Food Quality Part 2: The Highlight Reel

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Last week, I introduced you to my client David and presented his body composition chart.  While the caliper numbers go into a formula for body fat, remember such reactively inflated numbers are usually the result of inflammation due to food intolerances or impurities.  When I mention “body fat,” I am referring to body fat but also the fluid that can be measured with the calipers.

Let’s take a look at some of the highlights of David’s chart.  The follow-up’s have been condensed to fit everything on one chart.  So if I refer to a follow-up number, know that several weeks may have passed prior to that follow-up during which body composition remained the same.   These status quo weeks are not shown on this chart.

  1. At the start of this run, David was coming off a lot of work stress. This reduced his hydrochloric acid production, which disrupted his pH balance.  A gut protocol of botanical supplements got his digestion back on track and immediately brought us to less than 8% body fat.
  2. There is a spike at follow-up 7. A few years ago, David had done a food intolerances test which revealed a high intolerance to dairy.  When he went back to a whey protein powder he still had a reaction and spiked up  in body comp from the 7’s to almost 9% body fat.
  3. Not wanting to throw away the entire tub of protein he’d just bought, he took used the whey powder half the time and substituted the other half with a vegan powder and his numbers immediately came back down.
  4. We had a slight pop up at follow-up 9 when David had a protein bar several times that week. When he looked up the ingredients, turns out it had whey protein in it.
  5. The week of follow-up 11, he finally completely cut out the whey powder and reached what was at that time, a record low in the high 6’s.
  6. At follow-up 12, David forgot about the moderate intolerance he’d had to almonds. This is further proof that even if you lay off a food for which you have an intolerance, you still may not be able to eat it every day.  In this case, David’s numbers spiked almost two full percentage points.
  7. Follow-up 16 illustrates why I’m such a stickler for obtaining Certificates of Analysis for supplements. Turns out that David thought he’d try another protein powder—not one of the two that I recommend.  He spiked almost two full percentage points.  Why?  When we looked at the ingredients, I won’t name brand names, but despite listing a bajillion “organic” ingredients, this powder also contains erythritol and guar gum.  These can be very highly inflammatory to the gut and may have contributed to the spike.  But we also don’t have a COA for this product and, therefore, don’t know what levels of heavy metals may be present.  Metals are a very common problem for vegan powders and not also cause inflammation  but disrupt fat burning as well.
  8. I was so proud of David during the week of follow-up 21. He finally gave up gluten!  His mother is Swedish so giving up bread was a big deal and I’d been working on him for years on this.  As you can see this was a record low and got us into the 5% range.
  9. Things were going quite swimmingly until follow up 22. David’s percentage jumped a one and a half points.  Since he rarely eats out it was easy to pinpoint the steak salad he’d had the day before.  I asked if it was grassfed.    Hmm…
  10. The next spike came about a month later. This time he zoomed from 6.5% all the way past 10%!  The culprit was a non-grassfed burger.  This was the second time that a grainfed burger obviously didn’t agree with David.  Sure enough, three months later we redid his food intolerances test which revealed a moderate intolerance to corn gluten.  Technically, there is no gluten in corn but this is the name for a processed form of corn that used to feed livestock.

Phew!  And these were just the highlight excerpts of David’s charts, you can see that not knowing how your body reacts to certain foods and additives can seriously hinder not only your body composition progress but your overall health as well.  The spikes on these charts are indicators of inflammation and we all know the litany of detrimental effects caused by inflammation.  So the next time you’re about to ignore the quality of your food, think about this highlight reel and remember this seemingly insignificant variable is actually the most important one.




Food Quality Part 1: “Little things make big things happen.”—John Wooden

Coach Wooden: “There are no big things, only alogical accumulation of little things done at a very high standard of performance.”

These days my biggest pet peeve is when people reflexively dismiss the importance of food quality.  My initial approach to the subject is often met with rolling eyes and a knee-jerk assumption that I’m some sort of food Nazi.  We’ve been incorrectly brainwashed for so long to think that calorie intake and maronutrient ratios are the only things that matter and that the effect of food quality is only minimal.  The exact opposite is true.  Instead of counting calories and calculating ratios all day, you get much more bang for buck simply by cleaning up your food sources.

I understand.  Talk of organic produce, heavy metal contamination, endocrine disrupting pesticides, damaging additives, food intolerances, and inflammatory grains is very abstract.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, it sounds good but what effect do all those things really have?  Well, as Coach Wooden would say, those little things add up to something very big.

This is when data is really necessary.  Tangible numbers enable clients to see the results of their actions and convince them to change their behavior.  One of my favorite examples to show new clients David G’s chart.  David’s been a client of mine for about 8 years now.  He comes in once a week and has kept strict records of his diet and exercise for the entire time.  I don’t require that kind of dedication from all my clients but it’s awesome because his consistency week in and week out make working with him a fantastic science experiment.  He’s so good at keeping all the variables in place that if his numbers pop up, we can usually pinpoint the one thing that made things go wonky.

The irony is that David didn’t initially believe in the validity of food quality either.  But after spending so much time watching macronutrients and calories and still not understanding why numbers would go up or down, he decided to play around with food sources.  As you’ll recall from my post about body composition, the calipers are an excellent tool for measuring inflammation.  If there’s a food intolerance, impurity, or additive causing inflammation, it will result in water retention that is picked up by the calipers.  While the inflated number is water and not fat, 1) the bloat looks like fat and nobody wants that and 2) prolonged inflammation will result in metabolic disorders that will result in body fat accumulation as well as water retention.

From his chart, you can see how sensitive David’s body comp is to even slight changes in his diet.  Next week we’ll discuss each event in more detail.

