Monthly Archives: December 2010

Myths

Let’s wrap up 2010 with a healthy dose of myth-busting (in no order of importance).
  1. Dietary fat is not bad for you.
  2. Fruits (fructose) are not healthy the way the media says it is.
  3. Vegetables and fruits do not protect against cancer.
  4. Carbs are not always good for you.
  5. A total cholesterol of above 200 is not a precursor for heart attack.
  6. Static stretching before activity is not effective.
  7. A low LDL does not necessarily signify great health.
  8. Egg yolks are not evil.
  9. Sit-ups and abdominal crunches don’t get you a six pack.
  10. Red meat does not lead to cancer.
  11. Saturated fat does not clog arteries.
  12. Diet is not a bad word. You’re always on one.
  13. Vegetable oils are not heart healthy.
  14. Whole wheat bread is not healthy.
  15. Brown rice does not have much fiber.
  16. Quinoa is not better than wheat.
  17. Wheat is not better than rice.
  18. Running a marathon does not make you fit.
  19. Lifting weights is not risky.
  20. Lentils are not filled with protein.
  21. Peanuts are not nuts… they’re legumes.
  22. Bodybuilding and fitness are not the same.
  23. Heart disease at 50 is not OK.
  24. Getting drunk on New Year’s eve does not make you cool.

Enjoy the holidays folks. I’ll be sure to get into detail on every single one of these myths in 2011.

Peace out.

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My Role Model

What you can’t learn from books, what you can’t learn from history, you can learn via observation.

I try to learn. Everyday. From everyone. In every way possible. Today I want to spend a few minutes talking about one of my role models.

This guy is as awesome as it gets!! A little about him.

Fitness:

  • He can jump up obstacles twice his height.
  • He can sprint faster than 99.9% of the people you know and unbelievably agile.
  • His BMI and BF% are on the money. No flab whatsoever. You can literally see the veins on his abs.
  • His focus is unmatched. His eyes are always on the goal!
  • When he competes, he turns into a maniac and pushes till he drops down to the floor.
  • When his body needs rest, he shuts everything down and give it the rest it deserves.

Diet:

  • He eats real food 90% of the time while also enjoying his cheats everyday.
  • He eats low carb.
  • He eats only when he is hungry and stops when he has had enough.
  • He thrives on meat, veggies and dairy.
  • His food consumption is directly proportional to his activity level. More activity = tonnes of food. No activity = fasting.

Lifestyle:

  • He sleeps at least 12 hours a day.
  • He lives in the moment like none other. When he is sleepy, sleeping is all he thinks about. When he is hungry, food is all he thinks about.
  • He can be badass or extremely charming depending on the situation.
  • Just like me, he thinks nut butter is ambrosia.

Other information:

  • He has inspired me like none other.
  • He turned 1 yesterday.

Happy birthday little buddy!

I know I taught you to sit and to shake… but you’ve taught me so much more! You are, without question, the alpha dog!

Peace out.

I love you India but… Your breakfast sucks (Part 2)

So I ended my last post about Indian breakfasts saying that the current Indian breakfast…

  • is grain dominant and grain dependent (rice and wheat being the staples) and hence is (unnecessarily) very high in carb content.
  • is lacking in protein.
  • contains too much oxidizable vegetable oils and provides no good fats.
  • is almost completely devoid of vegetables.
  • is possibly high in gluten and/or other anti-nutrients (depending on choice of breakfast).

In this post I will discuss…

  • Why grain dominance and grain dependence are bad.
  • The changes that need to be made to the current Indian breakfast.
  • How to make these changes without giving up Indian food.

Why dethrone the grain?

