Category Archives: Food

The Line Between Clean Eating and Orthorexia

I frequently advocate for cleaning up your diet, aka avoiding processed food, focusing on unprocessed meat, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, unrefined grains.

I have to keep in mind the fine line between endeavoring to eat as healthy as possible, and drifting into the eating disorder orthorexia, a pathological to a fault obsession with eating clean.

Obvious caveat: Depending on who you’re talking to, any effort on your part to eat clean may seem to a given person pathological, given the average Western person’s poor dietary and lifestyle habits. Taking a serious interest in your diet quality when others won’t is not what I’m talking about.

Orthorexia more specifically is obsessive, to where you simply cannot eat anything that isn’t by your definition healthy. It often leads to a strict, very limited definition of what foods you can eat.

This is also not to say that gluten-free, carnivore, or vegan diets and similar fall into this. Orthorexia is more so that you get so particular that adhering to your diet of choice becomes fundamentally difficult.

Needless to say, just about anyone else’s dietary or cooking choices typically becomes a problem to someone with orthorexia. Restaurants and holiday dinners are often an impossibility for someone with orthorexia.

I advocate for eating clean with a mindset that you should still be allowed, within occasional reason, to eat foods you like but generally shouldn’t eat.

I still eat foods like pizza, hamburgers, drink the occasional beer, in-between my cleaner and healthier meals and snacks. I’m sure many of the ingredients in curry ramen, one of my favorite dishes, are foods I’d generally avoid eating otherwise. I’ve probably given Fausto’s Mexican Grill enough money for fried tacos to pay their rent for a few months. Don’t think from my frequent advocacy that I don’t ever violate the code and not eat these foods. I totally do.

I just follow a sort of 80/20 mindset to eating them. Most of the time, I choose to eat clean, eat healthy, eat to effectively fuel my body and spur recovery. And sometimes, occasionally, I go ahead and eat what would otherwise be considered garbage… even knowing it’ll make me inflamed, cause me to retain water, possibly not feel great energy-wise the next day, etc.

Sometimes, it’s worth it, and I don’t have a problem doing it. Because I know, the next meal or snack afterward, will probably go back to the healthy, whole foods I usually eat.

Your diet is a body of work, much like your training is a body of work. Your training is not made or broken by one workout, any more than one meal or snack can make or break your entire diet. It’s your habits and choices over a long period of time that determine your long term health, fitness, and body composition. You still do need to get it right most of the time: If you’re repeatedly making unhealthy choices, it’s going to add up long term. But enjoying a meal that isn’t on the list here and there between solid healthy choice after solid healthy choice is not really a problem.

So, I don’t want to write an advocacy piece on eating disorders. Hopefully you’re not at the point of orthorexia. And if you are and in too deep I hope you can seek out some help, whatever that entails.

But I want to make clear that, while I seek to make ideal choices as often as possible, I don’t have a problem with going off-plan and eating something fun now and again. Don’t let an adherence to a good diet hamper those opportunities.

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Experimenting With My Supplement Intake (early 2021 edition)

In recent months I switched up my supplement intake as a long term experiment.

  • I will first note one item hasn’t changed: I’m still taking my usual Cal/Mag/D3 supplement each day with K2.
  • After reading up on issues with Vitamin K2 MK-7 being made with soy and that nutrient’s detrimental effects on male hormones… I decided to try an MK-4 K2 supplement instead for a while.
  • After reading up on concerns about the common rancidity of oils used in Omega 3 pill supplements, I decided to stop taking Omega 3 entirely for a while, relying on diet for Omega 3 oils. I stepped up my consumption of wild sardines, which it turns out are a substantial Omega 3 source and a relatively close competitor in that regard with wild salmon.
  • I swapped out my one a day multivitamin for Hammer Nutrition’s Premium Insurance Caps, but instead of taking the full multi-pill dose I’ve taken 1-2 a day and counted on an improved whole food diet to provide needed nutrients.
  • I cannot mention the use of Hammer supplements without referencing the 2008 situation where several athletes claimed to tie back their positive doping tests to Hammer’s Endurolytes (a product I don’t use, BTW). The suit quietly petered out and was likely settled, and was also the only instance of Hammer being accused of containing banned substances. Some have also fundamentally questioned the accusations, alleging Hammer was not the source and possibly just a legal scapegoat for unrelated indiscretions. And all that was 13 years ago, with no reported instances since. Basically, I’m not worried.

