Carbohydrates & Cholesterol…Good or Bad?

A few years ago when I began to really dive deeper into nutrition and wellness, the same theme continued to pop up: What we had been told to eat for the last 40 years or so to be healthy was not based on sound science.  When you look at how much sicker we are today than in the 70’s for example that becomes very clear.  Diabetes and all manner of chronic auto-immune diseases are reaching epidemic levels. Carbohydrates and cholesterol have both played a critical role in the mess we find ourselves in.  Are they good or bad for us?

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Although many diet fads have come and gone in that time, (and many more are sure to follow) in general it has been recommended that we eat much less fat and cholesterol in favor of a lot more carbohydrates. Again, it’s quite clear this is not working.  Even in the 70’s there was real evidence showing that basing ones diet in whole grains and other carbs was not in our best interest from a health perspective.  Especially in relation to diabetes, inflammation and weight gain. One big reason this data was ignored was because it didn’t make anyone a lot of money. It didn’t fit the governments nor farmers agendas very well.  Its much more profitable to grow grain and corn in excess (and put it in everything…I mean everything) than fruits and vegetables.

sad-bucs-fans-bags-on-head-550x385Cholesterol and fat have been blamed for everything from obesity to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers never winning a Superbowl.  Again this is based on flawed science and big business. The evidence is there for anyone who wants to look at the available science that high levels of cholesterol in our blood have very little to do with the cholesterol we eat in our food.  It’s also very clear there is no hard proof supporting the fact that higher cholesterol levels means a greater risk of heart disease and other coronary problems.  An excellent read on the subject is “Cholesterol Clarity” by Jimmy Moore, but there are countless other books and sources of information on the subject.

My Dad took a Statin drug to lower his cholesterol artificially like thousands of others.  After doing my research and completing relevant coursework in my studies, it became obvious that based on his numbers this was totally unnecessary.  Even my brother, a Harvard trained physician now agrees with me.  Statins, like antibiotics and pharmaceutical drugs in general are over prescribed to an alarming degree. Studies link this behavior to modern-day health issues like poor gut health, neurological problems, allergies and many, many more). Luckily, Dad was on a low dose statin so has hopefully experienced fewer side effects, if any, but that may never be fully known.  He doesn’t take them anymore.

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A little over a year ago the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology issued new cholesterol guidelines essentially declaring that millions of more healthy Americans need to start taking statins.  An article from the New York Times quotes both the above associations, although non-profit are heavily supported by drug companies.  The connection here is obvious and is nothing new.

So if basing our diet on carbohydrates is a bad thing and cholesterol is not nearly as bad as once thought what is the plan of action? Not surprisingly it comes back once again to just eating real food, but in ratio’s that better suit most people.  Carbs are not inherently evil, far from it.  They provide glucose which is fuel for energy. However, they need to come from clean sources and in conjunction with activity levels. Refined, processed, simple sources of carbs (most cookies, crackers, chips, pastries, cereals, breads, etc.) should be drastically reduced along with sugar (all carbs turn to sugar).

Look to sweet potatoes, yams, squash, plantains and green veggies instead as some healthy complex carbohydrate sources.  Even whole grains, while much better than refined grains tend to be inflammatory for many. If not prepared properly they can also inhibit absorption of other nutrients. Then of course gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye can be very troublesome as well.  Lastly, if you are not very active be careful as those excess carbs have to go somewhere.  If you don’t use them for energy they tend to make your butt, thighs and belly expand.

Nutrient-Dense-Foods

It is shocking that cholesterol ever got such a bad rap. Its found in every cell of our body, forms the building blocks for our hormones, is part of the myelin or sheathing that protects our nerves, is vital for vitamin D production, our brains are full of it…need I go on? So eat those egg yolks, that grass-fed butter and beef and clean animal products in general!  The latest science is connecting too much carb intake with high levels of LDL pattern B cholesterol, high triglycerides and low HDL which is a very ugly trifecta you do not want. Yes, you read that right, eating too many carbs (especially the processed, refined kind) very well may be a big reason we are fat, sick and heart disease is rampant.

So the takeaway message here? Eat the right kinds of carbohydrates in conjunction with how active you are and do not “base” your diet on them.  They should occupy about 20% of your plate on average with plants taking up 65-70% and protein the last 10-15%.  Oh and eat lots of cholesterol, if you are like most people it will do wonders for you!

