Monthly Archives: April 2011

Random Thoughts

I’ve been writing too many long, detailed and serious posts lately. Ugh! I feel weird and old and can only imagine how sick you guys feel reading all this!

Generally, I like to keep the information simple to understand and my writing fun to read. So I figured its time for a random thoughts post.

Here we go…

  • Whey protein, in all its greatness, is basically a sugar fix for most people (myself included)! Try eating the unsweetened unflavored ones and you’ll run to the closest meat market instead!
  • None of my clients/readers have had any problems whatsoever in following the ‘eat real food’ guidelines… as long as they get to eat some rice and whey post workout! ūüėČ
  • Low carb eaters eat way more vegetables than high carb eaters. Most folks I put on a low carb diet eat ~1-3 lb of vegetables everyday!
  • Low carb doesn’t mean ‘no carb’. It just means you don’t stuff your face with carbs in every meal¬† every damn day!
  • I see many readers and clients of mine going from munching fries and pizza and savory fried snacks to eating vegetables and yogurt and nuts and eggs instead. And surprisingly they seem to lose fat, sleep better, get rid of joint pains and eliminate bloating instantly. I wonder why!
  • There are two things which play a much more critical role on health, fat loss and strength than diet does. They are sleep and work/life stress level.
  • Its awesome how I don’t have to write about the ill effects of smoking ‘cos if you’re reading my blog you better know smoking kills.
  • I love my clients. 100% of them are super legit. They eat and move exactly as told. They ask a million questions to ensure they understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. They get results! Simple right?
  • It is unbelievable how some people do the low-fat + cardio gig and are stuck at the same weight for years. Then I ask them to eat a lot of fat and stop doing cardio… and suddenly they lose pounds after pounds within a couple of weeks!
  • It is funny to see people (non-bodybuilders) trying to hit their abs from every angle there is, then suffer from lower back pain and then do more of the same ab work to strengthen their core! Talk about chasing your own tail (bone).
  • Ever wonder why doctors, nutritionists and registered dieticians recommending a low fat, whole grain based diet are fat and/or have a tummy and/or look dry and weak? Hint: Its not because they don’t get enough exercise!
  • Vegetarians don’t like to hear they aren’t saving animals by staying away from meat and (health conscious) meat eaters don’t like to hear that its possible to lead a healthy life without meat. Having been on both sides of the fence, my best advice to you is… stay away from such arguments!
  • Doctors don’t learn much about nutrition and they are too busy treating patients that they don’t have the time to keep up with the latest advances in the field of nutrition. If you have a chronic diseases, chances are your nutrition is causing it or can cure it. So, in addition to seeing a doctor, see a legit nutritionist and/or do some research on the subject. You’ll be happy you did.
  • If you (or someone you know) can make only two changes towards a healthier diet, 1) go gluten-free and 2) avoid vegetable oils.
  • And to make myself accountable, I’ll write about the following in the next week (or two)…
    • Cardio – A Redefinition
    • The Truth Behind Saturated Fats
    • Grains – The Good, Bad & Ugly
    • Macronutrient ratios
    • Statins – The Good, Bad & Ugly
    • Women & Strength Training

TGIF!

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Introducing EatRealFood.in

What if you can eat pure bliss like this all day everyday while you lose fat, get healthier and look awesome? Well… you’re in luck! Cos now you can! Read on.

We heard you!

We heard you say…

We get the real food concept! We understand the rules! We are ready to do it! But… how do we put this stuff together and make it a meal? And how can we come up with tasty and healthy meals on a daily basis??

And we decided to put our heads together and give you an ultimate solution to this problem.¬†Introducing our brand spanking new food blog…

About EatRealFood.in:

From the many articles we have written on nutrition (here and¬†here) and the¬†many clients we have personally worked with, we observed a trend –

People are hesitant to try our recommendations initially but once they give it an honest attempt… well, they get addicted! Addicted to feeling good, looking great and eating lots of delectable food!

