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A Tiny Miracle Berry That Transforms Sour And Bitter Foods Into Sweet Explosions Of Taste.

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I recently spoke at an event hosted by my friend Neil Strauss, an actor, producer, and relatively famous author known for his books such as “The Game” and “Emergency“.

Then, just last week, I received a nice little thank-you note from Neil’s team. Along with the note were the following items:

1) An article entitled “A Party To Remember“…

2) A small packet of “Miracle Fruit Tablets” that looked like this:

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Now I’d occasionally heard of substances that somehow change the flavor of foods, as well as herbs and compounds that drastically affect your taste sensations, such as Gymnema sylvestre (which my guest Nora Gedgaudas mentioned in the podcast episode “How To Stop Carbohydrate Cravings In Their Tracks“). I’ve also seen anecdotes about how those foods could be used for goals such as appetite control, carbohydrate or sugar cravings, or adherence to a diet, but had never actually tried anything like this before.

So I figured: what the heck? Why not throw one of these famed “Miracle Berry Parties“?

That night, my wife and twin boys arranged a random assortment of bitter, sour and relatively non-sweet foods on our kitchen table, including some very old and heavily fermented kombucha, lemons, limes, cherry tomatoes, balsamic vinaigrette, a grapefruit, goat cheese, and some plain yogurt. Because this was a kid-friendly party, we eliminated a few of Neil’s other suggestions, such as tequila, Corona, and Guinness beer.

Of course, normally this would be a meal that a poor bachelor might assemble from leftovers in the refrigerator, or a range of foods that a dieter would use when trying to avoid blood sugar spikes or excessive calorie intake…

…but for us, it was a Miracle Berry party.

Step 1 was to consume our miracle berries, which were in this case “mBerry Miracle Fruit Tablets“. We rolled them around on our tongues, trying to cover every possible piece of taste bud real estate, and as this Instagram post reflects, it did indeed appear as though we were dropping acid.

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Next, we began the party.

In just a moment, via a quick video, you’ll get to witness the shocking taste sensations that ensued, but first, for you science-minded out there – what exactly is a miracle berry?

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Synsepalum dulcificum, also known as the miracle fruit or miracle berry is a plant originally from West Africa that contains a berry which when eaten, causes sour foods to taste sweet. This effect is due to a glycoprotein molecule, with some carbohydrate chains attached to it, called “miraculin”, and miraculin is actually used commercially in some foods as a sugar substitute. Other names for the miracle fruit or miracle berry include miraculous berry, sweet berry, agbayun,taami, asaa, and ledidi.

The berry was first popularized when European explorer Chevalier des Marchais, who was searching West Africa for new fruits in a 1725 excursion, noticed that local people picked the berry from shrubs and chewed it before meals.

When you eat the fleshy part of the fruit, miraculin binds to your tongue’s taste buds, causing sour foods to taste sweet. At neutral pH, miraculin binds and blocks the receptors, but at low pH (the pH normally found in sour foods such as lemon, radishes, pickles, hot sauce, beer, etc.) miraculin binds protons and activates the sweet receptors, resulting in the perception of sweet taste. This effect lasts until the protein is washed away by saliva (depending on how much saliva you produce, this can be from 20 minutes up to 2 hours).

In the 1970s in the USA, an attempt was made to commercialize the fruit for its ability to turn unsweet foods into sweet foods without a caloric penalty, but ended in failure when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified the berry as a food additive. There is actually a conspiracy theory that the project was sabotaged by the sugar industry to prevent loss of business caused by a drop in demand for sugar (incidentally theories similar to this exist to explain the FDA’s labeling of stevia as a “dietary supplement” instead of a “sweetener”).

OK, enough of the history. Let’s take a look at the Greenfield’s Miracle Berry Party, complete with my wife’s embarrassment about having just gotten out of the shower, my children’s thoughts on which of our food choices failed with the Miracle Berry and a final discovery about how to make calorie-free key lime pie in your mouth.

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So that’s how the Greenfield Miracle Berry Party went down!

Ultimately, having a packet of Miracle Fruit Tablets seems like it would be a pretty handy idea if you, say, wanted to transition from a nightly bowl of ice cream to a half of a grapefruit or a glass of Kombucha instead. Or if you wanted to make that boring platter of vegetables, olives and pickles at a party taste good enough to where you actually decide to skip the chicken wings and nacho dip.

Finally, perhaps you want to go au natural and delve straight into the source of the mBerry Miracle Fruit Tablets: a miracle fruit plant or miracle fruit seeds. You should know that you can indeed order a miracle fruit plant or seeds on Amazon (or possibly elsewhere) – and this is probably a safer choice than the tomato plants that are now being genetically modified to produce miraculin compounds.

I actually did just that, but received the following message the next day, so be forewarned if you live in a cold climate:

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I suppose I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that our little plant will show up someday, at which time I’m guessing my consumption of lemons, limes, balsamic vinaigrette and old kombucha is going to skyrocket.

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Well, what do you think? Do you plan on throwing your own Miracle Berry Party? Do you have questions about this amazing little fruit? Leave your thoughts below!

7 Essential Kitchen Items You’ve Never Heard Of But Need To Have.

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Meet Flavia Del Monte (pictured above).

She kinda has the perfect name for a book about flavorful cooking, eh?

I didn’t just randomly decide to interview Flavia. Nearly a decade ago, I actually met Flavia’s husband Vince Del Monte. Vince is well known in the fitness world as a go-to expert for skinny guys to build muscle (I believe when I met him he was going by the name “Skinny Guy’s Savior”), and he’s a guy who taught me a lot about how to do things like start a fitness website and write e-books.

So when I saw that his wife Flavia had written a cookbook, I figured I’d check it out, and it’s actually not your stereotypical cut-the-calories, fat-phobic, mumbo-jumbo. Instead, it’s actually jam-packed with some really delicious recipes and outside-the-box thinking. So in this episode, I interview Flavia about her book – which is entitled Flavalicious Cooking – and you’ll discover…

-How Flavia broke out of the stereotypical fitness model diet of salt and peppered tilapia, steamed broccoli and raw nuts…

-The versatility and benefits of coconut sugar as an alternative to regular sugar and artificial sweeteners…

-The difference between coconut butter and coconut oil…

-How you can use coconut aminos as an alternative to soy sauce…

-How you can make sauces and soups thicker without using corn starch…

-How to use a microplane and why you should use one…

-How you can use your freezer to preserve your herbs…

-Flavia’s 3-3-3-3 recipe to cook a perfect steak…

Resources we discuss in this episode:

-Coconut sugar

-Coconut butter (AKA coconut manna)

-Coconut aminos

-Bob’s Red Mill potato starch

-Microplane

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about these essential kitchen items, Flavia’s book Flavalicious Cooking, or anything else we talk about in this episode? Leave your thoughts below!

The Zen Of Rich Roll: Veganism, Yoga, Meditation, Travel, Kids & More.

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Plant-powered ultra-endurance athlete Rich Roll is no stranger to the show.

Previous episodes with Rich have included:

-Ben Greenfield interviews Rich Roll on “How To Be Extremely Active And Eat A Plant-Based Diet Without Destroying Your Body”

-Ben Greenfield interviews Rich Roll on “Some Of The Craziest Superfoods You’ve Never Heard Of”

-Rich Roll Podcast #11 with Ben Greenfield: “Exercise Nutrition Geekfest“…

-Rich Roll Podcast #59 with Ben Greenfield: “Nutrition, Fitness, Online Entrepeneurism, Homeschooling And High Fat Diets“…

-Ben Greenfield, Rich Roll & Vinnie Tortorich Diet Debate Video

In this episode, Rich Roll returns, along with his new book entitled “The Plant Power Way: Whole Food Plant-Based Recipes and Guidance for The Whole Family“, and in this episode, you’ll discover:

-The unique process of creating a photo rich, cookbook style manual instead of a print based book…

-The one food Rich would take with him to a desert island…

-Rich’s exact morning routine (and his biggest barriers when it comes to squeezing in that routine)…

-How Rich meditates…

-The crazy story of how Rich’s wife healed a golf-ball sized cyst with Ayurvedic medicine…

-How Rich gets his kids to eat things like adzuki bean edamame fettuccine or hash browns made with portobello mushrooms…

-How Rich and his wife manage homeschooling their kids…

-Rich’s take on kids and ultra-endurance…

Resources we discuss in this episode:

-Headspace App

-The Artist’s Way

-The Plant Power Way: Whole Food Plant-Based Recipes and Guidance for The Whole Family

-Ayurveda: The Science of Self Healing: A Practical Guide

-Ayurveda: A Life of Balance: The Complete Guide to Ayurvedic Nutrition & Body Types with Recipes

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for Rich or I about this episode? Then leave your thoughts below, and be sure to check out Rich’s new book “The Plant Power Way: Whole Food Plant-Based Recipes and Guidance for The Whole Family“.

Chewing On Sourdough, Deadlifting Kids & Shiver Yoga: The Top 10 Instagram Photos of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Instagram Channel.

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A year ago, I didn’t know what Instagram was.

And then I discovered what Instagram’s creators describe as:

“…a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures. Snap a photo with your mobile phone, then choose a filter to transform the image into a memory to keep around forever.”

So for the past several months, I have indeed been using shots of my life to share fitness, nutrition and human performance tips via photos (and 15 second videos) on Instagram. You’re about to discover the top 10 Instagram photos of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Instagram page, along with a takeaway tip from each. Enjoy, and big thanks to Jessica from TeamRenon for all her help with my Instagram-age.

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1. New Tire Toyz

Why not start with a video? In my podcast with strength coach Zach Even-Esh “Underground Strength Training Secrets: How To Get Strong And Stay Strong Using Training Secrets Of The Athletic Elite.”, we talked about research that proves Strongman style training, during which you flip tires, carry kegs, hoist rocks, drag sleds and do other macho deeds, has been shown to be just as effective for maintaining strength as traditional weight lifting, and may even be better at boosting testosterone and growth hormone. Finding free tires to flip and drag is as easy as visiting your local tire store and asking if they have any old tires that you can haul away.

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2. The Tempting Sourdough Loaf

I generally avoid wheat, but if there’s one type of bread that I’ll eat, it’s a traditional fermented sourdough loaf made from a local organic Palouse red wheat. Want to try your hand at making your own? A pretty close approximation to the recipe we use can be found in the article “Could This Baker Solve the Gluten Mystery?“, and we also discuss why sourdough is better in the podcast “How To Make Bread Healthy“.

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3. The Box Breathing Boys

Box breathing is not only a big part of my own morning routine, but is also something I do with my 7 year old twin boys. Before each of our father-son weight training sessions on Tuesday and Thursday, and while driving to tennis on Wednesday and Saturday, we do 5 minutes of box breathing as a 4 count in, 4 count hold, 4 count out, 4 count hold, using the “Pranayama app” to guide us.

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4. A Big Ass Salad

Sometimes you just need a Big Ass Salad, and I have one for lunch every day of the week, just about 365 days a year. What’s in this one, you may ask?

-Spinach
-Parsely
-Tomato
-Celery
-Purple Carrot
-Stuffed Olive
-Garlic
-Hemp Seeds
-Pecorino Cheese
-Olive Oil
-Balsamic
-Tahini
-Homemade Sourdough Croutons
-Avocado
-Sea Salt
-Black Pepper
-Turmeric

BOOM. Big Ass Salad.

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5. Football Field WOD

I often post a WOD (Workout Of The Day) to Instagram, and when I discovered that a brand new football field had been built across the street from Grandma’s house in Ft. Lauderdale, I brought the boys over for a blistering hot afternoon body weight WOD:

Step 1: Find football or soccer field.
Step 2: Complete the follow AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible) for 45-60 minutes.
      -1 lap around field at tempo pace
     -10 inverted pulls on uprights
     -100yd sprint across field at max pace
     -30 leg levers -15 burpees
     -Bear crawl back

Then simply sit back and wait for the rhabdo to set in.

