Slowly Learning to Live Better

Mount Evans Colorado August 2014
“A Fragile World.” Mount Evans, Colorado

A repository of useful fitness, food, and wellness links:

01/28/2015 “Named for the Greek word lepton, meaning ‘thin,’ leptin is produced in your fat cells — which means that the more fat you have, the higher your baseline levels of leptin will be. Here’s why this is important: one of the master hormones, leptin influences the production and secretion of other hormones that regulate metabolism, such as thyroid hormones, T3 and T4. When leptin levels are high, your production of T3 and T4 will also be relatively high, allowing you to burn fat faster; when leptin levels drop, these other hormones go too. The fact that leptin is produced in fat cells is an important reason why it’s easier to drop weight when you have more excess weight to lose. However, leptin levels also share a direct relationship with caloric intake — when you eat fewer calories, your leptin levels drop considerably. This, in turn, lowers your other fat-burning hormones, bringing your fat loss to a crawl.” —John Romaniello & Adam Bornstein Man 2.0 Engineering the Alpha (page 94)

01/28/2015 “When insulin sensitivity is high, you need less insulin to get the same effect. High insulin sensitivity is the easiest way to ensure that you’ll gain muscle, not fat. You can increase your insulin sensitivity by avoiding foods that cause a high spike, such as sugar, and lifting weight to build more muscle. Your muscles are your best friends when it comes to burning the fuel you put into your body — especially carbs.” —John Romaniello & Adam Bornstein Man 2.0 Engineering the Alpha (page 97)

01/28/2015 “Muscles need fuel to work. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the primary source of energy for cells. ATP comes from a variety of sources, including sugars like glucose. Some activities, like lifting weights, quickly use up ATP. Exhausted ATP becomes adenosine diphosphate (ADP). Since creatine is stored in the body as creatine phosphate, it can provide a phosphate group for the ADP, which quickly regenerates the ADP into emergency ATP.” Here’s what else creatine can do for your body.

01/27/2014 Wait… So, the body doesn’t produce lactic acid, and the lactate it does produce isn’t what’s causing workout fatigue or soreness?

01/27/2015 “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.” —Henry Ford

01/27/2015 “[Dr. Dan Engle] recommends to people to intentionally break this habit of ‘You gotta clean your plate, son!’ You know, we all have that kind of ingrained in our head, like, ‘You better finish your food — there’s people starving in Africa!’ Like your food is somehow going to magically transport to Africa by some Star Trek beam-me-up system, y’know? But he says, he’ll intentionally tell people to leave food on your plate. Just get in that habit of leaving something on your plate so you’re training yourself to break that cycle of ‘I gotta finish everything that’s in front of me,’ and as we know — especially when we’re eating out — what they put on your plate is sometimes an impossible amount of food. So it doesn’t make any sense to clean your plate. It’s not sustainable, and it’s not healthy for the body. Just because you put it in your body doesn’t mean that it’s not wasted: It’s just wasted in your body instead of wasted in the trash. Getting in that habit of like, ‘OK, so I’m gonna leave some food on my plate,’ and saying ‘That’s OK!’ It doesn’t make it better that I put it in my body. My body needs what my body needs — yeah, maybe make smaller portions next time if you want to conserve that — but get in the habit of not feeling the necessity to clean your plate.” —Aubrey Marcus

01/25/2015 “Advice is not criticism.”

01/24/2015 “A high-protein diet heavy on lean meat, poultry, fish, and vegetables, and light on grains, beans, and dairy,” recommends Dr. Peter D’Adamo. Between The Blood Type Workout and the Blood Type Diet, it seems like Type O Positives (like me) should be ravaging the gym and grocery store like a caveman. “You tend to be strong and athletic — gotta love those powerful arms and legs — and, because you’re no longer chasing your meals, crave high-intensity workouts like interval training, running, and plyometrics.” Maybe it’s worth giving the Paleo Diet another glance, after all.

01/23/2015 Quinoa: It’s not just for dinner anymore.

01/21/2015 “It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.” —Marcus Aurelius

01/18/2015 Bro-isms notwithstanding, BroBible offers a pair of useful primers for workout supplements worth investing in and those “you’re wasting your money on.”

