Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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November 03 2014

Dear Mark: Oxidized Coffee Oils, CrossFit or PBF After Injury, Enduro Mountain Biking, and Pressure Cookers

By Mark Sisson
45 Comments

Cup of coffeeFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, we’ve got a four-parter. First, is it a problem if the oils in coffee beans are oxidized? Should we avoid them altogether? Is coffee coffee? Next, what should a guy who just recovered from an injury do for exercise: CrossFit or Primal Blueprint Fitness? After that, an enduro mountain biker wonders whether her interval-less training program could benefit from a few interval workouts. If you don’t know what enduro mountain biking is, you’ll find out below, so don’t worry. And finally, I explore the benefits and any downsides to using a pressure cooker to cook your soups, stews, and broths. Are we destroying nutrients?

Let’s go:

Hi Mark,

I have been roasting coffee at home for about a year now and I will never go back to buying old, stale coffee from the store. That got me thinking though…what oils exist in coffee? Are the oxidized oils covering the store-bought coffee much worse than the oils in fresh-roasted coffee or does the roasting process oxidize the oils anyways?

Thank you for all you do,

Kevin

Have you ever opened a bag of coffee to reveal a sweltering throng of greasy, sweaty black beans that clog your grinder and leave a film in your mug? Those are coffee oils rising to the surface after (excessive) roasting. They’re now exposed to the air and, being roughly half linoleic acid, almost certainly oxidized.

The lighter the roast and the fresher the coffee, the lower the oil oxidation. Keeping it in whole bean form also increases the resistance, while grinding it prematurely will oxidize the oil and mar the taste.

All that said, I find fretting over the health effects of oxidized oils in coffee unnecessary. Consider that the vast majority of evidence, both epidemiological and controlled, points to coffee in general being incredibly beneficial. It seems to reduce the risk of diabetesall cause mortalityAlzheimer’s diseaseParkinson’s disease, and liver cirrhosis. These studies mostly consist of normal coffee drinkers enjoying normal coffee, not the small minority of folks consuming only single-origin light roasts. And dark roasts even seem to be better than light roasts at increasing antioxidant status and reducing bodyweight in healthy coffee drinkers.

The best reason to avoid oxidized coffee beans is because you don’t like the taste. Don’t stress the health effects too much.

For the Dear Mark session I have the following question:

I am a 36 year old who used to have 100lbs of overweight 14 months ago. I started 14 months ago. Eating primal. And following a fitness program made for me by a personal trainer, which was basically bodyweight excercises. Lost approx 50lbs in 6 months.

My personal trainer then advised me to advance to doing CrossFit. Although I hesitated, I had a go at it. The eight months that followed were both positive and negative. I lost another 16-20lbs, but it didn’t go as smooth as the first 6 months. I got more cravings for carbs, got several injuries that prevented me from several exercises and even had me out of the gym for two months.

My question to you is: what is your suggestion now that my injury is healed. Get back into the CF gym? Or go back to, for example, PBF LHT with my bodyweight and first try to get stronger and lose the 40lbs of fat I still have to get rid of?

Question 2 if your answer to question one is PBF:

I don’t have a pull up bar in my house and I hate the iffy things people install on their doorposts etc (too many fail videos on youtube lol). Is there any other way to do pull up progression? Maybe TRX?

Regards

Bart

Hi, Bart.

Question 1: Without knowing the CrossFit box in question, it’s tough to say.

I lean toward the program that already worked without causing injuries. You can always move on to something else, but you know it’s a safe option and it’s already worked. It’d be a nice way to ease back into regular training.

If you go back to CrossFit, see if you can focus on strength training. Many CF boxes have different tracks. They’ll have an Olympic lifting track. A strength training track. A more traditional metabolic conditioning (WODs) track. In your situation, I think a focus on strength is safest. This will build strength (obviously), strengthen your joints and connective tissues (so they can take the pounding you receive during high intensity WODs), and get you familiar with many of the movements commonly performed at high speed for time. Otherwise, I worry your body will just break down again.