If you enjoyed this article and want to learn how to live strong and own your health then please sign up for my newsletter here and receive a free e-book on the 5 critical pillars of health.

Ready for your free health consultation now? Click this link and fill out your health history and I will be in touch promptly!

Bart Thurman

Break-Free, Own Your Health

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Top Ten Other Weight Loss Strategies #3

Believe it or not exercise can contribute to your weight loss struggles!  The wrong kind of exercise or to much of it can make you feel terrible and not allow for the results you want. You see them, (or maybe you are one of them) the people who spend 1-2 hours on the treadmill 5-7 days week and never seem to get any smaller and/or they plateau…sometimes the opposite even happens.  Now that is frustrating.

treadmill

 

Exercise: #3

The prevailing thought here is the more you exercise (which often goes along with eating too little) the more calories you burn and therefore the more weight you lose.  Problem is our bodies are not a simple math problem.  That might work initially but it rarely if ever works long-term, it’s not sustainable at all.  Who wants to be hungry all the time? Who wants to feel weak?  Who wants to just suffer through their workout day after day staring at a mind numbing TV? Not eating enough and exercising too much is a recipe for disaster not to mention you just might tear the head off of anyone who gets in your way.  This behavior can tell the body hey you’re starving me so I’m going to start conserving fat and any other available resources I can and hence the plateau or even weight gain. This is something programmed into us from times of starvation and famine which is hardly the case now.

A few symptoms of over-training:

  • Lower performance (you feel way too tired during and/or after working out)
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Depression
  • Aching joints/inflammation
  • Frequently get sick
  • low libido

For those who don’t have a weight issue yet still exercise like their training for the Olympics all the time, they still need to be careful as well.  Along with the above mentioned side effects constantly stressing out the body this way can put undue stress on the adrenals as they churn out the hormone cortisol which helps us to deal with and manage external and internal stress on the body.

It’s a wonderful hormone and very effective unless we are always calling upon it to help us in the stress response.  If it stays high enough long enough not only will you experience symptoms of over training but other, more serious side effects of adrenal dysfunction and fatigue.  Cortisol is best released in emergency, flight or fight and/or other adrenalin pumping situations after which it then goes back to normal levels. Not only can over training mess with cortisol but any stressors, especially chronic background stress that is always present can have the same effect.

The latest science on weight-loss, fat burning and fitness in general shows that it is best achieved through burst fit or high intensity interval type training.  In fact studies have shown that as little as 5-10 minutes of this type of activity can produce as good or better results than going at a steady pace for 60 minutes for example.  I have began to experiment with this and love it.  I have a favorite hill near where I live and I run up it resting every 90-120 seconds or so until I reach the summit (so 3 times). Then I walk down and do it again!  It feels great and only takes about 30 minutes to complete including warm up and cool down (which actually takes longer than the workout itself) AND I get to feel like I’m in the movie, “The Last of the Mohicans”.

Mohicans

The same type of idea can be applied to just about any discipline including running, swimming, cycling, hiking, rowing, yoga, weight training, etc.  Another favorite of mine is to do a circuit of 4 different strength training routines in quick succession.  For example pull-ups, push-ups, squats and dead-lifts rotating from one to the other and only stopping when necessary even if in the middle of a set.  When I feel I can continue at the same intensity then I pick up where I left off.  Again this does not take very long (about 12-15 minutes) and has the same effect as running up my hill.  It’s all about quick, short bursts of very intense effort.

Too much of anything including exercise tends to be bad for us.  Past a certain point, our bodies simply do not adapt as well and we will create all kinds of chaos if rest and recovery are not made as much of a priority as working out.  This chaotic state can be just as bad as eating poorly and sitting on your ass on the time.  Just listen to your body, as long as  you feel good go for it but be very mindful of what your body is trying to communicate to you.

If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more about how I can help you lose weight and exercise the right way then please follow my blog (left side of any page on my site) and/or subscribe to my monthly newsletter.  I will send you an excellent, free eBook on the 5 critical pillars of health as a thank you for doing so!

Bart Thurman

Break-Free, Own Your Health

Top Ten ‘Other’ Weight Loss Strategies (#2)

Do you eat real food or food like substances?  When I first heard the phrase, “food like substance” it really struck a chord with me.  The majority of the American diet is precisely that. People everyday put things they believe to be food into their mouths without really thinking about what it is doing to them on a physical, mental or even spiritual level.

