Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
26 Aug

Dear Mark: Changing Trajectories, and Magic Mineral Broth

roadsignIn today’s edition of Dear Mark I field two Mark’s Daily Apple reader questions. First up, I tackle a query from a reader who’s had to make a small but significant shift to his lifestyle due to changing circumstances. What happens when what’s worked for months and years stops working? When your daily habits, your go-to regimen, or your the behaviors you’ve settled in to no longer produce the exact same results you are used to? What do you do? Then, I discuss the magic of vegetable broth, plus how that magic can be enhanced with the addition of a bone or three.

Let’s go:

I’ve been doing IF for about 15 months and had great success until recently I experienced a decrease in my quality of sleep, probably due to a extra stress with a bit of overtraining.

I decided to return back to eating 3-4 times a day, cut some stress, and cut back on the heavy weight sessions. Anything else you’d recommend?

Carl

Without knowing more details it’s difficult to make any specific recommendations for your particular situation. But I will say that your strategy seems sound. That is, you’ve got your bases covered, and now it’s time to make a few adjustments and see where it leads.

I would say the same to anyone in a similar situation: don’t get too attached to a path if it’s leading you astray.

Carl did IF for over a year to “great success.” I don’t know exactly what success meant for him, but it probably consisted of the usual benefits people see with fasting – fat loss, energy gain, freedom from gnawing hunger, mental well-being, better blood lipids. Whatever it was, it was positive. Until it wasn’t, that is. He was humming along, everything was just working, and then things took a downturn. Because he was on top of it, he was able to figure out that a contextual change in his life – more stress and more training – had altered his response to fasting. He assessed the situation, weighed the variables, and reevaluated and reoriented his current trajectory.

This doesn’t always happen so smoothly. Too often, we get caught up maintaining a formerly successful, even life altering, trajectory once it stops working for us. Not because of blind loyalty or dogmatism, but because it’s hard to grasp that something that worked so well for so long could just stop. I mean, we intellectually know that such a thing can occur. We know that changing circumstances change how we respond to dietary, training, and other lifestyle inputs. But actually reevaluating the thing that got you where you are? That’s hard. After all, it works, right? How could fasting go from helping you drop all that fat and regain all that midmorning energy to making you regain belly fat and require IV coffee just to function? But when the context changes, our response to our lifestyle changes, too, and this necessitates a shift in strategy.

The details of that shift are dependent on your individual situation, of course, so there are no specifics to hand out. There are a few solid general “rules,” though, to aid you in your shift:

Your diet, your exercise, your lifestyle are all supposed to serve you and your goals. Examine everything, especially the stuff you’re really passionate about. When your health is suffering, there are no sacred cows.

More is not always better and results often follow a U-shaped curve. The better our results are, the more we want to push it with the assumption that more is better. No training is bad, some training is good, too much training is bad.

A course altered or temporarily abandoned can always be resumed when the context permits. IF doesn’t work so well with too many additional stressors, but once you remove some of those stressors you should be able to reintegrate IF successfully.

Take a deload week regularly, a planned period of reduced activity where you take it easy, rest, and recuperate from your training. And not just from exercising. Take a deload week from fasting, or calorie restriction, or eating chicken, or anything that you’re doing regularly, just to see how it affects you. Plus, when you get back into the gym, you’ll likely be stronger than before and stronger than you would have been had you never taken the time off. We could all use deload weeks where we pull back, take stock of our situation, and honestly assess whether or not our choices are working for us.

Hi Mark:

I came across a website, with a recipe for “Magic Mineral Broth.”  It’s essentially a vegetable derived mineral broth that claims to be high in magnesium, potassium, and sodium. I’ve read your praises of bone broths and this recipe seems promising, though for different reasons. The recipe calls for the boiling of unpeeled vegetables, including red potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams. I’ve read your posts about the potential negative effects of glycoalkaloids in potatoes (concentrated in the skins). What are your thoughts on this recipe and do you have any advice to fully primalize a vegetable mineral broth? I’m inclined to throw in a bone or two . . . or three.

Thanks,

Joe

A vegetable broth isn’t a bad idea, to be honest, and that particular recipe for “Magic Mineral Broth” looks good. For those who didn’t click over to the link, it contains carrots, onions, leek, celery, red potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, parsley, kelp, peppercorns, allspice, bay leaves, and sea salt. Many traditional cuisines emphasize the usefulness of vegetable water, whether through actual vegetable broth or by simply reusing the water left over from cooking vegetables (also known as “pot liquor“). Some accounts put the mineral losses from normal boiling – which we’ll see as “gains,” since they’re being lost to the broth – at 60-70%. I’d imagine it gets far higher with more extensive boiling.

