It's been quite a ride over these last six years.
Every experiment is a success, because you either know you're right and it's effective, or you know you're wrong and can move onto something else. You learn things in the process either way, such that an ultimately failed experiment still gives insights. The journey has been an overall a success for me, with a number of setbacks along the way. Before I begin, though, let me assure those that poke fun and insult me here and there—like those showing up in my comment queue regularly, whose commentes never get published: you are wasting your time. No further comment on it is necessary. You ought just read this and do an honest self-assessment of what little I think of you in comparison to myself, and what levels of self-confidence I possess in the face of you as a pip-squeak and clown. Or, TL;DR on that link, and see if I care.
I likely would not have done much beyond a simple low carbohydrate, Paleo / Primal diet—combined with intermittent fasting, some supplementation of fat soluble vitamins and a mineral or two, and brief workouts at the gym—if it had worked as anticipated once I had dropped from the 235-240 down to 175 in the first couple of years. But I didn't feel right. Cold hands & feet, mostly. A dulling of the sheen on the thing. Less well being, not more. Back at around 185 I felt better, kinda ideal, actually. Anyway, that's when other troubles began. I took up the Leangains protocol with Martin Berkhan, but due no fault of his, of course—and I was making good progress—I injured myself pretty badly and worlds came tumbling down. In spite of a desire to manage it better, recurrences of the thing over the next two years just kept me out of much of the game, both physically and mentally.
Lots of problems and drama resulted and ensued. Oh, well. The one thing I did, however, was take the opportunity to do a lot of experiments of short duration. Here's a look at my general take on everything going way back, in several categories from most effective to least.
Most Effective Self-Experiments
- Paleo / Primal Eating. It just works: meat, fish, fowl, vegetables, fruits, nuts. Cook only with natural fats (butter, ghee, lard, coconut oil, palm oil, olive oil, etc.). Dump processed foods, especially stuff in boxes, bags, most cans, frozen stuff. Eliminate most grains, refined sugar, vegetable/seed oils.
- Intermittent Fasting. Big one. Just allow yourself to go hungry fairly regularly. Try to have a space of 12 hours daily between last eating at night and first eating in the morning. Extend it to 18-30 hours once or twice per week. Use it as a way to consume less calories on average when trying to improve body composition (gain or keep lean, lose fat) and as a way to put your body into a state of autophagy once you have your desired body composition. You do this by simply shifting all your average required feeding into windows. It's not about chronic under feeding.
- Supplementation. Vitamin D. Vitamin K2 (MK-4). Magnesium. Small list. Get as much sensible bare skin time in the sun as you can.
- Lift Heavy Things in Compound Ways. Just not too much. Not too often. Short duration of no more than 30-40 minutes when you do. Combine weight lifting and intermittent fasting (lift near the end of your fast); if not every time, lots of the time.
- Corn Tortillas, Rice & Potatoes. Grains & Evil: redundancy. But none are anything like a staple for me—I dislike the whole notion of staple food, actually, which just means "cheap, so we eat it all the time." All work for me very well and makes it easy to stay away from wheat and other grains that make me feel awful. I probably do more corn tortillas (ingredients: corn, water, lime, that's all) than rice or potatoes in total carbage, but the tortillas are so awesome as a substitute for bread or crackers and can be used as a reasonable carb delivery vehicle for almost anything (even sauerkraut & tuna salad, or sardines, or smoked oysters). I'm sold on them; never touch flour ones, ever. Get those in your diet and watch how little bread or pizza cheats you do—you can even make corn tortilla pizzas...open face quesadilla, basically.
- Resistant Starch. This is really my final experiment I know of. I'm still doing it, and will always be doing it. It's a dicey deal to get started with, however. Two posts so far, here & here. I'll be kicking off a couple of posts very soon, so I'll leave discussion for that.
Moderately Effective Self-Experiments
- Low-Carbohydrate Dieting. Sorry folks, and I know many swear by it and diabetics may require it; but for me the whole strict LC deal as a lifestyle just leaves me wanting. If you have to, or it just works for you and you love it, no beef. That said, it's an effective method for fat loss because of its propensity to satiate, such that you eat less energy—at least up to the point of the 20-30-pound-from-goal stall that's so common. I also eat plenty of zero to VLC meals and they are some of my favorites (lunch yesterday was a plate of leftover fatty ribs...done!). On average, I think most will do better in a more moderate milieu of 100-200g carbs per day—on average!
