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FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions we get at Grassfed Farmacy

Grassfed Farmacy Frequently Asked Questions

We get a lot of the same questions many times about our views on certain aspects of nutrition, movement and lifestyle. Thus, we’ve compiled a list of the most common questions we get below. Before you shoot us an email or try searching around the vast interwebs, check to see if your question has been answered below!

What types of food do you recommend eating?

First of all,

There is no one diet that fits everyone perfectly…that is, when you get down to the specifics of whether you should eat grains, rice, potatoes, soy, dairy, cheese, chocolate, peppers, onions, cauliflower, and really, any type of food on your plate. What we might recommend to you personally will most likely be different than the next person that reads this question. You may have genetic predispositions, past or present environmental (or lack of) exposures or challenges with food, specific medical conditions that may require acquiring certain foods and avoiding others, varying tastes, documented or probable intolerances or sensitivities towards particular foods are all factors in finding foods that will get you to your health and fitness goals.

We will say that we highly recommend to everyone a diet rich and full of nutrient-dense foods – Foods that your body yearns for at the biological level.  These are essential nutrients it requires for most for activities and and optimal functioning throughout life. Nutrient-dense, wholesome foods are mostly (but in rare instances not always) unprocessed and unrefined.  We do also advocate for sustainably and organically grown produce, more so for environmental impact, but ultimately, eating real foods is the ideal.

We won’t say we specifically recommend “Paleo.”

Although a Paleo style diet is a great template for how to think of the types of foods you eat (non-processed, wholesome, nutrient-dense), there are even some foods within the Paleo diet that, in some rare occasions, some people do not tolerate, such as nightshades (peppers, eggplant), FODMAPS (sweet potatoes, onions to name a few), some brassicas (cauliflower), nuts, shellfish, due to allergies or pre-existing food intolerances. Also, some people just thrive on other wholesome food sources, like dairy, legumes and grains, or have culturally rooted preferences for these foods, although the consumption of these foods is in small moderation compared to staple lean meats, vegetables, fruits and healthy essential fat sources.  In due case, we accommodate for the best scenario, getting you the nutrients that may help you reach your health and fitness goals.  Importantly, these foods that are outside of what is considered Paleo that we recommend some people eat depending on their food tolerances, tastes, health goals, and activity levels. (such as rice, potatoes, oats, dairy, cheese, honey, to name a few), may not necessarily be as nutrient dense as lean meats fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.  Again, personal preferences, costs, accessibility, convenience are also important in food choice decisions.

Lastly, we realize that in this modern world it is almost incredibly difficult to stay 100% strict on most diets that serve to eliminate particular food groups in order to achieve better health.  That is why we strive to provide educational resources to give you the information you need to make informed decisions and understand the foundations and fundamentals needed to have well rounded and complete nutrition.  Our mantra being that education and comprehensive understanding of the short and long term effects various food choices may have on your goals may ultimately get you more sustainable results and success.

Why is bread and gluten considered “processed” and refined food? What about this fresh whole wheat homemade loaf of bread my aunt/mom/neighbor made that doesn’t have any weird preservatives and just wholesome grains and local ingredients...isn’t that “wholesome” enough?

Bread isn’t going to kill you (maybe), although if you do suffer from some form of gluten-intolerant condition (such as Celiacs disease), you probably should avoid all types of bread and gluten. Even some gluten-free grain-based foods that are similar in their structure (teff, semolina, oats, to name a few) cause gluten cross-sensitivity (which means even though they don’t physically contain gluten, they can still cause mild unwanted digestive reactions in patients with celiac disease, or other bowel conditions like irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease).

 Our human ancestors did in fact eat wheat, except it wasn’t the same as the modern wheat we eat today, and was not always considered the staple food it is taughted to be by the USDA food pyramid. Before the growth of industrial milling & agriculture, ancient varieties of wheat such as Kamut or Einkorn (which are actually incredibly nutrient-dense) had to be stone-ground and mashed up so be consumed by the gut easier. The preparation of these foods was far different, involving soaking methods and fermentation.  The invention of the modern roller mill made the processing of wheat much more efficient, separating out tougher parts from the finest white flour easier. Ironically, the milling process actually took away the most nutrient-dense part of wheat which is why most bread products are fortified with the very nutrients they were meant to contain. All and all, the bread products on the market today are much less nourishing and usually comprised mostly of white flour.  Alongside all of this, scientists have also worked to genetically alter wheat, creating new hybrids of wheat varieties that allow wheat to grow faster and easier in order to feed mass populations at lower costs. However, these new hybridized wheat varieties are completely different from their ancient wheat counterparts and some research suggests our bodies can only tolerate so much heavily modernized wheat before digestive issues may become a factor. Although wheat is more widely accessible as a source of food, it is nutrient- lacking in comparison to many vegetables and fruits, and furthermore, through suggested research in zonulin, a molecule involved in intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome, not good), excess levels of wheat consumption may promote leaky gut and low grade chronic inflammation.

