keeps this MizFit educated & entertained.
I give you Mark. Please to get a snack, grab a water bottle, settle in & sucketh up the knowledge.
My thanks to MizFit for the guest invitation and for her post on Marks Daily Apple a few weeks ago!
Now to the great questions so many of you offered up. The list was ninety-something? You all are awesome, I have to say. (MizFit note: AMEN, Brother!) Here goes…answers to not exactly all 90+ but to a hopefully fair cross section and many of the most common. Stop by MDA or shoot me a line anytime if you don’t see your question here!
How do you handle keeping up with the seemingly ever-changing advice in the nutrition world? How do you know who and what to listen to?
My take on things continues to evolve between the research I do and the real life experiences I see in myself and in my clients. I was a biology major years (O.K., decades) ago, and I’ve always had a soft spot for science. Even in my years as an athlete I was always reading up whenever I could. But in the years that my health took such a major downturn at the end of my competitive career, I think that was a turning point. Conventional wisdom wasn’t cutting it, and I wanted to know why. That’s when I really dove back into science – everything from the American Clinical Journal of Nutrition to Cell journals. (I readily admit, I’m a science geek among other things.)
However, I think getting back to the basics and viewing daily choices through the lens of how our ancestors lived and ate was key. Not only did this approach interest me as ultimately logical, the fact is it has held up time and again in my own health experience and that of my clients. Part of this exploration involved looking at the work of Loren Cordain and Weston Price, researchers who (in very different times) have sought to make overarching connections among research, observation and real life trends. I always make a point of reading Michael Pollan’s books. I certainly have my disagreements with him, but I appreciate the insight and perspective he offers. I’m a friend and fan of Art De Vany, and I’ve recently been digging into the research of a scientist named Bruce Lipton. His book “The Biology of Belief” further fuels my own assertion that we have the ability to literally recreate our bodies and our health based on the signals we give our genes through food, exercise and even our thoughts.
Protein. How do I know if I’m getting enough? Do I need bonus protein after workouts? Any tips for protein on a budget? I’d love to hear your favorite non-meat protein sources. What’s your take on dairy?
My rule of thumb is this: 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass (discount body fat) for people moderately active. It might sound like a lot at first, but it’s very doable once you cut out the carbs. A few months ago we did a post that listed protein contents for common foods (everything from meat to nuts). It’s true that meat sources are by far the best bets when it comes to protein. Timing for protein can make a difference as well. Protein synthesis is at its peak in the 30-60 minutes following a strength-training workout.
Though I understand that a lot of people choose not to eat meat for ethical/environmental reasons (my wife and son among them), I absolutely recommend it for health reasons. If you’re looking for non-meat sources (for ethical or budget reasons), eggs, nut butters/nuts, and cottage cheese (if you do dairy) are probably at the top of my list. As for dairy in general, I do cheese here and there as a “primal compromise” because I enjoy it and can tolerate it. Other people can’t. I don’t think people were meant to eat a lot of dairy, and lactose intolerance statistics show that. Aged cheese and yogurt tend to be safer bets than milk for most people. One other note, I definitely try to stay away from soy. I don’t think it’s the wonder food it’s often made out to be, and a lot of research suggests the possible hormonal influences may not be desirable for everyone, including women who have a history of or risk for breast cancer.
What’s the impact of nutrition on injury? What foods heal, and does improper fueling lead to injury?
Whether it’s acute injury or overall health, I recommend hands down an anti-inflammatory diet. The Primal Blueprint is based on this principle, and the research is stacking up on how much of a difference diet can make for chronic conditions in particular. Though the impact of injuries tend to be too short term for research to follow as effectively, the best thing you can do for recovery is keep inflammation down, your immune system in top order, and your anti-oxidant load at peak.
A diet (high carb) that induces inflammation draws the body’s defenses to battle against the attack it perceives in the blood sugar and insulin spike, a defense which eventually results in low-grade inflammation. What suffers as a result? The healing of your injury. Earlier this year I was out of commission with a knee injury, and I can say that my own experience supported what the research suggests. (For an anti-inflammatory boost, take a fish oil supplement each day, but talk to you doctor first. Fish oil thins the blood, and it might not be the best thing for the initial stage of healing or if you’ll be having surgery in the short term.)