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6. River Deadlifting

As I mentioned earlier, my kids lift. To reduce any potential for growth plate compression, they don’t lift heavy weights, but simply lift lighter weights with a focus on excellent form. In this shot taken from my son River’s deadlifting set, the workout was like many of the weight lifting sessions I oversee for them: simple and straightforward.

-5 minutes box breathing

-Mobility: 20 deep squats and 20 walking lunges

-5×5 deadlift

Usually, I’ll include a “finisher”, such as racing and down the stairs 3 times, doing 20 burpees, or a partner carry.

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7. Beet Juice & Protein Concoction

Ever been looking for some kind of pre or post-workout concoction and realize the cupboards are just about stripped bare of coconut milk, nut butter, raw almonds, yogurt, or just about anything else you mix together for a healthy smoothie? In this case, using about a half can of Beet Performer (a sponsor for my triathlon team) and a giant scoop of EXOS Vegan Chocolate Protein, I discovered a new recipe for a beet-chocolate pre-workout recipe that actually tasted surprisingly good.

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8. A Bacon Bloody Mary

After the Southern California Spartan Race, my wife and I visited Blackbird Tavern in Temecula and dined on roasted Brussels sprouts, cauliflower-three way, pork rinds, and this amazing Bloody Mary spiked with a bit of extra protein. I believe it goes something like this:

1. Add Worcestershire, soy (or coconut aminos if you’d like), black pepper, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, and horseradish to bottom of cocktail shaker.

2. Fill shaker with ice and add vodka, fresh tomato juice, and juice of one lemon wedge.

3. Shake well.

4. Taste for seasoning and heat, and adjust as necessary.

5. Serve with giant wedge of bacon.

Of course, eat breakfast afterwards.

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9. Shiver Yoga

Long before “snowga” took the world by storm, I was wandering out on my back patio in the early Spring, Fall and Winter with a pair of socks or sandals, shorts or boxers, and showing as much skin as possible to get a doubly whammy effect of yoga practice and cold thermogenesis. I still do it 2-3 times per week, usually fasted in the morning with a bit of caffeine in my system to maximize the fat oxidizing effect. This also works quite well when combined with Iceman Wim Hof’s inner fire breathing techniques.

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10. The Dip

Dancing does the heart good.

So does love.

Why not combine the two? I’m serious. If you’re not dancing regularly with your loved one, you should be – even if it’s in the comfort of your own home wearing a silly cowboy hat.

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What do you think? Do you use Instagram or have favorite Instagram accounts you follow for health, nutrition or fitness advice? Feel free to share your links, comments and questions below!

The Effect Of Weed On Exercise: Is Marijuana A Performance-Enhancing Drug?

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As marijuana becomes more mainstream, with seven states preparing for legalization (hot on the heels of my home state of Washington, and also Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C.), an increasing number of athletes, including triathlete Clifford Drusinsky (a future podcast guest) and what seems to be nearly the entirety of the UFC, are now turning to a marijuana as a training aid for their running, swimming, cycling, lifting, fighting and more.

Since pot has long been known to alleviate pain, decrease nausea, and improve mood, it’s no surprise to see marijuana legalization seemingly accompanied by a surge of use among both recreational and hardcore athletes who are facing multi-hour, grueling training regimens, and who are turning to versions of weed that don’t harm the lungs, such as vaporizing, edibles and pot-based energy bars (recipe coming later in this article), and oils (if you want to try 100% legal and highly absorbable CBD Oil Extract, use 10% discount code BEN10 at BioCBD+).

Some athletes swear by using marijuana or its isolated active ingredients, such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) as performance-enhancing drugs, saying these substances ease anxiety and increase pain threshold so that they can push themselves during workouts. Others say that smoking pot disintegrates their motivation to work out, and instead they find themselves munching Doritos while watching cartoons (a great way to decrease cortisol, but not an incredibly effective way to make big fitness gains).

Though marijuana (cannabis sativa) is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the NCAA, its increasing legality has many wondering whether using marijuana will help or hinder our quests for optimum athletic performance and fat loss.

Do THC, CBD, or other ingredients in marijuana enhance athletic performance on a molecular level? In this article, Ben Greenfield and GreenfieldFitnessSystems author Alyssa Siefert (a PhD in Biomedical Engineering) attempt to answer this question.

A few notes before we dive into the science – because only a few double-blind placebo-controlled human studies exist (the classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 Drug by the DEA inhibits academic research), many of the purported effects of marijuana are extrapolated from rodent studies. So because there are significant differences between the endocannabinoid systems of rodents and humans (science geek-speak for “mice are not men”), certain findings from science are tough to extrapolate to actual people; you’ll notice, as you read, that in many cases the science you read about elsewhere simply does not apply to humans.

Also, as you read, it is important to remember that cannabis exerts different effects depending on dose, gender, acute versus chronic use, and route of administration (smoking vs edibles vs. ingesting).

OK, caveats and clarifications aside, let’s jump right in.

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What Happens To Your Body When You Consume Marijuana.

Here in the USA, legislation defines marijuana as all parts of the cannabis sativa plant, which contains over 700 chemical compounds. The primary active ingredients are cannabinoids, including THC, which is responsible for psychoactive effects and is the most studied.

Peak blood concentrations of cannabinoids occur in 3-8 minutes after you inhale, as opposed to 60-90 minutes after you eat a weed- or oil-containing edible, with neural effects beginning after 20 minutes and maximizing within a range of 2-4 hours. Cannabinoids bind cannabinoid receptors (easy to remember, eh?) on neurons and peripheral cells, receptors which are normally engaged by natural endogenous substances (called endocannabinoids) that your body already makes, but that also can be bound by substances from exogenous (outside) sources.

THC binds cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1), mainly localized in the brain, while cannabinol (CBN) binds CB2, which exists mainly on immune cells. CBD binds neither receptor, but still affects numerous metabolic processes including appetite, pain sensation, immune function, stress reactivity, hormonal secretions, and muscle and fat tissue signaling.

The image below does a pretty good job visualizing this for you, and explaining the lock and key mechanism of receptors and substances that bind to those receptors.

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Dosing: Real Life vs. Lab Studies

The effects of marijuana differ enormously depending on strain, as each type contains varying amounts of cannabinoids. A good resource to examine specific strains is Leafly, which is the Yelp of marijuana and extensively reviews cannabis components and makes recommendations based on mood and activities. Generally, because the majority of folks seem most interested in the psychoactive THC properties of weed, most marijuana strains have been developed over time to contain increasing amounts of psychoactive THC (up to 25% THC as shown on lab certificates and reported values of up to 35% THC) and lower amounts of other cannabinoids like CBD.

The “sweet spot” for mild psychoactivity is about 2-3 mg THC (with users reporting feelings similar to 1-2 alcoholic drinks), with significant and strong psychoactivity reported at 5 and 10 mg, respectively. As such, Colorado dispensaries have set THC units at 10 mg for edibles. So how does this translate for recreational users?

Some of our fellow PhD’s calculated that the average joint contains slightly less than half a gram of marijuana (0.018 ounces), and 50-60% of cannabinoids like THC are absorbed into the bloodstream and bind receptors when smoking, with the rest lost to combustion and sidestream smoke. So depending on the strain, the total THC absorbed per hit could range from 1 mg to 15 mg. Eating marijuana in edibles or consuming it in oils actually decreases the amount of cannabinoids absorbed (10-20%), but the liver converts THC to 11-hydroxy-THC, which has more significant psychedelic effects and lasts about twice as long in the body.

Keep the above doses in mind as we review more marijuana studies below.

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How Does Marijuana Affect Athletic Performance?

It is generally accepted that smoking or ingesting marijuana decreases reaction time, disrupts hand-eye coordination and perception, and divides attention, and these effects can last up to 36 hours after usage.

A double-blind flight simulation study assessing motor performance in licensed pilots “flying” through pre-specified (and practiced) holding patterns showed that smoking marijuana significantly increased major and minor errors, and led to larger average deviations from the assigned flight sequence, compared to those who smoked placebo cigarettes. Performance was adversely affected for at least two hours after smoking, returning to control levels six hours later. The dose used was 0.09 mg THC per kg, translating to 7-8 mg THC for an average American male, equivalent to 1-4 joint hits, depending on strain.

Just in case you were entertaining the adorable thought of mouse pilots, the study cited above was indeed a human study.

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This cognitive impairment may be explained by differential blood flow in the brain. In one study, brains were imaged by Positron Emission Tomography (PET) to measure the acute effects of smoking marijuana. In the study, subjects performed auditory attention tasks before and after smoking pot.

After smoking, there was a substantial reduction of blood flow to the temporal lobe, an area important for focused tasks, and this reduced blood flow correlated with impaired performance. Interestingly, smoking marijuana increased blood flow in other brain regions, such as the frontal lobes and lateral cerebellum, regions associated with decision making, sensory perception, sexual behavior, and emotion. So it seems that the brain engages in significant blood flow shifting to specific areas under the influence of substances in marijuana.

Given these studies, one could conclude that smoking weed before a complex game, a task that requires very fast decision-making or reflexes, or a workout that incorporates new exercises could be a poor decision for peak performance. However, many studies supporting this logic use unrealistic doses (such as 100 mg THC), and behavioral studies suggest that only complicated tasks are impaired by marijuana, as a similar study with tasks of variable difficulty level showed that people are still able to perform simple tasks.

Therefore, an endurance athlete may benefit from the pain-numbing and bronchodilatory effects of marijuana to get through a tough training session, and a UFC fighter who is using THC in moderated doses could actually be able to experience a combination of pain-killing, creativity and focus. But including marijuana in high amounts – and especially meeting or exceeding doses of 100 mg THC – into a routine requiring complicated movements, an element of danger and teamwork, such as a Spartan Race or Tough Mudder, could be a recipe for disaster.

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How Does Marijuana Affect Muscle Growth?

So let’s say you decide to use marijuana before a boring or standard lifting session in which you know the movements like the back of your hand. Will weed inhibit muscle building? Despite a number of adamant bloggers insisting it will diminish your power output or amplify your gains, the answer actually remains unclear.

For example, because long-term use of marijuana downregulates the expression and responsiveness of the CB1 receptor, in a manner similar to frequent blood sugar swings leading to insulin resistance, some say that THC may impair muscle building by interrupting the mTOR signaling pathway, which is important for protein synthesis. Furthermore, an oft-referenced human study shows that marijuana inhibited secretion of Growth Hormone, which does indeed suggest inhibited muscle building. However, this study used a very high dose of 210 mg THC per day for 2 weeks (that’s a boatload of weed), and while mTOR disruption by THC has been elegantly shown in the brains of rats, it has not been studied in human muscles; thus these deleterious effects on muscle synthesis are purely speculative.

Notably, the non-psychoactive component of marijuana, CBD, has been shown to regulate mTOR in a different way than THC, and CBD has been repeatedly shown to induce several health-promoting effects such as killing breast cancer cells, ameliorating epilepsy, and increasing cognitive performance in mice. Perhaps CBD counteracts the potentially detrimental effects of THC on muscle building. This would simply mean that the different components of marijuana could be helpful and harmful for muscle synthesis, and in practice, consumption of THC-rich strains would need to be accompanied by absorbable CBD oil to counteract any loss in muscle gain potential. Ultimately more focused muscle-building studies are needed on human athletes to make conclusions.

Ben, always the relentless self-experimenter (as we know from photos like the one below from his UConn study), has actually been experimenting extensively with CBD oil extracts in his training (combined both with and without THC-rich edibles) and will be reporting on the effects in detail soon. As a matter of fact, if you listen to podcast #314, you can hear Ben’s thoughts on 10, 15, 20 oil-based THC doses and even a rather humorous 250mg (yes, 250) edible THC doses.

Snipping out my thigh muscles.

