Home Posts tagged "Healthy Food Options" (Page 2)

The Truth About Meal Frequency: Is Intermittent Fasting for You?

Today's guest nutrition blog comes from former Cressey Performance intern Tyler Simmons. “It’s best to eat 5 - 7 times a day." "Eating every three hours fuels your metabolism." "If you skip meals, your body goes into 'starvation mode,' you gain fat, and burn muscle for energy.” Chances are that you’ve probably heard something like the above statements if you’ve read anything about diet or exercise in the last ten years. Many of you (myself included) probably spent a lot of time preparing and eating meals, in the hopes of optimizing fat loss and better muscle gain.

What does the data really show about spacing out your meals? When I started researching the topic of meal frequency in 2010, I assumed there was ample scientific evidence to back up these nearly unanimous claims that smaller, more frequent meals were better than larger, less frequent meals. Boy, was I disappointed.

To my surprise, the scientific literature had some different things to say. My research focused on how changing meal frequency impacts two different things: 1) Metabolic Rate and 2) Weight Loss. What I found was compelling evidence that reduced meal frequency, sometimes known as Intermittent Fasting (IF), could actually help me, so I started an experiment. In the summer of 2010 I was living in Alaska doing construction and labor, as well as doing off-season training for Track and Field (sprinting, jumping, and lifting). For years I had focused on eating every 2-3 hours, but based on my new findings, I decided to limit all omy food intake to an 8-hour window, leaving 16 hours of the day as my fasting portion. Despite doing fasted, hard labor all day, then lifting, sprinting, and playing basketball, I managed to set records on all my lifts at the end of the summer. Not only was I stronger than ever, but I got leaner too. Here’s pictures from before and after, about 2 months apart:

Getting lean wasn’t even my main goal; the idea that I could be free from eating every three hours without suffering negative side effects was extremely liberating. No longer was I controlled by arbitrary meal times and tupperware meals in a lunch box. During this summer, I developed the ability to go long periods of time (18-24 hours) without food, and not get tired, cranky, our mentally slow down. So why didn’t I catabolize my muscles, drop my metabolic rate, and end up looking like skinny-fat Richard Simmons (no relation)? The Science The idea that eating several smaller meals is better came from a few pieces of information. The first was because of an association between greater meal frequency and reduced body weight in a couple of epidemiological studies, although this only shows a correlation, not causation. Breakfast eaters are more likely to engage in other health activities, such as exercise, which explains the relationship. In the most comprehensive review of relevant studies, the authors state that any epidemiological evidence for increased meal-frequency is extremely weak and “almost certainly represents an artefact” (1). The second piece is related to the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF), which is the amount of energy needed to digest and process the food you eat. Fortunately, this is dependent on total quantity of food, not on how it’s spaced, making the distinction irrelevant. So, now we can see that the supposed benefits from increased meal frequency do not hold up to closer inspection, but why would we want to purposefully wait longer in between meals? Originally, researchers thought Caloric Restriction (CR) was the bee’s knees. Preliminary research showed that CR slows aging, reduces oxidative damage, and reduces insulin and levels. All good, right? Unfortunately, these benefits come with some nasty trade-offs, including reduced metabolic rate, low energy levels, constant hunger, and low libido, pretty much what you would expect from chronically restricting food intake. These were not happy animals.

Recent research has shown that Intermittent Fasting or reduced meal frequency can convey many of the benefits of CR while avoiding the negative side effects. Some of these benefits include:
  • Favorable changes to blood lipids
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Decreased markers of inflammation
  • Reduction in oxidative stress
  • Increased Growth Hormone release
  • Greater thermogenesis/elevated metabolic rate
  • Improved fat burning
  • Improved appetite control
Some of these effects may be secondary to the reduction of calories due to improved appetite control, or they may be primary effects of IF, the research is not conclusive on this yet. One of the most interesting findings was that contrary to conventional wisdom, reduced meal frequency actually causes an increase in thermogenesis (metabolic rate), which is mediated through the increase of catecholamines (stress hormones), such as adrenaline and norepinephrine (1,2). Yep, you read that right: instead of slowing your metabolism down, it speeds it up. Catecholamines also help with the liberation of fatty acids from fat cells, making them available to be burned as energy. That’s the “why” and the “how” for some of the effects of IF. Whatever the mechanism for it, IF seems to be effective for at least some people, myself included. But before you rush off to go start fasting 16 hours a day, here are some tips and caveats. Important Considerations Many people ask me if IF is good or bad, but as with most things, it depends. IF is not appropriate in certain situations. It can be good or bad, depending on who you are (your current health status/lifestyle) and what your goals are. IF is a stressor on the body; one of the primary effects is an increase in stress hormones. If you’re lacking sleep, eating low quality foods, stressed out about your job, and excessively exercising then don’t start an IF protocol. It will backfire and you will end up fat and tired! Only experiment with an IF program if you are getting 8-9 hours of sleep a night, eating a high quality diet, appropriately recovering from exercise, and don’t have too many mental/emotional stressors.