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All or Nothing is an Excuse to do…NOTHING

“All or Nothing at All” is only great if you’re Ol Blue Eyes.

When Sinatra crooned “All or Nothing at All” with Tommy Dorsey’s band, it was romantic.  Hey, I fell for it, too, and like many of my clients, applied the same OCD principle to other areas of my life.  Until I finally realized…it wasn’t working.  I’ll admit, a certain amount of obsessive compulsion makes the world go around.  It fuels the kind of persistence needed to make things happen.

But for people who are obsessive compulsive about their obsessive compulsion, it’s just not a very good long game strategy.  “All or nothing” is another term for perfectionism, and perfectionism is a really just an excuse to do nothing.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients blame their bad results on perfectionism.  They have one little slip-up and instead of getting right back in the saddle, they use their perfectionism to justify a landslide.  So one Oreo turns into twenty.  One chip turns into the whole bag.  One French fry becomes the entire plate. “You see, I’m an all or nothing kind of person”, they brag, as if it’s some kind of badge of honor.  It’s not.  It’s an honorable sounding reason to be lazy.  You’ve already set yourself up for failure because who can be perfect all the time for the rest of their lives?  No one.

This is such a common issue among my Type A clients who think they’re taking a macho stance.  “I’m so intense, I can’t do anything unless I do it all the way.”  It seems like an admirable creed until you realize over the course of a lifetime, it’s not sustainable.  It can work for a six-week training camp leading up to fight night, but who can train like that day-in-day-out, for weeks, months, years, decades?

And when applied to exercise, “all or nothing” can be dangerous.  On the one hand, people will often use it as an excuse not to exercise.  If they can’t do a full hour, forget it—not worth the trouble.  Or if they can only do 3 days instead of 5, there’s no point in doing 3.  So if they can’t do it “all the way,” hey, guess what?  They don’t have to do a damn thing!  We all know what kind of metabolic and structural issues this leads to.

While lesser known, the flipside to “nothing” is overtraining, and it can be just as harmful.  Earlier in the year the American Journal of Medicine published an article on several cases of rhabdomyolysis, a life threatening condition involving muscle breakdown due to over-exercise—in this case, spinning.  In my practice, I see a laundry list of other more common consequences of overtraining as well.  Dysbiosis—an imbalance of gut bacteria—is especially common in endurance athletes.  It can lead to GI distress, metabolic and immune dysfunction, not to mention adverse effects on body comp.  Over-exercise is a stressor to the body, which results in soaring cortisol levels, structural breakdown of muscle and joints, depressed immunity, and mood disorder.  So what’s so sexy about going all out all the time?

As I mentioned before, “all or nothing” has its place.  It’s good for short term goals, fight camps, bursts of inspiration.  But smart athletes have an off season.  And they don’t give up when a wrench gets thrown in their plans either.  Imagine if one of my fighters quit training camp because he didn’t get his morning run in one day.  For my recovering obsessive compulsives—and God knows I’m one of them, too—let’s take that Type A mentality and channel it towards something productive.  All my most successful clients have done this.  Train smarter, not harder.  Work hard at being more forgiving of mistakes while staying the course.  Be obsessive compulsive about not being obsessive compulsive.


Change Your Diet, Change the World

Car wreck
Did a bad diet cause this?

At the beginning of 2016, some speeding lunatic on the 405 took out the car on her left and me to her right, before spinning out and removing the entire front of her own vehicle.  She totaled all three of us, shut down three lanes of the 405—which made her very popular with all her fellow drivers—and I had to lay to rest my beloved Scion TC of 11 years.

Later that day, the Uber driver picked me up to take me to Hertz.  “How has your day been?” he asked.  Huh.  “I’ve been better…but at least I’m alive.”  I told him about Speeding Lunatic and he told me about the psychopath doctor who had assaulted his fellow Uber driver that week.  “You know what I think it is,” Mr. Uber offered, “and people think I’m crazy for saying this…it’s the food.”  Amen!

No, I don’t have a PubMed study directly linking assaults on Uber drivers to artificial sweeteners, but something is clearly wrong with the energy of this country.  And while I don’t think changing the food supply will entirely solve the problems of internet trolls, corporate corruption, police brutality, mass shootings, or the terrifying joke that is the state of our political system, I do believe it is foundational to getting us out of the cluster you-know-what we find ourselves in.

As an example, our food supply is highly estrogenic.  From soy to plastic containers, endocrine disruptors are everywhere (don’t get me started on personal care products).  Soy lecithin is in everything as an emulsifier to make your sauces, dressings, and chocolates creamy and smooth.  And so many of your beverages and prepared foods are packaged in plastic which leaches estrogen.  Little by little, all of this adds up to enough to hinder your brain.  I’m not kidding.  There are tons of studies you can find on PubMed linking impaired cognitive ability to phytoestrogens.

Now Estrogen Brain may or may not have contributed to Speeding Lunatic’s brain fog that morning.  Point is, there are a LOT of things out there making us sick in all kinds of ways and my Uber driver hit the nail on the head—so much of it is in our “food.”  I can’t even call it food.  Artificial sweeteners and emulsifiers unbalance gut flora.  Did you know most of your neurotransmitters are produced in the gut?  Yes, gut health determines your state of mind!  Soy (unless it’s non-GMO) and plastics slow down cognitive function.  Genetically engineered super gluten, pesticides and herbicides, and products from hormone-treated and grain fed animals are all highly inflammatory.  These things make people chronically sick.  Sick people don’t feel well.  This makes them angry and do stupid things.

No, cleaning up our eating habits alone will not solve all our problems but it’s a start.  The start.  Cooler heads will not prevail until we are thinking clearly, and clear thinking starts with what we put into our bodies.