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Paleo Diet: The Proof Is In The Blood Tests

Time For My Annual Physical

Time For My Annual Physical

Because I love my wife and want to spend many more years with her I go to my doctor every November for my annual physical. About a week before the physical I go to a lab to get blood drawn (Comprehensive Metabolic Panel, Lipid Panel, and Hemogram). The health care group I use is fairly sophisticated so I can see the results of the blood work less than 24 hours after the blood was drawn. If you ever wondered how a Paleo Diet would impact your health I can sum it up in one word: fantastic!

You’ve probably read articles or blog posts from people who claimed that the Paleo Diet caused them to lose weight, gain energy and give them a general feeling of awesomeness—but this is just anecdotal evidence and it doesn’t do much for me. I live in a world of facts. Many diet programs lead to weight loss, but often at the expense of overall health. The placebo effect easily explains the “increased energy” that many people claim comes for their new diet plan. I’ve been on the Paleo Diet for a little over three months and, yes, I have experienced weight loss, increased energy and a significant decrease in recovery time after strenuous exercise—but what impresses me the most are the results of my blood tests!

Before I explain the results I need to set the stage first. Thirteen years ago I was a morbidly obese workaholic and was experiencing more health problems than time would allow me explain here. The doctor I had at the time was a nice guy, but he was content to load me up with prescription drugs and send me on my way. Somehow I came across of copy of Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution and it changed my life! I took up cycling, weight lifting and kayaking—and in just a few months I dropped most of my excess weight (and also dropped most of the prescriptions). As I became an endurance athlete I started eating healthier foods and have basically followed the Atkins’ Diet until three months ago.

Switching from the Atkins’ Diet to the Paleo Diet was not a problem at all—basically I just had to give up dairy products and cereal grains. The surgeon who repaired my esophagus back in June had already told me I needed to give up dairy products, and I’ve always felt uncomfortable after eating cereal grains anyway. So, switching to the Paleo Diet was easy.

In the past few months on the Paleo Diet I’ve eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with red meat, fish, turkey, chicken, sausage and bacon (mmm…bacon). In fact, about one-third of my calories now come from fats and protein. So, you have to wonder, what did eating all that meat do to my blood work? Drum roll please… not only did my cholesterol and triglyceride levels drop, but so did my fasting blood sugar level! None of these things were a problem with me before, but the point is that the numbers got even better on the Paleo Diet!

In the spirit of full disclosure I believe that the testing of cholesterol levels is probably the most worthless thing your doctor does (well, except for hanging up that stupid “Food Pyramid” chart in the waiting room). As a group physicians are among the brightest people in the country—but, in general, what they don’t know about nutrition could fill volumes! If your doctor wants to measure something that really impacts your health have them check your homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is a common amino acid—high homocysteine levels lead to vascular inflammation and is associated with low levels of vitamin B6, B12, and folate (more about this in a future article).

 
 

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Cave Wraps: 40 Fast And Easy Paleo Recipes by Ivy Martin

Cave Wraps: 40 Fast And Easy Paleo Recipes by Ivy Martin

Cave Wraps: 40 Fast And Easy Paleo Recipes by Ivy Martin

Like a growing number of athletes, I follow a Paleo Diet—some people refer to it as a “high fat” diet, but I prefer the phrase “nutrient rich” since the emphasis is on vegetables, fruit, nuts and healthy portions of meat. My lovely wife is an incredible cook who can take just about any normal recipe and turn it into something that is both tasty and healthy (we sure have a lot of almond flour, flax meal, coconut oil and raw honey in the kitchen cabinets now). However, my wife works during the day and I am left to fend for myself at lunch—I work in my office at home in the mornings and usually go to my real office in the afternoons. I used to go out to eat at local restaurants for lunch, but I thought it would be easier to stay on my diet if I ate at home. Unfortunately, my culinary skills are pretty much limited to use on a Weber charcoal grill so I started looking for things I could make at home and when I found Cave Wraps: 40 Fast & Easy Paleo Recipes For The Best Damn Wraps Ever by Ivy Martin I felt like I had struck gold!