Grain dominance (and dependence) is not healthy because…

  1. Almost all grains contain anti-nutrients which irritate/damage/puncture the gut which, in the best case, inhibits nutrient absorption and, in the worst case, causes autoimmune diseases. Gluten, one such anti-nutrient, is pretty well-known today. Read this to understand why grains are not the healthiest food choices.
  2. From a micro-nutrient (vitamins and minerals) standpoint, grains contain little to no nutritional value compared to vegetables and fruits. If your body had to choose between a 200 calories of grains and 200 calories of vegetables (or fruits or meat), your body will choose the vegetables (or fruits or meat) in a heart beat because they have a lot more to offer than grains which are, relatively speaking, empty calories. I highly recommend checking out these graphs which compare the nutritional value of grains and vegetables/beans/fruits.
  3. From a macro-nutrient standpoint, grains offer predominantly carbohydrates with negligible amounts of protein and fat. For those of you who believe brown rice or whole wheat contains tonnes of fiber please do a simple google search and compare the amount of fiber per hundred calories of grains, vegetables and berries. Or check the graphs in the above link.
  4. All grains (processed or whole) are converted into sugar in the blood stream resulting in insulin secretion. When activity is minimal (as in sitting at work or home) and carb intake is high the released insulin will result in storing excess calories as fat. Read this post to understand how and why this happens.

To summarize, grains, though they are a source of calories, are B-grade foods at best when compared to the other available sources of nutrients/calories and hence should not be the corner stone of one’s meal/diet.

The concept of change is good

Now that we have established that grain dominance is not healthy, let’s look at the changes/modifications that need to be made to the current Indian breakfast to make it healthful and wholesome.

  1. Though carbohydrates need not be shunned, they need to be reduced (especially from the current levels).
  2. Carbohydrate sources need to be changed from grains to vegetables, fruits and (limited quantities of) presoaked beans/lentils.
  3. Best case: Grains need to avoided. Worst case: Grains need to be fermented before preparation and consumed in very small quantities i.e. as a side.
  4. A good source of (complete) protein needs to be included in every breakfast.
  5. Good fats need to be consumed in abundance to ensure absorption of vitamins (especially A,D,E &K) and minerals. Here is an amazing article on how adding fat to your vegetables increases the all important micro-nutrient absorption.
  6. Full fat unprocessed dairy should be a included since it is a complete protein and offers a considerable amount of calcium and fat.

Realize that these are only “modifications” that need to be made to the Indian breakfast. There are some amazing benefits to the Indian diet and the ingredients which provide these benefits (mostly spices) should be preserved while making these changes. These benefits include, but are not limited to, the following.

The act of changing is even better

We now have the knowledge. Let’s move on to the most critical step: the action step. We can talk/debate without end about the benefits/drawbacks of any food/diet, but nothing is accomplished unless and until we give it a true attempt.

Note: I know some (Indian) people are downright opposed to such recommendations because they’re certain (for whatever reason) that I will recommend foods from other cuisines that are not available in India. Well, that’s clearly BS and if these people took the time to read a little they’d benefit a lot more.

That said, here are some options for breakfast that focus on removing the negative points I discussed last week but are very Indian at the same time.

  • Firstly, avoid using any vegetable oils for cooking. All cooking should be done with ghee or coconut oil since both contain stable and non-oxidizable saturated fats. If you’re concerned about saturated fat and heart disease, trust me when I say such a relation never existed or read this to learn for yourself.
  • Drop the cereal/muesli/granola/oatmeal in an attempt to eat healthy (cos they’re not healthy by any means!). Have a handful (15-20) of nuts (cashews/almonds/walnuts/pistachios) + 50-75 grams of full fat cheese + a cup of berries instead.
  • Quit buying dosa/roti/pav bhaji from the canteen/restaurant. I think we can all safely say that restaurant/canteen/store bought items are made with the lowest quality ingredients and rancid oxidizable oils. Have one of these instead – (a) Protein shake: Blend – 1 scoop of vanilla whey protein powder, 1 cup whole milk, 1 medium fruits/1 cup mixed fruits, 1/4 cup nuts or (b) Mix 2 whole eggs, 25-30 grams of full fat cheese, 1/2 tbls coconut oil/butter, 1 cup chopped vegetables, salt, pepper and seasonings of choice. Microwave on high for 2-3 mins or until fully done.
  • Instead of downing 6 dosas have 1-2 dosas topped with 1 whole egg, 25-30 grams of full fat cheese and 1 cup of vegetables each (south indian pizza anyone?). Super nutritious, rice in protein and fats and extremely satiating.