What we eat becomes an expression of ourselves, its information and instruction for our cells to do this or that and it is something we have control over. The study of epigenetics hypothesizes that we actually have the ability to turn genes on or off. Cancer genes, diabetes genes, heart disease genes, weight loss genes, etc., etc.  Were beginning to understand that just because Grandpa and his family had disease ‘x’ it doesn’t mean you have to as well.  Same goes for weight loss.

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#2: Refined & Processed Foods

So what does it mean to process a food?  Things like smoking, drying, dehydrating or freezing for example are all ways to process the things we eat.  These forms of processing can be quite healthy and make food last longer if done right.

We all know what junk food is and what it looks like.  You have all seen the super colorful bags, boxes and cans displayed at the local grocery store.  I used to work for 7-up and there was a lot of marketing that went into displaying things in a certain way so as to entice consumers to buy our product.  From gizmos, to gadgets to free giveaways and even a lame pin-up calendar of the 7-up truck drivers!  Trust me that was nasty and you do not want to be subjected to it:)

junkfood_Junkfood_5-_NWS-_Kevin_Eisenhut

Not eating junk food may seem like a no brainer when it comes to weight loss yet too many people still believe that if what they eat is low-calorie and/or low-fat it will prove to be an ally in their weight battle. Nothing could be farther from the truth.  These franken foods are full of garbage our bodies do not recognize and overtime can wreak havoc as our internal systems attempt to adapt (including blood sugar fluctuations leading to insulin resistance which promotes weight gain and eventually a lovely case of type II diabetes). These lab made foods are created to be quickly and easily consumed which makes us eat more than we should.

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All the junk food companies want their product right at eye level so you don’t miss them.  These are the very definition of food like substances (Oreos, Doritos, sodas, pastries, crackers, cookies, cereal the list goes on and on).  Flip them over and check out the ingredients and you will find stuff like: enriched flour, phosphates, sodium bicarbonate, corn syrup, sodium diacetate, (ya I spell checked it) artificial flavor, soybean oil, sugar, vegetable oil, raisin paste, modified cornstarch, etc. Ingredients like these are loosely regulated and vaguely labeled and there is very little knowledge of how they truly affect us.  The only proof is how much better you feel once you stop eating them and opt for real food.  This should be a HUGE indicator that they are doing damage and contributing to the health crisis in all modern economies.

Some of the above ingredients are banned in Europe and other countries as a whole list of health problems are linked to them.  Guess where I found these particular ones? In the elementary school where I teach.  It’s some of what my students eat for breakfast in the form of pizza, corn dogs and something resembling a cookie.  Yes, for breakfast and we wonder why so many kids are overweight, act out all the time, are moody, have ADHD, ADD and a host of other acronyms we like to slap on them in order to make prescribing drugs a lot easier.  I still remember one of my students who was a handful.  They put him on Ritalin and he became a ghost of his former self, almost zombie like.  It was as unnatural as anything I’ve witnessed.

Big Mac Kids

I can eat an entire box of crackers if I want to.  That is a crazy amount of calories and yet I’m still hungry.  Why? Because I have the calories and no nutrition. This is exactly what junk food companies design their products to do. Larger companies even have “food scientists” who engineer foods to appeal to our natural cravings. We love sweet and salty things and as you know most junk food is chock full of one or both. These so-called scientists turn processed foods into drugs which makes it very hard to stop eating them.  A lot of people experience withdrawals when they cut back or quit cold turkey just like with alcohol or street drugs which speaks to how proficient these scientists are at their craft.

Real, whole, nutrient dense foods taste just as good and without question are much more satisfying. When you eat this way you naturally stop when full and your cravings for junk food diminish over time as you crowd them out.  This leads your body to its natural “set point” that Jonathon Bailor talks about in his book, “The Calorie Myth”.   If you’re looking to achieve your natural, healthy set point (weight) look no further than eating real food (including plenty of healthy fats like real butter, coconut oil, olive oil, ghee, avocado, lard, etc.)  It will change your life…and allow you to lose your excess baggage.

If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more about all things health and wellness then please follow my blog (left side of any page on my site) and/or subscribe to my monthly newsletter.  I will send you an excellent, free eBook on the 5 critical pillars of health as a thank you for your newsletter subscription!

Bart Thurman

Break-Free, Own Your Health

Guys have skinny pants too (and how to fit into them without killing yourself)

Skinny or fat pants

No the answer is not to steal the above, lame pair of pants from your partner (that she can wear on her fat AND skinny days).