As far as what goals this works for, common sense applies here. IF is generally best for people who are already moderately lean and are trying to get leaner. If you’re trying to put on 30 pounds of mass, don’t start IF. If you’re an athlete with a very heavy training load, don’t try IF. For those of you who fit the criteria of goals and health status, I suggest experimenting with the 8-hour fed/16-hour fasted periods. Eat quality foods to satiation in your eating window, especially focusing on the post-training period. Keep in mind that IF is not for everyone, but it can be a powerful tool at certain times.  Most importantly, even if IF isn’t for you, remember that you shouldn’t stress out if you miss a meal occasionally! Additional Note/Addendum Many readers have noted that this is similar to what Martin Berkhan does in his LeanGeans protocol. Martin Berkhan was certainly influential in the thought process behind this, and I don’t mean to take anything away from him. To be clear, LeanGains is much more complex than a 16:8 fasting:eating period. LeanGains involves calculating calorie intake, fluctuating calorie intake +20% on training day/ -20% on off days, macronutrient cycling (high carb/low carb), supplementing with BCAA's, etc. I didn’t use any of these techniques during my ten week experiment, I just ate to satiety during an 8-hour window. Martin is a great resource for people that want to learn more, especially on the body composition side of things. His website is leangains.com. About the Author Tyler Simmons is the owner and head Nutrition/Strength & Conditioning Coach at Evolutionary Health Systems. He has his bachelors in Kinesiology with a focus in Exercise Science and Exercise Nutrition from Humboldt State University. A former collegiate athlete, Tyler specializes in designing training and nutrition programs for athletes of all levels, as well as general population. Learn more at EvolutionaryHealthSystems.com. Related Posts Why You Should Never Take Nutrition Advice from Your Government Anabolic Cooking: Why You Don't Have to Gag to Eat Healthy References 1. Bellisle, F., & McDevitt, R. (1997). Meal frequency and energy balance. British Journal of Nutrition, 77, 57-70. 2. Mansell, P., & Fellows, I. (1990). Enhanced thermogenic response to epinephrine after 48-h starvation in humans. The American Journal of Physiology, 258, 87-93. 3. Staten, M., Matthews, D., & Cryer, P. (1987). Physiological increments in epinephrine stimulate metabolic rate in humans. American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology, and Metabolism, 253, 322-330. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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Healthier Food Options: Natural Sweeteners for Your Desserts

We're officially one month into 2012 and I suspect there are some people out there feeling a little deprived. Undoubtedly, you've been so good about your diet to kickstart the new year. And without a question, those sweet cravings are starting to nag you (and I bet that has nothing to do with all the pink-and-red-packaged chocolate currently taking over store shelves everywhere.) While I won't argue with a true indulgence here and there, my sweet tooth requires a bit more than the occasional treat. Fortunately, I've developed a handy repertoire of sweet treats that fit in with a clean eating diet. What exactly is clean eating? One might consider it a detox for life. Cleaning up your diet from processed, unhealthy foods to heal your body and your mind. Focusing on colorful veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats to satisfy your cravings and fuel your daily activities. Trying to eat more ingredients instead of things that have ingredients. Clean eating is not eating sugar. Specifically, refined sugar (common granulated white sugar and brown sugar) is a big no-no. Same for the artificial alternative. The problem is that both of these are hidden almost everywhere. So what's a guy or gal with a sweet tooth on a clean eating diet to do?

Easy-to-find, more nutritious and all-natural sweeteners include honey, maple syrup, and molasses. Other options becoming increasingly more mainstream are succanat (also referred to as evaporated cane juice) and coconut palm sugar. These sweeteners all have caloric value comparable to "regular" sugar but are less processed and retain higher nutritional value. Each has its pros and cons, including flavor and ease of use, which will help determine which one should be used in place of sugar in a specific recipe. Also becoming increasingly popular is stevia, a zero-calorie all-natural sweetener derived from the stevia plant. In its pure form, stevia is many times sweeter than sugar (1 teaspoon is equivalent to 1 cup of sugar in terms of sweetness) which makes it difficult to use a direct replacement in baking, but not impossible. Stevia is sold in various forms, including concentrated liquid drops (great for sweetening coffee and tea) and bulkier mixes (easier to use in baking or for measuring small amounts.) Over the past year I've been experimenting with these various sweeteners and put them to use in many recipes. In general I find that these sweeteners work best in combination; I rarely use just one in a recipe. Here are some of my favorite all-naturally sweetened indulgences.

Vegan Salted Caramel Ice Cream, Silken Tofu, Coconut Sugar

In this Salted Caramel Ice Cream, I started with coconut palm sugar to provide the rich color and caramel flavor. I could have used only coconut sugar to sweeten the ice cream, but to shave some calories, I opted to use about half of what I would have needed to create an adequately sweet ice cream, and added liquid vanilla stevia to provide the rest. (If you just clicked that link and dropped your jaw at the price of a 2oz bottle, relax. It seems like a lot of money but I promise it lasts forever. This stuff is highly concentrated and you only need a few drops to sweeten a cup of coffee or tea.)

cookie dough truffles, vegan, chia seeds, guten-free, cacao nibs

Similarly, in these Mint-Cacao Cookie Dough Truffles, I used a combination of powdered steviaalong with maple syrup. In this no-bake recipe, the maple syrup is desirable because it helps to bind the dry ingredients. But just like with the ice cream recipe, I opted to lighten the caloric load by using some stevia in addition.