Top this with cheese and add a side of vegetables and salt lassi

  • Instead of destroying that plate of pongal every saturday, have 1 cup presoaked and cooked beans (garbanzo/kidney etc.), 5-10 cashews, chili and garlic sauteed in coconut oil. Finish it off with 1 cup full fat yogurt with salt/spices.
  • Drop the roti and have lots of Daal (1.5-2 cups presoaked and cooked lentils + 1-2 cups mixed vegetables + 1 tbls butter/coconut oil). Finish it off with 1 cup full fat yogurt with salt/spices.
  • A 3 egg omelet with lots of vegetables and 25-30 grams of full fat cheese with a cup of fruit on the side instead of poori masala and coffee will do you good.
  • If you’re a meat eater, add in chicken/fish/beef/lamb to your breakfast. Animal proteins are complete proteins and fats from grass fed/free range animals are very healthy.
  • Skip breakfast every once in a while. Fasting has been extensively researched and proven to be extremely healthy (ever wonder why almost all cultures have some form of fasting?). Read this if you’re interested in finding out how periodic fasting and calorie restriction can add 40-50 (healthy) years to your lifespan. So next time when your mom fasts for religious reasons, you join her for health reasons!

These are not hard changes and can be made almost immediately. Incorporating these changes to your breakfast is a first step towards…

  • removing grain dominance and dependence.
  • reducing carbohydrate load.
  • adding a good chunk of protein to your diet.
  • saving you from the toxic byproducts of heating vegetable oils.
  • adding good fats (nuts, coconut oil, ghee, dairy) to your diet.
  • controlling systemic inflammation which is the source of everything bad from obesity to diabetes to cardiovascular diseases.
  • saving yourself from insulin resistance (and hence diabetes).

I know these recommendations are not typical and may even be considered blasphemous in a world where fat is evil and marketing overshadows real science. But remember – just because everyone does it a certain way doesn’t make it right.

Data doesn’t lie. Question everything.

Peace out.

Sample Conditioning Workout (Video)

I recommend short duration high intensity workouts once or twice a week and recently Arvind also wrote an awesome post on HIIT which explains the pros and cons of such training. The problem seems to be that a lot of folks seem to not understand what high intensity means. In order to give you an idea of what high intensity is we shot a little video today. Below are the details.

Workout:

10 rounds for time (i.e. as fast as possible)

Here is the workout.

Note:

  • These sound like small numbers but when you add them up the workout contains 50 pushups, 50 jump squats and 30 pull-ups (130 reps) all in less than 4 mins. So beware.
  • This is a condensed form of my usual workout. Most of my high intensity workouts are ~ 10 mins. The idea was to keep the video under 5mins and hence the shorter workout.
  • Scale appropriately! If you cant do pushups do knee pushups etc.
  • If you can do this without issues, do my regular version which is 20-5 rounds or 10 pushups, 10 squat jumps, 6 pushups for 10 rounds.

Peace.

I love you India but… Your breakfast sucks (Part 1)

Note: I was born and brought up in India and I care about what my people eat and their resulting health. So moving forward I’ll write some posts that are specific to the Indian diet, lifestyle and activities.

My international readers, rest assured that the information contained will be very valuable and interesting. You will get to learn about a culture that hails vegetarianism but also houses 60% of the world’s heart disease patients.

What’s on the menu?

This post is all about breakfast. Specifically, Indian breakfasts and breakfasts Indians eat. What’s the difference?

Indian breakfasts – Foods that are traditionally eaten for breakfast in India like…

  • Idly/dosa with coconut chutney + coffee
  • Poori/roti with potato
  • Pongal with sambar and chutney
  • Upma with chutney/sugar

Breakfasts Indians eat – The foods the modern, new age, wannabe healthy Indians eat for breakfast like…

  • Cereal/granola/oats with fat free milk and sugar + Fruit (juice)
  • Bread and jam + Fruit (juice)

None of us have the time to get into great detail about how these foods are made and their exact macro and micro-nutrient compositions. So this is what I’ll do for each meal.

  • Hyperlink each food item with it’s recipe so you can see the ingredients if you care.
  • State the dominant ingredient in each meal.
  • State the dominant macro-nutrient in each meal.
  • State the major nutritional benefits of each meal.
  • State the major nutritional deficiencies in each meal.
  • Leave the comments section open for healthy discussions/arguments.