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What Weed Does To Your Hormones

Because hormones are critically important for overall health and performance, it is important to understand how marijuana affects these systems. Numerous forums insist that marijuana induces unfavorable hormonal changes. For instance, marijuana has been shown to suppress the hypothalamic-pituitary axis (HPA) in rodents, but human studies suggest variable effects on the HPA axis. In both males and females, a realistic dose of THC (cigarettes containing 2.8% THC) immediately lowered Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and raised the dangerous stress-associated hormone cortisol, which may underly the paranoia some users experience. A recent study, one of the few with sufficient sample sizes, showed that the cortisol response to physiologically-relevant amounts of THC was blunted in chronic cannabis users; while plasma cortisol levels increased in a dose-dependent manner in both non-users and frequent users, frequent users showed less of a cortisol surge.

Many people believe that HPA suppression decreases the production of testosterone in men. Yet, the vast majority of testosterone in human males is produced by Leydig cells in the testes, with about 5% produced under the control of the HPA axis, so HPA suppression is unlikely to significantly alter the total amount of testosterone in humans. The hormonal effects of marijuana on women are complicated by natural hormonal fluctuations depending on menstrual cycle. A popular report posited that THC competes with estradiol to bind estrogen receptors and thus THC acts like estrogen; however, this was a rat study that may not translate to human biophysical interactions. Overall, surveying the literature found no definitive evidence that marijuana depresses sex hormones long-term.

Furthermore, chronic marijuana use may induce tolerance and reset HPA set-points such that any suppression of hormones returns to normal levels. Supporting this logic, the largest human study to date found no significant long-term hormonal changes in chronic marijuana users, and suggested that earlier studies involved insufficient sample sizes. Furthermore, a meta-analysis and human simulation study showed that male testosterone levels, while depressed immediately after marijuana use, returned to previous levels after 24 hours. Overall, based on the current evidence, it’s very tough to believe that marijuana induces permanent, damaging hormonal changes in most people.

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Does Weed Make You Fat?

As stoners seem to come in all shapes and sizes, it is unclear from mere observation whether weed leads to weight loss or gain. Perhaps counterintuitively, a 2013 adjusted epidemiological study showed that obesity rates are significantly lower for all groups of cannabis users (inclusive of gender and age) compared to those who had not used cannabis in the last 12 months. Although these findings have been replicated, the cross-sectional nature of this study precludes establishing causality; we cannot conclude that marijuana causes weight loss.

The lower Body Mass Index (BMI) of pot-smokers may be explained by an adaptive down-regulation of brain endocannabinoid signaling. While acute THC stimulates appetite, the repeated stimulation of CB1 receptors by THC decreases receptor expression and sensitivity, and long-term stimulation may result in antagonistic rather than agonistic triggering of CB1 receptors, which would dampen hunger signals.

Furthermore, CBD and another component of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), may reduce body weight, as animal models of obesity have shown THCV to increase metabolism of fat cells. But before you get excited that marijuana may burn fat, please realize that very few strains on the market have significant levels of THCV, so do your research (such as these four strains of skinny-pot that won’t bring out the munchies). Another study found that regular cannabis consumers have fasting insulin levels 16% lower than non-consumers as well as 17% lower insulin resistance levels.

Therefore, research shows that marijuana does not directly contribute to fat gain, and properly harnessing its dose-dependent stimulation or suppression of appetite may enable muscle gains or fat loss. For example, biohacking bodybuilders (or others desiring a post-workout anabolic state) can increase post-workout protein intake for mass and muscle building by consuming THC (in a higher-than-usual dose) before big workouts, whole those pursuing fat loss and appetite control may actually suppress nighttime cravings by using smaller doses of THC on a more frequent basis.

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A Personal Experience

After reading the article “How to Make Pot-Infused Energy Bars at Home“, in preparation for a self-report in this article, Ben actually made pot-infused energy bars (100% legal in his state), following this exact recipe for “No-Bake Toasted Coconut Energy Bars”. Be extremely careful to know how much you are consuming if you use a recipe like this. You may find this article helpful to make sure you do not overdose on THC like Ben did.

Ingredients are as follows:

-Ground weed (a little goes a long way – make sure you use a digital kitchen scale and know exactly what a “gram” of ground weed is if you don’t want to repeat Ben’s mistakes!)
-At least 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
-¼ cup butter or coconut butter
-2 cups of unsalted cashews
-1 cup of pitted dates
-Ground cinnamon
-Sea salt
-2/3 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut
-A brownie pan
-Parchment paper
-A food processor

With full credit to this article in Men’s Journal, the instructions are as follows:

Step One
First, extract your THC. Grind a tablespoon of pot, whichever strain you want — sativas will keep you from wanting to stay on the couch (Ben found approximately 1.5g to be a sweet spot for him, close to 15mg THC) , but indicas will be better for relieving pain, if you’re aiming to go for a longer distance, so it’s up to you and what you’re used to (Ben noted that hybrid stains with a blend of indica and sativa are good for any kind of workout – particularly a strain called Lemon Haze). Then, in a crock-pot or a double boiler (or a regular sauce pan), on very low heat, cook 1 cup of oil with the ground herb. Stirring occasionally, every half hour or so, you should heat the oil and the pot together for at least 2 hours, if not 3. You can modify these measurements according to what you want to make, of course; do the math.

Step Two
Preheat your oven to 350° F. Spread 2/3 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut onto a baking sheet, and cook it for 5-6 minutes, until the coconut is golden.

Step Three
Put the coconut aside, and spread 2 cups of unsalted cashews onto the baking sheet. Cook those for another 5-6 minutes, until fragrant.

Step Four
In a food processor, mix the coconut, the cashews, 1 cup of pitted dates, a healthy amount of cinnamon, and a tiny amount of sea salt. Pulse until the mixture is crumb-like.

Step Five

Add ¼ cup of unsalted butter (you can also use coconut butter, if you’re lucky enough to find it) and 2 tablespoons of your THC-infused coconut oil. Pulse until the mixture starts to clump. If it looks too dry, go ahead and add a little more butter. (Or more coconut oil, if you’re feeling optimistic.)

Step Six
In a brownie pan (8 by 8 inches should do the trick), dab some oil and lay down a sheet of parchment paper. Make sure the paper sticks to the sides. Then pour out your mixture into the pan, smooth it out, and stick the whole thing in the freezer for 15-20 minutes.

Step Seven
Slice them up and eat one (Ben found about 45-60 minutes prior to a workout is a sweet-spot). Or put one in your gym bag for later. Makes 8-16 bars, depending on your tolerance.

Seems like a lot of work to go through for experimenting with whether weed works for your workout? If so, you can use a small portable vaporizer, an oil-based vaporizer, or you can get more targeted microdoses of THC in oils or lozenges, which generally have about 10 mg THC per serving, but can be microdosed, split into smaller pieces, etc, for doses as low as 1-5 mg THC, or even consumed in their non psycho-active (and legal in all 50 states) CBD capsule or oil version.

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Summary

So now that we’ve thrown a bunch of science at you, are you thinking that marijuana is an asset or an obstacle to burning fat, building muscle, and performing at your best? Like any other tea, herb, powder, oil, capsule or supplement, its utility depends on your unique physiology and how you use it. If you read the article above carefully, you’ll notice many practical tips from Ben about what has seemed to work for him with the moderated doses of both THC and CBD he has been experimenting with.

While marijuana often has anxiolytic effect that can aid sleep and thus enhance recovery, some people (often those hard-charging overachievers with high cortisol) find it antithetical to their goal of finding inner peace. So once again, it is crucial to find the dose that complements your hormonal baselines to promote feelings of well-being, rather than paranoia, and combining smaller amounts of THC with ample amounts of CBD can be a good way to achieve this sleep and recovery goal.

Ultimately, it appears from science that most of the beneficial effects of weed are derived from CBD and THCV, and as Ben discussed in this controversial podcast on The Science Of Weed, CBD has been shown to have therapeutic activity in a number of inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases, even in children. Unfortunately, if you live in a state or area where weed is not legal, most of the marijuana you get from the guy across town contains high levels of THC and little or no CBD, and the data is fairly conclusive that THC impairs cognitive and motor performance.

So when it comes to exercise and physical activity, we wouldn’t recommend smoking up before a complicated event requiring fine motor skills or people depending on you, such as a team Tough Mudder, a doubles tennis match, a basketball game, ballroom dancing, or lifting ungodly amounts of weight over your head, but you probably don’t need to worry too much about taking a pre-lift or pre-run toke or edible if you have normal cortisol levels and you find your motivation and performance remains intact or improves.

If you’re interested and within the bounds of legality, we’d advise performing an n=1 experiment to determine if marijuana increases or decreases your levels of stress, motivation, and appetite, and then rationally use it to aid your training and recovery plans accordingly. Let us know how it goes, and leave your questions, comments and feedback below!

If you want to try 100% legal and highly absorbable CBD Oil Extract, use 10% discount code BEN10 at BioCBD+.

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Meat 101: Everything You Need To Know About Choosing Healthy Meat, Grass Fed vs. Grain Fed, DIY Meat Curing & More!

steak-castiron

Have you ever wandered into the meat section of the grocery store, a butcher shop or even a fancy charcuterie-style restaurant and been just slightly perplexed about which cuts to get, how to know if the meat is safe and healthy, the difference between words like natural, grass-fed, grain-fed, hormone-free, feedlot/CAFO free, or humanely raised?

In this podcast, we delve into the mystery of meat with Jacob Dickson of Dickson’s Farmstand Meats. Dickson’s is a”candy shop for carnivores”, one of the most sought after purveyors of fine quality meats in the city of New York, and offers things like artisanal meats and house-made charcuterie made from animals raised without added hormones, prophylactic antibiotics, or animal by-products – whatever those are.

-How Jacob came into the food industry originally from corporate marketing…

-Which animal is the most efficient animal to eat from nose-to-tail…

-What you should you look for when you walk into the meat section (or a butcher’s shop) to know that the meat you’re getting is actually healthy…

-Why some grass-fed meat is not actually healthy grass-fed meat…

-What it really means for an animal to be humanely-raised and how you can know it’s really true…

-Why the word “natural” on a label means pretty much nothing…

-A big misconception about antibiotics, and why they’re actually used…

-Whether the mold and fungus that forms on meat in the curing process is really bad for you..

-How you can cure your own meat at home…

-The ultimate way to cook the tastiest steak…

Resources we discuss in this episode:

-Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

-Joel Salatin’s book

-Beyond Bacon book

-Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing 

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about choosing healthy meat, grass fed vs. grain fed, DIY meat curing or other meat-related topics? Leave your thoughts below!

Behind The Scenes Of How A Supplement Is Made: An Insider Interview.

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A few weeks ago, I hopped in my car and drove for an hour over to Dover, Idaho, where the Thorne Research facilities are located. While there, I embarked on a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of a supplements factory, getting to witness first hand how a capsule is made – from the raw ingredients analysis to the mixing and the blending to the encapsulation process and much more.

My guide on that tour was Dr. Alan Miller, who is the executive director of medical education at Thorne, assist with the creation of EXOS supplements, and is a wealth of knowledge on exactly how supplements are made. In this podcast, I interview Alan about the entire supplement manufacturing process from start to finish, and you’ll discover:

-What a special machine that costs over a hundred thousand dollars actually does to a supplement…

-Why employees at a supplements factory have to wear special moon-suits so their skin doesn’t get eaten away…

-Clear warning signs that your supplement may be tainted or have the wrong stuff in it…

-Why some fish oil tastes horrible, and what you can do about it..

-The difference between arginine, L-carnitine and the other “ines”…

-Why some probiotics don’t even make it into your digestive tract at all…

-What you can do about iron making you constipated…

-How to absorb curcumin better…

-And much more!

Resources and links from this episode:

-My original quest to discover the ultimate multi-vitamin

-The new EXOS fuel supplement line

-The LabDoor website for researching supplements

-FDA.gov adverse event reporting system (FAERS)

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about how a supplement is made, or the line of EXOS supplements? Leave your thoughts below!

The Hidden Truth Behind Toxins, Detoxification & Detox Diets.

detox

Dr. Tim Jackson – a medical ninja when it comes to nutritional biochemistry, digestive health, methylation and genetic testing and functional endocrinology – is no stranger to BenGreenfieldFitness.com.