Seriously.  When I hear the phrase, “skinny pants” it is always associated with women but I am here to say that us guys strive for (suffer with) the same thing.  For example I have a pair of sweat pants in my bedroom from High School that I have donned from time to time over the years just to see if I can still fit into them comfortably.  Is that not the point after all?  Well for most of us anyway, see fail picture below…

Skinny guys in fat pants

It makes anybody feel good to rock their skinny pantalones. This past year I was for the first time able to fit nicely into my “summer skinny pants”…in the fall and winter.  You see other than my nasty mothball sweat pants I have typically owned a couple of pairs that only fit me just right during the late spring and summer months.  This was due to the fact I was training hard on my bikes and eating more carefully (and usually a little hungry to boot which isn’t any fun).  The bottom line is that it took a lot of work.

Not anymore.  I have my studies at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and my training at FDN (Functional Diagnostic Nutrition) as well as countless hours researching and learning about all things health and wellness to thank for this.  The biggest factors for me were diet, detoxification and learning how to exercise intelligently.  I can honestly say that it takes MUCH less work these days to slide into my guy flaco pants (I have two pair) and actually they fit better than ever.  How cool is that?

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To be completely honest I am still in shock that I can keep my racing weight year round now without all the sacrifice and suffering.  It’s incredibly liberating and every week I chuckle as I get dressed and reach for the fifth hole (the last one) in my belt loop.  Dont get me wrong, it isn’t effortless but compared to what was required before its nothing.

The best part of this journey into my skinny pants is that I learned it isn’t necessary to be hungry all the time and I eat more fat (healthy fats like real butter, coconut oil, olive oil and clean animal fats) than I ever did before!  It does not require hunger to make this happen.  That’s a huge reason why fad diets NEVER work long term.

If you want me to help you dust off your skinny pants contact me and I’ll teach you how:)

Bart Thurman

Break-Free, Own Your Health

Top Ten ‘Other’ Weight Loss Strategies

Successful, lasting weight loss can be tricky as many of you may have experienced.  Anyone trying to lose weight has most likely tried multiple diets and failed…at least in the long-term. This will be a series of 10 blogs with each one focusing on a weight loss strategy that works for many yet are rarely publicized because it doesn’t make anyone a lot of money.  Some of it will be familiar but you should glean some new knowledge which is my goal. There is great science out there but its hard to find, you have to know where to look, and you have to be able to make sense of it.  It takes an average of 17 years from when information like this is discovered before it becomes mainstream (if it does at all). I try to learn from people in the health industry who dig into the literature, studies and other relevant data and have no big agenda other than sharing truths with people when it comes to their health.  The following series is an example of just that.

macronutrients

 

 

#1: Macronutrients

There are three macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates, each of which perform critical roles in the body. Most people do not get the right ratio of macronutrients for optimal health. Although we require other nutrients like vitamins and minerals they are needed in much smaller amounts so are referred to as micronutrients. 

All of the macronutrients play a huge role in fat/weight loss.  As a very general guideline your diet should consist of:

25% carbs
25% protein
50% fat

Remember this is in general only and to create a reference point in which to work from. Depending on your own bio-individuality, health goals, activity and other factors these ratios will vary.  Lets chat a bit more about each macronutrient and bust out some “truth bombs” as one of my favorite podcast hosts likes to say.

 

Carbohydrates

Based on personal experience and on the research I have done one of the main culprits in achieving fat loss would be excess carbohydrates.   Note that I say ‘excess’ carbs because we all do need some level of this very important macronutrient. They are only “bad” when not being used for bodily functions as well as exercise.  If you eat a lot of carbs and just sit on your butt then they will most likely turn into fat on your body.

Some common sources of carbs in a standard American diet:

  • Grains
  • Sugars
  • Fruits
  • Starchy Vegetables
  • Beans
  • Pastas
  • Breads
  • Pastries

If your goal is to lose weight you may want to consider taking it easy on your total intake of carbs as this approach has been shown to be effective.  Not all carbs are the same however and its important to understand the difference.

refined-carbs-bariatric-surgeryRefined, processed carbs found in things like bagels, breads, pastas, pastries, cereals, cookies, chips, crackers, sodas and other things can cause a lot of problems. Especially if eaten on a regular basis which most people do (like every single meal). They’re digested quickly which causes blood sugar spikes which in turn can reduce insulin sensitivity which leads to surges in cortisol levels in the blood, which finally leads to weight gain and a host of other likely health issues.  There is science that suggests it is this type of diet that plays a role in causing everything from diabetes to heart disease. Controlling ones blood sugar is crucial for proper health.