When we looked into this further, we realized that the reason most people are hesitant to try it at first is, not because they don’t understand the concept, but because they are intimidated about cooking palatable food on a daily basis. Folks just didn’t want to sign up for something that will leave them with hardly any options to eat!

Our typical conversation goes something like this…

They: What is the healthiest way to eat?

Us: Eat vegetables, meat, seafood, eggs, dairy, fruit and nuts. Stay away from junk, grains, legumes, vegetable oils and sugars.

They: No grains? No beans? No oils? How many meals can you really cook with this? I don’t think I can do such an extreme diet!

Guess what? You can make a gazillion different meals without grains and sugars and junk! And that’s exactly what we want to prove with EatRealFood.in

How to design and create foods that are undeniably delicious and unbelievably nutritious… all at the same time!

So what can you find  at EatRealFood.in?

  • Recipes
  • Food porn
  • Nutritional information about various foods

What are the guidelines under which these recipes are created?

You can get the full scoop of our dietary recommendations here.

Will the recipes be vegetarian friendly?

Absolutely! We respect people’s food preferences and will do everything we can to make EatRealFood.in a happy camping ground for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. And moreover, three of the five bloggers who contribute to EatRealFood.in are vegetarians!

How can you be involved?

We want to keep the atmosphere at EatRealFood.in inviting and fun. So please take a couple of seconds to comment on the recipes we post and if you have any suggestions for recipes or have some recipes that fit the bill, please email it to us. We will post it up and provide you with the credit you deserve! Fair enough right?

So hop on to EatRealFood.in, find out more about the chefs food fanatics and please spread the word!

Help us help you eat better!

Eat Real Food – Redefining Nutrition (Part 2)

In the previous post, I wrote about how there are so many different nutrition camps and everyone seems to be recommending what they, per their research, believe is the best way to eat. Unfortunately though, all these theories have research and anecdotal evidence proving and disproving them! A sad state really.

My Experience

In¬†my journey towards health and fitness, I’ve spent a significant amount of time (and money!) experimenting with myself.¬†High carb, low carb, high protein, leangains, p90x, weight watchers,¬†very low carb, zero carb, zone, paleo/primal, south beach, atkins, vegetarian, ketogenic, vegan, raw, GOMAD, warrior – I’ve tried ’em all! Which one works? Well, every single one of them! Let me explain.

It all depends on your goals. If your goal is “weight loss”, then pretty much any diet that restricts calories in some way will work (for a while). So every time I tried one of these diets, I had a specific short term goal in mind (fat loss mostly) and these diets helped me reach my goal. But this wasn’t enough.¬†I wanted to learn to eat¬†in a way that helped me stay healthy, strong and in shape for the rest of my life without having to worry about diseases that plaque 90% of todays population – from the common cold to cardiovascular disease!

But the way it turned out,

  • The diets that gave me quick results weren’t healthy in the long run.
  • The ones that were healthy weren’t affordable.
  • The ones that were healthy and affordable were not ‘real life friendly’.

Clearly, none of these ‘diets’ are really a solution! So, how do I get past this yo-yo dieting that most of us end up doing and find an ultimate solution? How do I redefine nutrition?¬†The answer was simple really –¬†Read more. Learn more. Experiment more.

This was when I met¬†Arvind Ashok, who was on the exact same journey as me and from that day forward its been nothing but research, experiment, measure and record… over and over and over!¬†From all the experimentation and monitoring we did on our bodies, lipid profiles, CRP, performance, endurance, strength and body composition and from all the¬†data we collected from our clients, we came up with the following dietary guidelines which we believe will result in long term health while helping one stay in awesome shape without having to go on multiple diets.¬†In other words…

This is the last ‘diet’ you will ever be on!