Therefore, it’s not necessarily about how “homemade” or “fresh” the bread is, but rather the comparably nutrient-lacking (to vegetables and fruits) and possibly inflammatory qualities of modern wheat that we base our recommendations to largely avoid breaded products in many cases.  You just seem to get more out of eating vegetables and fruits than breads and pastas.

Do you recommend buying ALL organic foods, fruits and vegetables? What if I don’t have the budget to spend on these?

In an ideal world, buying exclusively organic would be your absolute best bet for several reasons:

1. Based on consumer report investigations, organic foods contain less traceable amounts of chemicals or pesticides compared to conventionally produced foods.  The safety of these chemicals used in the production of food crops on non-organic farms is still largely controversial, from both a health and environmental standpoint.  To err on the side of caution and environmental sustainability, we ultimately support organic farming and biomimicry farming practices and the foods produced by those methods.  Again, you ultimately have your own choice in the matter, and eating vegetables and fruits overall is the goal, organic foods being an ideal.  Organic farming supports minimal environmental impact, and our environment ultimately effects our health in the long term.

2. By buying organic, you are showing your support for the farmers and businesses who choose to grow the foods in an organic way, therefore helping to do your part in the market of demand for more businesses with similar practices. By purchasing non-organic foods, you are putting your money, and therefore your support to the companies who use pesticides and GMOs.  Hence, passively keeping them in business to continue their practices.

We realize that buying exclusively organic does come at a higher cost…and our philosophy is to buy the most that you feel comfortable with. Again, we ultimately would rather have you eating any fruits and vegetables (which are fuller of nutrients) at all rather than spend your dollars on cheaper fast food, boxed goods or refined carbs that don’t have as many nutrients. If your budget is really tight that the extra $10 or so that comes from purchasing organic vegetables versus non-organic vegetables is really not available to you, we have a few ideas you may find helpful:

  • There is a list out there posted each year called the Dirty Dozen (www.ewg.org) which lists the foods that are the most important and most recommended to buy organic due to their ability to hold onto pesticidal residues. Generally the foods that you should buy organic are fruits and vegetables that have leaves or softer skins (such as peppers, spinach, kale, cucumbers, apples, berries, broccoli, tomatoes) as they tend to absorb and hold in the chemicals much more than foods with tougher shells (avocados, citrus, melons, squash) or that are ground-grown (carrots, root vegetables).  Some of these chemicals, like glyphosate, for example, used in conventional farming, are not just found on the outer layers on plants but bind to some of the minerals within the plants themselves.

  • Buy some of the organic foods frozen or canned. Interestingly enough, we’ve found some foods such as peppers, spinach and kale to actually be cheaper per lb buying them frozen or canned rather than fresh (probably because they have an extended shelf life). There are jars of organic roasted red peppers that actually go for the same (or even less if you get them on sale) price per lb as regular red peppers.

  • Buy in bulk, and don’t be afraid to omit some of the more expensive foods. Organic peppers ARE much more expensive, no kidding (especially the red and orange ones)! Consider going with green peppers instead, or just not getting peppers at all, and sticking to just a few vegetables that run less than $2-3/lb. Buy your onions and avocados in bulk and always buy the vegetables that are on sale.

  • BEST OPTION – GROW YOUR OWN FOODS! It is a great stress reducing hobby and sustainable way to cut costs from your grocery bill.  Not to mention, they usually taste the freshest!

  • Join a CSA or find a work-share volunteer based CSA program. Sometimes, the local farms in your area may need volunteer work in exchange for a monthly share of vegetables. It’s a great way to get some cool outdoor experience working on a farm (and to get in your daily movement and dose of vitamin D), but also a way to take away some of the cost of buying organic produce.