As the name of the book suggests, there are 40 recipes for making wraps—most of the wraps use slices of thick meat (turkey, chicken, ham, beef, salmon, etc.) to hold the ingredients together instead of bread, but some of the recipes call for large pieces of Romaine lettuce leaves. I’ve made nearly every wrap listed in this book (all by myself) and, to quote the old GEICO commercial, they are “so easy a caveman could do it.” Not only are they easy to make, but they taste fantastic! The Maple, Bacon & Ham Wrap is better that any breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had at a restaurant, and the Apple Festival Turkey Wrap is now my favorite meal! Bacon lovers rejoice—a lot of the recipes call for that blessed ingredient! Other frequently used ingredients include pecans, walnuts, maple syrup, apples, pineapples, coconut, honey, and eggs.

When I started trying to make these wraps I was having trouble finding high quality cut meats to use. It’s hard for me to believe, but some of the healthiest cut meats on the market are sold at Wal-Mart! The Prima Della brand uses whole muscle cut meats and are gluten-free, soy-free, and contain no fillers or MSG. Another good brand is Boar’s Head, but I’ve had trouble finding a store in my area that sells it. When you buy meat for your wraps you will want it cut thick, so tell the folks at the deli counter that you want either number three or number four thickness (on most commercial meat slicers the number one setting is very thin and the number four is about 1/8″ thick).

Cave Wraps: 40 Fast & Easy Paleo Recipes For The Best Damn Wraps Ever by Ivy Martin is a 93-page paperback book and has beautiful full-color photos to go along with every recipe. This book retails for $20, but I only paid $17 for it on Amazon.com. You can buy the Kindle edition for only $9.

If you are not familiar with the Paleo diet I would suggest you read the Paleo Diet for Athletes—this book really changed my life and way of thinking about nutrition.

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Book Reviews, Sports Nutrition

 

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The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Cordain and Friel

The Paleo Diet for Athletes

The Paleo Diet for Athletes

Unless you have lived under a rock for the past few years, you have probably heard about the Paleo Diet (“the caveman diet”). The diet purports to emulate the diet that our ancient ancestors had—a lot of meat, vegetables, fruit and nuts, but no refined sugar, grains, legumes or dairy products. For the past couple of years a friend of mine has encouraged me to try the diet out, but diet’s restriction on carbohydrates pretty much ruled it out for me—I am a distance cyclist and on long rides my muscle glycogen stores would be depleted before I got halfway through my ride. However, while browsing on Amazon.com a few months ago I found a book titled, The Paleo Diet For Athletes: The Ancient Nutritional Formula For Peak Athletic Performance, by Loren Cordain and Joe Friel (Rodale Books; revised edition; September 2012). If you are an athlete and have either started or are considering starting the Paleo Diet you really need this book!

The entire Paleo Diet is summed up in just one paragraph from the book: “The fundamental dietary principles of the Paleo Diet for Athletes is simplicity itself: unrestricted consumption of fresh meats, poultry, seafood, fruits, and vegetables. Foods that are not part of the modern-day Paleolithic fare include cereal grains, dairy products, high-glycemic fruits and vegetables, legumes, alcohol, salty foods, processed meats, refined sugars, and nearly all processed foods.”

While I disagree with Cordain and Friel on the origin and development of mankind, I sincerely appreciate this book. The first third of the book deals with the nutritional requirements of athletes and this section alone is worth the price of the book! This is absolutely the best treatment of the nutritional requirements for athletes I’ve ever seen—especially for endurance athletes. The second section of the book discusses the authors views of the development of our stone age ancestors (interesting reading, but we all have different views on this matter). The last section of the book give 80 Paleo “energy-packed” recipes—again, interesting reading but there are better Paleo cookbooks on the market.