All that said, I also during these recent months took a few other Hammer supplements:

  • The Tissue Rejuvenator, a more bioavailable and comprehensive form of the traditional glucosamine and condroitin, the supplement that help maintain joints, tendons and cartilage. Rejuvenator seeks to promote better recovery in your tissues, and while typically advised for injuries you can generally take it as a preventative.
  • The Race Caps Supreme, a mix of CoQ10 and vitamin E plus other vitamins to help your heart and improve running performance. I took it generally in the early going for a couple weeks, but now only take one occasionally and before tougher workouts.
  • The Mito Caps, a vitamin mix designed to promote recovery and building of your body’s aerobic powerhouses, the mitochondria. These have to be refrigerated, so it’s harder for me to remember to use them because they’re off the counter and out of sight. But like the Race Caps I take one occasionally and before tougher workouts, but also after many workouts.
  • In all these cases the recommended full dosage is several pills, but I typically only take one pill at a time, given I only want these to supplement my natural effort and recovery rather than drive it as others generally use it.
  • I did maintain some supply of my one a day, Omega 3 caps, and my old MK7 for occasional control doses, in case these switches ended up being bad decisions that deprived me.

For what it’s worth, my training has made reasonable progress, but given its challenges plus life stresses, and what training progress I expected to make from training recovery and improved nutrition, it’s hard to tell how much the supplements have or haven’t benefitted me. I realize a lot of this is likely confounding, but I’m trusting my observations in moving ahead.

These weren’t cheap purchases, so I did want to make a firm decision on whether or not I’d continue using them regularly. Here’s what I’ve concluded after 3+ months of regular use.

  • I probably will switch back to my old one-a-day multivitamin before the Premium Caps are exhausted, though I’ll take the multi separately in the morning rather than at night with my other supplements. I suspect that previously taking the one a day at night unduly spiked hormone production that was keeping me awake, not to mention being at rest may have caused more of it to get excreted unused than if I take it in the morning and move throughout my day. My occasional doses during this time have all been in the morning, and I’ve noticed fewer issues with better energy overall.
  • After not touching the stuff for a while beforehand… I have noticed no ill effects when dosing Omega 3, and if the rancidity concern was legit I think I would have noticed after doing so. So I think I will go back to dosing Omega 3, at least if I know I haven’t eaten sardines/salmon, or I think I’m sore enough during training to need the extra anti-inflammatory boost.
  • I noticed a somewhat quicker recovery day-over-day from my longer/harder workouts when dosing with the Race Caps and Mito Caps. So I may keep a supply of those on hand for the time being. I don’t want to lean on them for all key workouts, so I’ll probably go in-and-out with using one or both of them over time to note any differences in results.
  • I have decided that the issues with taking MK7 are worth the benefits, and will go back. The MK4 was a bit cumbersome to take (there are few varieties available, and you have to dissolve it under your tongue), and further research has confirmed my original belief that it’s not as bioavailable as MK7.
  • I do get sore more often… but realize I’m also training more and harder than I have in the last previous couple years. So I can’t necessarily say the new supplements didn’t help me, nor necessarily say that removing the Omega 3’s hurt me. I will continue to monitor this as I make adjustments and resume taking Omega 3 regularly.

Ultimately, it would be great if my diet was clean and robust enough that taking supplements beyond an occasional pill here or there wasn’t necessary. Until I get there, I’ll continue to work on what supplements I take and where.

I also wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend any or all of these supplements. Your diet remains most important, and any supplements most take should be broad and bioavailable, like multivitamins and regular vitamin supplements. I’m taking these with specific improvements and goals in mind, and as I’ve implied the results were largely inconclusive and slight.

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The Fitbro Bodybuilder Low Carb Diet Issue

The next time you see a weightlifter preach the value of a low-carb high-fat diet, remember that low-carb works for low activity.

The average bro spends most of his time sedentary. They may work out hard for the half hour or hour or so they are at the gym, but other than maybe a few minutes of walking on the treadmill or elsewhere “for cardio”, they’re not burning much of any carbohydrates.

So of course it makes sense for them to preach low carb dieting. The reason high carb diets have produced obesity is because people consume a lot of carbs they don’t use. We’re sedentary, yet people consume hundreds of grams of carbohydrate a day suitable for someone physically active.

If you’re a runner or a triathlete, meanwhile, you likely are endurance training over longer periods of time, and your body draws on available glycogen stores, which can only be replenished through carbohydrates.

Sure, there is a whole other discussion around the value of a metabolic reset by avoiding carbs for a period, or carb cycling (eating lots of carbs around training and relatively few carbs when not), and taking it easy on carb intake when not training or during an extended recovery period. And, in some endurance training situations (ultrarunners can vouch for this), a low carb diet and “fat-adapting” may be more useful for training than consuming large amounts of carbs.