Later, after building up your strength and mastering the lifts, you’ll be ready to handle more high intensity metabolic conditioning – if that’s what you want to do.

Question 2: Yes, a TRX setup will work, as long as you have a suitable overhead horizontal anchor point to work with. You can use vertical anchor points, but you won’t be able to do pullups. Another option is a set of gymnastics rings. I can vouch for these rings, and I’d actually recommend rings over TRX because the room for growth is much higher with the rings. TRX is designed for beginners (which is awesome, don’t get me wrong). Rings are designed for beginners and Olympic athletes.

The advantage of TRX or ring pullups is the freedom of hand positioning. You can do all sorts of different pullup positions on rings or straps, whereas with an overhead bar you’re limited.

Also, any stable (or even slightly unstable) horizontal overhead surface can work as a pullup bar. Got any overhead beams or ledges? A ledge restricts your grip and forces you into fingertip pullups, which are excellent builders of grip strength. Or how about trees? A tree branch is great, and I’ve always found I can somehow do more pullups on a tree branch than on a pullup bar. Not sure why. If you have access to the underside of a stairwell, you can do pullups there, too. The world is full of pullup bars once you start looking.

Dear Mark,

I am a competitive ‘enduro’ mountain biker living in Ireland. I compete in the Enduro World Series and other international races. I have just been given an 8-week training programme from a personal trainer (who is a ex professional downhill racer) and after reading your latest post on interval training vs endurance I’m confused as to what to do.

My programme is 2rs on road bike/turbo trainer, 3 x per week; 2 x strength training per wk, Saturday skills on mtn bike, and a 6km mountain run on a Sunday. The aim is to condition my muscles and lose body fat. However, after reading your article, it sounds like I should be doing interval training which will reap the same benefits as long hours on the bike. Is this true in my case? Where I’m in pre-season training (race season begins in April) is it better for me to go with interval instead?

I appreciate the number of emails you must get so at your convenience.

Kind Regards,

Michelle

Great question, Michelle. Although I’ve never done much mountain biking, I have quite a few friends who are heavily into it and the rise of enduro racing has really intrigued me. For those who don’t know, enduro racing involves timed downhill portions with untimed uphill climbs to get to the start of the next downhill leg. It seems to require a mix of skill (sprinting down a mountain trail with jumps and quick turns and rocks and roots takes great precision and on-the-fly decision making), endurance (though the climbs aren’t timed, you still have to do them fast to get to the next downhill race), and strength (mountain biking takes a lot of lower body strength and a surprising amount of upper body strength).

Check out this video from a race in Colorado. Looks like a heck of a lot of fun.

Many enduro downhill legs last about ten minutes, with full-out sprints on the straightaways. And “downhill” doesn’t mean a straight shot down. They also include lots of climbs, even though the overall trend is downhill, so you need to be able to push hard up the inclines. Intervals definitely have a place in your training because your events resemble intervals.

Intervals do work. When you’ve got marathoners and triathletes and other exclusively endurance athletes using interval training to improve their performance, there’s no question athletes whose events actually resemble intervals can benefit from training them, too.

That’s not to say you should give up the longer rides. They’re valuable, too. And hey, you can always embed interval training into those longer rides.

Intervals can be longer than the 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off Tabata-style intervals that are popular in science reporting and probably aren’t even the most effective way to improve performance. You can do several sets of 4 minutes on, 4 minutes active rest. You can do 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off. They both increase endurance more than moderate training. Other research indicates that shorter intervals work best with longer (relative) rest periods, and longer intervals with shorter (relative) rest periods. So instead of 30 s on/30 s off, you’d rest for 4 minutes. Or if you were using 4 minute work periods, you’d only rest for 1:30. A mix of each would probably be best. Short and intense intervals with longer rest periods, plus longer, easier intervals with shorter rests.