Quickly! List the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

The Dirty Dozen (and the Clean Fifteen) is a list compiled together by the EWG (Environmental Working Group) every year to research which produce retains the most amount of residual pesticides. Here is the Dirty Dozen  – the foods you must absolutely buy organic because they tested for the highest amounts of pesticide residue left after spraying:

Current List (2015)

  • Apples

  • Celery

  • Cherry Tomatoes

  • Cucumbers

  • Grapes

  • Nectarines

  • Peaches

  • Potatoes

  • Snap Peas

  • Spinach

  • Strawberries

  • Bell Peppers

  • Hot Peppers

  • Kale & Collard Greens

And now, the Clean Fifteen  – the best produce that reported the least amount of pesticide reside and is probably ok to purchase non-organic if needed for cost reasons:

Current List (2015)

  • Asparagus

  • Avocados

  • Cabbage

  • Cantaloupe

  • Cauliflower

  • Eggplant

  • Grapefruit

  • Kiwi

  • Mangoes

  • Onions

  • Papayas

  • Sweet Corn

  • Frozen Peas

  • Sweet Potatoes

What are some of the staples that I should have at home if I wanted to start cooking more at home?
In terms of cooking tools and utensils, here is what we find most useful (and most used) to make anything in our kitchen:
  • Slow Cooker – this has been an incredible staple for us since it’s a very easy, low maintenance way to cook any cut of meat, regardless of fat content or toughness, but also an easy way to cook a bulk amount of meat at once to last you the entire week. It’s as simple as putting in a few lbs of defrosted pork butt or beef chuck roast with a container of chicken broth and some spices for 8 hours on low overnight!  Also, some people find that slow cooked meats are easier on their digestive system than alternative cooking methods such as grilling and high heat roasting. You can also use your slow cooker to make giant batches of soup, stew or chili as well.

  • Decent 8” Chef’s Cutting Knife – this is probably our most frequent used knife to chop all of our vegetables. Definitely invest in a good knife from a reputable brand such as J.A.Henckels, Wusthof, or Calphalon, and learn how to use your knife sharpener and honing steel to your advantage! A good eco-friendly large cutting board also accompanies well.  Buying pre-sliced vegetables and fruits is pricey, so investing in a knife and cutting board is a good long-term way to cut costs.

  • 10-12” Cast Iron Pan that is well seasoned. We probably saute everything in this pan and make all sorts of frittatas, stir-frys and baked dishes. Note that tomato-based sauces, or vinegars that are very acidic are not the best option to use in a cast iron pan as they will break down the non-stick coating of the cast iron. Also, cooking fish in it may leave a very fishy scent. Therefore…

  • Stainless Steel or Ceramic Coated Saucepan can accommodate more acidic dishes that use tomato or vinegar.

  • Rectangular Ceramic Baking Dish for baking your meats (we love our ceramic coated cast iron Cuisinart Dish from Amazon…incredibly cheap and durable (but very heavy…takes some muscle to use!)

  • Food Processor – we find this invaluable for making all sorts of mixed items: homemade sausage patties, easy chopped garlic, sliced cucumbers, grated cheese, shredded carrots, “mashed cauliflower”, homemade almond butter, mixing homemade granola, pureeing soup, you name it! Definitely invest in a nice 11-cup processor that will last you many dishes.

  • Food Scale (optional) – you just might be comfortable using the hand method, but if you’re finding that your portions are off and you want to try measuring via calorie and macronutrient guidelines, a food scale is an excellent way to track your intake much more closely. It is also a great way to get a rough estimate of how much meat your palm size encompasses on average (or rice or potatoes, etc).  We actually use it most often to measure out ounces of meat (since we’re trying to stick to budget and don’t want to over or under eat our protein intake).

Now for the food staples to have ready and on hand in your fridge and cabinet:
  • Two different types of Cooking Oils: Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Coconut Oil – both of these add excellent flavor to all dishes in their own unique ways. We always buy a large container of each as they last for quite awhile in your dark and cold cupboards. Look for unrefined, cold (or expeller pressed) olive oils (highly recommend California Olive Ranch since they are usually reasonably priced and are more “genuine” of an olive oil) and unrefined whole kernel coconut oils (we like Dr. Bronners). Make sure you store your oils in a dark cabinet.

  • Spices: Salt, pepper, and italian seasoning (or herbs de provence), garlic powder, and a general everything spice such as Denny Mike’s Pixie Dust should be plenty for your cabinet stables. Other less frequent (but still flavorful) spices are cumin, cayenne pepper, curry powder, rosemary and oregano.  Spices are a great way to reinvent left-overs and common dishes!

  • Baking Goods & Flour Substitutes: Almond meal, coconut flour, eggs and almond milk are very common baking staples to have around if you plan on venturing into paleo baked goods.