Without further ado, here are the ‘Eat Real Food’ guidelines in my words…

Rule No. 1 – Eat Real Food

Real food is any food that you can safely consume raw. Oh hell no! I’m not suggesting that you eat everything raw. I’m just saying choose foods that can safely be consumed raw and base your meals around these foods. To get specific, things that can be eaten raw are meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit, nuts, dairy and tubers and things that cannot be eaten raw are grains, legumes, food additives, junk, fillers and other chemicals/ingredients you can’t pronounce! This is a pretty harmless recommendation I think, but if you are wondering why you should eat real food, here is why.

Nutrient density

Let’s say you earn 100$ a month and thats it. What will you spend your money on? New shoes? TV? Candles? Maybe a haircut?¬†No? Why not? Well, you earn only a few and you want to use the money wisely on stuff that really matters‚Ķ like food, water, clothing and shelter.

Similarly, you can only eat so much per day without getting fat and you want to use those calories wisely to supply your body with as much nutrients as possible. Real foods are loaded with micro and macronutrients and any smart person will ensure he/she takes advantage of this.

Food and evolution

In the most simplistic terms, all living thing (plants and animals) don’t want to be killed and eaten and hence have developed defense and offense mechanisms to help protect themselves. Animals fight/run/hide and plants contain harmful toxins. While we, as a part of evolution, have learnt to fight/chase/find animals and have developed defense mechanisms against some of these plant toxins, evolution is an excruciatingly slow process and we still haven’t physically evolved to digest grains, legumes and other non-real foods. While these toxins are not acute toxins (like alcohol) they are chronic toxins and do have a cumulative negative effect on our health.¬†For example – Grains are rich in energy (calories) and will be an amazing source of calories for a population of 7 billion people. But unfortunately we (unlike birds and rodents) haven’t evolved yet to deal with the anti-nutrients they posses. Oh well!

To spell it out, base all your meals around…

  • Meat – Grass fed beef/lamb, organic free range poultry, wild caught fish, pastured pork
  • Vegetables – Any and all vegetables that you can tolerate
  • Fruit – Any and all fruit that you can tolerate (in moderate quantities)
  • Nuts – Raw nuts (in limited quantities)
  • Dairy – Raw or organic unprocessed full fat dairy

Rule No. 2 – Mix it up

By now it should be obvious that no one food contains everything we need and there is no food that isn’t harmful at high doses. So clearly, eating the same food day after day will result in the deficiency of some nutrients and overdosage of some others. For example,¬†spinach, though extremely nutritious, contains oxalates which when consumed in high doses can lead to kidney stones.

These potential risks can be overcome by eating a wide variety of foods in each class. Practically speaking, quit eating the same rice and lentils or chicken salad or turkey sandwich day in and day out. Vary your food choices every week and eat some seafood, poultry, eggs and red meat along with a nice mix of cruciferous, fibrous and starchy vegetables with a bit of fruit to satisfy the Vit C cravings! Whole unprocessed (and especially fermented) dairy can of course be added to some of these meals. As for the vegetarians, get a bunch of eggs along with whole milk yogurt, some organic tempeh, natto and miso instead of meat and seafood.

Rule No. 3 – Hate them numbers!

Your body isn’t dumb! Realize that the human body is a product of 4 million years of evolution. It is a machine that has been continually improved for years and years and years. This machine is equipped with some stunning organs and millions of cells, all with one purpose – to keep you alive and well! So, in spite of whatever crap you do to your body, it will doing everything it can to make the best out of the situation and keep you alive and kicking for as long as possible.

Are you telling me that such a complex machine with such a noble cause can’t control hunger and appetite? You can bet you ass it can! Your body doesn’t need you to periodically feed it with a certain number of calories. Listen to your body. When you are genuinely hungry – eat. When you are satisfied – stop. I swear to God it is as simple as this!

Note: The issues related to obesity/appetite dysregulation (which is caused by and result in leptin & insulin resistance) come into play only when you eat non-foods… especially sugars. As long as you eat real food, you have nothing to worry about.

Rule No. 4 РIf its food… eat it!