Of course, I can’t tell you how to structure your program. I don’t have any specific experience in training mountain bikers and I’m certainly not a former downhill professional. But I would run the interval stuff by your trainer to see what he or she thinks.

Mark – What side do you take on using pressure cookers in making broths/stocks and soups/stews?

Does this in any way affect the nutritional content in meats and or vegetables?

Thanks,

Wai

I love the pressure cooker.

Cook a whole chicken in 45 minutes. Fall-apart beef shanks in 50 minutes. An hour or less for rich viscous chicken broth that gels at room temperature. What’s not to love?

But it does expose food to higher temperatures than regular sea-level boiling (250 degrees °F/121 °C versus 212 degrees °F/100 °C). And since we have the notion that higher temperatures destroy nutrients, it’s natural to worry about the nutrient content of our pressure-cooked food. But should we?

No. Research indicates that pressure cooking is gentler than most other forms of cooking and actually preserves a lot of nutrition.

In spinach (and amaranth leaves, if you can get them), pressure cooking preserves the vitamin C and beta-carotene content more than open pan cooking (which sounds like sautéing). It also preserves calcium and increases iron absorption.

Broccoli is great in a pressure cooker, retaining 90% of its vitamin C and almost all of its sulforaphane (a very healthy broccoli phytochemical, perhaps the best known and most studied).

Pressure cooking uses less water than other cooking methods, minimizing the leaching of nutrients. If nutrients are lost, it’s not to the ether; it’s to the cooking liquid. And since soups, stews, and broths involve consumption of the cooking liquid, you won’t be missing out on much. Soups, stews, broths, and any other dish where the liquid is consumed with the meal are thus perfect for pressure cookers.

Most pressure cooking research centers on nutrient retention and loss in grains, legumes, and vegetables, but there’s at least one reference discussing how it affects fatty acid and cholesterol oxidation in mutton (and, I presume, most other animal products). Anytime you cook meat, you’re going to oxidize some of the fat and cholesterol. It’s an unavoidable consequence of applying heat to these substances. However, compared to broiling it, pressure cooking mutton results in fewer oxidative changes.

Oh, I almost forgot one more thing. Anti-pressure cooking zealots (sure, they exist) often bandy about the “denatured protein” canard: “Using a pressure cooker will denature the protein in your food and forever alter the structure of the amino acids. Also something about enzymes.” To that, I say: “Great!” I love denatured animal proteins. Denatured proteins are generally more digestible than undenatured proteins. We’re always denaturing the proteins we eat before we eat them. It’s kind of the whole purpose of cooking. When we cook egg whites, the proteins become denatured and more digestible. When you stick seafood in a lime juice bath to make ceviche, you’re denaturing the proteins. That doesn’t “destroy” the proteins or make them toxic or carcinogenic or unrecognizable to our easily-fooled digestive enzymes; it just rearranges them. They’re still broken down in the gut into amino acids.

If you’re convinced, I’m a big fan of the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker. You hear a lot of horror stories about the stove top pressure cookers exploding and coating the kitchen and its inhabitants in molten chili. That’s impossible with the Instant Pot. Very difficult to mess up. And making bone broth is a cinch in one. Just add bones, water, and press a few buttons. It even has a sauté mode, so you can brown your meats before braising them without getting another pan dirty.

That’s it for today, everyone. If you’ve got any additional comments or advice for today’s round of questioners, chime in down below. Thanks for reading!

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45 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Oxidized Coffee Oils, CrossFit or PBF After Injury, Enduro Mountain Biking, and Pressure Cookers”

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    1. Me too. I picked one up about six months ago to cook greens up for smoothies.

      Turns out it’s a most convenient yogurt maker (I make a gallon at a time) and I also use it anywhere I would have used a steamer for veggies. They’re great!

      1. I read this line on the product description from Amazon and chuckled:

        “If you live a fast-paced, health-oriented and green-conscious life style, Instant Pot is designed specifically for you.”

        Taken out of context it’s quite funny!