01/17/2015 “The greatest gift you can give to somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, ‘If you will take care of me, I will take care of you.’ Now I say, ‘I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me.'” —Jim Rohn

01/17/2015 “If you want the benefits of something in life, you have to also want the costs.” —Mark Manson

01/16/2015 A beautiful visual accompaniment to David Foster Wallace’s inspiring 2005 “This is Water” speech.

01/16/2015 “I begin each day of my life with a ritual: I wake up at 5:30 a.m., put on workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirt, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I work out for two hours. The ritual is not stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.” —Twyla Tharp

01/15/2015 On the health benefits of (extra virgin) olive oil.

01/15/2015 The most comprehensive & informative article (I’ve read) on the curious evolution of “nutritionism.”

01/15/2015 “Never wallow in your troubles; despair must be kept private and brief.” —Werner Herzog

01/14/2015 Pretty much everything you’ll ever need to know about butter.

01/14/2015 “Day one is the point of no return.” —Werner Herzog

01/14/2015 A detailed introduction to BCAAs, and their positive impact on protein synthesis.

01/14/2015 Cardio before lifting could promote a huge boost in testosterone levels.

01/14/2015 All calories are not equal, and furthermore: “Counting calories is misguided.”

01/13/2015 “If you never leave your comfort zone you will always think you’re comfortable, until it’s too late and things become very uncomfortable.” —Stephen Landau

01/08/2015 “If you find yourself consistently giving too many fucks about trivial shit that bothers you — your ex-girlfriend’s new Facebook picture, how quickly the batteries die in the TV remote, missing out on yet another 2-for-1 sale on hand sanitizer — chances are you don’t have much going on in your life to give a legitimate fuck about. And that’s your real problem. Not the hand sanitizer. In life, our fucks must be spent on something. There really is no such thing as not giving a fuck. The question is simply how we each choose to allot our fucks. You only get a limited amount of fucks to give over your lifetime, so you must spend them with care.” —Mark Manson

01/08/2015 “If you allow for food intake at night as part of your overall plan, you may actually improve weight loss.” —Dr. Charlie Seltzer

01/08/2015 On how sleeping helps take out our neural trash, and why skipping a night’s rest may be doing irreparable damage.

01/08/2015 On why our brains need sleep & the benefits of a well-rested mind.

01/08/2015 “‘Detoxing’ has been debunked. Maybe it’s time to debunk that

01/08/2015 “Your detoxing juice cleanse is bullshit

01/07/2015 On how stress and cortisol are hindering weight loss plans.

01/06/2015 Insight into the research connecting the dots between inflammation and depression.

01/06/2015 “The way you treat yourself informs the way you treat others.” —Stephanie Soler

01/06/2015 The question of “What happens if I don’t change?” is a powerful one. On building a mission over a resolution…

01/06/2015 “Vitamin D regulates the creation of both serotonin and immune regulatory cells.” —Dr. Rhonda Patrick

01/05/2015 A fascinating look into sweeteners, dissecting agave and the balancing act between fructose and glucose, and more on the potentially toxic nature of fructose (…and sugar in general, actually).

01/05/2015 Instead of making resolutions, introduce keystone habits into your life. What are keystone habits, exactly? “A keystone habit is a behavior or routine that naturally pulls the rest of your life in line. For example, weightlifting is my keystone habit. If I get to the gym, then it creates a ripple effect in other areas of my life. Not only do I get the benefits of working out, I enjoy a wide range of secondary benefits. I focus better after the workout. I tend to eat better when I’m working out consistently. I sleep better at night and wake up with more energy in the morning.”

01/04/2015 “Here Is What A Juice Cleanse Does To Your Body

01/02/2015 Abandoning resolutions this year in favor of focusing on my “used to be“s.

Slowly Learning to Live Better (December 2014 Edition)

Four Seasons Lake of the Ozarks Japanese Garden 02
Japanese Garden, Four Seasons at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

December 2014’s fitness, food, and wellness links:

12/18/2014 “Changing your life is a marathon.” —Leo Babauta

12/17/2014 “If you distrust Big Ag and Big Pharma, you won’t find any better treatment from Big Juice.” —Beth Skwarecki

12/16/2014 An illuminating animated short on how sugar affects the brain.

12/16/2014 “Why There’s So Much Confusion Over Health and Nutrition

12/15/2014 “Compound Self-Interest” / On James Clear’s “Aggregation of Marginal Gains” & how small positive action driven by consistency yields success.