pumpkin, cheesecake brownies, gluten-free, vegan, refined sugar-free

Now take a look at my Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Swirl Brownies (that are not only refined sugar-free, but vegan and gluten-free too!) Here I used a combination of maple syrup and another sweetener I didn't even mention above: dates! Date puree (made from soaking dates in hot water and then pureeing in a food processor) provides not only sweetness and obvious nutrition, but contributes to the soft, chewy texture desirable in brownies and cookies. Also note that instead of oil, I used a combination of applesauce and pumpkin to provide the necessary moisture. These natural fruit and vegetable options provide some sweetness too. Decadently rich and fudgy, these brownies are some of my favorite baked goods to date (no pun intended.)

stevia, clean eating magazine, chocolate, fruit

Lastly, here is an example where stevia did work perfectly well on its own. That chocolate-covered dream you see is a a Chocolate Raspberry Macaroon Tart I created for Clean Eating Magazine. There you have it: another resource to support your new clean eating lifestyle, and one to which I'm proud to be a regular contributor. I served this tart at a big family party last spring, and the only complaint was that I didn't bring a second one as well. I hope that with these ideas, you're able to stay on track and feel good about what you're eating! About the Author Cara Lyons is the author of Cara's Cravings, a food blog dedicated to delicious recipes for healthy living.  She is also a regular contributor to Clean Eating Magazine. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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Anabolic Cooking: Why You Don’t Have to Gag to Eat Healthy

One of the coolest parts of my job is that I get a lot of free stuff sent my way to review.  My staff and I go through everything that crosses my desk, but to be very candid, the overwhelming majority of it just isn't impressive...at all.  As such, it can also be one of the most frustrating parts of my job.

Fortunately, though, there are exceptions to this trend; I also get some outstanding stuff sent my way, and that's the stuff that I share in this blog for the benefit of my readers.  One such example was Metabolic Cooking from Dave Ruel.  This is a healthy cookbook that absolutely blew me (and my wife, Anna, the ultimate judge) away.  If you're interested, you can read my review of it here.  While this blog was posted almost a year ago, I still get emails from people thanking me for recommending it.  And, Anna and I utilize these recipes all the time.

More specific to today's post, though, is that Dave just put it's "sister product," Anabolic Cooking, on sale for $40 off (more than half off) for this week only.

This e-book has over 200 recipes from a variety of categories: breakfast, chicken/poultry, beef/pork, seafood, salads/soups/sides, snacks/bars, and desserts.  It comes in an easy-to-navigate format, and all the recipes utilize ingredients that you can buy conveniently at any grocery store. And, of course, because it's all about creating health food options, the nutrition information is presented for each recipe.

What excites me above all else, though, is it has a meatloaf recipe!


With Dave's permission, I've reprinted the healthy meatloaf recipe below. I've already made it dozens of times, and it's fantastic.

Dave's Famous Turkey Meatloaf

Makes 6 Servings

• 2 lbs ground turkey
• 1 tsp olive oil
• 1 diced onion
• 1 tsp garlic (optional)
• 1⁄3 cup dried tomatoes
• 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
• 1 whole egg
• 1⁄2 cup parsley
• 1⁄4 cup low fat parmesan
• 1⁄4 cup skim milk
• Salt and pepper
• 1 tsp oregano


1. Cook the onion with olive oil separately
2. Mix everything together in a big bowl, add the cooked onions
3. Put the mix in a big baking pan
4. Bake at 375-400°F for about 30 minutes.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
393 Calories
46g Protein
14g Carbohydrate
17g Fat

For 200 healthy recipes along these lines, I'd encourage you to check out Anabolic Cooking while it's on sale at this great price.  If you're anything like me, you'll use it a ton.

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The Best of 2011: Product Reviews

I've already featured the top articles at EricCressey.com from 2011, and now it's time to highlight the top product reviews I did at this site in the last year. 1. Metabolic Cooking - This was the most popular product review I did on the year for a very simple reason: everybody needs to eat!  And, the folks reading this site prefer to eat "clean" - and Dave Ruel did a great job of making this easier and tastier with an outstanding recipe book to which I still refer every week.  I made two posts about the product: Metabolic Cooking: Making it Easier to Eat Clean with Healthy Food Options A Must-Try Recipe - and My Chubby 4th Grade Pics! (this is the best chicken fingers recipe in history; try it!)

2. Muscle Imbalances Revealed - Upper Body - This was the sequel to the popular lower-body product that was released by Rick Kaselj et al. in 2010.  I went through and highlighted each presenters contributions to the product via four posts: Muscle Imbalances Revealed Review - Upper: Part 1 (Dean Somerset) Muscle Imbalances Revealed Review - Upper: Part 2 (Dr. Jeff Cubos) Muscle Imbalances Revealed Review - Upper: Part 3 (Tony Gentilcore and Rick Kaselj)

3. Lean Hybrid Muscle - As the review below will demonstrate, this program offered me a nice change of pace from my "normal" training when I needed to shake things up earlier this year.  It's a nice follow-up to Show and Go.  Here's my review: How I'm Breaking Out of My Training Rut: The Lean Hybrid Muscle Strength and Conditioning Program

4. Post-Rehab Essentials - Based on the fact that Dean Somerset has now gotten two shout-outs in my top product reviews of 2011, you might think that I have somewhat of a man-crush on him.  The truth is that I think Dean relates complex terms in simple terms and "teaches" about as well as anyone in the fitness industry.  Check out this post that touches on why his product has merit: 4 Reasons You Must Understand Corrective Exercise and Post-Rehab Training