It’s good, but I think it can definitely be improved. Throw in the bones, Joe, preferably meaty, connective tissue-rich bones like feet or necks (any animal). A vegetable broth? Okay, sure, I’ll drink that. A vegetable broth that gels so hard you can eat it with a fork at room temperature? That’s real magic.

It’s not like bones cancel out or somehow devalue the plant vitamins and minerals. Contrary to what vegans and carnivores might tell you, plants and animals are completely complementary. They work better together, and we need both to function at an optimal level, whether we’re trying to run a farm, fill a dinner plate, or yes, make broth.

As for the glycoalkaloids, I think you’re safe. The gut-irritating potato compounds are notoriously stable. Even after extensive cooking, potato glycoalkaloid levels remain relatively stable, which means the cooking water will contain little to none. Besides, four red potatoes – what the recipe calls for – don’t represent a large enough dose of glycoalkaloids to fret over, especially in a broth that you’ll be using for days or weeks.

All in all, go for the magic broth but make it even more magical by adding some bones, tendon, and sinew (if you can find it).

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading and keep sending in those burning questions!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I do a lot of consistent fasting. It’s the only thing along with low carb and whole foods that keep me from crushing the planet with my own gravitational force!

    Groktimus Primal wrote on August 26th, 2013
  2. Deload weeks are awesome. Always come back refreshed, rested and rarin’ to go!

    Nocona wrote on August 26th, 2013
  3. People become so dogmatic and rigid in their beliefs (and in this case, diet), that even when their health obviously falters, they stick with it.

    It reminds me of some paleo-folks on forums who recommend a higher fat-intake when someone is having health issues (and is already eating tons of fat). Same with the vegans and fruititarians – apparently if your health is crappy for an entire year after turning vegan, it’s still just a “detox phase” and you need to eat more bananas. Hogwash.

    The infamous Danny Roddy went through this, too, when trying to solve his hair loss. Strict vegan for a year, paleo for a year, very-low-carb for another year – nothing got better, and his thyroid function was crap. I have talked about “paleo versus vegan” when musing over Danny Roddy’s story (www.brainbodybelly.com/2013/06/19/paleo-vs-vegan/).

    Let’s not forget what Mark Sisson’s diet and lifestyle was like back in the day. Grains, PUFAs, and chronic cardio galore.

    Mark P wrote on August 26th, 2013
    • I agree. I quickly dumped an attempt at a “healthier” vegan diet years ago because I felt like crap without meat protein in my diet. Another example: someone posted about the benefits of raw milk not long ago–either here or on another website–adding something to the effect that if it makes you sick, not to worry. It’s just your body “detoxing.” Geez, what nonsense!

      The ticket is to figure out what foods you feel healthiest on, all social and moral concerns aside, and then stick with what works for you.

      Shary wrote on August 27th, 2013
  4. I did the whole IF, bulletproof whatever fasting stuff for a long time. Never saw any fat loss from it and probably burned out my adrenals in the process. Its different for each person but I think eating breakfast especially with some carbs is probably a good idea for most people. Dropping cortisol always has its benefits.

    Ray wrote on August 26th, 2013
    • IF never works for me. It’s as if my body has a set number of calories it needs each day. I can delay breakfast to late morning, but then I’m hungry again within 2-3 hours. My body laughs in my face! You can’t trick me, lady. You need more food.
      Meh, no IFing for me!

      Madeleine wrote on August 26th, 2013
    • The IF protocol works great for me, everyone is asking me how I got so ripped, but each person is different. Where did you get the idea that IF precludes eating carbs? I think the Leangain protocol is best, which is 16 off 8 on. How IF can burn out your adrenals is a mystery to me.

      George wrote on August 26th, 2013
      • +1. Can you imagine all the native americans with burned out adrenals? Seems impossible!

        Nocona wrote on August 27th, 2013
  5. I never used to deload, I used to think “more is more”. Wrong, it isn’t. Not deloading is also not that effective, you can do some serious damage. It’s never a mistake to take a break.

    Rachel wrote on August 26th, 2013
  6. Being diabetic quickly teaches you not to be dogmatic about anything. Every day is a new adventure and your meter doesn’t let you fool yourself. It’s easier to stay stable on a low carb diet, but what works today may need to be adjusted tomorrow.