  • Condiments, Broths and Sauces: we always have cans of crushed tomatoes for soup and chili bases (Muir Glen Organic), roasted red peppers, canned olives, boxes of Chicken or Vegetable broth for slow cooking (or frozen batches of our homemade broth), a jar of tomato sauce, and a hot sauce such as Cholula which has no added sugar. We also enjoy having a batch of salsa and a jar of sauerkraut around, both of which are a great side condiments to a lot of dishes

  • Snacks: canned fish (anchovies, sardines) are a very easy, portable snack, baby carrots, a jar of almond or nut butter, dried fruit cranberries or figs, apples or tangerines (which last very long in the fridge). We sometimes have snack bars (such as Organic Food Bar or Lara Bars) but try not to have them around as much since they are almost too easy to grab onto when craving food, and not necessarily when we’re hungry for food.  In most cases, bars are an “emergency” food source for situations where you may unexpectedly find yourself not eating for longer than planned periods of time.

  • Refrigerator & Freezer Staples: we tend to have a lot of frozen vegetables on hand when we’re too busy to get out the cutting board to chop…it’s as easy as pouring into a saute pan along with the meat! We also always have a pack or two of ground beef or pork, and a large roast of some kind defrosting to slow cook. We also make sure to stock plenty of onions, garlic, some kind of starch (sweet potatoes or squash on hand), eggs, carrots, some type of green vegetable such as broccoli or green beans, and some avocados.

Eating all grass-fed and organic and cooking at home cost so much! How can I save at the grocery store and still get all my nutrient-dense foods?
  • Look for cheaper cuts of meat – there isn’t any need to always have steak or fish filets all of the time. In fact, we find most of our meals consist of ground meats, chicken thighs, the occasional liver and lots of large, tougher cuts of meat that are generally less expensive. For fish, buying a whole fish for grilling is usually much cheaper too (you can fillet it yourself if need be and use bones for stock).  We aim to stay within our budget and you should too. Shanks (beef, lamb, ham hocks) are also very cheap but incredibly dense in nutrients. If you have your handy-dandy slow cooker, it’s much easier to cook these tougher cuts since the slow process breaks down the cartilage and thick fats much easier.

  • Buy foods you eat more often in bulk when you can. – Sometimes, it’s the rarity of a food that people try to buy that really raise up the cost…you know, those foods that you only need for one exquisite recipe that you only use once. Hopefully, you don’t throw any of it away in the process.  Stick to a few strong staple foods and buy those in bulk. Onions, sweet potatoes, rice, bags of apples, large shoulder roasts, giant cans of tomato sauce, large containers of spinach are all foods you can buy in mass amounts that will yield many servings.

  • Make your recipes after you buy the foods…that are on sale. – again, this is about not worrying about the variety. Go for the foods that are on sale and THEN modify recipes after, rather than looking for those special unique ingredients for that fancy schmancy salmon pistachio basil bake that takes 15 ingredients.

  • Those high ticket foods that are semi-paleo…yeah, do you really need those? – consider foods such as almond butter (which is very high in price), an expensive cheese, pre-packaged kale chips and vegetable chips, sushi rolls, food bars, bags of expensive jerky, paleo “granola”…many of these items are just convenient “extras” to your diet that might taste awesome, but you could end up just making yourself in a larger batch at home for a lesser price. Check out our recipes for homemade kale chips, and homemade granola.

  • You don’t have to shop at Whole Foods for everything!! – Really, we end up buying a lot of our non-perishables online, such as coconut oil on Amazon or some of our protein bars from Vitamin Shoppe since the prices are a few dollars cheaper! We even run into Stop & Shop for the California Ranch Olive oil and for the organic broth and canned tomatoes, since it’s much cheaper there.  Shop around.  Local farmers markets have surprisingly cheaper items and in most cases, similar costs to those found in super markets……SO……

  • Check out your local farmers market – OK, generally the price of most items here will be at most equal to what you would see at the grocery store, but there are some surprising items you will find. We found these beautiful purple carrots at $1.25/lb one day (that you can’t get anywhere else!). Not only that, your money is going into local business to help them provide you with MORE produce at lower cost and you get to actually meet the people that raise your food!  How cool is that!

  • Invest in a CSA, or even in a ¼ or ½ animal. A CSA (which stands for Community Supported Agriculture) is a large amount of money you pay to a farm upfront, and in return will receive large amounts of meat or produce over a series of weeks or months. some CSA’s will just have a running tally of the amount you paid and will just dock it off each week you stop by the stand to purchase. Generally with CSAs, you get an additional $ amount extra to what you paid upfront (so if you buy $300 worth of CSA, they will give you $330 worth of meat). Also, you can join up with a few friends and family and invest in a quarter or half cow, for example, and get a wide variety of butchered, frozen cuts for about $3-5/lb. You just need the freezer space to hold it all!