Thirteen years ago, before I started cycling, I was morbidly obese and in terrible health. In hindsight I realize that the majority of my problems came from a poor diet and lifestyle. At that time I held elected public office and served on the board of directors for nearly a dozen civic groups, which meant I seldom found time for a real meal, and never had time for either proper exercise or sleep. My road to recovery started with the Atkins Diet and cycling—then I gradually withdrew from public life and started focusing more on my health.

While I’ve basically followed the Atkins Diet for thirteen years, I couldn’t follow their guidelines while cycling because a low-carb diet just isn’t compatible with endurance sports like distance cycling. The Paleo Diet is more of a “sensible carb” diet than a “low carb” diet. In fact, The Paleo Diet For Athletes has convinced me to consume more carbs during and after a long bike ride than I had before! Switching from the Atkins Diet to the Paleo Diet was not a problem at all for me—basically I just had to give up dairy products and cereal grains. The surgeon who repaired my esophagus back in June had already told me I needed to give up dairy products, and I’ve always felt uncomfortable after eating cereal grains anyway. So, switching to the Paleo Diet was really easy for me and the food tastes so much better!

The biggest difference between the normal Paleo Diet and the Paleo Diet For Athletes is the use of carb gels before, during and after exercise. As the author states on page seven of the book, “Perhaps the most important refinement made to my original Paleo Diet was Joe’s recognition that consumption of starches and simple sugars was necessary and useful only during exercise and in the immediate postexercise period.” In my case, for example, they would recommend that I consume a 100-calorie pack of carb gel 10 minutes before my bike ride, then 300 calories of gels and/or sports drinks per hour during the ride, followed by 600 calories of carbohydrates within 30 minutes after the ride (along with protein powder). The amount of carbs gels you need will vary depending on your weight and the length and intensity of your exercise.

I realize that some people would never try the Paleo Diet because it involves the consumption of red meat. If you are a vegetarian due to religious beliefs I can accept that without any problem. If you are a vegetarian because you think that makes you morally superior to the rest of us, well, you have my sympathy. If you are a member of PETA please feel free to stop by my office and I’ll grab a crayon and big piece of construction paper so I can explain the facts of life to you in a way you can understand (hint: human beings are carnivores and we have eight incisors for a reason—and it’s not so we can tear into pieces of tofu).

In case you can’t tell, I really like the Paleo Diet For Athletes! Like most men, I would rather die than count calories or have to measure my food before every meal. On the Paleo Diet I’m eating a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, along with a sensible portion of animal-based protein (red meat, fish, turkey, chicken, etc.) at every meal. It seems like I am never hungry and my weight is still dropping and energy levels are increasing.

The Paleo Diet For Athletes retails for $16 in paperback, and Amazon.com has it for $13 (or $9 for the Kindle version). As I mentioned above, if you are an athlete you need to read the section of this book on the nutritional requirements of athletes, even if you don’t follow the Paleo Diet.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2013 in Book Reviews, Sports Nutrition

 

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The RealAge Makeover by Michael F. Roizen, M.D.

The RealAge Makeover by Michael F. Roizen, M.D.

The RealAge Makeover

I am a 53-year-old distance cyclist and, according to the doctor at my last complete physical, my overall health is listed as “excellent” (i.e., I have perfect blood pressure, a low heart rate, a decent cholesterol level and all that other good stuff they look for in your blood test). Unfortunately, this has not always been the case. Twelve years ago I was morbidly obese and was being treated for problems with my lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys and a host of other conditions. In fact, twelve years ago my regular doctor told me that the way I was going I probably wouldn’t be alive in another five years! Surprisingly, he didn’t even make a single suggestion about how I could turn things around. Therefore, I decided to change my diet, start an exercise program and get in shape. I took up cycling, weight lifting and kayaking. My efforts paid off and I dropped 50 pounds rather quickly. I also read a lot of books on healthy living and somewhere along the way I found The RealAge Makeover by Dr. Michael Roizen and it changed my life! If you are looking for some guidance in changing your overall health then I would suggest, in the strongest words possible, that you pick up a copy of this book and carefully read every word.