 

 

complex-carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates found in squash, yams, sweet potatoes and all other fruits and vegetables are very different.  For one they are real food, they have no ingredient list and come as they are.  The processed carbs above are more like a food like substance.  They also contain a lot of fiber and other nutrients and although your blood sugar will rise depending on what you’re chewing on it is a much more consistent and slower release.  All this helps you to feel fuller longer and is much better for gut health.  I don’t know about you but I can easily down an entire bag of tortilla chips for example because it’s all calories and no nutrition.  I can only eat so many vegetables however before I stop naturally.

When thinking about your carb intake experiment with how you feel as its different for everybody.  If you’re an endurance athlete your going to need a lot more unless doing the ketosis thing (using fat as your primary fuel source) but this can be very hard to dial in and many athletes can’t pull it off.  If you aren’t active at all then definitely cut way back on your carbs and see how you feel.  If your somewhere in the middle just cut back to about half of what you normally eat and again check in with yourself.  If I am not eating enough carbs it affects my sleep for example and I don’t have any ‘power’ when cycling.  This time of year when I’m less active I typically only eat carbs for dinner (other than vegetables and fruit) and it has really helped me to keep off those stubborn pounds. I’m as light as ever and if I didn’t wear a belt I would be in trouble.

 

Fats

This is a favorite topic of mine!  I want to be a clear as possible here.  Fat does not make you fat.  I will say it again…fat does not make you fat.  If this were true I would weigh 900 lbs by now.  The latest science as well as a ton of old science from 30 years ago clearly shows this yet it has been hidden from us thanks to big food, big business, the government, etc.  Saturated fat and cholesterol are critical for many bodily functions and very much an essential part of a healthy diet.

Just today while eating out with friends right there on the menu was the option for, ‘yolk free’ eggs whites only.  What!?  When is this message going to become mainstream?  Egg yolks are one of the most nutrient dense foods you can eat and chock full of yummy, life-giving cholesterol.

Fat has been demonized for years and years as is associated with heart disease and cholesterol problems.  Nevertheless study after study is showing that the cholesterol you eat has little to no effect on your actual cholesterol levels and that it may in fact be the refined, processed carbs/sugars that instead are to blame.  To make matters worse low-fat foods typically have a lot of sugar and other chemicals to make them taste better (fat is flavor after all).

photoleadkepOne of the area’s I specialize in in my practice is helping men with low libido issues.  The sex hormones are very big fans of saturated fat and cholesterol so guys do not be lame and order egg whites to impress your partner…it may very well backfire on you.  Saturated fat also encourages your liver to function better and helps white blood cells recognize and wipe out viruses and bacteria.  This helps with immune function.  Real butter, pastured eggs/meats, coconut and olive oil, organ meats, wild caught salmon and full fat raw dairy are all excellent sources of fat.

Lastly fat is satiating, it fills you up!  If you don’t eat enough you will most likely feel hungrier sooner than you should because your body doesn’t get the message that you’ve eaten enough. I went through this debacle for years while training for endurance events on my bike and it was incredibly frustrating.

 

Protein

Gaining lean muscle by eating enough protein in conjunction with regular exercise assists in changing your body to look toned and in shape.  Also the more muscle you have the easier it tends to be to control your weight.  The protein found in seafood, eggs, and meat provides a plethora of positive health benefits.  Just like fat protein helps you to feel fuller longer but it also plays a role in blood sugar stabilization which helps to control cravings.

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Eating too much protein can damage your body but luckily when it comes to this macronutrient our bodies let us know when enough is enough.  It’s important to ingest a proper balance of fat, carbohydrates and protein to ensure your giving your body what it needs, especially if on a low carb or some other restrictive diet. You should never be “starving” either when observing any diet.  If your eating nutrient dense, whole, real foods in balance this will help you lose weight naturally without all the suffering (and then eventually watching the weight come back on).

Lastly please remember once again its okay to not be afraid of fat.  Eating 50% of your macronutrients from healthy fat sources is a great goal to work towards.  If your on a super low-fat diet right now start slower and add the fat in a little more gradually or you may experience some bowel distress. Eat your healthy fats, complex carbs, pastured protein and move your body!

 

Bart Thurman

Break-Free, Own Your Health