He penned the article that first appeared here entitled “Blame the Bugs: How Stealth Pathogens Are Making You Fat, Tired, and Brain Dead.“, and also “Broken Gut to Big Butt: How A Busted Digestive System Can Make You Hormonally Fat.

And now Dr. Tim is back with a vengeance. Just when I thought I knew everything there was to know about detoxification and detox diets, Tim began dropping knowledge bombs like xenobiotics, depuration, miasm, emunctory, and even drainage (yuk!). I had to get him on the podcast to open your eyes about what’s really happening inside your body when you detox…or when you don’t.

So when it comes to detox, what you’re about to hear is like no other podcast I’ve ever done on the topic, so strap on your earphones and prepare to learn:

-Why the pH of your blood is just ONE part of proper acid/alkaline balance…

-Why detoxification can destroy you if you don’t do a few other important things first…

-The three different ways to truly test your body and see if you even need to detox…

-Which organs detox your body (it’s not just your liver and kidney!)…

-Where homeopathic medicine fits in…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

-Dr. Tim’s Website

-Dr. Tim’s Professional Facebook Page

-ZytoScan

-Asyra Testing

-EAV Screening

-Autonomic Response Testing

-Seroyal’s “UNDA” homeopathic remedies and supplements

-Seroyal’s Dr. Dixon Thom

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for Tim or me? Leave your thoughts below.

8 Natural Sweetener Alternatives That Won’t Take You Out Of Fat Burning Mode (And 4 That Will!)

8 Sweet Alternatives

When it comes to not packing on extra pounds this Valentine’s Day, what are some sweet hacks that will tickle you or your Valentine’s sweet tooth, yet not take you out of that fat burning mode (or ketosis) sweet spot?

Which sweeteners can be used to sweeten life without throwing you into a blood sugar level roller coaster ride?

Which sweeteners will spice up your sex life?

Which sweeteners can be used to minimize muscle cramps?

And since we’re not shy when it comes to talking about poop, which sweet fruit can relieve constipation naturally?

You’re about to find out all that and more in this guest post from Danielle Brooks, nutritional therapist, clinical herbalist, author of the new book “Good Decisions Most of the Time: Because life is too short not to eat chocolate“, and owner of Good Decisions Inc.!

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The 6 Sweet Spices That Won’t Spike Your Blood Sugar

Discovering all the health benefits your spice cabinet may hold is quite fun and, in times of upset tummy, gas, or other uncomfortable health conditions, you can often find relief as close as your spice cabinet. Spicing up a dish with sweet spices adds distinct flavors and lessens your temptation to add sugar. These spices also have many health-giving properties as well.

1. Allspice

Allspice has a taste similar to a mix of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. You can use allspice when preparing ham, Swedish meatballs, baked goods, and desserts to add a nice touch of spicy sweetness. Medicinally, allspice has been used throughout history in the treatment of toothaches, muscle aches, and for its blood sugar-regulating effects.

So if you feel like reaching for a sweet fruit or special treat, and want to decrease the impact on your blood sugar levels, sprinkle it with cloves! Like many spices, allspice is a digestive aid, and consuming allspice with meals can result in stronger digestion, reduced gas and bloating, and decreased nausea. Not a bad spice to have in your back pocket for emergencies.

2. Cinnamon

Cinnamon has a wonderful sweet flavor and can be used as a ground powder or dried stick. This spice can be used in just about anything. From sweet dishes to stews and curries, you will be pleasantly surprised to find that a small amount of cinnamon goes a long way. Two teaspoons of cinnamon can change a tart, tongue-puckering apple pie to a sweet one. It can replace brown sugar in any dish or be sprinkled on fruit to liven up a simple dessert.

One of cinnamon’s best attributes is its ability to lessen the impact of sugar on your blood sugar levels. Cinnamon also slows the rate at which your stomach empties after meals, which also reduces the rise in blood sugar after eating. This little spice packs a powerful punch and can be added to any dish or beverage as a substitute for, or in addition to sugar, to lessen sugar’s impact.

3. Cloves

Cloves have a sweet or bittersweet taste and can be used when ground or dried. Cloves are great when used to sweeten dishes or in curries and stews. And who can’t visualize a glorious clove-studded ham? Cloves go well with chicken, can spice up an otherwise plain piece of fruit. Clove oil can even be applied to a cavity in a decayed tooth, to relieve a toothache, making this spice very valuable if you can’t get in to see your dentist right away.

4. Mace and Nutmeg

Mace and nutmeg are two slightly different flavored spices, both originating from the fruit of the nutmeg tree. This “nutmeg apple” looks similar to an apricot. When the mature fruit splits open, the nutmeg (a seed surrounded by a red, slightly fleshy covering, or aril) is exposed. The dried aril alone is called mace. The nut is removed and dried to produce nutmeg. Both have a warm, sweet, spicy flavor and are best when freshly ground.

Studies have found that nutmeg may be useful in enhancing libido. But use caution since nutmeg can also be added to milk as a sleep aid, and the last thing you want when trying to enhance libido is to fall asleep!

5. Cardamom

Cardamom is used in Scandinavian bakeries, German and Russian pastries, and in the Middle East and India. This spice can be used instead of sugar when making baked goods and with creams to make cardamom-flavored ice cream, which is mouthwateringly delicious.

You can steep the seeds in milk, water, or almond milk for use as a digestive aid to relieve gas and bloating. “Really?” you say. If you feel gassy and bloated—absolutely!

6. Vanilla Beans

Vanilla beans are more of a fruit than a spice; one inch of vanilla bean is roughly equal to one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Sweet and fragrant, vanilla is best when used from whole or dried beans. Vanilla is a great sugar substitute and can be added to breakfast grains, coffee, and desserts such as ice cream, pudding, and cake.

The active compound in vanilla is vanillin. Vanillin is a polyphenol with strong antioxidant activity. Some neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are associated with formation of a chemical called peroxynitrite, which causes damage to brain cells. Because vanillin has such strong antioxidant activity, it may offset some of this oxidative damage, keeping brain cells healthy and preventing the devastating effects of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

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The 2 Sweet Herbs That Won’t Spike Your Blood Sugar 

You can also use the following sweet herbs to sweeten and add flavor to a dish.

Vegetables are especially good with these herbs added. If you’re trying to make vegetables taste better, you can reach for an herb or spice to take your mind off the fact that you’re eating vegetables.

1. Anise Seed

Anise seed smells like black licorice and can be used whole or ground. These delicious seeds are often used as a flavoring in some cookies, candies, pastries, and even in poultry dishes. Chewing on a teaspoon of anise seeds after a meal can relieve uncomfortable gas and bloating within minutes. Also, one teaspoon of the seeds can be steeped in one cup of boiling water as a delicious sweet tea for similar results.

2. Sweet Basil

This herb is somewhat pungent and sweet. It’s a bit odd to think of this herb for use as a sweetener, but you’ll be hooked after you try it. Use fresh basil to get the best results.

Add it to dishes at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the flavor. You can use sweet basil with eggplant, tomato dishes, pesto, Vietnamese and Thai dishes, and salads, as well as when cooking vegetables to make them more interesting. Corn, tomato, peppers, and eggplant are divine when served with a dusting of fresh basil. Scientific studies have established that compounds in basil oil have potent antioxidant, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties and potential for use in treating cancer.

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4 Natural Sweeteners That Are Healthier Than Sugar

If all this talk of sweet herbs and spices is leaving you longing for something sweeter that will stimulate your dopamine center, roll your eyes into the back of your head, and cause an euphoric moan of delight to escapes your lips, you are now in the right category. Please note that these natural sweeteners will take you out of fat burning mode or ketosis, but at least they’re more nutrient dense than sugar or high fructose corn syrup!

Natural unrefined sweeteners give food certain qualities, tangible qualities that ooze deliciousness, as if the food you are eating contains life within it that will enhance your own life. And it does. There’s nothing like enjoying a honey-roasted pear with a touch of cinnamon. It doesn’t just feed your craving for something sweet; it feeds the body as well as your senses.

1. Raw Unfiltered Honey

Honey is made when the nectar from a flower mixes with the saliva of a bee. (Sounds delicious, no?) Depending on the quality of honey, it contains anti-microbial, and antioxidant compounds, as well as probiotic bacteria. It also contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals. So, while you are moaning with delight, you can think of the nourishing properties of this sweetener as well.

Honey is usually sold over the counter in most grocery stores, and it is usually pasteurized, clarified, or filtered so it’s important to read the label and know what to look for. I recommend raw honey. This is honey as it exists in the beehive or as obtained by extraction, settling, or straining without adding heat (caution: some honey that has been “minimally processed” is often labeled as “raw honey”). Raw honey contains some pollen and may contain small particles of wax.

2. Grade B Maple Syrup

Maple syrup, made from the sap of black or red maple trees, is a good source of manganese and zinc and, to a lesser degree, potassium and calcium. I recommend Grade B maple syrup because it contains more nutrients than Grade A and has a thicker, richer flavor.

Manganese, known for its ability to maintain blood sugar levels, is the highlight of this sweetener. Manganese is an essential cofactor in a number of enzymes important in muscle energy production and antioxidant defenses.

Maple syrup is low on the glycemic index and can be used to sweeten salad dressing, replace honey for a different taste, or be used instead of table sugar in some baking. Maple syrup contains zinc and potassium, with calcium, magnesium, and sodium chloride electrolytes occurring in their natural ratios, making this sweetener more valuable than any GU in your back pocket.

3. Dried Dates

Dates are the fruit of the date palm tree. They are raw and unprocessed (but read the ingredient list just to make sure), and they have lots of nutrients such as potassium, iron, and vitamin A. It’s easy to use dates to sweeten smoothies, baked goods, sauces, and more by making a paste with the dates. To make a paste, simply use dried dates and soak them in warm water overnight. Then blend the dates with some of the water used to soak them to a consistency similar to honey. (When I make my own almond milk, I add some dried dates to sweeten the batch.)

I was playing around with dates and developed the following recipe from which the featured image for this blog post was dervied. I had no idea it would turn out to be the snickers bar for the health conscious. A warning really should come with this recipe as it has the perfect combination of sweet, salt and fat, which can be a deliciously addictive combination.

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Coconut Pecan Stuffed Chocolate Covered Dates, Oh My!

Makes: 30 dates

Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

For the Stuffed Dates:

¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut (plus extra for topping)

¼ cup toasted pecans

¼ teaspoon unrefined sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

30 large Medjool dates

For the Dipping Chocolate

2 (4oz) bars Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate

Directions

  1. Place the shredded coconut, pecans, salt, vanilla and cinnamon in a food processor. Process until mixtures begins to clump together, set aside.
  2.  Cut the dates in half lengthwise on one side and remove the pit. Stuff a small amount of coconut pecan mixture into each date and press to close. Place dates in the refrigerator.
  3.  In a small double boiler melt chocolate. Remove dates from the fridge and using two spoons, dip the cold dates in the chocolate. Roll each to cover completely and then lift out letting the excess chocolate drip off before placing on a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle shredded coconut on top of each date. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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4. Fruit

If you need to sweeten a dish, fruit is another healthy option. Fruits, such as crushed pineapple, applesauce, strawberries, cherries, or blueberries can naturally sweeten almost any dish. You can even customize your diet by reaching for a fruit to provide your body with certain nutrients. For Instance:

  • If constipation is an issue, reach for the sweet apple. It contains sorbitol, a substance that attracts water. Apples also contain fiber and pectins, which increase the volume and viscosity of the stool. These substances make for one of the most enjoyable bowel movements ever!
  •  If you are looking for an antioxidant rich, heart healthy hit of sweet goodness reach for some sweet berries.
  • If younger skin is something you would like to nurture, cantaloupes can deliver some skin supporting nutrients and tickle your sweet fancy at the same time.

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Life Is Too Short

When we make what I call “Good Decisions” most of the time, our bodies are well equipped to handle the occasional indulgence and sweet treat. Life is too short not to have chocolate, but life is also too short to feel sick and tired all the time. Reaching for natural sweeteners instead of refined sugar, artificial sugar, or high fructose corn syrup will not only please the palate, but provide the body with nutrients as well, and are definitely very good decisions.

