Monday, October 18, 2010

Week 1 Question Roundup

This is the first installment of questions some of your follow challengers have asked.  They all agreed to have these posted as, hoping they may help the entire community.  Keep up the good work.  Many of you probably have started see some changes at least in the mirror and probably on the scale.  Be proud of your accomplishments, let us know how you're doing and and keep the questions coming.  If it's been a rough start let us know that too, we want to help you succeed.    -Zack

Can I cook with chicken broth (low sodium)? Either poaching chicken or "sautéing veggies, it just adds flavor. Do I count it toward protein?
Yep, we use the Trader Joe's low sodium, when we don't have any homemade, which is really easy to make as well.  Not a significant protein.  Also unless your zoning, we're not counting.  On the store bought stuff, just note the ingredients, some will use added sugar, so not as ideal.  Homemade is really easy.  We actually had chicken tonight, so are making some stock tonight.  Just threw all the bones, innards, and scraps along with an onion, garlic, celery, a few peppercorns and water to cover and will cook it over night on low in the crock pot.  Then will strain it in the morning and put it in some canning jars and in the freezer for later.

Can I lightly brush olive oil on things like zucchini, eggplant, onions etc & bake at low temp (250 degrees) so they are softer/easier to chew? Or is baking with evoo a no-no?
EVOO is great, just keep it at a low temp as you noted, as with any unsaturated fat it oxidizes pretty easy under to high a heat, try and keep it below 275-300.

If I am cooking spinach, do I pre-measure out the bag, and then cook it down, or am I measuring out the cooked portion?
Don't worry about measuring too much with anything, from a diet perspective, especially if you're on the low end of fruit.  If you're following a recipe though, spinach is typically noted pre-cooked and packed, so pressed down into the measuring cup.

I'm okay with knowing what to eat, but getting all meals in is my problem area.
If you're not overstressed, don't get too worked up about 3 meals.  If you can get two good sized meals in and a decent snack then you should be fine.  Take it easy on the carbs during the first larger meal that I assume you'll have to go back to work after or you may get a little sleepy still.  Protein and fats do still cause an insulin release, just not as high as carbs, so if you overdo it you still may have a bit a crash.  You'll need to play with that and just listen to your body, if you crash one day, make a few tweaks the next and see if things work better.

Elevated cortisol is your concern with stress, which can obviously be caused by many things including too few of meals / too much intermittent fasting.  Your tell tale sign on high cortisol is accumulating fat around your belly button area. 

The 5 small meal thing is more of a crutch for people coming off of being drowned in insulin all day everyday or for a high level athlete working on multiple workouts over multiple hours who legitimately can't consume enough in 3 sittings.  For the athlete it's fine, for the rest of us, it's tough because it really just encourages overeating.  Portion control is a struggle for most people including me, so why fight it, enjoy your meals, just don't force feed yourself extra meals.  This is also why Bryce was noting, if you're cooking for multiple meals you want to try and portion things out at least in your head, so you know how much is for dinner, otherwise you'll find yourself grazing through tomorrow's lunch as your packing them up.

One more related item is the hormone Leptin, which controls your feeling of satiety, really does work will with Proteins and Fats, as we discussed, Carbs messes it up and blocks its signals to the brain that you're full.  This goes back to the analogy that it's a whole lot easier to sit in front of 1000 calories worth of brownies (about 4 squares) and plow through it, versus 1000 calorie beef fillet (about 16 oz) and not be able to finish 3/4 of it.  Part of it is the ease of digestion and part of it is the leptin signaling.

What are your suggestions for snacks?  I like beef/turkey jerky but it's so salty.  I'm trying out going little/no fruit.
The general answer on snacks is not to over think them.  They should be a meal just like any other, just smaller.  There's no reason that nuts should instantly become the cornerstone, other than they're portable.  Nuts tend to be high in Omega-6, so can prove to be pro-inflammatory if you're getting too much of them.  Jerky, also is nice because it's portable, but high in salt and typically has soy and sugar in the seasoning mix.  If you don't have access to a fridge or cooler, then these work in a pinch.  If you do though, cooked chicken and shrimp are better choices since they are less processed and you control the added ingredients and both are still tasty cold.  With neither of these having a very strong flavor you can also vary the cooking techniques seasonings to vary the taste quite a bit and not let them get overly boring.  Add in some guacamole or drizzle with olive oil or cook them in coconut oil and you get some different flavors as well through some good fat choices.

Ideally the snacks will disappear and meals may just become slightly larger. 