  • Lastly, just a reminder that by cooking in more, and eating out less, you are actually saving yourself more money in the long run. Just consider even if you spend $200 per week on groceries, split between 2 people. If you and your partner ate out once a day (lunch or dinner), and spent about $25 total including tax and tip at each of these meals, that easily adds up to $175 of just eating out per week in addition to what you would eat at home…and almost than the amount you would spend on an entire weeks worth of groceries!

Let’s say I HAVE to eat out...what are my best options?

Salads and Meat/Vegetable combinations are a great “go to” option: We find that salads with grilled meat added are typically the easiest go-to since they naturally contain plenty of vegetables. Also, look for dishes that have meat as the main dish along with some vegetable. See if there are substitutions for a salad or vegetable on the side instead of starches if this is in line with your health and fitness goals.

Burger without the Bun and Extra Veggies: This is also a fantastic option – just omit the bread piece! Usually, if the burger does come with extra fries, ask to substitute a side salad (they usually smaller “house” or “caesar” salads available) for an extra dollar.

Pass on the bread and those “no” options right away: We recommend passing on the bread basket, mainly so you can get a full serving of nutrient dense proteins, vegetables and fruits as your priority food intake at every meal.  Even if you are looking for extra starches, peruse the menu for other quality sources like vegetable tubers (potatoes, squashes) or rice.  You may simply want to let the waiter know you don’t need that extra toast or croutons…no need to have that temptation sitting right there in front of you.

Use your palm portioning method: Make sure that you have some kind of protein at each meal to sustain your hunger later on and provide essential proteins.  You may want to ask for extra vegetables in place of starches for weight loss or on certain training days. Make sure to measure palm portions of dense carb sources like vegetable tubers and rice according to your goals and activity levels.  More intense training days might call for one to three fistfuls of dense carbohydrate depending on intensity and duration.

Set aside portions “to go” right away: Right away when you get the meal and know it’ll be too much, divide your plate with your utensils, shove some food to the side and set this amount “to go” so you won’t have to worry about how much you’re eating.

Don’t be afraid to ask! The good thing is, many restaurants are aware of more customers and clients requesting gluten-free options or having other dietary restrictions, so it’s much easier nowadays to request for substitutes or alternative options without feeling awkward. Also, it’s not about what everyone else has on their plate…it’s what YOU have on your plate and your satisfaction after the meal. Don’t let your eyes and your mind’s craving conquer your body’s true craving for nutrient-dense nutrition. 

What are your favorite snack ideas for on-the-go?

For protein: canned fish (anchovies, sardines), jerky (we like homemade but also like Krave brand), epic bars, raw milk cheese slices or cottage cheese (if you’re ok with dairy), hummus (if you’re ok with chickpeas), grass-fed yogurt with protein powder (or a protein shake with almond milk), hard boiled eggs, homemade egg “muffins”

For carbs: raw vegetables with hummus, salsa, or almond butter (raw carrots, celery, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes), apples, clementines, pears, dried cranberries or figs, kale chips, veggie chips (careful, these can be dense in calories)

For fat: a jar of almond or nut butter, train mix with various nuts, avocado, dark chocolate

Nutrition Bars: We sometimes have snack bars on hand but just sparingly as these can get pretty addicting and are also fairly low in volume compared to the dense calorie content (so may not be as filling) and generally lack a lot of nutrient density that you can get from real foods. However, sometimes it’s completely necessary to have something quick and on the go. Our favorites that have a good range of carbs, protein and fats, have minimal processed ingredients, and also taste good are: Organic  Food Bar Protein (or chocolate covered protein flavor), Epic Bars, Exo Bars (higher in carb), and AMRAP bars. Quest bars are OK – they do have some sugar alcohols such as sucralose and can be incredibly addicting.

If you find yourself typically out and on the go for hours, it might help to invest in a small lunch sack with some ice packs you can freeze and have on hand to bring some cold goods with you.

Isn’t saturated fat bad for you? How much fat should I *really* be having?

Whether or not saturated fat is “bad” for you is not a yes or no answer.  This topic is still highly controversial in the medical literature.  Saturated fat is one of many fats found in foods.  It is most abundantly found in animal food products, specifically red meats.  Saturated fats are the building blocks for multiple key structures in the body including chemical signaling hormones like testosterone and estrogen (derived from cholesterol).  Depending on a person’s activity level and goals, there will most likely be an optimal amount of saturated fat they want to consume.  Going over the amount of saturated fats may mean missing out on other sources of nutrient dense foods containing key essential nutrients, which may lead to possibly over consuming calories and may consequently your abilities to achieve your goals.