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Need even more blood sugar controlling solutions? Click here to check out the brand new Diabetes Summit. And leave your questions, comments or feedback for Danielle below!

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The Top 10 Mistakes Low-Carb Athletes Make And 5 Keto Recipes For Active People.

Keto book for athletes

OK, here’s the deal – I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: an extremely high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet is not for everyone.

But since ketones are a preferred fuel for the heart and the diaphragm, and because a state of ketosis can give you extreme focus and cognitive performance during difficult mental tasks, a ketogenic diet can be extremely useful for endurance athletes like triathletes, distance swimmers, cyclists, marathoners, ultra-runners, etc.

Problem is, there aren’t a ton of resources out there about how highly active people can actually get into a state of ketosis without…

A) chugging coconut oil and MCT oil all day long, which (trust me, I’ve tried) gets boring really, really fast; or

B) experiencing some pretty extreme nutrient deficiencies from a ketogenic diet gone wrong – nutrient deficiencies that really get magnified when you combine them with crazy high levels of physical activity.

So in this article, author, triathlete, and ketogenic expert extraordinaire Patricia Daly is going to fill you in on how to do things the right way. Patricia just finished writing an amazing book called “Practical Keto Meal Plans For Endurance Athletes: Tips, Tricks And How To’s For Optimizing Performance Using A High Fat, Low Carb Meal Plan“, and she’s a wealth of information on this topic.

Take it away, Patricia.

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Maybe the title of this article scares you a little bit…

…after all, if there’s so much that can “go wrong” with the ketogenic and low carb lifestyle, is it worth all the effort? Or do you think you will never “get there” and achieve nutritional ketosis because there seem to so many stumbling blocks in your way, like talk about thyroid damage, lack of energy or extreme dietary restriction?

Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds, and if you do a ketogenic diet the right way, you can avoid the potential health risks. It’s just important to have a basic understanding of nutrition and metabolism before embarking on this specific dietary approach, and a good way to do that is to see the kind of mistakes that people commonly make on a ketogenic diet, and also to get a few tasty keto recipes to get your creative wheels churning.

So in this article, you’re going to get the top 10 mistakes low-carb athletes make, and 5 keto recipes for active people. Enjoy, leave your questions and comments below the post, and be sure to check out the brand new book just published by Greenfield Fitness Systems, entitled “Practical Keto Meal Plans For Endurance Athletes: Tips, Tricks And How To’s For Optimizing Performance Using A High Fat, Low Carb Meal Plan.”

Mistake #1. Being Scared of Fat

The ketogenic diet is very different to the standard American or British- or any Western- diet. The main goal of a ketogenic lifestyle is to teach the body to use ketone bodies derived from fatty acids rather than glucose as the main source of energy. This is why the amount of fat you consume on a ketogenic is about 75-85+% of total daily calorie intake.

In other words, if you work out quite a bit you probably eat about 2,900 calories a day, of which about 2,300 will come from fat if you follow a ketogenic diet. Fat has 9 calories per gram, and therefore you will consume 256g of fat every day- depending on how much you train of course. To simplify this further: One tablespoon of olive oil, for instance, weighs about 14g, so all in all your daily fat intake will be about 18 tablespoons. Wow!

Although I was totally aware that I needed to focus mainly on fat when I started the ketogenic diet, I still had this mental block about it. I had been brain washed by the food industry for so long that fat is evil that it was really hard to convince myself of the opposite. And I was so used to eating carbs non-stop, doing carb loading before competitions and avoiding fat that it took me a while to get my head (and body) around this new way of eating. But it’s key to ketogenic success!
Avocado Smoothie

Mistake #2. Eating Too Much Protein

Another mistake beginners make is to replace most of the carbohydrates they used to eat with protein instead of fat. I see this happen all the time. The problem is that excess protein intake can lead to gluconeogenesis, which is the conversion of amino acids to glucose. This is not what we want on a ketogenic diet- on the contrary, we need to keep glucose levels low and encourage the production of ketone bodies from fatty acids.

Many people are surprised when they start weighing their food according to my meal plans and realize how little protein they actually need to eat on a ketogenic diet! But fat is protein sparing, which means that your need for protein decreases with a high fat intake.

Mistake #3: Carbs Creeping In

This seems very obvious! But it actually isn’t as simple as you think because carbohydrates can very quickly add up, especially if you’re keen to get your veggies, herbs and spices in. They’re also in products you’d never think contain carbs.

Good examples are any processed foods (we’ll talk about them later), shop bought salad dressings, milk substitutes (many coconut and almond milks have added sugar), tomato sauce, some meats like duck confit, starchy vegetables and even herbal tea, to name just a few. Eating out can be a challenge because many restaurants like to use sauces, dressings and dips that have added honey or other sources of sugar. It tastes nice but is not keto-friendly!

Having solid, reliable information is key to carbohydrate restriction, especially in the initial stages when metabolic changes happen.

Mistake #4: Giving Up Too Early

The quicker you go into nutritional ketosis, the more side effects you might suffer from initially. The metabolic changes can be dramatic because every single cell in the body needs to do the switch from glucose to fat metabolism. Insulin is impacted: Levels go down because of reduced consumption of carbohydrates, which has an effect on the kidneys. Insulin tells the kidneys to hold on to sodium. If insulin is at a consistently lower level, the body starts getting rid of excess sodium and also water.

This is why it’s so important to ensure you add sufficient sodium to your diet and keep well hydrated, especially in the first few days of starting to reduce carbohydrates. This will make sure you don’t suffer from any of the symptoms of the dreaded “keto flu”: shivers, foggy brain, headaches or nausea are some of the possible symptoms. It’s probably more appropriate to call them “carbohydrate withdrawal symptoms” because of the effects on hormonal and electrolyte balance.

Things that help to get over these initial obstacles are strong bone broth with good quality salt, lots of rest, no intense exercise and plenty of mineral-rich water, e.g. San Pellegrino. However, the best advice I can give is to take things slowly and not to give up when you’re feeling a bit off in the initial stages- provided you’ve done all the suggested blood tests to exclude any underlying health issues prior to starting a ketogenic diet.

Bone Broth

Mistake #5. Being Scared Of New Foods And Eating The Same Meals Over and Over Again

Many people feel overwhelmed in the initial stages of implementing a low carb and ketogenic diet. And because they have very little experience with certain new foods, they keep eating the same “safe” low-carb stuff. For instance bacon and eggs for breakfast and nuts for snacks!

Of course this means that you are eating low carb but as a nutritionist guiding athletes through the diet, my first priority is always to improve their health. And this is only possible with a nutritious, varied and individualized approach. Eating the same things over again isn’t only boring, it may also set you up for having nutrient deficiencies and developing food intolerances. This happens quite often especially if you’re a little stressed, your gut function isn’t optimal or if you’re on medication.

Food intolerances can have an impact not only on your gut health by causing bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation or other symptoms, but also on your immune system. My best advice is to keep experimenting with new foods, even if they seem utterly strange to you, like (for instance) chicken liver, which is way easier to find and prepare than you’d think. There’s a nice recipe for every single food (and in just a moment, you’re going to get 5 good ones to get your creative wheels churning).

Mistake #6. Eating Processed Foods

This is especially common for people who have read about the Atkins diet and seen the products that are sold online and in stores. Yes, they keep you within the carbohydrate limits that you choose and may make life a lot easier but they are also full of artificial flavours, colouring, polydextrose, sucralose and other artificial sweeteners that can mess with your mental and physical health.

My rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t be able to bake or cook a meal based on the ingredients list (because you don’t recognize half of them or wouldn’t know where to buy them), you should stay away from it. Hopefully, with an increasing amount of research to confirm the benefits of low carb and ketogenic diets for various health conditions, there will be plenty of incentives for companies to produce snacks based on real foods.

Mistake #7. Lack Of Planning (And Obsessing Too Much).

Both lack of planning and obsessing too much can be stumbling stones. If you don’t plan you’re much more likely to “fail” and give up on your lifestyle changes. You see, the problem is that when you realize you haven’t got all of the ingredients you need for a low carb recipe, you might not find them in your corner shop.

Some of the products that are staples on a low carb or ketogenic diet like coconut oil, olives, oily fish or ghee can only be bought in health shops or online. More and more supermarkets start to stock them but this really depends where you live. If you plan a bit ahead and know that you need certain things to follow the meal plans in my eBook, for instance, you won’t get stressed because you already have them in your cupboard. Planning also makes it easier to cook in bulk and therefore save time and money.

On the other hand, I often work with clients who start obsessing too much and plan every single bite they eat during the day. Obviously, it’s a slightly different story for somebody following a ketogenic diet for medical reasons, for instance in the case of epilepsy, where they diet has to be well calculated and no mistakes can be made without a serious consequence. But sometimes people tell me they’re so stressed out about dietary changes that they wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. They worry what their next meal would look like, how they could further increase ketones or what to eat on a holiday! In this case, it’s time to take a (big) step back, relax, try some recipes without weighing and counting and maybe give it another go after a few weeks with lots of support and preparation. Stressing about food can cancel out all the positive effects of good nutrition!

Mistake #8. Ignoring Your Body’s Warning Signs

Athletes who obsess over dietary changes can get caught up in measuring blood glucose and ketones, weighing their food all the time, creating exact meal plans and they can get really scared of eating out where things are out of their control. In my experience, they are also likely candidates to ignore their body’s warning signs.

I used to be an “expert” in this: even though I sometimes didn’t feel like doing another high intensity training, I went ahead and did it because it was on my training plan. And there were foods I couldn’t stand because they tended to bloat me but I still ate them because I read somewhere that they’re really good for triathletes!

Please don’t forget that you know your body best and that no meal or training plan can beat your innate knowledge and intuition. Take warning signs seriously and don’t override them because you have it in your head to stick to a particular regime.

Low carb and ketogenic diets aren’t for everyone and if you feel worse than before- even after getting over the initial symptoms I talked about earlier- then it’s probably time to stop and reconsider.

Mistake #9. Social Pressure

This is a big one and can’t be underestimated! The amount of times I’m at a party and have to listen to “Oh come on, surely one piece of cake won’t hurt you, don’t be so extreme!”… and the last thing I want to do is going into a scientific monologue and talk about metabolism at a party. Even 3 years into following a ketogenic diet I still get comments from family and even close friends- although they all know how miraculous the diet has been for my health.

But ketogenic diets are still very poorly understood even by the medical profession. People don’t understand that you can’t follow the famous 80/20 rule where some treats are allowed in moderate amounts. You’re either in ketosis or you’re not. It’s pretty black or white, actually!

And, trust me, once you’ve been keto adapted for a while and you eat a piece of cake, you will feel pretty shoddy and not remotely in party mood afterwards…

Mistake #10. Poor Timing

And finally, let me talk about when to start lowering your carbs or attempting to go into ketosis. Please don’t do it a week before your most important competition of the season or during a time when you’re super busy at work.

In my experience, the best time of the year to make major changes to diet and lifestyle is when you’re “off season”. During my competitive years, I always took a good break in November from intensive training or competitions and focused on relaxation and restoration. Another good time is to start is before some preparatory competitions to build towards your most important race. That’s when you see how your body responds to higher intensity and if the diet doesn’t suit you, you still have plenty of time to make changes.

And, if you’re still not convinced that low carb food can actually taste absolutely delicious, try some of the recipes below (I’m sure this will change your mind)!

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Keto Meal 1: Breakfast Buns

Breakfast Buns

These buns are amazing and really good for anybody who misses bread, burger buns or something to scoop up sauces! They are delicious with some butter or ghee on each half, topped with 2 slices of Parma ham.

