal lifestyle so far, but have one thing I’m struggling with on the sleep front.
My play is hockey. I love it and it keeps me going. The challenge is the games are late at night and disrupt my regular sleep schedule (which because of work and family is early morning centric). I used to have a couple beers to help me fall asleep after hockey. Any alternative suggestions to calm down after a late workout (so it doesn’t take me 2 hours to fall asleep) and how to recover from 1 night a week of off cycle/shorter sleep?
Yeah, this is pretty typical. Any hard enough workout, like a hockey game, is going to raise cortisol, especially at night. Cortisol is the fight or flight stress hormone. It wakes us up in the morning and ensures we’re alert enough to handle ourselves. If it’s elevated at night, we’re going to have trouble getting to sleep until it normalizes. Luckily, there are some ways to reduce cortisol.
First of all, make sure you’re well-fed prior to and after games. Some folks in the Primal fitness arena pride themselves on fasted training. There are definite benefits to this, but also drawbacks. It may heighten the stress response to exercise, so your cortisol levels could be even higher after a fasted hockey game. When you get home, eat a good-sized meal. Get enough protein, fat, and carbs (which you’ve earned).
There are also supplements to explore. Phosphatidylserine is well known for blunting the cortisol response to exercise, so it might be your best bet at improving sleep by reducing cortisol. L-theanine, a component of green tea, is also be worth trying. In humans it induces relaxation and appears to lower the perception of stress. So even if it’s not objectively lowering cortisol, you’ll stress out less about the stress (if that makes any sense). As for sleep itself, in children with ADHD, L-theanine improves sleep quality.
You can also experiment with some calming, soothing, stress-busting teas. Several months back, I wrote a couple posts examining the evidence for twelve different ingredients. Check them out (here and here) and try a few. In Primal Calm, I’ve taken the best-studied of these herbs and ingredients (including L-theanine and phosphatidylserine) to form a very effective stress-busting supplement. It works incredibly well for me, and I’d suggest you give it a shot if you’re still having issues.
Consider meditation, which might be hard to focus on after a tough hockey game but definitely reduces cortisol. Are you cooling down after the games? If not, maybe a light movement session when you get home will help relax you. Just some stretching, some deliberate, slow, focused movement, and maybe even a bit of easy foam rolling.
That’s it for today, folks. Keep sending along the questions and thanks for reading!