There were certainly some other great products I encountered this year, but these four reviews proved to be the most popular with my readers, based on hosting statistics. We'll be back soon with the top features of 2011. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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Is Dairy Healthy? The Whole Story – Part 3

Today marks the third and final installment of Brian St. Pierre’s guest series on dairy consumption. In Part 1 and Part 2, he covered a lot of ground on the total health impact of dairy foods. If you missed them, I highly suggest reading these before you continue here with Part 3. Pasteurization – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly I am going to assume that you all know that pasteurization is the method by which milk is heated to destroy bacteria that may cause harm, as I am not going to get into technicalities of what it is and the different techniques available. Anyway, it does seem all well and good right? It destroys harmful bacteria, making contamination almost impossible.  Is it really all it is cracked up to be, though? When Louis Pasteur came up with the process, our food production was terrible. Sanitation was poor, and (thanks to Pastuer) we’d really just begun to understand that germs caused illness.  Animals (like cows) were not brought up in pristine conditions.  Folks were starting to mass-milk cows in these unsanitary conditions, too – so there was certainly an increased likelihood of getting sick and ending up with serious health problems, as medicine back then surely wasn’t what it is today. This was before the creation of the FDA or any other food regulatory system, and before Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle showcased to the nation how disgusting our food production was (incidentally, that book led to the creation of the FDA, but that is beyond the scope of this article). It is completely logical to believe that pasteurization was a huge breakthrough, and a necessity at the time of its inception. At the time, pasteurized milk was safer than raw. The question is though, is that still the case today?

Let me back up a second and talk about glutathione, our body’s master antioxidant. Glutathione has many important functions:
  • Neutralizes free radicals and peroxides
  • Maintains blood levels of antioxidants vitamins C and E
  • Helps the liver and white blood cells in the detoxification of foreign compounds and carcinogens
  • Is essential for the optimized immune function
  • Plays a key role in a plethora of metabolic and biological processes like DNA synthesis, protein synthesis, prostaglandin synthesis and more.
We know that whey protein’s cysteine content is responsible for much of its ability to boost glutathione, but not all of it. This ability may also come from two biological fractions found in whey: beta-lactoglobulin and serum albumin. These proteins contain some very special glutamyl-cysteine bonds that tend to enter our blood stream intact, and are much more readily turned into glutathione. Unfortunately, it seems that when whey protein undergoes extensive heat treatment, these two delicate fractions are destroyed. This is not only problem in whey protein powder processing, but also with pasteurizing milk. In fact, pasteurization in general decreases the whey protein concentration in milk. The heat causes the proteins to denature and associate with the casein proteins. The higher the temperature – as when milk is ultra-pasteurized – the greater the denaturing of whey.

In fact, whey normally makes up about 20% of the protein in raw milk. Gentle pasteurization (high temperature, short time) causes this to drop down to about 12-13%, while ultra-pasteurization causes whey to fall to only about 5% of the total protein content! On top of that, exposing raw milk to different heat treatments also affected those delicate biological fractions of whey.  In raw milk, beta-lactoglobulin makes up almost 90% of the whey protein. After gentle pasteurization, it makes up just under 70%, and after ultra-pasteurization it drops down to just over 20%! In addition to the beta-lactoglobulin, serum albumin levels are also affected by pasteurization. Gentle pasteurization has been found to decrease serum albumin levels by 40%, while ultra-pasteurization reduced it by 77%! After reviewing the evidence, does raw milk seem healthier? I would say one could make a very strong argument that this is the case. Is raw milk any less safe?  This is also debatable, but in my opinion it is probably only an issue for pregnant and nursing moms, as well as young children.  For them, I am hesitant to recommend raw milk, regardless of the potential benefits.  For everyone else, the choice is yours – if your state allows it. Whole Fat Milk Leads to Greater Muscle Growth? I haven’t discussed the role of dairy in muscle growth yet in spite of the fact that it’s surely of interest to you – so let’s get to it now. Researchers compared skim milk to whole milk in the post-training period to see which would produce greater anabolic effects.  They pitted 14oz of skim milk against 8oz of whole milk, to make them calorically equal.  Theoretically, the results should be even or in the favor of skim milk, since it had six more grams of protein.  The research actually showed that whole milk was more effective than skim, despite the lower protein content and equal total calories.

Another notch in favor of whole-fat over fat-free, and while it is just one study, at the very least it seems clear that fat (specifically milk fat), is certainly not going to inhibit results if consumed post-training. In Conclusion If you made it this far, I applaud you, as this was an absolute beast of an article. You have just read almost 3,000 words on dairy, so give yourself a little pat on the back. In my mind, and from the totality of the data, it is clear that if you choose to consume dairy (and I’m not even saying you have to) your best bet for health and body composition purposes would be whole-fat, grass-fed and lightly pasteurized (or raw) options. However, finding companies that make such products can often be difficult. To make matters worse, not all organic dairy options are created equal, and not all are even grass-fed. In fact, many organic dairies produce milk and dairy that is no better than conventionally-produced grain fed options.  To find out whether the organic dairy available to you is of high quality, or even grass-fed, check out this report from the Cornucopia Institute. It will provide you with national and local organic dairy options, as well as how much time their cows spend on pasture, whether they receive antibiotics and more. For example, Organic Valley and Whole Foods 365 are two brands that are available nationally and received good reviews. In contrast, Horizon, the largest organic dairy producer, would not even provide their information to the Cornucopia Institute. I don’t know about you, but I am not willing to consume food from a company that is not transparent about its production practices. In the end, the choices are yours, so choose wisely. References Douglas F, Greenberg R, Farrell H, Edmondson L. Effects of ultra-high-temperature pasteurization on milk proteins. J Agri Food Chem. 1981 29(1):11-15 Morales F, Romero C, Jiménez-Pérez S. Characterization of industrial processed milk by analysis of heat-induced changes. Inter J Food Sci Tech. March 2000 35(2):193–200 Elliot TA, Cree MG, Sanford AP, Wolfe RR, Tipton KD.  Milk ingestion stimulates net muscle protein synthesis following resistance exercise.  Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Apr;38(4):667-74.