The full title of the book, The RealAge Makeover: Take Years off Your Looks and Add Them to Your Life, is rather long, but it sums things up quite well. This book not only tells you how to look younger, but how to feel younger as well. You will learn how to reverse arterial aging, boost your immune system, reduce stress, and increase your energy levels. The major premise of this book (as well as a few others that Roizen has authored) is that “70 percent of how long and how well you live is in your hands.”

According to his biography, Roizen is a professor of medicine and anesthesiology at SUNY Upstate and chair of the Division of Anesthesiology, Critical Care Medicine, and Comprehensive Pain Management at the Cleveland Clinic. If you were a fan of The Oprah Winfrey Show (I was not) you might have seen Roizen on one of her programs—usually along with Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Dr. Michael F. Roizen is also the co-founder of RealAge and chair of the RealAge Scientific Advisory Board. If you go to the RealAge.com Website you can take the RealAge Test, which is a scientific calculation of how young (or old) your body thinks you really are based upon your height, weight, daily exercise, education, stress, friendships, emotional health, the supplements you take, family history and a few other items. I took this around 2003, when I was 43 years old—the test claimed that my “real age” was 65! OUCH! I have taken the test several times since then, and as I have modified my lifestyle I keep getting younger! According to the calendar I am 53 years old, but according to the RealAge Test my “real age” is 43!

One of the things that Roizen keeps going back to is your diet and how it not only impacts your lifespan, but your quality of life as well. I thought a lot about this book a few months ago when my wife and I went back to our hometown and took our parents out for lunch. My mother-in-law is 90 years old and still shovels snow, cuts her own grass and keeps up an amazing garden—and if no one catches her she will get up on the roof to repair her own shingles. In addition, my mother-in-law is not on any medication and the only time in her life she has been in a hospital was over 50 years ago (when my wife was born). On the other hand, my parents are both around 80 and in very poor health—they now spend half of their time sitting in a doctor’s office or in line at the pharmacy waiting for a refill on one of their many prescriptions. While we were eating lunch I saw what I believe to be the major reason for the difference between our parents. My wife and her mother both ordered a simple vegetable platter—as is their custom. My parents both ordered a deep-fried appetizer, a deep-fried main course, and then they ordered desert (yeah, that’s the way I used to eat).

When I bought The RealAge Makeover back in 2002 I paid $25 for the hardback version, but now it is available in paperback for under $7 from Amazon.com. A hardback version is still available for $20, and a Kindle version for $10. By the way, some of the Amazon.com retailers have used copies of the hardback book available for only $4 including postage (they claim the books are in “very good condition”). The first edition of this book was published by HarperCollins in 1999.

Can The RealAge Makeover change your life? Absolutely! Will it? Probably not. I loved this book so much that I have bought at least 20 hardback copies to give as presents to friends and relatives who told me that wanted to “get in shape.” I am sure these people read at least part, or maybe even all, of the book. Unfortunately, I don’t think a single one of the people I gave the book to even attempted to make the needed changes in their life. Knowing what you need to do and actually doing it are two separate issues.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Book Reviews

 

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Finding Your Fitness Motivation

How are those New Year’s resolutions working out for you? A lot of people start a new year with the best of intentions to change their eating habits, start a fitness routine and get in shape. However, without constant encouragement from family and friends some people just can’t seem to stay motivated to exercise and eat right. I’ll go back to writing product reviews on Monday, but today I would like to help you find a way to stay motivated this year!