Most people may benefit from having saturated fat incorporated into their diet, albeit it is wise to keep it limited as some studies suggest.  Most fat is best had in moderation (being something like 10-30% of total calories).  The ideal amount of fat for your needs is ultimately dependent on your age, gender, activity level/frequency/intensity and your goals.  There are special circumstances, such as genetic conditions like familial hypercholesterolemia (a rare disease of disordered cholesterol processing in the body) and surgical operations removing the gallbladder or certain sections of the intestine, that may require to you mostly avoid saturated fats, and consume a lower-fat diet. 

Do you guys (Nate and Snow) have cheat meals? How often?

So, you mean things like beer, wine, a slice of bread, a brownie, a bowl of ice cream or dark chocolate here or there? Or maybe things like quinoa or chickpeas, non-raw-milk cheese, “paleo cookies” that are semi “paleo” but not off the deep end?

WHAT SNOW HAS TO SAY:

First off, yes and no. I hate coining them as “cheat meals” because a cheat implies that there’s something that’s missing from your diet and that there’s some major consequence about to happen because of this insane amount of restriction (and you’ll have to make up for the consequences later by “eating cleaner” and “paleo-ing harder”). Now, I do know that after eating some of these foods in substitute of others (so opting for the sweet potato corn chip nachos instead of a turkey burger and asparagus) will make me feel a little more heavier, bloated and overall lacking energy later, because they don’t nearly have as many nutrients , and because it usually blows up my carb and fat intake way out of proportion for the day. Instead of “cheat meals” I like to call them indulgences. They’re usually there for my emotional, mental and social needs and not necessarily because I feel my body will necessarily think of them as high octane fuel.

But, I generally stick to mostly nutrient-dense and wholesome foods for 98% of my meals and intake for the day because I know that’s what my body performs best on and that’s what I need to maintain my weight class without a constant need to cut all the time or pull my hair out. You will catch me with a good quarter bar of dark chocolate almost every night (and there are days where I eliminate any sort of “treat” or indulgence whatsoever). And you will catch me with a cider or glass of wine, and the cup of ice cream or cookie if I’m going out on special occasion to a friend’s get-together or holiday like Thanksgiving. Usually when I do have these indulgences, I look for the best options possible (a chocolate dipped strawberry instead of a piece of chocolate cake, or gluten-free pizza instead of regular pizza bread, sweet potato fries vs regular fries, cider vs beer) AND I do try to keep the portions on these indulgences on the smaller side because they are indulgences for me.

When I need to cut weight for an upcoming meet or decide to stay stricter on my diet, I do better when I completely abstain from having any extra chocolate, alcohol, gluten, unnecessary cheese or extra handful of nuts here and there versus having some of these things in moderation…generally because I tend to develop more cravings for the indulgent foods the more often I have them (and lose the cravings when I eliminate them completely). Some of you may find that you have difficulty handling an “abstinence” type approach and may need a “moderation” type approach to stick to a diet long term.

WHAT NATE HAS TO SAY:

Since I strive to keep a healthy body composition and my body fat mass rather low (ideally <10%) for fitness goals, I typically avoid indulging in foods outside of meats, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats.  In fact, I find fruits to be very sweet, so they are sort of like a dessert dish.  Actual desserts are usually too sweet for my liking, and I sometimes can’t really enjoy them because the sweetness is so overwhelming.  I choose to avoid alcohol, and drink on rare occasions.  Alcohol, even in moderation, has been shown to effects things like sleep quality and mitochondrial functioning (which is responsible for fat burning and energy production within our cells).  In my own risk versus benefit  analysis, I find little benefits to “cheating” in anything, especially cheating my body of the foods it requires to recover from my day to day challenges optimally and help me feel and perform at my best.

Am I better off on a low carb or a low fat diet?