About the Author

Brian St. Pierre is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He received his degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition with a focus in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Maine, and he is currently pursuing his Master's degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the same institution. He was the Nutritionist and a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA for three years. He is also the author of the Show and Go Nutrition Guide, the accompanying nutrition manual to Eric Cressey’s Show and Go Training System. With his passion for seeing his clients succeed, Brian is able to use his knowledge, experience, and energy to create highly effective training and nutrition programs for clients of any age and background. For more information, check out his website. Related Posts The #1 Cause of Inconsistent Pitching Velocity A Must-Try Recipe from Metabolic Cooking Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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Is Dairy Healthy? The Whole Story – Part 2

Today marks the second installment of Brian St. Pierre's guest contribution on the topic of dairy consumption.  In case you missed Part 1 - which discussed the history of dairy consumption, how dairy production has drastically changed, and the benefits of grass-feeding - you can find it HERE. The Skinny on Dairy Fat Whole or full-fat dairy is actually a topic I want to cover in a lot of detail.  I personally feel that this is a grossly misunderstood topic, and I want to clarify several things here. There is actually a good amount of research, in several populations, that shows that full-fat dairy consumption is associated with lower BMI, lower waist circumference, and lower risk of cardiovascular disease (especially stroke). Yes, you read that right: whole fat dairy is associated with a decreased risk of CVD, especially stroke. Low-fat or fat-free dairy is actually often associated with increased BMI and waist circumference (though to be fair this is not always the case).

In fact Dr. Ronald Krauss, one the world’s leading lipid researchers, showed that while saturated fat from dairy does raise LDL, it is an increase in large, fluffy and benign LDL – not the small, dense and atherogenic LDL. Whole fat dairy from grass-fed cows contains a boatload of powerful vitamins and healthful fatty acids.  These vitamins are fat-soluble, meaning they are bonded to the fatty acids in the dairy, and are therefore nearly non-existent in fat-free dairy, same for the fatty acids obviously.  The fat is where vitamins A, D, E and K2 are, as well as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), butyric acid, omega-3 fatty acids, trans-palmitoleate and medium chain triglycerides.  Low-fat and fat-free dairy are woefully lacking in these properties. CLA is present in human body fat in proportion to dietary intake, and has been shown to be a powerful ally in the fight against cancer.  Meat and dairy from grass-fed animals provide the richest source of CLA on the planet, containing three to five times more CLA than feedlot-raised animals.  CLA has been found to greatly reduce tumor growth in animals, and possibly in humans as well.  In a Finnish study, women who had the highest levels of CLA in their diet had a 60% lower risk of breast cancer than those with the lowest levels.  Simply switching from conventionally-raised grain-fed meat and dairy to pasture-raised grass-fed versions would have placed all the women in the lowest risk category.

In addition, CLA may also help to fight against heart disease. In a study of 3626 Costa Rican men and women (a country that uses traditional pasture-grazing for dairy cows), people with the highest level of CLA in their body fat were 49% less likely to have had a heart attack, compared to those with the lowest level. This may be due to CLA intake and tissue levels being associated with greater amounts of large and fluffy LDL, and inversely associated with small and dense LDL. Vitamin D is pretty much the best thing since sliced bread, and getting some from food is always a good thing.  Low blood levels of vitamin D are associated with lowered immunity, increased risk of 17 cancers (and counting), increased risk of heart disease, neurological and psychological disorders (including ADD and depression), diabetes, stroke, hypertension, bone loss, and loss of muscle mass and strength as we age and more. Omega-3s are absolutely amazing, as they may improve nerve, brain, eye, heart and cardiovascular function as well as decreasing inflammation, joint pain, arthritis, psychological disorders, and risk of breast cancer and heart disease - all while improving mood and body composition! Medium chain triglycerides are unique fatty acids that are more readily utilized as fuel rather than stored as energy, as well as particular ones, like lauric acid, containing anti-viral and anti-microbial properties.

Vitamins A and E are powerful antioxidants. Butryric acid may help with bodyweight regulation, and is a primary fuel source for our intestinal flora. Notice that I didn’t mention vitamin K2 yet?  That is because I was saving what might be the best for last.  Several studies have found that a higher vitamin K2 intake is associated with a lower risk of heart attack, ischemic stroke, cancer incidence, cancer mortality and overall mortality.  Men with the highest vitamin K2 consumption had a 51% lower risk of heart attack mortality and a 26% lower risk of all cause mortality compared to men consuming the lowest amount! One of the ways vitamin K2 improves cardiovascular health is its ability to prevent and decrease arterial calcification by 30-40%.  And, this only speaks to vitamin K2’s effects of cardiovascular health; it is also crucially important for proper fetal development and bone health, to name a few additional benefits.