Welcome To My Gym

Welcome To My Gym

If you need a bit of motivation to help you reach your fitness goals I would suggest you follow some of the blogs I read (listed below). On the right-hand side of this page you should see a partial list of the over 200 health and fitness blogs I follow (so glad I took that speed reading class). I wish WordPress would rotate the avatars (or as they call them, blavatars), but at the moment they only display the last fifty blogs I decided to follow. These avatars usually show a photo of the blogger (sometimes a logo) and if you move your cursor over the photo it tells you the name of their blog and their tagline. I just started using the widget that displays these avatars last week and, unfortunately, as soon as these avatars appeared I stopped following two of the blogs because I felt their avatars were very demeaning to women (and the sad thing is both of the bloggers were women!). Here are some of my favorite blogs (and I am so sorry if I forgot to mention your blog)…

Cyclists and Triathletes: Kent Peterson’s blog, aptly named Kent’s Bike Blog, is the blog I have followed for the longest length of time. There are two Minnesota-based blogs I thoroughly enjoy, The Adventures of Joboo and His Trusty Pugsley and Bill’s Magical Mystery Tour. Rounding out the list is Sip, Clip and Go (Massachusetts), IowaTriBob (Iowa), Tracy at SpringfieldCyclist (Missouri), elisariva (Ohio), and Elizabeth at Triathlon Obsession (New York). Annie at anniebikes is seasoned commuter who also loves to tour (Vermont). A little further away is Kitesurf Bike Rambling (UK). Jim at Fit Recovery is a recovering alcoholic/addict—I am not sure where he lives, but his blog is great!

Fitness, Weight Lifting and Body Building: You will notice that all the blogs in this section are written by women. I am not a sexist nor am I following these blogs for aesthetic reasons. However, if I am going to read an article about weightlifting or body building I would rather have the photo next to the article be of a smiling female than of some dude flexing his muscles with a strained look on his face that makes me think he needs to increase his intake of dietary fiber. Lisa Traugott at She’s Losing It! became my hero when I read that she does 400 lunges a day with a 50 pound weight! Dani Cee is a certified personal trainer and works as medical content writer and nutrition adviser. Joy is a certified personal fitness trainer and she writes at joyfitnessandstyle. Sara, a group exercise instructor, writes at Shh…Fit Happens. Sarah, a certified group fitness instructor, can be found at Strong, Fit, Beautiful. Katie at Fit Butt Fabulous is a first-grade teacher by day, health and fitness enthusiast by life. Newlywed Laura at Fit And Busy has a great motto on her site, “If you don’t make time for fitness now, you will have to make time for sickness later.” Joanna at Sports Bras And Sippy Cups is a fit momma who lifts more than just babies! Heather at Run Eat Play writes about every day life experiences with exercise, food, and family.

Diet and Nutrition: Even though I am not a vegan I enjoy reading what Laura at The Daily Meal has to say. Christy at Christy Fit is a fitness instructor and model, but she also has several recipes for great protein shakes. Even though she is no Martha Stewart, Doctorate Housewife also has some great recipes. You should also visit Carrie at Fitness And Frozen Grapes for some healthy, great-tasting recipes. Katie at Gettin’ My Healthy On is not a professional dietician, but she does have wonderful recipes (and a killer smile). Dr. Madeleine Vanstory at Rants, Rules & Recipes has an excellent blog—she explains why diets don’t work and why most food is garbage (you really need to visit this site).

Interesting People: Anita Mac is a world traveler and I enjoy reading her posts at traveldestinationbucketlist. Heather is an “explorer” with four young children and she writes at 7feetnorth. Melissa lives in a “small town in Illinois” and blogs at Spicy Homemaker. Stephanie at The Stolen Colon was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 1999 and her blog is both uplifting and inspiring. You should also see Anka at Keeping it Real and Melissa, a Michigan photographer, at Melissa Not Dusting. Erin at Hey Hey, Erin May is a designer, writer, marketer and all-over creative for hire. And last, but certainly not least, there is Irish Katie, a frequent commenter on this site and the proud mother of a teenage daughter.

 
52 Comments

Posted by on January 4, 2013 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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