Should I be limiting the amount of avocado I eat per week for weight loss?
No, when in season, I eat about a 1/2 of one per day.  On the fat side, I'm most concerned that you are eliminating the high n-6 and trans fats, such as vegetable oils, spreads, margarine, canola, soybean, corn, etc.  Good fats on their own do not make you fat.  Carbs and overeating encourage the body to store energy as body fat for later use, dietary fat is not the culprit in this that it is made out to be.  I'll throw a post on the site walking through digestion that will explain this a bit further.  In general if you're sticking to tropical fats (avocado, coconut, olive, palm) and animal fats you should be fine.   I'm not too concerned with your saturated fats as long as they are coming from animal fats or coconut.  These may still raise your LDL, but there's mounting evidence that these raise the type of LDL that is non-atherogenic.  They're also much more heat stable and therefore don't oxidize under heat, so better to cook with.  On the unsaturated fats, we're concerned with the omega-3 to omega-6 balance, which we want to get to 1:1 or as close to that as possible.  These are highly heat sensitive, some more than others, but in general, you shouldn't cook with them at high heats.   What fat can and does effect is inflammation, which is where the n-3 to n-6 ratio comes in, the more skewed toward n-6 you are the more inflammation is being caused.

Are some squashes higher in carbs than others--mixed results from what I researched. I also read they should be limited for weight loss b/c they are higher in carbs than other veggies on some sites, but no mention of it on others.Yes.  In general I like this site:  Just type in the food and you can get a good idea your relative carb numbers.  Summer squashes are all pretty low carb.  Of the winter squashes, spaghetti squash is the lowest carb and you can really treat it like a grain for prep purposes.  You can put meat sauce over it, mix it into stuffed peppers, hardy up a soup.  At the same time, even it is going to fall a little bit closer to energy dense (high calorie) versus nutrient dense.  When compared to grains they're a better option, but when compared to spinach, not so much.  Just mix it in and in general vary your vegetables and think of winter squashes as more of a small side, not the cornerstone of the meal and you'll be fine. 

What's the deal with tomatoes? I've read that some people on Paleo limit them since they are "technically a fruit"
It's not the fruit issue, it's the nightshade issue.  Nightshades, peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, are pro-inflammatory in many people.  Dr. Cordain did a pretty in depth multi-part series on them in his newsletter.  The gist as I recall on the tomatoes was that the closer to ripe they were the lower in inflammation causing agents.  I'll post a little more on this to the blog.  It's one I need to play with myself.  I enjoy tomatoes and grow hot peppers and make homemade hot sauce.  I should probably do an elimination for a few weeks and see what I notice upon re-intro. 

I'm trying to go black or cream only in my coffee but can't do it yet! What should I be sweetening it with?
-almond milk vs. heavy cream for coffee?
See what you think of almond milk in general. I know a lot of people don't care for the taste, I believe it has been compared to play-dough.  Jess really likes coconut milk.  That would be my first choice.  If you try either of these, just make sure they're additive free, not flavored or sugared up.  Heavy whipping cream is also fine overall.  It is 100% fat, so the irritants that come from the milk sugar are removed.  Back to the almond milk, there are very few nuts I like, I'll send a table out from Mat Lalonde on this, but most of them are high in Omega-6's and depending on the rest of your diet may get in the way of your goals more than being a good fat.  They're also a source of sneaky carbs.  Thanks to zone land we have a bad habit of classifying things as one macro-nutrient, though nuts are primarily a fat, they also have poor quality protein and some fairly high carb counts that can add up and also energy dense vs nutrient dense.  So, these are fine for a handful, but could be a counterproductive if you're taking down much more than that.

I know we talked a little about it after a WOD, but how detrimental will full fat greek yogurt be for weight loss? Can I eat it post-WOD at least?
How detrimental is going to be person to person, there are far worse things you could take and worse times you could incorporate them.  It really depends on how lactose intolerant you are.  I didn't even realize I was, until I cut it out and then brought it back.    Yogurt is better for most people because in the fermentation process the lactose is eaten up by the enzymes.  Fermination does not however change the fact that dairy is still a serious growth promoter, for weight gain this is great, for weight loss it's not so great.  This challenge is a great time to encourage some self experimenting.  Remove items for 2-3 and reintroduce them.  If you go really clean for 3 weeks, meat and veggies, good fat/oils and some fruits, and then bring certain borderline items in one at a time, you will have a pretty good awareness from your body on what works and what doesn't.  For example, if nightshades are an issue, then reintroducing them may bring on some inflammation or localized pain in prior injuries/joints, if dairy is a problem then you may notice some bloating, cramps, rumbling in your gut.

I'm eating a little bit more meat per meal when I have only three a day, but I'm cool with the 4 oz when I'm doing the five.
I wouldn't get to hung up on keeping your portion size down for protein. Meat protein is highly satiating, so adding even a little more in my help with that late night craving as well. 