    Janice James wrote on August 26th, 2013
    • My family has a history of diabetes and so does my wife. We seem to have a genetic proclivity for it.
      My wife was borderline diabetic before and during pregnancy. Now she has it several years later.
      It doesn’t help she is overweight. I am supportive and encourage her to eat a healthy diet and exercise on a regular basis. She takes nutritional supplements and weight loss supplements and is, albeit slowly, losing weight.
      http://tinyurl.com/indubitableweightloss

      Peter Topec wrote on August 26th, 2013
  7. Hi Mark,
    I was pretty excited to receive your book, “Healthy Sauces, Dressing, and Toppings” after enjoying “Quick and Easy Meals” so much. While all the recipes look fantastic, as an avid carb watcher (blood sugar issues), I noticed at least one nutrient profile error. The Blueberry Chutney lists each serving as having 48 grams of carbs. It should be closer to 4. Just wondering if any other errors have turned up. I’ll go ahead and check them myself but if there’s a bunch, you might want to issue a correction sheet.
    Thanks for putting out such great inspiring info overall!

    Annie Conley wrote on August 26th, 2013
  8. When you read stories here about people doing intensive heavy lifting sessions 3 or 4x per week, sprint intervals 2-3x per week, and other competitive training activities, you have to wonder what their goal is. Are they just 20-somethings with a lot of energy? Hypercompetitive personalities? Getting ready to become professional athletes? Trying to attract a mate? Got religion over (fill in the blank exercise program)?
    It is so easy to overextend oneself with this kind of activity. The resilience of youth can carry one only so far, then intense regular activity can easily become a net negative. From the perspective of an older person (who has committed all of these errors, sometimes repeatedly), I can advise others to 1) back off often, 2) get plenty of rest (and if you can’t, back off the exercise), and most importantly, 3) always re-examine your goals periodically, since nothing, especially wonderful new goals, stays the same for long.

    BillP wrote on August 26th, 2013
    • Young 20-somethings with an amazing ability to recover… for now.

      Mark P wrote on August 26th, 2013
      • It’s not always young 20 somethings. You can usually add to that a)endorphin addicts, b)looking for a culture/society to fit into, and c)pretending exercise keeps us young forever. Sometimes it’s a combo of two or more of those reasons.

        Amy wrote on August 26th, 2013
  9. Taking a break from working out is a tough one to do but one of the best things you can do. It’s hard to get in the mindset (especially with an antsy person such as myself) of not spending time at the gym trying to improve performance but the benefits of not doing anything for a week every ninety days or so will be tenfold.

    Matt wrote on August 26th, 2013
  10. I’ve just discovered and have been enjoying your blog. I had been drifting closer and closer to this style of eating… throwing some leeks from the back woods onto salads of garlic mustard leaves and whatnot. My question is this….

    Is a partial paleo diet better than no paleo diet at all. If I eat say one meal a day that is 100% paleo and the other meals include partially hydrogenated stuff, do I still get some benefit?

    Jason wrote on August 27th, 2013
    • There’s nothing wrong with partial paleo if that works for you, but I’d steer clear of the partially-hydrogenated stuff. A healthy meal here and there won’t offset the eventual damage caused by bad fats.

      Shary wrote on August 27th, 2013
      • Although I think that if you are eating paleo meals high in saturated fats and then eating wheat bread or processed foods high in vegetable or seed oils, you could be making things worse by increasing inflammation while also increasing cholesterol – a bad combination. Part of the theory is that meats like beef and fats like butter or coconut oil are healthy even though they are high in saturated fat and cholesterol as long as you aren’t heaping on foods that add to inflammation or oxidative stress.

        Mantonat wrote on September 3rd, 2013
    • Yes, partial is better than none. Less harm.

      Sofie wrote on August 27th, 2013
    • Every healthy meal is a step in the right direction. Every improved meal (eg, use butter instead of sunflower oil) is a step in the right direction.

      If you do a very small proportion of primal meals, then you won’t see the dramatic health improvements some folk talk about. But you will be slowing the deterioration of your health that might otherwise occur. You may also find that helps you to get into the healthier habits.

      Some people dive right into the ocean. Some start with a toe in water and only go deeper when they are ready.

      Lyn wrote on August 28th, 2013
  11. Re: the IF comment: Congrats for recognizing what was working and what wasn’t. I think we get so caught up in doing things “right” we tend to forget everyone’s body makeup is different, and changes all the time. I am now just realizing this myself.

    kate wrote on August 27th, 2013
  12. NICe:)

    Rob wrote on August 30th, 2013

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