Everyone’s body is different…some people thrive more on having less fat in their diet while others thrive more with moderating carbs and may be OK by having  more moderate amounts of fat and protein.  Depending on the type of physical activity and exercise you do, fat and carbs can fuel your workouts in different ways. If you spend most of your workouts doing higher intensity work, sprints, and anaerobic work (think extremely high heart rate for short durations of time…3-10 minutes), then you may benefit from incorporating more carbohydrates in your diet to support this type of exercise in order to perform your best and recover adequately from exercise (via glycogen replenishment and utilization through glycolysis). If your workouts are very long duration (40+ minutes) and are more aerobic and low-intensity, you may find a moderate consumption of fat and carbohydrates suit your goals since the aerobic energy pathway utilizes fat as well as carbohydrates.  Fat is found in almost all animal sources of protein, so low-fat diets need to find alternative protein sources in some situation in order to keep fat consumption a smaller portion of total calories consumed.

Generally, the reason why some people lose weight on a low-carb diet when trying it for the first time is because they are eliminating a lot of the starchy, dense carbs that they were eating before (which may have been more than needed to support their activity level). Thus, they store less excess carbohydrate and energy and thus end up dropping excess fat, not to mention substituting these denser carbohydrates with nutrient dense non-starchy vegetables and fruits boosts the amount of nutrients they get from meals and also decreases the amount of calories consumed. However, fat is incredibly dense in calories and just a few nuts or an extra spoon of oil can equate to a few hundred extra calories quite easily and may hinder your goals.  Getting quality essential fats, like omega 3, omega 6 and omega 9 fats from nutrient rich sources like olive oil are a great (and delicious) way to get all the benefits fat have to offer.

You need to find the right balance between having the proper amount of carbohydrates to fuel the type of workouts that you do (without feeling drained of energy) while consuming enough healthy fats to support bodily functions that require fat, such as the production of hormones, cell walls, central nervous system components and the many many other bodily organs and processes that require fat, including your brain!

 

Do calories really matter if I’m focusing on eliminating anything processed and getting in my nutrient-dense foods?

The quality of your calories DO matter a lot in fact! It’s not just about how many calories you consume versus how many calories you expend. Of course, you will probably drop in weight if you eat less calories than you expend (or gain weight if you eat more calories than you expend), but the type of “weight” that you gain or lose may not be ideal – for example, some studies suggest you may lose “fat burning and energy boosting” muscle mass if you do not consume enough protein (and eat a diet mainly focused on carbohydrates and fat) to sustain the amount of lean body mass you have, or you may gain body fat (instead of muscle mass) if your calories have very little nutrient-density or nutrient value to them (aka “empty calories” like candy bars, sugary processed foods, and fried/fast food varieties).

Your body also needs essential nutrients and vitamins in order to function and perform at its best – some which you can only receive through some of the foods that you eat (because your body has difficulty creating them on its own). Without these essential nutrients and without a varied diet with adequate amounts of nutrients, you may result in having more fatigue, lack of energy, and possibly develop conditions associated with micronutrient deficiency (such as anemia, muscle atrophy, and in worse case scenarios conditions like multiple sclerosis, metabolic disease, heart disease and cancer as suggested by Dr. Bruce Ames’s “Triage theory of Micronutrients”).

How much protein should I be getting per day?

Depending on your lifestyle, activity level and type of activity, the amount of protein you need to maintain your lean muscle mass will differ (and will also change depending on if you are looking to gain muscle mass as well).

Generally on average, most people will need about .5 – .8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day (so a female who weighs 135 lbs will need about 94-108g of protein per day, a 200 lb male would need 140-160g) to maintain muscle mass, feel satiated at most meals and allot for just enough calories to come from fats and carbohydrates. Generally, this would equate to about a palm size (both thickness and circumference) of a meat portion for about 3-5 meals per day for females (approximately 20-28g of protein per meal), and about 1 – 2 palm amounts of meat portion for males (28-70g protein per meal).

If you are doing regular strength and resistance training and are trying to add muscle mass (or maintain muscle mass while cutting body fat), some studies suggest increasing protein intake to levels upwards of .8 – 1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight may provide benefit in certain types of resistance training activities.

Just like there are multiple methods of calculating a math problem or multiple routes in getting to the same end destination, there are multiple methods and dietary strategies to achieve your goals.  For example, if you are looking to compete in a certain weight class with a certain desired body composition (percent body fat) you may incorporate different protein ranges into your body composition plan based on your activity levels and types of exercise to meet your desired goals.  Someone in this situation might be a female athlete weight 150lbs (body fat percentage of 25% but looking to compete in a 140lb weight class for their sport (body fat % of 18%).  That person would be aiming to lose roughly 13 pounds of fat while maintaining their lean muscle mass.  Since we do not recommend losing over 2 pounds of body weight per week, that would likely take at least 5-6 weeks to accomplish.