Ingredients Quantity
1.5 cups Macadamia nuts, unsalted 196.5
3 Eggs, organic 150
1 tsp Cider Vinegar 3.8
1/4 cup coconut milk (Tetra Pak) 63
60g + 12 tbsp Butter (1 tbsp for each half) 237.6
1/3 cup Almond flour 33
1/3 cup Coconut flour 40
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda) 4
1 tsp Rock Salt pink 5

Cooking Instructions

Makes 6 buns

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C/325F.
  2. Grind the macadamia nuts to a coarse flour in a strong food processor.
  3. Add eggs, vinegar, milk and butter. Process until you have a smooth paste.
  4. Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and stir well. Add wet to dry and mix until you have a wet dough.
  5. Form 6 buns and bake for 25 minutes. Spread 1 tbsp of butter onto each half. Eat on the same day or freeze.

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Keto Meal 2: Almond Coconut Pancakes

Almond Coconut Pancakes

Ingredients In grams
1 tsp ground Cinnamon 2.3
1/2 cup desiccated Coconut 42.5
1 1/2 cup ground blanched Almonds 150
1/2 tsp Baking soda/ Bicarbonate of soda 2
1/4 tsp Sea Salt 2
1 cup Coconut milk canned 250
3 large Eggs organic or free range 171
2 tbsp (solid) Coconut oil 45

Cooking Instructions

Serves 4

  1. Sift dry ingredients and mix together.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk coconut milk and eggs together.
  3. Add dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  4. Heat coconut oil in a pan, pour in batter and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side.

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Keto Meal 3: Rainbow Salad

Ingredients Quantity
2 cups chopped Butterhead Lettuce 104
1 small young Carrot, grated 60
4 sticks Celery, sliced 240
8 tbsp grated Celeriac, raw 64
2 tbsp Shelled Hemp Seeds 18
4 tsp Pumpkin Seeds 16
12 tbsp raw Alfalfa sprouts 36
240g Smoked or Grilled Trout 240
1/2 cup Avocado oil 112
2 tsp Cider Vinegar 15.2
2 tsp Mustard Dijon smooth 16
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
80g Cheese, e.g. Gruyere 80

Cooking Instructions

Serves 4

  1. Toss the vegetables, hemp/pumpkin seeds, sprouts and trout into a bowl and mix with the butterhead leaves.
  2. Mix the avocado oil, apple cider vinegar, mustard and seasoning and pour over the salad. Grate some fresh Gruyère over it. This one really pops with color!

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Keto Meal 4: Bacon Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Ingredients Quantity
3 tbsp Coconut oil 81
5 Bacon rashers, diced 100
1 clove Garlic, crushed 3
500g Brussels sprouts, shredded 500
1 Leek, thinly sliced 130
Salt and Black Pepper 4
3/4 cup Chicken Stock, homemade 188

Cooking Instructions

Serves 8

  1. Cook the bacon in coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until crisp.
  2. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside. Add the shredded Brussels sprouts, leek and garlic to the pan and sauté in the remaining oil for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken broth, salt and pepper. Cover and steam for 5-10 minutes. Mix in the bacon.

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Keto Meal 5: Liver Mousse

Liver Mousse

One of my missions is to get my clients to incorporate more fat-vitamin-rich, hormone-nourishing organ meat into their diet! I know…it’s not an easy goal. This recipe is inspired by Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley.

Ingredients Quantity
200g organic Chicken liver, raw 81
1/2 Apple 100
100g Butter, at room temperature 3
2 organic Eggs 500
1/2 Small Onion 130
1/2 tsp ground Allspice 4
1 tsp Rock Salt and 1/2 tsp Black Pepper 188

Cooking Instructions

Serves 4

  1. Preheat the oven to 130C/250F.
  2. Put all ingredients into a strong blender and pulse until you have a smooth paste.
  3. Fill into a muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes.

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So there you have it. Pancakes and liver mousse. Knock yourself out.

Ketogenic diets can be complex, but if you do them the right way – and more importantly, if you pay attention to people like Patricia who have actually spent the time in the trenches combining high levels of activity with ketosis – there can be some significant endurance enhancing benefits.

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about ketogenic diets for active people? Leave your thoughts below and either Patricia or I will reply! Also, be sure to grab Patricia’s brand new book “Practical Keto Meal Plans For Endurance Athletes: Tips, Tricks And How To’s For Optimizing Performance Using A High Fat, Low Carb Meal Plan.

Everything You Need To Know About Hair Mineral Analysis.

Hair Mineral Analysis

I’m all about testing and quantifying what’s going on inside my body, so when Certified Holistic Health Coach Wendy Myers approached me at a biohacking conference and asked me if I wanted to have my hair tested with a hair mineral analysis test…

…I made a stop at my local barber…

…got a few strands snipped off…

…sent my hair off to Wendy’s lab…

…and was absolutely shocked at the results I got in my e-mail inbox a couple weeks later. In this episode, we talk about about the results of my hair mineral analysis, and you’ll also learn:

-Exactly what hair mineral analysis is and how it works…

-How you can discover things like adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues and nutrient and mineral deficits from your hair…

-What to do about heavy metal toxicities, and why some heavy metal chelators can actually be dangerous…

-How to tell if you’re undereating or overeating carbohydrates…

-Where natural remedies like infrared saunas and coffee enemas fit in…

-Why even pristine well water can have some serious issues…

-And much more!

Resources:

-Click here to download the results of Ben Greenfield’s hair mineral analysis.

-Click here to download the results of Ben Greenfield’s hair mineral ratios.

-Want your own Hair Mineral Analysis? Click here to go to Wendy’s website and get started.

-Copper Dysregulation podcast

-Transdermal magnesium

-APSWater.com

-Infrared Biomat

-Trace Liquid Minerals

Do you have questions, comments or feedback or hair mineral analysis? Leave your thoughts below!

The Ultimate DIY Guide To Growing Your Own Food And Living Green.

Alik Pelman

Last month, my wife and I traveled to Israel with Vibe Israel, an organization that brings international on- and offline opinion leaders in health and nutrition on a weeklong personalized experience of the burgeoning wellness scene in Israel.

I’ve already released three valuable lessons I learned on that Israel journey: “5 Things You Can Learn From The Burgeoning Health, Wellness And Nutrition Scene In Israel“, “Why You Get Cancer And What You Can Do About It“, and “The Problem With Paleo: Why It’s OK To Eat Bread, Grains, Legumes, Cheese & Milk.”.

Today, you get to listen in as I interview one of the most amazing individuals I met on the Israel trip – a man named Alik Pelman (pictured above with myself and others at his property, photo courtesy Or Kaplan). Alik completed his PhD in philosophy at the University of London and then took a break from academic life and went to learn how to grow food, becoming a professional organic farmer for two years.

Alik then set up his own self-sufficient home in the small village of Clil, in Western Galilee. I had the pleasure of visiting him in his small hut, built almost entirely from local, natural materials. This is where he grows virtually all of his food, and spends most of his working hours doing farm chores, reading, writing and hosting curious visitors like me.

In this show, you’ll discover:

-How to grow food on your roof…

-How to use sheep’s wool for insulation…

-How to make walls out of completely edible corn flour porridge…

-How to use natural oils to protect your floor and furniture…

-How to build an efficient, composting toilet that uses no water…

-How to easily rotate your garden crops for maximum yield…

-How to grow and make your own bread, from seed to loaf…

Resources from this episode:

-Alik’s video that documents all stages of growing your own bread – from seed to loaf

-Israel Homestead. pdf handout that walks you step-by-step through how he built his eco-friendly hut

-My How To Biohack Ultimate Healthy Home book

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about Alik, his life, his hut, and how to grown your own food? Leave your thoughts below!

Is Detoxing Really A Myth?

detox juice

Last week, The Guardian released an article entitled, “You can’t detox your body. It’s a myth. So how do you get healthy?

In the article, author Dara Mohammadi said:

“…detoxing – the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam. It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.”

So is this true? Is detoxing just a sham?

You’re about to find out. But not here.

See, unknown to many BenGreenfieldFitness.com visitors, I really don’t do the lion’s share of my writing on this site. I instead write an article, write a newsletter, and release a short, 5-10 minute helpful and easy-to-understand audio podcast every week over at the Quick And Dirty Tips website.

So that is where Part 1 of my thoughts and recommendations based on this detoxing article appears, and also where Part 2 will appear tomorrow (Tuesday). Click here to read Part 1 of “Is Detoxing Really A Myth” (and if you want instant notification when Part 2 goes live, just click here to subscribe to the free Get-Fit Guy newsletter).

Enjoy.

Kombucha: Everything You’ve Always Wanted To Know But Were Afraid To Ask.

kombucha

I drink Kombucha almost every day. My wife usually ferments a batch with a home Kombucha fermenting kit, then adds things like blueberries and ginger to it. But there are a lot of myths and mistruths out there when it comes to Kombucha.

Call it “Kombucha confusion” if you will…

Is Kombucha alcoholic?

Is Kombucha dangerous to make yourself, and if not, how do you do it?

Does Kombucha cause Candida or bacterial overgrowth to occur in your gut?

Are all brands of Kombucha at the grocery store created equal?

How should you feel after you drink Kombucha?

We’re going to answer all these questions and more on today’s special podcast interview with The Kombucha Mamma herself: Hannah Crum.

Hannah is the founder of Kombucha Kamp, the most visited website in the world for Kombucha information, recipes and advice, and her mission is to “heal the world, one gut at a time.” Hannah is also an industry journalist & Master Brewer, directly mentoring thousands of new and experienced Kombucha brewers and providing consultation services for Kombucha start-ups since 2007.

She co-founded Kombucha Brewers International, a non-profit trade association dedicated to promoting bottled Kombucha around the world, and her Kombucha instructional video series with E-How/Expert Village has racked up over 1 million views. Hannah is also a leader and featured speaker in the Southern California Real Food movement, using the “Kombucha Lifestyle” as an introduction to other fermented foods, gut health, the human microbiome, “bacteriosapiens” and more.

Hannah ships freshly grown, full-size Kombucha starter cultures to more than 10,000 people worldwide and offers kits and Continuous Brew Packages, the ultimate in convenient homebrewed Kombucha, via her webstore. She also has a Free “Do-It-Yourself” Kombucha Guide with brewing, bottling & flavoring tips you can click here to grab.

During our discussion, you’ll learn what exactly Kombucha is, how to make Kombucha, what kind of Kombucha is best, which Kombucha to avoid, when you should and shouldn’t drink Kombucha and much more.

Click here to get Kombucha or a Kombucha Starter Kit on Amazon, and leave your questions, comments and feedback about Kombucha below!

The 30 Days No Alcohol Experiment: Part 2 (What Happens When You Quit Alcohol Cold Turkey).

30 days no alcohol

Alright folks, this is officially it. Sit back, grab a bottle of booze and get ready to be entertained. Exactly 30 days ago, I told you all about one lucky guy named Jason Sissel, who volunteered to guinea pig himself by quitting alcohol cold turkey and doing before and after blood tests with WellnessFX.

You can click here to read Part 1, in which you get to see how messed up Jason was from his daily habit of a few glasses of wine, mixed in with some beer and hard alcohol here and there. You can also click here to read Jason’s blog post “30 Days, No Alcohol Biohack–Thoughts at the Midpoint”.

And now, in Part 2, I’m going to reveal exactly what happened to Jason’s internal biology over the past 30 days. Enjoy, and leave your questions, comments and feedback below the article!

Finally, if you’d like to run your own 30 Days No Alcohol Experiment then you’ll be pleased to know that WellnessFX has arranged a 15% discount on two Baseline blood testing packages (exactly what Jason got), along with a download of a free copy of my REV Yourself ebook. That’s a huge value, and at checkout, you can even include a 20-minute nutritionist consultation for personalized recommendations you can implement immediately. Click here to get this enormously discounted blood testing package now.

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I knew these results weren’t going to be a yawner when I saw this Facebook post from Jason Sissel on December 23, exactly 30 days after he quit his daily alcohol intake:

sissellresults

Wow!

Now, let’s jump into the nitty-gritty screenshots from Jason’s WellnessFX lab dashboard (click here to download Jason’s full WellnessFX blood results).