12/15/2014 “5 Important Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Vitamin D

12/14/2014 Life in the fast lane: An introduction to intermittent fasting, and how to know if it’s right for you.

12/14/2014 Baby steps to disrupting diet food & fat preconceptions.

12/13/2014 Heavy on the shrimp, easy on the cocktail: A few interesting reasons why to include shrimp in your diet.

12/11/2014 A report uncovering shady dairy & egg farming practices, and the ambiguity behind what “organic” has come to mean.

12/11/2014 Non & low-fat dairy might help save a few calories, but the nutritional value is laughable.

12/10/2014 “Gluten for Punishment” / James Hamblin and Chris Kresser challenge the NYT’s carb-demonizing Best Seller “Grain Brain.”

12/10/2014 Even if you can only spare a single minute for cardio, interval training is the way to go.

12/10/2014 Want to know what that “The New Nutrition Secret” is? It’s simple: stop following nutrition secrets.

12/10/2014 “6 Squat Variations That Bring Results

12/08/2014 “The Eggs and I” / Insight into egg myths and why they aren’t exactly all they’re cracked up to be.

12/07/2014 “No Country for Old Conclusions” / Jonathan Sackner-Bernstein’s TED-x talk about regret & leveraging age as an excuse.

12/06/2014 “Superfood or Superfluous?” / Uncovering detox & cleans myths, plus the surprising issue with eating too much broccoli.

12/06/2014 Does working out at night affect your ability to fall asleep? Not at all.

Compound Self-Interest

The longest journey begins with a single step. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. And, of course, there’s the fable of the tortoise and the hare where slow and steady wins the race. The shared idea here is that small positive action driven by consistency yields success. Tony Robbins used to preach about how the difference of a few millimeters in someone’s approach (to life, to golf, to whatever task is at hand) can make the difference between success and failure. But the opposite holds true as well: Each millimeter in the wrong direction, promoting distance between reality and ideal, is going to be compounded by the next. The result? Before long those small — and on-their-own nearly insignificant — errors begin to carry some serious weight.

If we’re talking finance, small capital investments can add up over time, with compound interest coming into play to yield significant returns. The theory is the same here, though because there isn’t some immediate financial pay-off, it’s sometimes more difficult to see how small positive decisions are to “pay off” over time. James Clear (via 99u) focuses on compounding small improvements in the concept of “The Aggregation of Marginal Gains,” relating how even the smallest of personal changes can add up over time,

Most people love to talk about success (and life in general) as an event. We talk about losing 50 pounds or building a successful business or winning the Tour de France as if they are events. But the truth is that most of the significant things in life aren’t stand-alone events, but rather the sum of all the moments when we chose to do things 1 percent better or 1 percent worse.

The idea is simple: In remaining mindful of how compound interest in our health, our self, and our future works, we’ll see the tiny results of our decisions and actions add up over time. These one percent changes will take a myriad of forms for different people, but in a week, a month, a year from now – they will begin to amount to something huge. It’s really just up to us as to whether or not that “something huge” will be a huge success or a huge regret.

DeLineations: Vol. 1


People assume that the world is carefully regulated and that there are benign institutions guarding them from making any kind of errors. A lot of marketing drip-feeds that idea, surreptitiously. So if people see somebody with apparently the right credentials, they think they’re listening to a respectable medic and trust their advice.

This statement, from The Guardian’s Dara Mohammad, is aimed at the “detox” (and “superfood“) industry, making a case for health-over-hype when it comes to separating fads and trends from truly beneficial health advice. Beyond tossing out the idea that the Master Cleanse is a revolutionary tool for change however, this is obviously sage advice for anyone reading about most any aspect of healthy living online.

It’s with this thinking that Dr. David Katz says, “There’s either a scapegoat or a silver bullet in almost every bestselling diet book,” and in keeping with this focus skepticism, The Atlantic’s James Hamblin digs into the ongoing controversy surrounding the health risks of gluten, and what happens when a scapegoat goes mainstream. In the article Hamblin takes a deeper look at Dr. David Perlmutter‘s New York Times Best Seller, Grain Brain, dissecting some of the book’s juicier health claims, while also interviewing a wide range of health industry voices who question Perlmutter’s conclusions. One such voice is that of Chris Krusser, who elaborates on his own blog about the surrounding controversy, “While I don’t argue with the idea that refined and processed carbs like flour and sugar contribute to modern disease, there’s no evidence to suggest that unrefined, whole-food carbohydrates do.” Maybe the new nutrition secret is that there is no secret to nutrition. Though, whether they’re secrets or not, this easy to digest article of seven eating habits “you should drop now” is the blueprint for a healthier diet that includes plenty of easy-to-digest information on alcohol, “diet foods,” and good fats.