This is simple. Really. You need protein, carbs and fat. Sure your body can make do without carbs. Sure your body can survive with minimal protein. And sure you can build an awesome physique on a super low fat diet. But considering each macronutrient plays one or more critical roles, your body thrives when all three are available in optimal amounts. Now how much of each is optimal? Totally depends on your activity level and training regimen and I’ll be sure to dedicate a post to macro-nutrient ratios in the near future.

But what about the good protein? Good carbs? Good fat? Well, this could get really long, so I’ll try to come up with a general rule.

Protein:

  • How much? 1 gm per kg of bodyweight is plenty if you are sedentary. That amount can increase unto ~ 3 gm per kg of bodyweight if you strength train.
  • From where? From animals and animal products just ‘cos those are the most complete and bio-available proteins. I’m talking meat, seafood, eggs and dairy. Click here for a comprehensive list of vegetarian protein options.

Carbs:

  • How much? As much as you¬†want¬†“need”. If you do a lot of glycogen depleting work, you’ll need more and if you don’t do much, you need less.
  • From where ? Plants‚Ķ and not plant products. I’m talking vegetables, fruit, roots and tubers.

Fats:

  • How much? As much as you need to feel satiated. There is really no upper limit to this.
  • From where? Real foods. Meaning, try to limit the use of “oil”. Get your fats from meat, eggs, milk, coconut, avocado, fish and raw nuts. Ghee is an exception simply because it is fureeeekin delicious (and bloody damn healthy!).
  • What about good fats?¬†Here ya go!

Rule No. 5 – Fuel ‘your’ body

As far as I’m concerned you need to fuel¬†your¬†activities. In other words, you need to eat based on your lifestyle. If you strength train 4 days a week your diet should be drastically different from that of someone who runs 40 miles a week or someone who hardly ever trains. If your definition of exercise is walking to the restroom and back, then you’re better off with some protein, fat and a tonne of fibrous veggies. But if you consistently workout/train, things get a little tricky.

You need to feed your body based on the stimulus you provide it. If the stimulus is high in intensity and frequent, deviations may be required and are acceptable. Folks who strength train on a regular basis or are currently undergoing a body transformation can do well with some quality liquid protein (whey or egg protein) immediately post workout. Sure it isn’t the most real food, but its also not real to balloon up and then work hard to shrink down. Desperate times calls for desperate measures. Once you have reached your goal, drop the liquid protein and get back to real food.

I’d make a similar argument for rice. If you perform some form of glycogen depleting activity, glucose becomes a requirement and the best source of glucose is starch. In addition to sweet potatoes, yams, taro and tapioca, white rice seems to a decent source of starch with very little anti-nutrients. It is also noteworthy that the most long lived traditional cultures have been consuming rice on a regular basis with no known ill-effects (unlike wheat and corn).

Rule No. 6 – Devour that ice-cream!

Ha! I saw those eyes light up!

The paleo diet with organ meats and grass finished beef and wild eggs might be the diet that will help you do the chicken dance on your 112th birthday‚Ķ but what if you just cant live on meat and veggies and fruit? What if eating a pizza meal every other Sunday will take you to say 95? Heck I’ll take it!

Listen, I agree that a diet which is 100% real and minimally cooked is the best diet there is. But you need to realize that we live in a different world today. A world with weekly parties and donuts and pizza and TV and sport and movies! In such a world, the best ever diet is of no use to you if it isn’t sustainable! Make the ‘eat real food’ guidelines sustainable for you!¬†And yea, even when you cheat, have some common sense and stay away from stuff that you are allergic to.

Summary

Nothing ground breaking here really. I’m saying, for the most part,

  • eat red meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, whole milk, whole milk yogurt, unprocessed cheese, any and all vegetables, any and all fruits, nuts, coconut, rice and whey.
  • eat per hunger/appetite and never count calories.
  • make the diet sustainable by eating your favorite foods once a week.

