Tag: definitive guides
Grains are fixtures of modern life. Pastrami on rye, spaghetti dinners, corn on the cob, birthday cake, apple pie, endless breadsticks, pizza parties, taco nights.
Studies about “heart-healthy whole grains” in the news. “AHA Approved” icons affixed to any concoction in the grocery store that contains a few grams of wheat—never mind all the sugar and seed oils.
Grains are “staples,” bread is the “staff of life,” and most people can’t imagine a meal without some type of grain on the table.
Yes, grains are solidly etched into our modern Western psyche—just not so much into our physiology. For the vast majority of human evolution, we were hunter-gatherers eating meats, nuts, bitter wild greens, regional veggies, tubers and roots, and fruits and berries. We ate what nature provided. If we ate any grains at all, they were wild and scarce—never staples.
Sleep is the grand mystery of life. You get sleepy, you yawn, you lay your head down, and then you wake up. At some point, you drifted off to sleep and were unconscious, helpless, completely out of it for the better part of the night. Maybe faint glimmers of the moment before you fell asleep remain in your memory. If you remember your dreams, you’ve got those to fall back on—but they fade fast. No, for the most part we have no idea what happens when we sleep.
We do know what happens when we don’t. The list of maladies caused by and/or linked to sleep deprivation is long and exhausting.
It’s probably the one thing that prevents people from fully buying into the Primal Blueprint. Almost anyone can agree with the basic tenets – eating more vegetables, choosing only clean, organic meats, and getting plenty of sleep and exercise is fairly acceptable to the mainstream notion of good nutrition. The concept of Grok and a lifestyle based on evolutionary biology can be a harder sell, but anyone who’s familiar with (and accepts) the basics of human evolution tends to agree (whether they follow through and adopt the lifestyle is another question), at least intellectually. But saturated fat? People have this weird conditioned response to the very phrase.
“But what about all that saturated fat? Aren’t you worried about clogging up your arteries?”
I use my Los Angeles surroundings as a barometer for changes in the mainstream approach to health, and it holds up quite well. Silicon Valley can claim to be the cradle of technology, but L.A. is definitely the cradle of diet and fitness trends; and the latest is most definitely keto. At the local cafe where every species of Malibu fitness enthusiast gathers to gossip and fuel up, I’m seeing fewer gels and energy bars, and way more butter coffees and discarded packets of the new powdered ketone supplement products.
What are saturated fats, exactly? Today, I’m diving into the nuances of saturated fatty acids — a guide to all the individual fatty acids that make up the saturated fats we eat, store, and burn.
I won’t cover every single saturated fatty acid in existence. Some don’t play any significant role in human health or diet, like cerotic acid, which appears mainly in beeswax. Or arachidic acid, which you can get by hydrogenating arachidonic acid or eating a ton of durian fruit. There are a few more that aren’t very relevant.
I will instead cover the most important ones.
Contrary to what we’ve been told, cholesterol didn’t evolve to give us heart disease. It’s not here to kill us. The actual roles of cholesterol in the body include insulating neurons, building and maintaining cellular membranes, participating in the immune response, metabolizing fat soluble vitamins, synthesizing vitamin D, producing bile, and kick-starting the body’s synthesis of many hormones, including the sex hormones. Without cholesterol, it’s true that we wouldn’t have heart disease, but we also wouldn’t be alive.
Given all the work cholesterol has to do, the liver is careful to ensure the body always has enough, producing some 1000-1400 milligrams of it each day. Dietary cholesterol is a relative drop in the bucket. And besides, the liver has sensitive feedback mechanisms that regulate cholesterol production in response to how much you get from your diet. Eat more cholesterol, make less in the liver. Eat less, make more in liver.
Cholesterol usually gets the gold for most demonized nutrient, and fats undoubtedly take the silver. It’s time to confront the misunderstandings around fats.
When I switched from a high-carb, low-fat diet and started to eat healthy fat as a nutrient, my health rapidly transformed. As important as fat is to your body, the fact remains that not all fats are created equal.
A few fats, including but not limited to trans fats, deserve every bit of disparagement they get and then some. But many types of fats are beneficial, and we’d like to put in a good word for them. Here, we’ll go through good fats, harmful fats, and how to eat more of the best kinds of fats. At the end of this article, I’ve included a video explaining how to get more healthy fats and why you would want to in the first place.
Tea can mean a lot of different plants. There’s maté, the bitter South American shrub steeped in boiling water to extract the caffeine-like compounds contained within. There’s rooibos, the “red tea” made from a polyphenol-rich bush native to South Africa. There’s coca, the South American plant also used to make cocaine. There are the unnamed wild bitter root and herb teas used by the Maasai, the evergreen tip teas used by American natives to obtain vitamin C, the nettleleaf teas used across Europe.
For today’s post, I’m focusing on the actual tea plant—Camellia sinensis. All of the classic teas come from the same basic plant; the differences lie in how they’re processed after harvest. Most tea undergoes controlled oxidation to develop flavor and different bioactive compounds. The more oxidized, the darker the tea. The less oxidized, the lighter.
I’m also going to focus on the health benefits of tea, rather than get into the nitty gritty of tea grading, the endless bespoke varieties, the optimum temperature—tea expert stuff. I enjoy tea, but I’m not a connoisseur. I can tell you about the health effects, and I imagine that’s what most of you are here for anyway.
Sprinting workouts are often the missing piece in people’s fitness repertoire. Even devoted fitness buffs—the ones who post daily gym selfies, keep detailed workout diaries, and top their Strava leaderboards—may neglect this critical component of well-rounded fitness. Some consider sprinting too risky. They’re haunted by images of an Olympic sprinter pulling up short with a strained hamstring in the middle of a gold-metal race. Others think sprints are too short to make a difference. How much payoff can you really get from a workout where the active sets last three or four minutes max?
Those concerns are understandable but unfounded.
The benefits of sprinting are profound. Upping your sprint game can help you make an assortment of breakthroughs, from fat loss to fitness performance (including in endurance and ultra-endurance events). And while sprinting obviously carries a higher injury risk than low-intensity movements like walking or lap swimming, it’s also quite safe… when done correctly.
One of the most common questions I get is “Does [x] break a fast?”
What they’re really inquiring about is: “Does this interfere with, negate, or nullify the benefits of fasting?”
These benefits include:
Ketosis: Fasting is the quickest way to get into ketosis, an metabolic state characterized by increasing fat burning, fat adaptation, and—in some people—improved cognitive function.
Fat Loss: When you’re fasting, you’re not eating, and not eating is the best way to force your body to burn the fat it already possesses. Fasting also means no additional calories are coming in, and many people find that fasting is a great way to control their calorie intake.
Autophagy: Autophagy, or “self-eating,” is the process by which our cells prune damaged components, maintain proper function, and keep aging at bay. Fasting triggers autophagy. Breaking the fast will stop autophagy.
Let’s go through the most popular queries one by one and figure out how each one affects an intermittent fast. (For questions about what supplements break a fast, check out my post, “What Breaks a Fast: Supplements Edition.”)