High glycemic carbs and especially sugar basically shut down your immune system. I won’t go into all the dirty details here, but check out our Carb Binge post if you’re interested. Basic advice: avoid them at all costs – whether you’re healing from an injury or just trying to avoid getting the flu this year. Finally, loading up on anti-oxidants can boost immune function, decrease oxidation in the body, and keep all your basic systems in tip-top shape. All so your body can focus on the real task at hand – healing.
As far as improper fueling and injury, I think the case could be made for at least an indirect connection. If your body, for example, isn’t getting adequate protein, it won’t be able to effectively repair muscle tissue. If it’s overloaded with carb-induced inflammation and you then overexert yourself on cardio, let’s say, you’re compromising your basic physiological functioning. You’ll be on a crash and burn cycle that can set you up for fatigue related injury. Even if you don’t succumb to injury itself, a high carb, low protein diet can throw off hormone balance enough to undermine overall health.
How can I get omega-3s when I firmly believe that fish belong in the water and not on my plate?
The fatty acids you’re really looking for in the omega-3 family are DHA and EPA. Fish or krill, for better or for worse, are a much better source for these than traditional vegetarian sources. For example, you likely hear a lot about flaxseed, which is a good source of ALA (another member of the omega-3 family) but not of DHA and EPA (more potent anti-inflammatories). Because there are unfortunately so many concerns about the safety of fish these days, I recommend people choose wisely and depend more on a quality, molecularly distilled fish oil supplement. If you categorically don’t do fish or fish oil, I’d recommend looking into some new supplements hitting the market this year whose DHA and EPA are derived from algae sources. There’s some question regarding the harsh processing method, but do your research for the best brand in this respect.
What’s cortisol’s true impact on weight loss anyway? What about too little sleep and weight loss?
Cortisol, while essential in small doses, can become toxic to the body when too much of it is secreted too often. In the face of stress, cortisol sends the body’s system into hormonal havoc. There’s a release of glucose and then insulin. The ensuing chaos, which the body perceives as attack, cues the body to store fat, particularly in the abdominal area around the organs. Women, especially, seem subject to stress’s (cortisol’s) impact on body shape. Because of the cortisol-fat storage connection, high stress can make weight loss that much harder. (And who needs that?)
As for the sleep deprivation, there’s indeed a connection with hormones that influence stress management and appetite. Particularly relevant for weight loss, research has illustrated that sleep duration impacts leptin levels, which impact/regulate appetite.
What’s your take on gender differences in diet and working out? Do female hormones change the picture? Any suggestions (food/supplements) that help when they seem out of control?
First off, let me say that overall there are very few differences based on gender. The Primal Blueprint applies equally to men and women. That said, while the principles are the same, a few differences exist in degree or what I call “genetic range of outcome.” For example, I recommend interval training (the repetition of short “sprints” followed by a brief rest). While this approach improves cardiovascular health, endurance and fat burning in both men and women, interval training seems to especially boost fat burning potential more for women than men. Women’s bodies also appear to burn fat more effectively during low and moderate cardiovascular activity than men’s do. It also seems that women’s bodies are more prone to adrenal burnout and the corresponding hormonal imbalances. In keeping with this perspective, I’d say it’s especially important for women to keep high intensity cardio to well under an hour and to maintain a low carb diet, since both exhaustive high intensity cardio work and a diet high in carbs can throw off hormonal balance in the endocrine system, which in turn impacts the balance of sexual hormones. Likewise, research seems to suggest that a higher protein, low carb diet supports fertility more than the typical Western diet. Though I didn’t necessarily know this when I first designed the Primal Blueprint model, I’ve come to see over time that it seems to serve women’s health especially well.
By now most MizFit readers will know that women respond very favorably to strength or resistance training and that the fear some women harbor of building muscles that are “too big” is completely unfounded. The low-carb diet, combined with the reasonable levels of aerobic work and occasional intense efforts will stimulate gene expression to optimize hormone balance and create the lean, sculpted, functionally strong body that women and men all seek. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll conveniently wrap it up on that point, eh?
Thanks again for all your great questions, everyone, and thanks for reading! Stop by MDA anytime!
I have to add here that Im honored Mark was willing to do a MizFit guest post.
Back in the day, when MizFit was still Sisyphit, I could only have dreamed he’d guest post on MY blog (seriously, People, but please to cue uplifting movie montage music none the less…).
Thanks Mark for making a poor humble MizFit’s dreams a reality.
Now you heard the man: get
to commenting and then to weight training.