        1. I think “instant pot” might appeal more to a slower-paced kind of person…

  1. Great info on coffee! I do buy store bought ground coffee and was thinking about it recently. I would love a pressure cooker, but for now at least it’s not happening. I’ve only heard amazing things though.

  2. I love doing pullups on the tree, in a field behind the house. I can also do more on the branch than on the bar in the house. It’s because there is a little give/bounce when dropping down that makes a tiny springboard action on the pull back up.

  3. I’ve got to say that, unless endurance is you’re only pursuit, you can still get by with endurance with interval training.

    Mark’s written so much about the ills of excessive cardio. While I don’t hate on people who run and such, I feel like strength training and HIIT offers so much more. Body composition, strength, longevity, and time efficiency bare all improved with strength and HIIT.

    But then again, people have different goals.

  4. Happy to hear about the pressure cooker! My husband hates the smell of bone broth when I make it in the crock pot (yes, even when I add all kinds of yummy veggies). We recently got a pressure cooker as a gift and I’m excited to make some speedier broth and to see if it will reduce the smell a bit.

  5. I do not want to start a war here, but there are other opinions on coffee and its issues, other than oxidation, specifically the concept of mold/mycotoxins in some/most commercial coffees. Any thoughts?

    1. Cody, I believe Mark has discussed this issue before. His general advice: Buy a quality coffee with minimal/no mold and mycotoxins.

      I’ve found I can generally tell when a coffee is poor quality. We have 2 kinds of coffee at work and after the first gulp of the inferior brand, my throat gets clogged up with phlegm like I’m having a terrible sinus attack. TMI I know, but it’s my body’s way of telling me that stuff is bad news. In my experience, if you can drink a specific brand of coffee and don’t feel any adverse reactions to it, you’re good to go…but I’m also pretty resilient and not too picky. 😛

  6. As others have said pressure cooker is great for bone broth. Rather cook stews etc in clay or cast iron dishes in a low temp oven as I find the flavor is better.

    1. Admittedly I don’t use either one very often, but I notice inferior flavor with both my crockpot and my pressure cooker. Whenever I’ve made stews in the crockpot, the long cooking time seems to degrade the flavor of the vegies. They end up tasting similar to that of a canned product. It makes me feel like I might as well have saved myself all the bother and just opened a can of Dinty Moore stew. Both appliances work well for some things, but cooking food either too fast or too slow doesn’t always produce the best results.

  7. I enjoy pull ups on a tree in the park but the branch is so thick I find it challenging to maintain my grip.

  8. I don’t understand the obsession with CrossFit (grrr angry exercise). If ancestral eating types did yoga or ballet, would that be the order of the day.

    1. Good question. I’ve never understood the appeal of CrossFit, or the obsession with lifting ridiculously heavy weights. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb, and say Grok didn’t lift RHW unless his life depended on it — say he was trapped under a rock with a big, hungry kitty breathing down his neck.

      Today’s hunter-gatherers don’t go out and lift entire antelope single-handedly. They either cut them up and everyone carries a chunk, or they use teamwork to lift the entire animal. The same goes for moving logs, rocks, etc. For individual Groks to repeatedly lift and carry such heavy weights would have been inefficient and unsustainable, especially when they never knew where their next meal was coming from.

      Conservation of energy would have been the order of the day, but I think Grok would have engaged in competitive tests of speed, strength, endurance, and skill when caloric intake permitted it.

      1. Hmm… People frequently do things others don’t understand. On the plus side, maybe lifting RHW’s would give a person the strength and musculature to be able to push that rock off–sort of a disaster preparedness plan. Since I’m not Grok and don’t plan on being stuck under a rock or anything else any time soon, I would definitely opt for less extreme ways to achieve fitness.

        1. “People frequently do things others don’t understand.”

          Very true. I was talking to a former jiu-jutsu student who was taking a break from training while he attended university. He said it was nice to wake up “not hurting”. 😀

  9. Yay Instant Pot! I love mine. I was a little afraid of it at the beginning: even though the exploding is impossible, it makes some fun pressure cooker noises.