Sources of protein include lean animal proteins (chicken, beef, lamb, goat, duck, fish, pork, etc), eggs, protein powders (whey, egg protein, pea & plant protein), plant-based protein such as quinoa, beans, tempeh, chickpeas, and lentils, and dairy-based protein such as cottage cheese, and yogurt. *Note that with plant-based protein that the bioavailability of the protein (how much protein your body actually gets from consuming the food) might be LESS than animal protein and as so indicated on the label because of associated challenges in bioavailability, digestibility and amino acid profiles of those protein sources.  Also, generally with most plant-based protein there are a considerable amount of carbohydrates that accompany the protein as well which need to also be considered.

On average, what is considered a general “safe” amount of weight (body fat, muscle mass) to be gaining or losing per week if I am set to change my body composition?

When first modifying nutrition and diet, many people may see a big drop in weight during the first couple of weeks (anywhere from 2 – 10 lbs) due to the body flushing out a lot of excess bloating and water weight it may have been carrying. This isn’t true for every person, although is a common occurrence.

Following this initial “drop” period, one may find their weight loss starting to plateau (which is completely fine and normal). In fact, a suggested healthy amount of weight to drop per week will be about 1-2# on average MAXIMUM (without significant drop in energy or muscle mass).  Any further weight loss after two pounds is not healthy.  Don’t be impatient with your progress and try to drop weight much faster by restricting the amount that you’re eating each day to less than what you should be eating…you may run into trouble later resulting in more energy loss, loss of muscle mass in addition to fat, stronger hunger cravings and thus, a potential to binge eat and/or gain weight back fairly easily due to your body feeling deprived of nutrients. By dropping weight at a more manageable and controlled manner, you are implementing more long-term lifestyle habits and developing a nutrition style that you can sustain over a longer period of time.

Remember, it took a long time in order to gain excess weight, so therefore it will take a considerable amount of time (and hard work, dedication and persistence) to drop the same amount of weight. You are trying to create habits that you can maintain throughout life, and these habits develop through small, yet persistent changes that you can manage.

What is the best way to figure out if I am sensitive to particular foods, such as gluten, dairy, FODMAPs, alcohol, etc?

A very straightforward you might jump to when determining your sensitivities to particular foods is simply through medical testing: there are medical tests from multiple manufacturers that provide information on food sensitivities and intolerances.  The data on whether or not these tests provide accurate measures is still highly controversial, since most mainstream medical authorities consider them “quackery” especially when the companies providing the testing are also providing supplements of their own brand.

You may have heard of “Elimination Diets”, which are diets that are intended to remove certain foods from your diet for a period of time to allow your body to “reset” itself in the absence of these foods acting upon your system. This is a very traditional method of finding food sensitivities.  After eliminating certain food groups for a period of time (could range from a few weeks to a few months), you then slowly reintroduce some of these foods back into your daily eating to see how your body reacts to the intake of these foods. The Whole30 is a strong example of an elimination diet.  Although not as fast and technical as a blood or saliva food sensitivity/intolerance test, elimination diets have been used for years before these tests were available as the gold standard.

Using an elimination diet may work, and is based off the premise that your gut’s cells have a high turnover rate.  Some intestinal cells renew themselves every 3-5 days, so by continuously eating lean meats, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats, you can adapt your intestinal cells to whole foods.   Most elimination diets require that you follow them strictly for the period of time (usually a few weeks) for the desired results to take place. You might find that your body tolerates some of the foods that you decided to eliminate for a certain period of time, or perhaps behaves differently. We don’t usually recommend eliminating foods to the extreme (since that can be tough in this modern world with the way many foods are considered common and normal); rather, we recommend consuming nutrient dense whole foods as the majority of your food choices.

However, sometimes people feel they can meet their goals by following an elimination protocol.  We only support elimination protocols that have you eating adequate amounts of whole, nutrient dense foods like lean meats, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats.  We discourage extreme calorie restriction diets or diets that have you unnecessarily eliminate meats to “detox” from animal proteins.  The Whole 30 Diet or Paleo Diet are two “elimination” diets we might recommend in certain circumstances.

 

Remember our Disclaimer: None of the statements in this web site have been evaluated by the FDA.

Furthermore, none of the statements in this web site should be construed as dispensing medical advice, making claims regarding the cure of diseases, nor can these products prevent heat stroke, hyponatremia, or any other injurious results of excessive physical exhaustion. You, the athlete, must listen to your body and use common sense to avoid serious injury.

You should consult a licensed health care professional before starting any supplement, dietary, or exercise program, especially if you are pregnant or have any pre-existing injuries or medical conditions.

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