You tell me – Is this really too hard? Is extended disease free life, strength, endurance and awesome body composition not worth giving up junk and sugars and grains?

Finally, I realize that this is just a very broad framework and most of you will have specific questions about how much protein/carb/fat, what kind, when etc etc. In the next few days, I will get into the nitty gritty of eating real food and follow this post up with a post on macro-nutrient composition for various ages and activity levels (pre-natal, senior, endurance, strength, general fitness, general health etc.).¬†I obviously can’t tell you the exact numbers here, but I’ll guarantee you that this ain’t low carb or low fat or anything that even resembles a diet!

But I can do this only if there is enough interest! So¬†50+ comments and I’ll write the macro-nutrient recommendations post¬†soon!

Let me know.

Eat Real Food – (Re)Defining Nutrition (Part 1)

Someone asked me when exactly I became interested in nutrition and why I started researching about it. It was at that point that I realized that I didn’t actually ‘start’ it per se. I mean, I know when exactly I decided to not be a wuss and start getting fit, but, like a many others, nutritional research was really a slippery slope that I mistakenly led myself into.

Though my entry into nutrition was pretty typical, my stance is a little unique. Unique in that, I refuse to enroll in any one particular school of thought. I try to read everything about nutrition instead of reading only inside the circle agree with. This helps me come up with my own recommendation and ensures that my thoughts are not just a an average of the thoughts of people who I follow.¬†In short – I’m never married to any nutritional ‘ism’ and¬†I don’t buy into anything unless I am completely convinced!

But the draw back of such open-mindedness is confusion! The more you read, the more you learn and the more you learn, the less you know!

On one side you have low carb purists saying you totally need to keep your carb intake to under 50 g (or 100 g or 150 g), and on the other side you have lipid hypothesis lovers saying fat, and especially saturated fat, is bad and you need to keep your fat intake low by replacing fat with carbs from whole grains. On one side you have registered dieticians saying too much protein affects kidney function and on the other side you have well-seasoned fitness enthusiasts telling you to up the protein ‘cos it is invaluable. I can go on, but you get the idea.

Though I’m sure I’ll come across as a smartass, my response to all this is – Stop. The. Nonsense.

But why is this nonsense?

Ummm… let’s see…

What do you observe? No trend! None! Nada! You have arrows pointing in every direction there is!

So what’s your point Raj?

Clearly, no one knows anything definitively when it comes to nutrition! The truth is that there is enough scientific evidence to prove and disprove everything! Funny isnt it? Sure. But its scary too right? I mean, who do you trust?

  • The low carb researcher who has stacks of evidence supporting his claim that carbs causes diabetes or your doctor who says eat whole grains and less fat else you’re going to end up with heart disease?
  • The vegan Gods who say animal protein causes cancer or the paleo kings who say animal protein is paramount?
  • This study that says cheese consumption increases risk of bladder cancer or this study that says cheese consumption protects against bowel diseases?

Honestly, the answer to the above questions is – none!¬†You can’t trust either one or anyone! If you drop down dead tomorrow will Mr. Low Carb shed a tear or will Dr. Whole Grain give a crap?¬†Does the fact that there are so many contradicting studies prove that the human body is capable of adapting to various types of foods or does it just prove that we are masters of designing studies with known outcomes?¬†Does the one size fits all concept apply to nutrition alone because we are all basically humans or is it more like every size fits all? If it is the first case, what is that ‘one size’? If it is the second case, then why is the majority of the population diseased?

These are all questions that I kept asking myself over and over again during my path towards the ideal diet. But did I answer these questions? What dietary recommendations did I come up with? Why those dietary recommendations? Did my recommendations evolve over the years?

The answer to all these questions, I’ll share in the next post. In the meanwhile, you tell me what you think – low carb or low fat? paleo or vegan? pro or anti dairy? What has your experience been? How have you fared in one or more of these diets?

(Re)Defining Fitness – The Fitness Recipe

Me: What is your current workout like?

