In this edition of Dear Mark, I provide rapid fire answers to five of your questions. First, I discuss another situation where the deload week(s) make(s) sense and may even have to be extended: when exercise starts taking away from the quality of your life. Next I explain why for some people raw milk is a highly-coveted food, and then whether or not a banana should be breakfast. After that, I discuss the potential impact of ketosis on breastfeeding. Finally, I discuss the benefits and potential downsides of Bikram yoga.
I am a 32 year old female with 2 kids and have been an avid exerciser for years. I am in great physical shape and mix up my exercise routine often – sometimes doing short, intense workouts, sometimes doing longer 45 minute, steady cardio workouts. I lift heavy weights 3 times per week. My question: I find that I am more irritable/short fused and grumpy later in the day. I always workout in the mornings, and even on days that I do a “light” workout, I find myself fatigued and short-tempered.
Do you think that after exercising for so many years, that my body needs a long break? If so, should I consider taking an entire week or an entire month off? On the days that I do take “off” I find myself even-keeled, pleasant, not irritated by things. I feel as if my exercise gives me stress instead of relieving stress. Any insight you may have would be greatly appreciated.
Yes, yes, yes. Take a couple weeks off. Take a month off. You absolutely need a break.
I wrote about the importance of a deload week a couple months back, primarily as a way to improve recovery and subsequent performance. You heard about people taking a week off and coming back to the weights stronger than before, all because they let their bodies rest, their joints catch up to their muscles, and their central nervous systems recharge. It’s definitely a good reason to take a week off, but it’s not the only reason – not by far.
Sometimes you need a break because your body is breaking down. It’s pretty simple. You say that your workouts are giving you stress instead of relieving it, and that’s exactly right. Exercise is ultimately a hormetic stressor; it seems you’ve exceeded the hormetic dosage and veered into straight up stress territory. Since taking an actual day off results in happy feelings, you even have informal evidence that the exercise is what’s causing you problems. It doesn’t get much simpler than this: take at least a week off. When you do it, take note of a few parameters to see how they’re affected.
Check your sleep. Are you sleeping better, longer, with less awakenings?
Check your temper and stress management. Are the urges to honk at the car that cut you off, speed around the oldster moseying on down the street in the oversized Buick, and run down the crosswalker lessened?
Check your mood. Are you generally happier?
I strongly suspect you’ll love your week, or weeks, off. Continue to take leisurely walks and maybe do some stretching. Try meditation, perhaps. If you’re like the gym junkies I know, you’ll go crazy without some activity. Good luck.
I read “The Definitive Guide to Dairy,” but I want more information on Raw Milk from the Primal community. Why is Raw Milk such a coveted food? It’s only available at farmers markets and limited grocery stores. Are there nutrients in Raw Milk that we cannot get from other foods? My biggest concern is the carbohydrate and sugar content, which skews our Primal Blueprint Carbohydrate Curve out of Ketosis and The Primal Sweet Spot.
Raw milk is only coveted when compared to pasteurized milk. It’s not that it’s so much better than other foods (although it is better than many of them), it’s that it’s usually so much better than pasteurized milk.
Honestly, although I don’t drink much milk, the most important thing to consider with dairy is what the animal was fed. If it spent all its time on the pasture, grazing on spring grasses and various other green things, the milk is going to contain more fat-soluble vitamins (like A, E, and K2), more carotenoids (from the green things), more conjugated linoleic acid, and more omega-3s - whether it’s raw or pasteurized. Even if it just spent most of its time on pasture with some additional feed (which is normal for dairy animals), its milk (and meat) is going to be more nutritious.
In my experience, raw and grass-fed (or at least pastured, as it’s tough to find milk from solely grass-fed animals) often coincide. Look for one and you’ll probably get the other, or close to it. So in that sense, yes, raw milk is healthier than pasteurized milk.
As for the concrete benefits? I’d direct you to Chris Kresser’s nice post on the subject, the nutritive benefits explained in which I’ll briefly summarize:
- Pasteurization depletes mineral content, including iron, copper, and manganese, along with vitamin C. It also impairs B6 bioavailability, and it may lower the absorption of vitamin A by destroying a heat-sensitive dairy protein which promotes intestinal absorption of vitamin A.
- Raw milk seems to be better tolerated by people who cannot tolerate pasteurized dairy.
- Raw milk consumption during childhood is strongly associated with resistance against asthma and allergies later in life.
There’s also the fact that undenatured whey proteins (which, since pasteurization denatured proteins, only comes from raw milk) are able to boost glutathione, the human body’s premier endogenous/homegrown antioxidant. Glutathione combats oxidative stress, improves immunity, and prevents alcohol-related toxicity, to name just a few of its roles. Pasteurized whey proteins have a reduced effect on glutathione.
I’ve searched MDA and other primal web resources and seem to find nothing but conflicting opinions on bananas.
Here’s my dilemma: I like a light breakfast (I love a good omelette for dinner, just not at 8a). Is a “banana a day” for breakfast a primal solution? I know many modern Groks love a big breakfast but my rhythm likes a big lunch and dinner and light breakfast.