  10. There is something else to consider about coffee then oxidation; and that is Cafestol which resides in the coffee oils and thought to raises cholesterol. But only if one exceed 5 cups a day (I’m good with two or 3 short espressos a day at the most). However, it’s absent/reduced if drinking coffee that’s been brewed through paper filter.

    Speaking of mountain biking, I’m sad to report that I crashed my bike over the weekend (muddy downhill trail) and seriously broke my arm (Radius and Ulna) adjacent to my wrist. My arm was put in a cast and there was talk of surgery (90%) but I hope to avoid it.

    I would love to get the readers feedback on dealing with the throbbing pain, nutritional tips to speed up recovery, and exercise I can do single handed, other then typing (; – once the pain subsides and I’m stable enough to be active, since I will be handicapped for two months +-.

    I would also like to add, that through the ensuing hours (I was alone far out on the trail and had to walk and drag my bike, to a main road and wait for help to arrive), I kept on asking my self what would Grok do in my place. I am happy to say that it help me stay calm and focused through and throughout the ordeal, and excruciating pain, once the ER Dr (it took two) pooled on my arm to set the bone.

    P.S. Interestingly, I find myself very hungry since the accident and thus eat more then usual. Go figure… now, if I can only mange to sleep through the night ):

    Thanks!

    1. Melatonin (read Marks post about it first though). As for one handed exercise… 😉 My wife’s friend’s husband did similar to you (leg and was v. messy in many respects) and he got a big telling off for being alone. Read Mark’s bit about not making silly mistakes, ride with a friend (no pun intended).

      1. Jack, great idea but I ran out of bones and don’t won a pressure cooker.

        Kit, I’ll look Melatonin up. I am a lone wolf in many aspects. Back some years ago, I traveled through the Australian wilderness, where hours can go by before you see another traveler; but your point is well taken. I’d leave that one hand exerciser you’re hinting to the Missy (-:

        Just got back from the Dr and it looks like I might need the surgery, as there’s a fragment of a bone that’s jutting out. Happy I’m not. And why on earth they put so much junk (filers), sugars in different forms, lactose and starches into the pain killer and nasty artificial flavors? In particular when it’s in liquid form? immersing the active ingredients in MCT or olive oil (vitamin D) would do the trick if they are looking for absorb ability.

        1. Call around to find a chiropractor or naturopath in your area who sells Standard Process supplements. You want the California Poppy for a painkiller. It’s just a tincture. Worked wonders for my husband after he cracked his ribs recently in a car crash.

    2. Hi. I had a child hood on horses. Sprains, broken bones, bruises galore. The best thing for bruises and sprains is dockleaf laid sunnyside down on the affected area.

      For broken bones I swear by comfrey. It’s not called “bone knit” for nothing. My crazy mother used to lay it on the outside of our plaster casts but I swear it works. It tastes terrible in a tea but you can get it in tablet form.

      I have seen and experienced enough really fast healing from this stuff to recommend it to everyone.

      Once my horse crushed my foot against a post. Mum whacked the comfrey on straight away. Once I got to the hospital the Dr’s wouldn’t xray it because they said it wasn’t swollen enough to be nroken. Mum insisted and guess what. . Broken bones. .

      1. To Karen and Erika, thank you for your tips and thoughtful replies. The pain is beginning to subside once the doctor made to slit in the cast to release some pressure. My main concern however is having them address the bone fragment that can only be sent back in surgery; but I’m staying optimistic ????????

  11. And something to do with all that pressure cooker broth – if you’re not adverse to some rice.

    Dice an onion and plenty of garlic and sauté in your favorite fat, I usually use fat skimmed from my broth. Add two cups of well rinsed sushi rice and one quart bone broth. Bring your cooker to high pressure and cook for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pressure release naturally. Congratulations, you’ve made congee.