Client: Some cardio. Then some weights and then abs.

Just so we’re clear – that answer means nothing to anyone who knows anything about fitness. So I ask the client to explain his/her routine in a little more detail and this what I get every single time.

Routine –

  • Mon-Wed-Fri – Weights + cardio for 30-40 min
  • Tue-Thu-Sat – Cardio for 60-90 min
  • Abs – 3-5 days a week.

Cardio = Elliptical machine or treadmill or stepper

Weights = Machine exercises (chest press, pec dec, rows, leg extensions, leg curls etc.), bicep curls,tricep pushdowns

Abs = Situps, crunches, side crunches, cycles, leg raises and everything else that works the abs!

I have one advice for you… stop freakin kidding yourself!

The Recipe:

You have got to start looking as fitness as a product! For the most part, fitness, like anything else, obeys some basic laws. Ya know, something like consistent effort + good nutrition + recovery = results.

So¬† if you have been working out consistently for a while but haven’t got the results you are looking for, you have the recipe to blame.¬† While I need much more information to figure out what exactly is wrong, I’m pretty sure it is one (or more) of the following.

  • The ingredients
  • The quality of ingredients
  • The prep
  • The procedure
  • The cooking time

The Ingredients:

If A + B + C = D, you need A, B and C to get D.

Let’s take the example of a cake. For a basic cake you need sugar, butter, flour and eggs. Each one of these ingredients play an indipensible role and you can’t really do without any one of these. Similarly, for general fitness you NEED the following.

  • Strength training
  • Endurance training (aerobic and anaerobic)
  • Mobility work
  • Rest

Sure, you can make the cake more fancy by adding in other stuff and/or by varying the proportions of the different ingredients, but you ain’t going no where without the basic “necessary” ingredients.

Bottom line – Get your basics right. Include full body strength training, endurance training and mobility drills in your workouts.

But what about abs you ask… read this awesome post by Arvind to know everything about abs I say!

The Quality:

Low quality ingredients = Crappy product

Pretty simple logic really. It doesn’t matter how cutting edge everything else is, but if your ingredients are crap, your product will be sub par. So quality of ingredients is paramount!

You know how, more often than not, good quality ingredients cost more? Similarly, a good exercise uses as many muscles as possible, forces you to move in as many planes as possible and hence is metabolically more demanding than other low quality exercises. For strength training, this means squats instead of leg press, pushups or dumbbell presses instead of pec dec and pullups or inverted rows instead of lat pulldowns. And for endurance training? Same deal! Stop watching TV and get off the damn elliptical machine. Go out and run a 10k or do some 800 m repeats instead. You dig?

Bottom line – When choosing an exercise, choose the best there is!

The Prep:

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Decide which days you want to workout, where and what time. Put it on your calender like you will when you schedule a meeting. As a bonus, find a friend/colleague/stranger who plans on working out around the same time and has similar goals.

Bottom line – Plan your workouts!

The Procedure:

Get in. Do your thing. Get out.

If you did all the previous steps right, you should find yourself in the gym/training area by now. Sure I can write a 5000 word blog post talking about training but let’s save that for another day. For now I’ll just say – at this point it is just a matter of actually doing the workout!¬† Simple… not easy… but simple.

Bottom line – Look away from the TV. Throw out your cellphone. Stay in the moment. Focus. Give it your best effort. Nothing more nothing less.

The Cooking:

Meat or muscle… you’ve got to let it rest if you want the best!

If you have been eating right and training consistently and smart, but you’re not still not seeing results, there is only one missing piece to this puzzle – Recovery. Any kind of exercise induced adaptation happens away from the gym. Be it muscle growth or neuromuscular coordination or endurance, rest and recovery determine how well your body responds to the stimulus it has been provided.

Bottom line – Chill out on rest days. Let your body do it’s thing!

Like everything else, fitness too has a recipe. Do the right things in the right order at the right time and you will get the results you desire.

Peace out!

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