What can’t be lost in this process is the eye for the individual. If you actually have celiac disease, for example, processed or not: many carbohydrates are going to be detrimental to your health. And if your cholesterol is out of control, even a couple eggs a day might be harmful despite ample evidence that even in (relatively) high quantities, and even with yolks intact, they are really good for you. This is especially true for men as healthy cholesterol lends itself as “a precursor for the synthesis of many compounds, including testosterone.” Being low in calories, high in protein, and nutrient-rich (though like eggs, also high in cholesterol), shrimp would seem to fall under the same umbrella here. Whatever the advice it is you’re taking, the point is to make sure that the advice is not only sound, but respectful of your own individual circumstances.

Lastly, on the training side of things: Two weeks ago I started incorporating aspects of the high intensity “Bizzy Diet 21-Day Fitness Plan” into my routine, making a few substitutions including the incorporation of “Thrusters” and “Single Leg Static Lunge Dips” on leg day. Perhaps the most important aspect of that workout to this point though, for me, has been the introduction of intervals to my cardio regimen.

Gluten for Punishment

The Atlantic’s James Hamblin examines Dr. David Perlmutter‘s NYT’s Best Seller Grain Brain, which claims causation between the inflammatory properties of gluten, and the development of Alzheimer’s, anxiety, depression, chronic headaches, and ADHD. To combat this, Perlmutter’s recommends we dramatically change our diets,

Humans consume calories in the form of three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Perlmutter describes the current U.S. diet as 60 percent carbs, 20 percent protein, and 20 percent fat. His ideal is close to that of the Paleo diet: 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein, and 5 percent carbs. He allows for up to 50 to 80 grams of carbs daily, which is about one serving of fruit. The heart of the diet is “good fats like olive oil, avocado, wild fish, organic nuts and nutrient-dense vegetables.”

While it is currently fashionable to demonize gluten, Dr. David Katz (founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center) provides some fitting words of caution aimed at any such health trend claims, “There’s either a scapegoat or a silver bullet in almost every bestselling diet book.” Further, self-described “health detective” and author of Your Personal Paleo Code, Chris Kresser, disagrees with Perlmutter’s conclusions, listing a variety of cultures that enjoy carbohydrate-based diets while remaining “fit and lean with practically non-existent rates of neurological disorders and other modern chronic disease.”

“The Hadza of north-central Tanzania and the Kuna of Panama obtain a high percentage of their total calories from foods that are high in natural sugars, such as fruit, starchy tubers and honey, yet they are remarkably lean, fit and free of modern disease.” He also mentions the Kitava in the Pacific Islands, whose diet heavy in yams, banana, and papaya is 69 percent carbohydrate; the Tukisenta in the Papua New Guinea highlands, whose diet is over 90 percent carbs; and the Okinawans, whose diet is “mostly from sweet potato.”

“It’s important to realize,” Kresser continues on his blog, “that just because a low-carb diet can help treat neurological disorders, doesn’t mean the carbs caused the disorder in the first place.”

“When a person advocates radical change on the order of eliminating one of the three macronutrient groups from our diets,” Hamblin adds, “the burden of proof should be enormous.” And at this point, putting the “silver bullet” aside for a moment, it would seem we’re still better off maintaining balanced diets that include whole grains, while being mindful of the refined carbohydrates we do eat. As Kresser adds, “While I don’t argue with the idea that refined and processed carbs like flour and sugar contribute to modern disease, there’s no evidence to suggest that unrefined, whole-food carbohydrates do.”

The Eggs and I

In terms of delicious and inexpensive protein, it doesn’t get much better than an egg. This week, for example, my local grocery store has a special on eggs, pricing them at $1.25/dozen, or just over a dime for 6g of protein. What a deal! But is it possible to eat too many eggs, especially considering the high level of cholesterol found in the yolks? Despite the bang for the buck, many claims suggest an egg or two a day is all you should be eating, especially when considering that two whole eggs exceeds the daily recommended intake of cholesterol. So, what’s to be done?