What about Dairy and Diabetes? With little fanfare, a study recently came out by Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian and colleagues. Why so little fanfare, you ask? Because the study suggests that dairy fat may actually protect against diabetes, and that goes against conventional wisdom and government recommendations. Dr. Mozaffarian and company collected two measures of dairy fat intake in 3,736 Americans. They took six 24-hour dietary recall questionnaires, as well as taking blood levels of trans-palmitoleate. Trans-palmitoleate comes almost exclusively dairy fat and red meat fat, and therefore it reflects the intakes of these foods. Dairy provided most of the trans-palmitoleate fatty acid in this study. Adjustments were made for confounding factors, and trans-palmitoleate levels were associated with a smaller waist circumference, higher HDL cholesterol, lower serum triglycerides, lower C-reactive protein, lower fasting insulin and lower calculated insulin resistance. In addition to that awesome data, people who had the highest levels of trans-palmitoleate had 1/3 the risk of developing diabetes over the 3 year study period. Again, it is important to note that trans-palmitoleate is a fatty acid, and so is only significant from whole fat dairy, not from low-fat or fat-free. The investigators also noted that "greater whole-fat dairy consumption was associated with lower risk for diabetes." This is an important distinction as it wasn’t just trans-palmitoleate levels that were associated with the decreased risk, but the actual consumption of the food that provides that element was as well. Here's another nice quote from the authors: “Our findings support potential metabolic benefits of dairy consumption and suggest that trans-palmitoleate may mediate these effects. They also suggest that efforts to promote exclusive consumption of low-fat and nonfat dairy products, which would lower population exposure to trans-palmitoleate, may be premature until the mediators of the health effects of dairy consumption are better established.” While it is certainly possible that trans-palmitoleate is mediating a lot of these positive health outcomes that were associated with it, in all reality it only makes up a tiny fraction of the fat content of milk. I tend to believe that instead it is more of a marker of dairy fat intake, with the benefits more likely coming from the other elements contained in dairy fat – CLA, vitamin K2, butyric acid, vitamin D, etc. Stay tuned for part 3! References Berkey CS, Rockett HR, Willett WC, Colditz GA.  Milk, dairy fat, dietary calcium, and weight gain: a longitudinal study of adolescents.  Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005 Jun;159(6):543-50. Rosell M, Håkansson NN, Wolk A.  Association between dairy food consumption and weight change over 9 y in 19 352 perimenopausal women.  Am J Clin Nutr.  2006 Dec;84(6):1481-1488. University of Gothenburg (2009, November 4). Children Who Often Drink Full-fat Milk Weigh Less, Swedish Research Finds. ScienceDaily. German JB, Gibson RA, Krauss RM, et al.  A reappraisal of the impact of dairy foods and milk fat on cardiovascular disease risk.  Eur J Nutr. 2009 Jun;48(4):191-203. Bonthuis M, Hughes MCB, IbiebeleTI, Green AC, and van der Pols JC.  Dairy consumption and patterns of mortality of Australian adults.  Eur J Clin Nutr.  2010;64:569–577. Elwood PC, Strain JJ, Robson PJ, et al.  Milk consumption, stroke, and heart attack risk: evidence from the Caerphilly cohort of older men.  J Epidemiol Community Health.  2005;59:502-505 Elwood PC, Pickering JE, Hughes J, Fehily AM, Ness AR.  Milk drinking, ischaemic heart disease and ischaemic stroke II. Evidence from cohort studies.  Eur J Clin Nutr. 2004 May;58(5):718-24. Krauss RM, et al. Change in dietary saturated fat intake is correlated with change in mass of large low-density-lipoprotein particles in men. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 May;67(5):828-36. Aro A, Männistö S, Salminen I, et al. Inverse association between dietary and serum conjugated linoleic acid and risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Nutr Cancer. 2000;38(2):151-7. Smit LA, Baylin A, Campos H.  Conjugated linoleic acid in adipose tissue and risk of myocardial infarction.  Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jul;92(1):34-40. Sjogren P, Rosell M, Skoglund-Andersson C, et al. Milk-derived fatty acids are associated with a more favorable LDL particle size distribution in healthy men. J Nutr. 2004 Jul;134(7):1729-35. Geleijnse JM, Vermeer C, Grobbee DE, et al.  Dietary Intake of Menaquinone Is Associated with a Reduced Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: The Rotterdam Study.  J Nutr.  2004 Nov;134:3100-3105. Gast GC, de Roos NM, Sluijs I, et al.  A high menaquinone intake reduces the incidence of coronary heart disease.  Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis.  2009 Sep;19(7):504-10. Nimptsch K, Rohrmann S, Kaaks R, Linseisen J.  Dietary vitamin K intake in relation to cancer incidence and mortality: results from the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Heidelberg).  Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 May;91(5):1348-58. Spronk HM, Soute BA, Schurgers LJ, et al.  Tissue-specific utilization of menaquinone-4 results in the prevention of arterial calcification in warfarin-treated rats.  J Vasc Res. 2003 Nov-Dec;40(6):531-7. Mozaffarian et al. Trans-palmitoleic Acid, Metabolic Risk Factors, and New-Onset Diabetes in US Adults. Ann Internal Med. 2010.

