Tag 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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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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Food and Thermogenesis: How what you eat affects your body temperature

Energy produces heat. If you didn’t sleep through science class, they probably taught you this.

There are all sorts of circumstances behind what we now call climate change, the steadily rising temperature of the planet. But one key element is the fundamental existence of more human beings than have ever been on the planet in recorded history.

All humans produce heat. Every mechanical, electrical, chemical anything we have ever done produces heat. Vehicles and other machines produce heat when they operate. Anything we built that moves produces heat. Even the coldest fridges, freezers and air conditioners produce heat to cool what’s inside: The heat is just emitted out of the back or top of the device into the surrounding atmosphere.

And our bodies produce heat. The bigger we are, the more active we are, the more heat we produce. This is a key reason why your perceived temperature is hotter when you’re running than it is when you’re walking or still. You produce a lot more heat when you exercise.

Even the energy required to digest food produces heat. The act of digestion producing this energy is a little something scientists call thermogenesis.

Some foods require more energy from thermogenesis than others. This is one of the keys behind why it’s generally healthier to eat unprocessed meat and vegetables than processed sugar.

Insoluble fiber and most proteins require a lot of digestive energy for the body to digest its nutrients. These foods are highly thermogenic.

Meanwhile, chemically refined sugar is by design quickly digested, as these foods are chemically engineered to not satisfy you hunger and make you crave more of them. These foods are lightly thermogenic.

You can eat 500 calories of sugar cookies, and still be very hungry immediately after eating them. Meanwhile, you can eat 500 calories of steak, and be so full you won’t want another bite of anything for several hours. And woe is the poor soul who tries to eat 500 calories of broccoli… if he even manages to get it all down (1 cup of cooked broccoli is about 60 calories). He will end up spending a regretful amount of time on a toilet at some future point.

Broccoli and other vegetables are among the most thermogenic of foods. Many require more caloric energy to burn them than the calories the vegetables themselves contain!

Now, why bring up global warming when bringing up the thermic effect of food? Is Steven saying that broccoli causes climate change?

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