    This is all husband wants to eat when he’s ill. He adds garlic-chili sauce and tamari. I serve meat, kraut, cilantro and diced scallions on the side for him.

  12. ha – what coincidence – I was going to ask the same question about pressure cooker. I made a sick batch of bone broth on the weekend using the pressure cooker in 1 1/2 hrs rather than 6-8 and it has been great. Used it as my electrolyte drink after my long run and it destroys all of the store bought sugary abomination.

  13. Why would you pressure cook broccoli when it takes nomore than 5 minutes max to cook in a little bone broth?

  14. Correction. Only one button, ONE BUTTON has to be pressed on the Instant Pot to make broth. The one marked “soup”.

    I love mine so much. My mom and grandma made the best chicken soup in their pressure cookers, but my grandma’s did explode and I have vivid memories of her cleaning chicken soup off the ceiling with a mop. I’ve been too terrified to try pressure cooking until I discovered the instant pot. It is a miracle machine!

    You must try artichokes in the instant pot-perfection. And it’s a great rice cooker if you are into resistant starches.

    1. Only one button to make broth??? That’s so easy that even I can’t screw that up…but I’ll sure try! 😀

  15. 2 interesting subjects this week Mark.

    Great tip regarding the Instant Pot for bone broth. I regularly cook venison bones in my aga so this will save a lot if oil. On my amazon list!

    I am a cyclist and want to increase strength after a series of injuries. Will cycling up smallish but steep hills as part of a longer ride have a similar effect to interval training. Without even standing on the pedals or deliberately going faster, the short steep hills round here (Scotland) push up heart rate etc. Don’t really want to try and sprint as I still have some knee pain (possibly caused by tight IT band which despite foam roller, acupuncture, glute work, squats, etc it’s not loosening off.)

    1. “I still have some knee pain (possibly caused by tight IT band…).”

      You might need to stretch and strengthen your hips. Sports medicine MDs are now looking at weak hips (especially the gluteus medius) as the cause of almost all chronic lower extremity injuries. And not all squats are created equal. There’s a free tutorial on my website (faster than trying to explain the exercises here).

  16. I have two pressure cookers….the Kuhn Rikon 12Q stock pot excels at making bone broth. You can make 6-8 quarts at a go, and it turns out very gelatinous.
    I think long slow simmer on the stove exposed to the air would result in more oxidation, as opposed to an hour in the pressure cooker.

  17. I normally cook my bone broth for 48-72 hrs. On the stove per Sally Fallon and Mary Eng’s “Nourishing Traditions”; if a pressure cooker could do it in a few hours, would there be any harm to do it longer in a pressure cooker, say 8 hiurs?

    1. Crumbly bones are your marker for having gotten all the nutrition out of them. In my pressure cooker that takes less than an hour with chicken and about 90 minutes with beef.

      I wouldn’t want to leave a pressure cooker at full pressure for eight hours. If you wanted to cook longer because that would make you feel better then I would leave it at pressure about 90 minutes, release the pressure naturally and bring it back up to pressure for another round or two or three.

      1. I agree with Karen, 60 minutes of pressure with natural release is plenty long to turn bones into soft mush. I feed the leftovers to the chickens and they have no problem, even with chicken bones (those little cannibals!). 8 hours would be overkill. I also give them the leftover onion, celery, carrot strained from the broth and it is a huge hit with the girls. NOt sure how much nutrition is left in them at that point. I used to do the long simmer method ala NT, but hated the way it made the kitchen smell and it took freaking forever. This way I can make broth while making dinner and have in the freezer by bedtime.

  18. I bought a pressure cooker this fall because I discovered that I am histamine intolerant (too much histamine in my diet gives me very itchy dandruff). Now I can cook pot roasts, whole chicken, meat loaf, stews, soups, stocks, etc without the slow cooking which apparently increases histamine content. And it take little energy, as you set it to low once it comes up to pressure, as well as cooking for less time. Glad to hear cooking with it maintains the nutritional value.