About the Author

Brian St. Pierre is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He received his degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition with a focus in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Maine, and he is currently pursuing his Master's degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the same institution. He was the Nutritionist and a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA for three years. He is also the author of the Show and Go Nutrition Guide, the accompanying nutrition manual to Eric Cressey’s Show and Go Training System. With his passion for seeing his clients succeed, Brian is able to use his knowledge, experience, and energy to create highly effective training and nutrition programs for clients of any age and background. For more information, check out his website. Related Posts Precision Nutrition: Nutritional Travel Strategies for Eating on the Road How to Read Fitness Research Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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Is Dairy Healthy? The Whole Story – Part 1

In light of the overwhelming popularity of a recent guest blog on the topic of sports nutrition and healthy food options, I wanted to keep the ball rolling with some regular nutrition content.  This week, Brian St. Pierre kicks off a three-part series on everything you want to know about dairy.  Enjoy!  -EC

Dairy: perhaps the most controversial food in history.

While some people would argue that we shouldn’t consume dairy at all, others recommend getting at least three servings per day. There is fat-free, 1%, 2%, whole, cream, butter, and more. There is also the pasteurization, ultra-pasteurized and raw debate.  Who is right?  What fat content is the best?  Should you eat raw dairy?

Let’s find out.

The History of Dairy Consumption

The fact of the matter is that humans have been consuming dairy in one form or another for 10,000 years. Many cultures (e.g., people of the Lotchenstal Valley, the Masai, Mongolians) have subsisted on tremendous amounts of dairy without any problems often associated with it. The difference is that traditional dairy was from cows that ate grass, got exercise, breathed fresh air, and enjoyed the sunshine. Their quality of life – and therefore quality of milk – was excellent.

Fast forward to today and things have changed.  Milk demand has increased greatly in the last hundred years, and so the industry responded.  Cows moved off family farms and onto Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO), which are essentially huge conglomerate farms where they:

a)      are fed tons of corn,

b)      stand in their own waste

c)       are given antiobiotics to prevent the illnesses from that corn consumption and the unsanitary living conditions

d)      are given copious amounts of growth hormones to speed their growth and increase their milk production.

Appetizing, I know.

Traditionally, cows were allowed a seasonal reproductive cycle and were milked for only six weeks after giving birth.  Today, conventional dairy farmers inseminate cows only a few months after giving birth, which can compromise the immune system and decrease milk quality. What’s worse, it will also cause a huge increase in estrogens in the milk.

These estrogens can fuel the growth of several tumors and are linked to prostate, breast and ovarian cancer.  Cows allowed to graze on grass and have seasonal reproductive cycles have significantly less estrogens in their milk, at levels that are not thought to be problematic.

Below is a table to give you a little perspective on the changes in the lives of milking cows brought about by the move off the family farm and onto the CAFOs.

Why Grass-Feeding Rules

While we have certainly made cows more efficient milk-producing machines – going from 336 lbs to 20,000 lbs of milk produced per year – this has had a tremendously negative impact on milk quality. Milk produced in this manner is not what I would consider a healthy food option, and I am definitely not a big fan of this conventional dairy due to the poor production, poor quality, high estrogen content, and loss of important fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins.  Fortunately, dairy from pasture-raised grass-fed cows is an entirely different animal.

Since these cows are actually allowed to eat what they were designed to eat, their milk quality is vastly superior – containing more actual nutrition like increased levels of vitamin A, vitamin K (in the more powerful form of K2), omega-3s, and CLA.  In fact, grass-fed cows have been found to contain up to 500% more CLA than their conventionally fed brethren!

In addition to grass-fed dairy being far superior to conventional grain-fed dairy, full-fat dairy is also superior to low-fat or fat-free, contrary to popular belief or recommendations – but we will get to that in Part 2!

About the Author

Brian St. Pierre is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He received his degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition with a focus in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Maine, and he is currently pursuing his Master's degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the same institution. He was the Nutritionist and a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA for three years. He is also the author of the Show and Go Nutrition Guide, the accompanying nutrition manual to Eric Cressey’s Show and Go Training System.

With his passion for seeing his clients succeed, Brian is able to use his knowledge, experience, and energy to create highly effective training and nutrition programs for clients of any age and background. For more information, check out his website.


Malekinejad H, Scherpenisse P, Bergwerff A. Naturally Occurring Estrogens in Processed Milk and in Raw Milk (from Gestated Cows). J. Agric. Food Chem., 2006, 54 (26), pp 9785–9791

Qin LQ, et al. Estrogen: one of the risk factors in milk for prostate cancer. Med Hypotheses. 2004;62(1):133-42.

Ganmaa D, Sato A. The possible role of female sex hormones in milk from pregnant cows in the development of breast, ovarian and corpus uteri cancers. Med Hypotheses. 2005;65(6):1028-37.

Dhiman TR, Anand GR, et al. Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets. J Dairy Sci. 1999;82(10):2146-56.