Adam Bornstein recently took on this topic, examining the risks and rewards of eating three whole eggs a day. In his brief “egg-speriment,” he found that good cholesterol (HDL) went up while bad cholesterol (LDL) actually went down. Perhaps more importantly than sharing his results though, he explained the nutritional value of utilizing the whole egg, rather than just the white,

The yolk is where you find all of the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) as well as the majority of zinc, calcium, folate, and memory boosting lecithin. And you can’t forget Vitamin B12, which has been shown to help with fat breakdown. While the whites still offer protein, it’s only slightly more than 50 percent of the total amount. The yolks are part of what give eggs the highest possible biological value, which is a measure of how well a food suits your body’s protein needs. So if you’re looking for the healthiest way to eat your eggs, your best bet is to keep the yolk.

Pre-existing health conditions will help dictate whether cholesterol is the breaking point for whole egg consumption, but for maximum nutritional benefit it would seem a combination of whole eggs with a few extra egg whites might well be the way to go.

Update:‘s Jim Stoppani has added a variety of other important details surrounding the health benefits of leaving yolks intact.

We now know that fat is important in a diet. The saturated fat in egg yolks is less than half of the total fat. But saturated and monounsaturated fat, also in egg yolks, are important for maintaining higher testosterone levels. The fat and cholesterol from yolks, which was once thought of as harmful, appears to provide benefits for those who do strength training. In fact, in a head-to-head egg comparison, consuming more whole eggs was shown to help with muscle gain and strength. The magic number? Three. One study from Texas A&M found that subjects consuming three whole eggs a day while following a weight-lifting program for 12 weeks gained twice as much muscle mass and twice as much strength as subjects eating either just one egg per day or no eggs. Those kinds of benefits may be due to the cholesterol content. After all, cholesterol is converted to testosterone in the body.

01/28/2015 Update: Egg yolks are “high in Lutein and Zeaxanthine, antioxidants that can protect the eyes and reduce your risk of eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration. Eggs are also loaded with choline, a brain nutrient that about 90% of people aren’t getting enough of.” Further, “[choline] is a known precursor for acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in cognition and memory.”

No Country for Old Conclusions

In this TEDx talk, Dr. Jonathan Sackner-Bernstein channels Louis Pasteur (“chance favors the prepared mind”) in challenging famous conclusions proposed by the likes of Albert Einstein and Malcolm Gladwell, both contending that age significantly hinders the ability to turn a leaf toward greatness. (30 is the age, in particular, singled out by Einstein.) Instead, these assumptions, he asserts, serve only as excuses for not pursuing great things.

When you’re young, if you measure regret, you don’t really see much of a pattern. Some people have regret, some don’t. Certainly by the age of 30 it doesn’t seem to be a very notable type of emotion. But as we age, as we start to see this disconnect between what we aspire to be and what we aspire to do and what we’re accomplishing and what we’re being told we can accomplish, regret builds, peaking in the late-40s. There’s that pressure and human nature says we need to figure out a way to relieve that pressure, so we look for a source of information that tells us we really can’t accomplish. We go back to the idea that society presents — that it’s the young that matter — to relieve that pressure, to give up. We find those sources of information, and in fact we give up — that relieves the pressure, regret goes away, and we lose our opportunity, and we lose our drive.

(Source: Seth Godin)

Superfood or Superfluous?

The Guardian’s Dara Mohammad confronts misleading marketing behind ambiguous “toxin”-ridding products promising detoxifying and cleansing benefits as a means of rapid health-ification.

People assume that the world is carefully regulated and that there are benign institutions guarding them from making any kind of errors. A lot of marketing drip-feeds that idea, surreptitiously. So if people see somebody with apparently the right credentials, they think they’re listening to a respectable medic and trust their advice.

Discussion also veers toward negative consequences associated with the over-consumption of “superfoods” like broccoli.

Broccoli does help the liver out but, unlike the broad-shouldered, cape-wearing image that its superfood moniker suggests, it is no hero. Broccoli, as with all brassicas – sprouts, mustard plants, cabbages – contains cyanide. Eating it provides a tiny bit of poison that, like alcohol, primes the enzymes in your liver to deal better with any other poisons.

Update: “There is no scientific evidence that cleanses remove toxins from the body more efficiently than the liver and kidneys can do on their own.” —Dr. Glenn Baunstein, professor of medicine, Cedars-Sinai Hospital