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We’ll start with triglycerides. Before, I noted that:

“…Jason’s Triglyceride to HDL ratio (one of the first values I pay attention to on a lipid panel) is very high, at 5.9 (I like to see it below 1!). Excess triglycerides can be stored in blood vessels, contributing to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Higher amounts of HDL can carry these fatty deposits away from blood vessels and be protective. So the ratio of triglycerides to HDL can be a valuable measure to help predict cardiovascular risk.

Due to it’s high fructose content, most forms of alcohol can shove triglycerides through the roof. Alcohol has an especially significant additive effect on the postprandial (after a meal) triglyceride peak when it accompanies a meal containing fat, especially saturated fat. This results from a decrease in the breakdown of cholesterol due to an acute inhibitory effect of alcohol on the activity of the crucial fat burning enzyme lipoprotein lipase.

Alcohol also increases the synthesis of large VLDL particles in the liver, which is the main source of triglycerides in the high triglyceride state so often seen with chronic excessive alcohol intake.”

Now check out the results below. Jason’s triglycerides plummeted from 386 to 113, with absolutely no dietary changes other than the elimination of alcohol.

Trigs

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Next, let’s look at Jason’s ApoB, a protein that can help LDL cholesterol bind to and clog blood vessels. Jason saw a significant drop in ApoB (142 to 118), indicating a significant improvement in cardiovascular health.

ApoB

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Next, let’s look at blood sugar. Before, I noted that:

…Jason has high fasted blood glucose and high hemoglobin A1c (a 3 month snapshot of his average blood sugar levels). Since alcoholic drinks contain high amounts of sugar from both glucose and fructose sources, this is no surprise. In an active athlete like Jason, I’d expect to see fasted glucose levels that are below 90, but instead, he appears to have chronically elevated blood sugar levels and is relying upon carbohydrates (not fat) for energy. In Jason’s resting metabolic rate results farther below, you’ll see that this is indeed the case.”

However, now look at Jasons HbA1c values! They dropped from 5.7 to 5.4, another significant improvement in an important metabolic marker.

HbA1C

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Now comes a big one: thyroid.

I had noted before that:

“…Jason has a very elevated TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone).  TSH triggers the thyroid gland in your neck to produce thyroid hormones T3 and T4, which are crucial for your body’s use of energy. The amount of functioning thyroid hormones gives your brain feedback as to how much TSH to release, so the brain will release less or more TSH as it senses is necessary. Low thyroid function can cause weight gain, fatigue, cold intolerance and brain fog.

Prior to this test, Jason was aware that he was hypothyroid, and is currently on 75mcg per day of Synthroid (Levothyroxine). This is definitely not my top pick for thyroid supplementation, as it is a synthetic form of thyroid and contains only one of the two major thyroid hormones: T4. I’m a much bigger fan of a full spectrum of thyroid hormones that includes T1, T2, T3 and T4. In the past, I’ve recommend natural thyroid replacement supplements such as ThyroGold for this reason.

While alcohol isn’t always the culprit when it comes to low thyroid function, it can certainly play a role. It has been shown to cause direct suppression of thyroid function by cellular toxicity, and indirect suppression by blunting the release of an important thyroid-related hormone called thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH). With elevated chronic use, it can also cause a decrease of peripheral thyroid hormones like T3 and T4, primarily due to it’s deleterious effect on liver and gut conversion of thyroid hormones to their active form.

My guess is that Jason experiences a distinct drop in TSH after 30 days, indicated improved thyroid function.”

Jason’s TSH drop was shocking. He went from a clinically concerning 4.73 down to a 2.44, indicating a huge shift in his thyroid hormone production capabilities. This alone has influenced me personally to be careful to limit myself to the “one glass of wine” rule as a consistent habit, and if you’re concerned about your own thyroid, you should definitely pay attention to this one.

TSH

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The changes in Jason’s liver enzymes should come as no surprise. Before, I said:

….”As I would have expected due to his level of alcohol consumption, Jason has elevated liver enzymes. His Alanine Aminotransferase, or ALT, is especially elevated. This is an enzyme in liver cells, and liver damage or disease causes a release of ALT from the liver cells, increasing the amount in the blood. AST and ALP are found in cells other than liver cells, while ALT is more specific to liver cells.

High alcohol intake and high body fat percentages can both increase liver enzymes. I suspect we’ll see some very favorable decreases in Jason’s liver enzymes at the end of 30 days.”

Now check out the charts below. His enzymes dropped significantly across the board. Jason’s liver is shouting an enormous thank-you. It’s amazing how your body’s primary filters can bounce back when you just give them a chance.

AspartaeAmnotransferase AlkalinePhosphatase AlanineAminotransferase

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Before, I noted on Jason’s White Blood Cell (WBC) results that

“…An abnormally high amount of eosinophils in the blood can suggest a variety of different problems, such as allergies or infections, and I often see this in individuals who are A) eating lots of foods that create autoimmune issues, such as commercial wheat, soy, or dairy; B) have some kind of a gut infection, such as bacterial overgrowth or a parasite…”

You can see that Jason’s eosinophil count dropped from 8.1 to 7.3, possibly indicating less autoimmune activity (a good thing!). I’m not entirely convinced that this drop in WBC’s is extremely significant, or related to the drop in alcohol intake, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Eosinophils

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Regarding Jason’s Vitamin D levels, I originally wrote that Jason’s…

“…Vitamin D is low…really low. Ideal ranges for Vitamin D are 40-80 and he is at 11. It is well known in nutritional science that drinking too much alcohol can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb and activate Vitamin D.

Vitamin D only becomes physiologically active after it’s been chemically modified in the liver and kidneys. Since the liver must carry the majority of the burden of alcohol metabolism, excessive alcohol consumption puts an unhealthy overload on the liver and makes it less able to perform its other duties. This overload on the liver can eventually result in a number of disorders, including fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis. By compromising normal liver function, alcohol interferes with the conversion of both dietary (from food) and endogenous (from sunlight) vitamin D into its active forms. As a consequence, heavy drinkers will tend to have low blood levels of vitamin D.

Jason will not be adding any extra Vitamin D supplementation over the next 30 days or increasing his sunlight exposure significantly, so it will be interesting to see how cutting alcohol affects his Vitamin D.”

As you can see below, despite no supplementation with Vitamin D, Jason’s Vitamin D climbed from 11 to 18 in just 30 days – which is extremely significant.

VitaminD

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Before & After Photos

You probably noticed above that Jason lost 8.8 pounds of body weight. If you’d like to see what that amount of weight loss looks like qualitatively in photo form, then behold the before and after photos below.

Before…

32126BF9-2A98-410E-9B7C-DE822FBDE833

A476CC01-79D6-4D08-B3EE-26699D9247F2

After….

IMG_2110

IMG_2109

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Summary

Finally, here is Jason’s own post with his thoughts on the experience and his feelings on the highlights of cutting alcohol for 30 days.

After reviewing Jason’s results, I’m personally inspired to back off my alcohol intake a bit. While I enjoy my nightly glass of red wine, and see no issues with the “glass a day” habit, I am certainly going to think twice before pouring myself a second glass, and although in the past, I’d go out and have two to five drinks every few weeks or so, I am also going to be limiting that amount of partying or binging I do in 2015.

After all, I think you can have quite a bit of fun without going on a bender, and without deleteriously affecting your blood glucose, liver health, thyroid, metabolism and immune system in the way that we’ve learned by looking at Jason’s results.

Then, as I always do, I’m also going to spend the first 30 days of January doing a simple, mild detox. For me personally, this means one or two 20-24 hour fasts, along with very limited amounts of alcohol, 30 days of Metal-Free heavy metal detox spray, and finally 2 NatureCleanse Detox & Gut Cleanser each morning with 2 NatureCleanse Detox & Gut Cleanser each evening.

If you want to peruse my other detoxing articles and materials, and the rationale behind my personal yearly detox, here are the best resources I’ve created on the topic:

-Is Detoxing Really A Myth? (article)

-How To Detox For Active People (article)

-How To Detox – A Quick Primer On How To Cleanse Your Body For The New Year (Without Going To Some Expensive Resort On A Mountaintop (article)

-How To Fix Your Gut: 9 Bad Things That Happen When Your Digestion Goes Wrong, How To Hit The Reboot Button & The Best Way To Detox Your Body (article)

-Detox Special Podcast: The 8 Most Popular Detox Diets, How To Detox, A Detox Q&A, And Much More! (podcast)

-What Is Detoxification and How Can You Detox Your Body? (podcast)

Feel free to include any detox questions below this post. I’m happy to help walk you through the details, and a detox protocol would be perfect to include along with limited alcohol intake for at least one month out of every year.

And like I mentioned earlier, if you’d like to run your own 30 Days No Alcohol Experiment then you’ll be pleased to know that WellnessFX has arranged a 15% discount on two Baseline blood testing packages (exactly what Jason got), along with a download of a free copy of my REV Yourself ebook. That’s a huge value, and at checkout, you can even include a 20-minute nutritionist consultation for personalized recommendations you can implement immediately. Click here to get this enormously discounted blood testing package now.

So what do you think? Would YOU quit alcohol for 30 days? Have you done it before and if so, what happened? Leave your questions, comments and feedback below!

My Christmas Gift To You – A Short Story: “The Spirits of Sobriety”.

santa-typing

Well, this is a first. 

I am giving you the Christmas gift of a short story, written by yours truly.

No hardcore fitness non-fiction or hum-drum scientific geek-speak here. Just a quick 2000 word read about alcohol, or more appropriately, the lack thereof.

What you’re about to read is actually some creative writing that I accomplished on a handful of airplane rides last month (something about being unplugged from WiFi gets my creative juices flowing).

So grab yourself an eggnog – virgin if you’d like – sit back, and enjoy. I call this story “The Spirits of Sobriety”.

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“Seriously Dick, don’t you think this is getting just slightly excessive?”

Perched on a rickety, wooden stool in the dark corner of the pub, Dick leaned back, shrugged indifferently, took a long, cool sip of his Gerolsteiner on the rocks, and pointed a crooked finger at the pricey cocktail menu, “Actually Charles, my liver feels fantastic. Do you realize how hydrated I am right now – I mean, relative to anybody else in here? And how much money do you think I’ve saved by being sober? You see the price of these signature martinis? It’s like Starbucks on steroids, Charles.”

Charles slowly stirred his scotch with a plastic red straw and peered at Dick with a biting glance, “Dick, you’re a bore. You’re no fun. You haven’t had a drink in nearly seventeen years. For crying out loud, Dick, it’s nearly freaking Christmas and you’re going to go through yet another holiday season without so much spirit as a drop of eggnog. Loosen up, man. Remember college? Remember parties? Remember Betty?”

“Betty? Seriously? Are you really going to play that card?” Dick chomped on a chard of ice and violently crushed a lemon wedge into his water, “You really think she left me because I don’t booze?”

Charles had seen Dick’s violent outrages before, and knew it was time to leave his sober companion to lonely, friendless thoughts. He scribbled his signature on the check and stood up to leave.

But Dick kept venting loudly, “Low blow, man. Low blow. Yeah, go. Go home and drink your friggin’ life away Charles.”

Charles pulled his coat and scarf over his shoulders and strode towards the exit, “Merry Christmas, Dick. Enjoy a lonely, sober Christmas Eve as usual, you humdrum.”

Dick slouched over the table and stared aimlessly at the worn brick wall. Humdrum? Am I really that dull? Just because I don’t know the subtleties between a merlot and a cabernet?

As Dick sat silently, pondering the difference between a stout and a porter, a shooter and a cocktail, a Tom Collins and a Singapore Sling, a waitress interrupted his depressed daydreaming.

“Get you something else mister?”

He looked at her, then glanced at her nametag. It said, “Ask Me About 2-For-1 Irish Car Bombs”.

Dick shook his head and stood. He brushed aside two staggering undergraduates, pushed open the big wooden door, and stomped out into the biting cold.

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Back at home, Dick sipped a lukewarm chamomile tea and sat staring at the dying embers of the fire. All was silent. Lonely. Dark. The same as it was every Christmas for him.