Hope you can resolve some of the confusion for me here.
Bananas are food, they’re actually quite low in fructose and richer in glucose, and they taste good. Sure, they’re high in carbs, but that just means you probably don’t want to create a diet entirely made of bananas. However many carbs you’re eating, you can probably sneak in a banana without going over. And if you’re reasonably glucose-tolerant, a banana will elicit a normal glucose response.
I’ve never gotten the impression that most Primal eaters tend toward a big breakfast. Some do, some don’t, some skip it altogether. If you enjoy the light breakfast, particularly one consisting of a single banana, and you make up for the “lost” food at lunch and dinner, stick with it. You only “need” to experiment with different modalities when the one you’re currently doing stops working, at least in my opinion. To be perfectly clear, I’m not suggesting most people should be eating bananas for breakfast. I think there are better, healthier options available for most people. But if it’s working for you personally, keep at it.
Do you think it is safe to switch to primal eating habits while exclusively breast feeding. My concern is with releasing toxins into my milk if/when I enter ketosis. Can I remain out of ketosis by eating plenty of primal carbs like fruits and sweet potatoes? I’m not looking for weight loss, just healthy living. Thank you!
As I’ve written before, you can definitely go Primal while exclusively breastfeeding, but I would advise against being in ketosis. Not because of “releasing toxins,” though. Where’d you get that info?
Stay out of ketosis to reduce the chance of inadequate calorie and nutrient intake. Ketosis can be a helpful tool for weight loss, but, as you say, you don’t need to be losing weight right now. Besides, eating fewer calories means fewer chances to obtain the nutrients you and your baby need. I’ve also heard rumblings that a very low carb ketogenic diet can reduce prolactin. Prolactin is the “milk hormone”; it regulates your milk supply. For men trying to avoid gynecomastia (man boobs)? Sure, they’ll want to reduce prolactin, but in breastfeeding mothers, prolactin is normally quite high and it should stay that way. If you hope to grow a small human from infancy, you need to produce ample amounts of milk. It isn’t guaranteed that going into ketosis will depress your milk production, but it’s not worth the risk.
Just eat your Primal carbs to stay out of ketosis. Though there are health benefits to ketosis in specific conditions (epilepsy, certain cancers, neurological disorders, obesity), I wouldn’t include “breastfeeding motherhood” among them. If you’re interested in the health benefits of ketosis, realize that simply breastfeeding – especially for longer than six months – is strongly associated with a bevy of health benefits for the mother, including weight loss, protection from breast cancer, protection from ovarian cancer, and lowered heart disease risk. So, providing ample milk to enable long duration breastfeeding is your safest bet.
I’m interested to understand where Bikram Yoga fits into a primal lifestyle if at all. I have searched your blog and I haven’t really seen anything conclusive about how the heat may potentially stress the body and if this is a good or bad thing.
I practice 3 times per week and find it fits into my routine with heavy lifting really well as it stretches out my muscles better than any other method and tends to prevent injuries. However it is pretty intense and can knock me around on some days and really leave me without anything much in the tank.
I’m really interested to know your take on hot yoga as I can’t imagine this was something Grok would have done.
Bikram yoga is “hot yoga,” where participants practice in a room set to 104 degrees F. The elevated temperature is supposed to warm your body up, which makes stretching easier. If you like it and it seems to be treating your body well, I’d stick with it. I see no reason to change what’s actively helping you.
There have been a scant few studies done specifically on Bikram yoga, but the few that exist show evidence of significant benefits. The most recent one, from earlier this year, found that 24 sessions of Bikram yoga in eight weeks (which is three per week, exactly how you’re doing it) increased deadlift strength, shoulder flexibility, and hamstring flexibility while lowering body fat in healthy adults. The no-yoga control group evinced no such improvements. That sounds right in line with your experience, no? Bikram yoga as a helpful adjunct to strength training.
Bikram yoga has also proven useful in the development of balance. Specifically, three sessions per week (identical to your schedule once again) seemed to help the most unsteady subjects improve their balance. Those subjects who were already pretty stable in unstable situations didn’t see as much of a benefit.
In another study, Bikram yoga reduced the time it took subjects to fall back asleep after awakening in the night. On “yoga days,” subjects were quicker to fall back asleep than on “non-yoga days.”
However, there is a case study in which a guy suffered a psychotic episode that was attributed to Bikram yoga. Scary stuff, but if you’ve already been doing it on a regular basis without experiencing any breakdowns, I think you’re safe. This particular subject had a history of mental problems, though he had been in remission.
My takeaway? Bikram yoga can be a bit more stressful and intense than other forms of yoga, meaning it can offer big benefits to healthy people (who rebound from the experience and become stronger), but it can also be a bit too stressful for vulnerable or otherwise compromised individuals. That said, “regular” yoga has been shown to be extremely beneficial in a number of studies, so don’t think you have to do Bikram to get any benefits. In fact, other forms of yoga have considerably more research behind them.
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