But for most athletes, a carb-rich diet is less harmful and more important to you than any benefits from a lower-carb higher-fat diet.

That said, as always, focus on whole foods (fruit, vegetables, nuts/seeds, meat) rather than packaged and processed foods. The quality of your food matters as well.

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The TB12 Diet Is Really No Big Deal

This morning I saw Pete Blackburn’s CBS Sports writeup about practicing the TB12 Diet for a week.

TB12 is the health and fitness approach of football star Tom Brady, who as you might have heard had led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl, which will be played this Sunday. Brady published a book about his approach a short while back.

The TB12 Diet is built around a restrictive diet with the following rules that Blackburn helpfully outlined in his story:

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Should You Intermittent Fast? A Basic Primer on Intermittent Fasting

Photo by Omar Mahmood on Pexels.com

First, in brief:

Intermittent fasting can work sometimes with exercise, depending on what you do and how.

You should avoid intermittent fasting if you work out in the morning.

The more training you’re doing, the less likely it’s a good idea.

Most of those who practice intermittent fasting and train effectively only strength train as their only meaningful, intense exercise. Generally, their only aerobic training is whatever walking they do during the day, or very brief high intensity interval training… if they do any cardio at all.

If you don’t do much exercise at all, then yes intermittent fasting is a good idea. And you should probably get some exercise, but intermittent fasting is a good habit.

A General Overview of Intermittent Fasting:

Instead of traditional fasting, where you may go a day or more without eating… intermittent fasting is about eating all your day’s meals in a short window of time and not eating the rest of the day.

Even if you eat a similar number of calories, the long break from eating gives your body an extended metabolic break, which can help reduce inflammation and better promote healing and recovery. This is actually more of the benefit of intermittent fasting than the potential fat burning improvements that can occur during the fast.

There’s no calorie restriction on how much you eat during the food window. But, obviously, it’s going to be harder to overeat in a single 8 hour window than it would be if you ate meals throughout the day.

Still, it is possible to outeat the fast during the 8 hour window and still maintain or gain weight. The fast doesn’t cause you to lose weight in itself. While it’s obviously more difficult in a shorter window of time, you can still overeat. That said, intermittent fasting can help with food portion and weight control.

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How A Busy Schedule Improved My Nutrition

I’m currently working in a fairly isolated location across town, and some weeks I’m working longer than 8 hours. My schedule many workdays is wall to wall booked:

  • Wake up
  • Perhaps run as time allows
  • Prep for work
  • Go to work and work 8-10 hours
  • Commute home
  • Work out if I didn’t get to in the morning
  • Eat dinner
  • Prep food and clothes for tomorrow
  • Go to bed.

On many workdays I can’t leave the client facility because I only have 30 minutes for lunch, plus even when I can the best food options are halfway across town. In this location there’s no supermarkets or viable restaurant options nearby. I won’t eat garbage fast food or something off a vending machine or convenience store counter. Even if any of it was satisfying (hint: doubtful), the near total lack of useful nutrients will crash my energy levels in the afternoon, in a job where I need to stay engaged and proactive.

And, of course, I’m now endurance training. I need to stay fueled for those morning and/or afternoon runs. I can’t just eat a minimal diet or whatever happens to be available and expect to perform as needed in these workouts. Plus, I have to maintain my overall health and not make choices that will contribute to illness or burnout. The food I eat has to support not just my general day to day health but what I am doing in training.

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L-Theanine And Vitamin Timing

Whole Foods Market Double Strength L-Theanine 200mg Suntheanine Stress Response | eBay

Most people who take vitamin supplements take them all at once, usually at the end of the day after their last meal.

Other than the risk of overloading your digestive tract and most of them being passed instead of used, this isn’t a bad strategy… especially if your vitamins are fat-soluble and you’ve had a large, fairly-fat-rich meal for dinner. Sure, some will likely get passed, but much of what doesn’t directly go to your bloodstream for use could them get stored in whatever fat you end up storing, to be released in your bloodstream later when that fat is tapped for energy. (This in fact is why vitamin capsules contain oils: The oils are digested and stored as fat, and the vitamins absorbed can come along for the ride.)

This is beneficial for runners, triathletes and other endurance athletes. When they go to train soon thereafter, any of that fat that’s aerobically burned will also release those stored vitamins for use… at a time when their body may actually need it.

Now, that said, while I’ve talked about vitamins that can and should go together (like Vitamin K2 and calcium), some nutrients don’t go with other nutrients. And one key nutrient to keep in mind is L-theanine.

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