1. Idly or dosa with coconut chutney

Dominant ingredients: Rice, lentils

Dominant macro-nutrient: Carbs

Nutritional benefits: Negligible

Nutritional deficiencies:

2. Poori/roti with potato

Dominant ingredients: Wheat, potato, vegetable oil

Dominant macro-nutrient: Carbs, fat from deep fried vegetable oil ( = bad)

Nutritional benefits: Negligible

Nutritional deficiencies :

  • Little to no protein
  • No vegetables whatsoever and hence no vitamins and/or minerals. (Potato is hardly a vegetable due to it’s high starch content and minimal micro-nutrient content).
  • Super high carb load (= high blood sugar = high insulin secretion = fat deposit)
  • Poori is deep fried in highly oxidizable/oxidized vegetable oil. Vegetable oils are high omega 6 fatty acids which are pro-inflammatory and vegetable oils at high temperature release pretty nasty toxins. Click here for scientific proof.
  • Consumption of gluten from wheat. Read here for why gluten is bad.

3. Pongal with sambar and coconut chutney

Dominant ingredients in meal: Rice, lentils

Dominant macro-nutrient: Carbs

Nutritional benefits: Negligible

Nutritional deficiencies :

  • Little to no protein (No, lentils are not full of protein)
  • No vegetables whatsoever and hence no vitamins and/or minerals.
  • Super high carb load (= high blood sugar = high insulin secretion = fat deposit)

4. Upma with chutney

Dominant ingredients in meal: Rice/wheat (depending on type of upma)

Dominant macro-nutrient: Carbs

Nutritional benefits: Negligible

Nutritional deficiencies :

  • Little to no protein (No, lentils are not full of protein)
  • No vegetables whatsoever and hence no vitamins and/or minerals. (The tiny bit of carrot doesn’t count folks!)
  • Super high carb load (= high blood sugar = high insulin secretion = fat deposit)
  • Consumption of gluten from wheat.

5. Cereal/Granola/Oats with fat-free milk and fruits.

Dominant ingredients in meal: Cereal grain (depends)

Dominant macro-nutrient: Carbs

Nutritional benefits: Minimal vitamins from fruits.

Nutritional deficiencies :

  • Little to no protein.
  • Little to no good fats. Read this for list of good fats.
  • No vegetables whatsoever and hence no vitamins and/or minerals.
  • Super high carb load from the grains and sugar and fruit (= high blood sugar = high insulin secretion = fat deposit).
  • Fat free milk is super processed.
  • Sugar from fruits add to the carb load and basically undoes the benefits of the micro-nutrients it provides.

6. Whole wheat bread with jam and fruits (juice) on the side.

Dominant ingredients in meal: Cereal grain (depends) and sugar

Dominant macro-nutrient: Carbs

Nutritional benefits: Minimal vitamins from fruits.

Nutritional deficiencies :

In a nutshell husk…

Let’s assume the best case and say one guy (let’s call him Mr. Grainitarian) never eats the same meal twice in the same week and eats each one of these meals on different days of the week. So all breakfasts combined, Mr. Grainitarian…

  1. eats meals that are grain dominant and he is now grain dependent.
  2. gets hardly any protein from any of these meals.
  3. gets no good fats from any of these meals.
  4. eats a tonne of carbs which (as in most cases) he doesn’t need.
  5. includes literally no vegetables in any of these meals resulting in a huge nutrient (vitamins and minerals) deficit.
  6. possibly consumes considerable doses of gluten 4-5 mornings/week.

Big picture…

Each year has 52 weeks and if Mr. Grainitarian has been eating this way for 30 years, that’s 1,560 weeks of such sub-par, mediocre, protein-less, sugar/starch filled, nutrient deficient eating.

Now it’s your turn to talk – Are you a Grainitarian? What are your thoughts? Do you think it’s time for a change? Let me know in the comments section. In the mean time, I’ll write about why grain dominance is bad, how to change and what to change in Part 2. Stay tuned.

Peace out.

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