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Healthy Food Options? Why You Should Never Take Nutrition Advice from Your Government

Today's post is a guest blog from current Cressey Performance intern, Tyler Simmons.  I had a super busy week, so when Tyler brought up this topic at CP the other day, I jumped at the opportunity to get him to write about it.  You won't be disappointed.   Many people don’t know this, but before 1979, there were no public health guidelines for what foods our citizens should eat. So where would we be now without a food pyramid? In the 1950s, a researcher named Ancel Keys developed a theory that certain dietary fats were a major cause of heart disease. Although the support for this theory was weak, it would eventually become the basis of nutritional recommendations for the entire country. This eventually morphed in to the theory that dietary cholesterol and saturated fat cause heart disease, and for the public it was easy to make the jump that these also cause weight gain and obesity. So the US government decided to step in for the benefit of the uneducated masses and save us from imminent death and obesity. The result?  Since 1979, when the McGovern Committee made the first “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” we’ve been encouraged to eat less animal fat, less cholesterol, and more grains. And, we were pretty successful at it; Americans adopted our new food guidelines and embraced a low-fat way of eating for the last 30 years. Here’s a chart of how are diets have changed over the last 100 years:

Source: Changes in consumption of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the United States during the 20th century. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 May;93(5):950-62. We did a pretty good job. We’ve eaten less fat, less beef, less pork, and less dairy (fear the butter!) At the same time, we’ve eaten more chicken, more shortening, and drastically more soy oil (healthy fat right?). Let’s check out this next graph to see what incredible health benefits we’ve gained as a result of this magnificent advice and our stellar compliance:

Source: 2010 Dietary Guidelines Scientific Advisory Committee Who can tell me when it the obesity rate really starts to rise? Oh wow, 1980...but that’s when we got all the good advice to eat less animal fat, more grains, and more vegetable oil. So what can we take away from this? A couple of things: 1. Eating more soy oil was a bad idea. 2. “Healthy whole grains” may not be so healthy after all. 3. Maybe the animal fat and red meat wasn’t actually the problem after all. Numbers two and three here could span several articles in their own right. But for now, let’s just look at one, the soy oil. You’ve probably heard about the “heart-healthy” fats called polyunsaturated fatty acids a.k.a. PUFAs. These include soy oil, canola oil, corn oil, and peanut oil. The high intake of omega-6 PUFAs is one of the most dramatic shifts in the American diet since 1909 with an especially large jump after 1970. I think that the evidence shows that eating soy oil is about as smart as playing in traffic. The graphs above suggest that PUFA’s aren’t particularly good for us and that we’ve been tricked in to becoming obese. What we’re looking at is epidemiological data, which can only show associations. We can see that eating at the same time we started eating way more PUFAs, we saw a striking increase in obesity. This is just association; it doesn’t show cause and effect. So let’s look at a couple pieces of more direct evidence for why we should avoid PUFAs in our diet if we want to get jacked, stay lean, and rock a six-pack into old age. Studies on rodent and humans demonstrate that the more omega-6 PUFA you eat, the more fat you gain. In a rodent study, three groups of rats ate diets with identical amounts of fat, protein, and carbohydrate, differing only in the type of fat they were eating. One group had beef tallow (low omega-6), the second had olive oil (moderate omega-6), and the third had safflower oil (tons of omega-6). Compared to the beef tallow group, the olive oil rats gained 7.5% in total body weight, and the safflower oil grouped gained 12.3% total body weight. The more omega-6, the fatter they got. In another study, 782 men were split in to two groups that ate isocaloric diets (they ate the same amount of calories) for 5 years. The only difference between the two groups was that one ate animal fats and the other ate vegetable oils (very high in omega-6). Compared to the animal fat group, the vegetable oil group had consistent increases in body fat and body weight. By the end of the study the vegetable oil group weighed 5% more on average.

I have found that when working with athletes and people who just want to look better, modifying omega-6 intake is a critical factor in fat loss. Keep in mind that fat gain is mult-faceted in its causes. I’m not suggesting that omega-6 is the sole reason for fat gain, just that it is a significant factor. There are a variety of reasons to eat less omega-6 fats beyond the fat gaining characteristics, so limit the vegetable/seed oils and don’t be scared of animal fats. And be skeptical of any advice you get from the government. Tyler Simmons is completing his degree in Exercise Science with a focus in Nutrition at Humboldt State University. He designs individualized nutrition programs for athletes and people working to look, feel, and perform better. He can be reached at simmons.tyler@gmail.com or at www.evolutionaryhealthsystems.blogspot.com. Related Posts Metabolic Cooking: Making it Easier to Eat Clean with Health Food Options Precision Nutrition's Travel Strategies for Eating on the Road Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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Healthy Food Options: Cashew-Crusted Chicken…Yum!

My wife cooked up some cashew-crusted chicken the other night, and it was spectacular.

These suckers were almost as good as the chicken fingers recipe I posted a few months ago - and serve as yet another example of how awesome Dave Ruel's Metabolic Cooking is.  If you haven't picked up a copy already, do so; you won't regret it!

Click here to check out my full review of the product and see a bunch of other stuff we've cooked from this great resource.


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Stuff You Should Read: 6/13/11

Here's some recommended reading to kick off your week: How to Use Less Plastic - While he was working with us at Cressey Performance, Brian St. Pierre really did a good job of bringing to light the problems with using a lot of plastic in packing and storing one's healthy food options.  In this post, he talks about how to reduce the amount of plastic you use. The Difference Between the Location of Symptoms and the Source of Dysfunction - This Mike Reinold blog highlights how the site of the pain isn't always the origin of that pain. Value: The Key Ingredient to Fitness Business Success - Pat Rigsby really "gets it" when it comes to building fitness business up the right way, and posts like this show exactly why. I know a lot of fitness professionals read this blog, and this is must-read material for all of you. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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