The stairs creaked as he headed up to his bedroom, and quietly walked down the hallway under the flickering lights, too embarrassed to attend any of the Christmas Eve parties in the neighborhood – but too committed to temperance to let a drop of alcohol touch his lips.

He crawled into his bed, pulled on a beanie cap to keep his head warm, and stared at the peeling wallpaper before muttering, “Maybe I’ll just get sloshed tomorrow.”

Dick rolled over, pulled the covers tight, and closed his eyes.

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Sluuurp.

Dick sat bolt upright at the sound.

Splash. Slurp. Gurgle.

“What the hell?” Dick blurted and leapt to his feet.

“Black pepper and cheap leather, that’s what!”

The pitchy European accent came from the dark corner in Dick’s room. Dick could barely discern a shadowy figure standing in the corner, holding a dark bottle of what appeared to be wine.

“You really didn’t get that?” The thin wispy shadow in the corner adjusted her designer jeans, pulled down the sleeves of her tight turtleneck shirt, and slipped in front of Dick, “You really didn’t get those hints of pepper and leather?”

She waved a stained cork under his nose, and arrogantly peered at him, “Pepper. Leather. Possibly dog piss and wet fur. You getting that?”

Dick stepped back, nearly stumbling back into his bed, “W-what the hell are you?”

“Well I’m the spirit of Christmas wine, you ignorant little prick. I can’t believe you’re not getting any of those notes off this wine. Here, come.”

Before he could even flinch, she grabbed his wrist and they were suddenly outside Dick’s living room window, seventeen years earlier. Dick put his nose to the glass.

Sure enough, there he and Betty were, inside a dank apartment.

“You remember this?” The spirit asked.

Dick nodded, “She-“

“Just watch.” The spirit interrupted him, pressing her turned-up nose against the glass.

Betty was obviously furious. She was ranting, pacing, waving her arms, screaming. The younger Dick sat on the couch, head in his hands.

“What do you mean, Dick? What do you mean you’re done drinking? Just done? Just like that? We have a Christmas party tonight, Dick, tonight. You’re such a little bitch. You’re ruining a perfectly good holiday.”

The older Dick winced. He had forgotten how mean Betty had become. He watched as the younger Dick quietly fought back, “Betty, I just – I just don’t like alcohol anymore. It hurts my head. I don’t feel good. I’m done. I’m just, done.

Older Dick continued to watch. He knew what was coming next and felt a lump in his throat as he watched Betty throw a coat around her shoulders and storm towards the front door, “Well Timothy will certainly go with me. And Tim knows how to drink, Dick. He’s fun. He knows how to have a good time.”

She slammed the door. Younger Dick wiped away a tear and quietly sipped on a glass of grapefruit juice.

As Dick turned away from the window, the spirit of Christmas wine held a glass of dark red under his lips, “Care to taste? This Burgundy scored a 97 on the latest Wine Spectator.”

Dick took a sip, “Not bad, I guess. That’s what a fine French wine tastes like, huh?”

“Neeeh.” The wine spirit cackled and leered at him, “Gullible, aren’t you? That’s a two dollar merlot. You’re hopeless, you little bitch.”

She touched his wrist again and suddenly he was back in his bed.

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Dick took a few sharp breaths. His heart was pounding. What a strange dream. What an asinine wine connoisseur. What a horrible memory of Betsy. He put his head on his pillow and closed his eyes.

Clink!

This time the sound came from the downstairs kitchen.

Dick rapidly reacted this time, instinctively grabbing an old wooden baseball bat under his bedframe, bounding down the stairs, and throwing open his kitchen door with a violent scream.

Before Dick was a messy spectacle of a tiny man darting about like a hyperactive elf, his head at barely the height of the kitchen counter as he juggled, poured, spiced and sprinkled countless alcoholic concoctions into glass containers of various shapes and sizes.

“Holy hell!” shouted Dick, “What are you?”

The sharp-nosed, wispy man spun around and glared at Dick, “I’m the spirit of Christmas cocktails of course,” he flipped a bottle of rum and winked, “Peppermint Mai-Tai anyone?”

Dick wrinkled his nose in disgust, “Thanks, but I’ve just had wine.”

“Well you know what they say. Wine before liquor, never sicker. Or maybe it’s the other way around. I don’t know. Here!” Before Dick could flinch, the spirit flung a shot glass at him, dashed to his side and filled it to the brim, “Schnapps! Drink!”

Dick fumbled the shot glass and impulsively poured the sickeningly sweet drink into his mouth, coughing loudly as it burned it’s way down his throat. Suddenly, the man was at his side with another shot, “Prairie fire! Drink! Cheers!”

And again, “Liquid Cocaine! Go!”

Dick’s head was already spinning. Resistance was futile. He slammed another shot. Lemon drop. Kamikaze. Slippery Nipple.

The room became a fog. Dick’s face was turning green. The little man’s sharp, biting voice was eating a headache into his skull. Dick felt the bile coming up his throat as half a dozen hard alcohols stirred in his stomach, and the shots kept coming.

Dick was halfway to his kitchen trash can and vomit was already seeping out the corners of his mouth. As the little man made some kind of joke about a cheap date, Dick buried his head into the trash and began spewing.

Everything went black.

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“Ho-ho-HO.”

The loud chuckling sounded like brash church bells inside Dick’s throbbing head. The room smelled sulfurous, as though someone had smashed a dozen rotten eggs against the wall, or farted.

“Phbbt.”

Definitely a fart. A loud, fermented fart. Dick squinted in the direction of the laughter, and the overwhelmingly pungent smell. An enormous, bearded ogre-like man sat perched on a stool in the corner of the room, his giant gut nearly spilling nearly down to his knees. He rubbed his big red nose, took a vast swig of a frosted brew, and chuckled again, holding out an overflowing mug, “Care for a l-l-lager?” he stuttered, obviously drunk;

Dick groaned as the bitter hops wafted under his nose. He suddenly felt even more sick.

The tipsy giant staggered to his feet, adjusted his giant red cloak, and stumbled towards Dick, lurching forward and spilling sticky brew on the bedroom floor. He smiled broadly and slapped a huge hairy hand on Dick’s shoulder while shoving the mug under Dick’s nose, “C’mon, take a nip o’ this from the spirit of Christmas beer.”

Dick tried to pull himself away from the towering spirit, but it was too late. The massive man forced a gulp of beer down Dick’s gullet, suffocating him with the stench of strong brew and fermented body odor.

Dick struggled to escape from the vise-like grip on his shoulder, but the giant just laughed again, his rank breath hot against Dick’s cheeks, “Live a little, my sober friend.” He gave Dick a forceful bear hug and began to laugh again, his big belly jiggling wildly. Dick desperately made one last violent attempt to escape, ferociously shoving the spirit, then realized his horrible mistake as the enormous mass of beer, hair and body odor passed out and came crashing down on him.

All went dark.

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Dick awoke to the glow of winter sunshine streaming through the bedroom window. He sat up and braced for a dreaded, splitting headache.

But his head felt clear. Clean. Had it all been a dream?

He jumped from his bed and quickly tiptoed down to the kitchen, cautiously cracking open the door. The counters were pristine and untouched, the trash can neatly tucked away in the corner. He strode to the refrigerator and poured himself a glass of cold, refreshing water.

Dick tap-danced to the frosted window, and flung it open to see the neighborhood children dashing through the snow, cheering loudly as they pulled their sleds up and down the street. It was Christmas morning, and all was right with the world, without a drop of booze in sight!

Still in his pajamas and slippers, Dick dashed outside. He pranced to the corner market, skipped past the holiday wine sale, and threw open the cooler, shoveling handfuls of Perrier and Pellegrino into his basket. He even splurged on a six pack of O’Douls and as he waited in line, he tapped on his smartphone and ordered a Christmas gift subscription for Charlie to a year-long Culligan’s filtered water delivery.

As he pranced merrily out into the parking lot and back down the street, Dick winked, smiled and confidently bellowed to the neighborhood couple passing his way on the sidewalk, “I’ve got spirit, yes I do, I’ve got spirit how ‘bout you?”

He tossed a gift of Gerolsteiner to the bewildered man and woman as he skipped away through the snow, shouting back over his shoulder, “This will go perfectly with cranberry and a lemon wedge, no vodka required!”

The couple stood there for a moment, curiously inspecting the bottle, then the woman looked up.

“This may actually go well with the gin. Shall we start the party before breakfast this year?”

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So…what do you think?

Should I toss in a bit of creative writing for you here and there? Or should I stick to my day job? Leave your comments and thoughts below.

Oh, and speaking of sobriety, definitely stay tuned next week, when I’m going to reveal Part 2 of the shocking results from the “30 Days No Alcohol Experiment“.

P.S. I have absolutely nothing against alcohol. I am, in fact, off to drink a very large glass of red wine as soon as I push the publish button.

The Problem With Paleo: Why It’s OK To Eat Bread, Grains, Legumes, Cheese & Milk.

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A few weeks ago, while I was in Israel, I posted the photo above to my Instagram page, with the comment that…

“A Paleo person could never survive in Israel – local popped corn sprinkled with moss from the rooftop, freshly grown spelt and rye, falafel with soaked chickpeas, amazing lemons and guavas you simply bite through the skin, carob picked straight out of the desert, local raw sheep’s cheese and goat milk cheese sprinkled with fresh herbs, and omega-6 fatty acid packed tahinis blended with beets, freshly pressed olive oil and cilantro. Oh well. More for me.”

I have to admit that I stuffed my face with huge portions of nearly every food listed above when I visited a home in Galilee for a traditional weekly Jewish Shabbat feast. During that dinner, I sat next to Uri Mayer-Chissick (also known as “The Israeli Locavore”), who is a food historian and wild edible plant expert, and we had an interesting about traditional agricultural foods like bread and cheese, and the surge in popularity of the strict avoidance of these foods by those who adhere to a “hunter-gatherer” Paleo-esque diet.

Uri and I delve deeply into this discussion today’s audio podcast.

screenshot_991And this guy is the real deal. Not only does he cook amazing food, but he also leads hikes and tours of the Israeli countryside to find local wild edible plants, and he teaches outdoor cooking classes, gives food history lectures and prepares gourmet meals in nature, reconstructing historical recipes with wild plants.

When he’s not traipsing through the valley of springs in north-eastern Israel with a pot and pan in his hand, Uri lectures about food, the history of local food preservation, ways that ancient medicine used nutrition as a way to achieve balance, and the traditions of foraging, healing and cooking in the Mediterranean and Middle-East.

During our discussion, you’ll learn:

-How a Paleo diet that adheres to the philosophy of no-bread, no-grains, little to no dairy, etc. has been received in a Mediterranean culture where it seems that bread, legumes, wheat, cheese, etc. are such staples…

-How “traditionally prepared” bread is so much different than modern bread, and how you can find or make easy-to-digest bread…

-How you can prepare things like lentils and chickpeas to make them more friendly to the human gut…

-What it is it some dairy causes health problems, but some dairy is no nourishing and digestible…

-Why a rise in celiac disease is due to a difference in the way wheat is grown…

-And much more!

Resources:

-Nourishing Traditions

-The Art of Fermentation

-Goat whey protein

-Vertical gardening towers

-Vibe Israel, an organization that brings international on- and offline opinion leaders in health and nutrition on a weeklong personalized experience of the burgeoning wellness scene in Israel (I’ve already released two valuable lessons I learned on that Israel journey: “5 Things You Can Learn From The Burgeoning Health, Wellness And Nutrition Scene In Israel” and “Why You Get Cancer And What You Can Do About It“).

By the way, even though I’m not Paleo, you can click here to come hear me speak at PaleoFX 2015, which is a Who’s Who gathering of the ancestral food and exercise movement, with world-class speakers including best-selling authors, physicians, nutritionists, research scientists, professional athletes, trainers, sustainability and food activists, biohackers, and more.

Question, comments or feedback about the problem with Paleo? Leave your thoughts below!