I did have a question about the sugar cravings.  I'm coming home at night and I'm generally satiated.  But by the time 11 comes around, I'm ravenous and I want all sorts of food.  I'm supposing that this is probably normal, but what is it?  And when (if ever) does it abate?
On the craving, is it a craving first?  Meaning do you still feel kind of full, but yet your brain is telling you it really wants food.  Or do you actually feel hungry and late at night had typically been a sugar snack.

If it's truly a craving then it's typically best to really try and push through it for the next couple of weeks.  If you're hungry, then we need to look at your food log and see why it is you're burning through your dinner so quick.  I small fat/protein snack here isn’t going to screw things up, but like mentioned at the seminar, you don’t want to go to be too full because once you go to bed your body has to deal with finishing the digestion first before moving on to the restorative, fat loss, recovery functions that occur during sleep.

The cravings do abate significantly as time goes on.  Your sensation of sweet will also become a whole lot more sensitive, so things that you never would have thought of in the past to use, like coconut cream with a dash of cinnamon will hit the spot.  We'll talk about "where do I go from here" as the 6 weeks wraps up.    


  1. Zack, thanks so much for posting this! Very helpful to read through this things and have them disected!

  2. Wow - this is great Zack, very informative! Another question though. I am trying out some Paleo recipes but they don't have the nutritional information listed. How do I figure out the nutritional information for a whole recipe?

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  4. Holly, the beautiful thing about Paleo, other than the results, is you don't have get too focussed at the nutrient level. As long as the bulk is coming from meat/fish and veggies you'll be in good shape and getting the micro's that you need. I look at the nutriondata site listed above to get a rough estimate and it's not bad to track for a day or two every so ofter just so you get a feel for how much you're really eating. I might suggest this if your food log is looking really light or really heavy. Pretty much go with the sum is equal to the parts. For example, if you're making guacamole, you'll just use the nutrition info for avococado, onions, garlic, tomato, etc. Can be quite a pain in the neck depending on number of ingredients, which is why I wouldn't go overboard with it. In addition to the results, we want this process to be fairly user friendly, otherwise it won't be sustainable. If something doesn't seem to be working, we may start digging a bit deeper. If your food log looks clean and it's working in the mirror, on the scale, in your blood pannel, and so on, then no need to overthink it. Unless you're like me and just enjoy the topic, in which case I'll be posting my favorite books and websites in an upcoming post.

  5. thanks Zack. I'm sure I'm overcomplicating this (my attempt to not admit that I'm as anal as I am). I have a spreadhsheet that I'm trying to track calories, fat, protein & carbs to get an idea of just how much I am eating. Would love to see the books & websites you recommend. Thanks!

  6. Have you tried for the food log, might save some time? Can be a bit of a pain, but you can see what you think.


    does this mean i can go back to eating pequod's? ha.

  8. I especially like the comments, Tom:

    "Thell be really surprized to find out it was part of a Happy Meal"

    Anyhow, @Holly, I've been playing around with FitDay since this started and it's definitely an eye opener and quite easy to use. Had no idea how I was eating so little under maintenance (not that tracking like this really matters on paleo, I'm just curious) till I charted it all out. Paleo sure does fill you up!

  9. @john: just tried FitDay...need some more calcium in my diet...good site

  10. Tom,

    Calcium is going to be low for everyone switching to this diet, though it may not be as big an issue. From what I've read, Calcium is depleated from the body (bones) when the body is in a Net Acid state to bring it back to center, which the S.A.D. (standard american diet) is, whereas the Paleo diet promotes a more Alkaline state therefore less calcium depletion. Also, part of the effect of the anti-nutrients from grains and legumes we talk about is to hinder the absorption of cal, mag and zinc. So, by removing these, you're able to better utilize what you are eating.

    Here is one article that gets into some of these issues as well as a broader comparison of the paloe deit to modern diets.

    Also the FAQ's on the same site is a good place for some additional background.

  11. Yeah, nice article yahoo. Thankfully there is actually some good science behind digestion and hormones and how this stuff actually works. That is why I'm a little bigger fan of Mat Lalondes stuff versus Robb Wolf. Not that I dislike Wolf's stuff, I read his book and thought it was good, but he stops at some points and calls some things good just on the basis that it's what Paleo man did. Lalonde uses that as a starting point, but then goes through the actual science of why it works, what neolithic additions are good/ok or better than some "paleo" items.

  12. I've found that being on paleo, I have not had any cravings for the "post-dinner drink" as I would.

    I did put on two pounds after Halloween, but I have to believe that this is water. 4 days and trying hard to be paelo is a foreign country was fine, but I totally didn't engorge or anything like that! Well, two days did suck because it was 12 hours on a plane and forced to eat their crap... But still!