- Cold Thermogenesis. This was attractive to me long before I even blogged about it, since I had a gym with a 45 degree cold plunge and I'd worked myself up to 12-15 minutes post-workout. Invigorating. Improves recovery time. Makes you feel like a fucking Viking, ready to smash in heads with large heavy mallets! But as a daily deal? Nah. Bags of ice cubes in your bathtub? Nah. Profound body composition improvement? Nah. Use Intermittent Fasting for that. Nowadays, I go over to the pool almost every day and lightly tread water in the deep end until it gets boring (10-30 minutes, usually). Then I walk laps around the pool in the sun. All that said, zero harm or risk in it. If you like laying in ice water every day, do it. Pour in a bottle of JD and bring a straw!
- Leangains. It's a great program, but more designed for the young & restless. It's less of a whole lifestyle, to me, than it is a regimented body-building program (the best on the plannet for natural body builders; and Marin Berkhan is the smartest asshole taskmaster around for that sort of thing—he takes no shit or excuses from anyone, any time, which is what you need). It's not just the grueling workout protocol, it's also the eating, especially the high protein. You have to count calories, or you have to go home. ...So, if I was a 20 or 30-something focussed mostly on my appearance and being at the top, LG is the way to go. No doubt. I'm not, so for me, it's in the moderately effective category.
Low-Effective Self-Experiments (but high on learning)
- The Potato Diet. This is really more of a hack and I always referred to it as such. If you love potatoes and want to get over your love of them in a hurry, then this is the deal for you. It's simply not a total way of eating for most. But, it is a way for most people to drop a lot of weight fast while eating as much as they can eat. Very effective in that regard. Short term hack at best, so low-effectiveness if our aim is sustainable lifestyle.
- The Milk & Kefir Diet. Basically the same issue. It's not a long-term lifestyle, just a hack. It's for this reason alone I place it here, and not in the other categories. Because, I learned a ton doing this. 1) The bioavailability, perfect macro-nutrient proportions, and micro-nutrient profile all combine to make one understand what it feels like mentally to be truly well-fed qualitatively. 2) It crashes cravings for typically addictive substances like alcohol. I really think someone ought to use a whole raw milk & kefir diet in addiction intervention. 3) It's very hypertrophic. Toss out all the powders. Whole milk is where it's at for me. I watched my body composition change back to where I basically was, and I wan't even hitting the gym much. You can grow lean mass sitting on your ass if you do it right (use milk as a substitute for normal food calorie-for-calorie).
- Beans / Legumes. I didn't actually blog about this much or any, and it was very short term. I'm on the fence (same as with milk) on the suitability of legumes in a Paleo / Primal context. They have decent nutrition, good protein, decent prebiotic fiber, including resistant starch. You can use traditional soaking methods to reduce fartage. All that said, I find I like beans in small doses intermittently, not as a staple food. Dose makes the poison, eh? For me, the breakfast portion of about 3" diameter on a plate, along with eggs & breakfast meat is perfect, gives me zero trouble. Take that to a big bowl, and it becomes unpleasant generally.
So What Now?
Pretty much full circle with more knowledge and experience. In one sense, there's perhaps not much need beyond the basic template of Paleo / Primal, some IF, a few supplements, and intermittent lifting of heavy things. On the other hand, I see and believe things will be better and more sustainable for me going forward by incorporating in measure some of the stuff I've experimented with. So, my own take on Pareto's Principle or, "The 80/20 Rule." Your mileage may vary, of course.
- Minimize indulgences, especially eating in restaurants.
- Minimizing indulgences—to include so-called "Paleo indulgences"—is best accomplished by incorporating a few non-Paleo foods for better variety and for me, satiation and diminished desire to indulge: potatoes, corn tortillas, white rice, fruit juices in sane doses (e.g., 4-6 oz OJ in the morning, mixed with kefir), raw milk, kefir, intermittent beans/legumes in small portions.
- Reduce meat portions and protein in general, made up for by the increase in these sane carbohydrates. I quite like two of the small, 5" corn tortillas with a total of about 4 heaping teaspoons of 80/20 ground beef taco meat between them. The taco meat is cooked low & slow, with the seasoning taking up all the fat. No skimming the fat. Keeps me going for many hours.
- Keep typical staples like potatoes, corn, white rice, and beans to small portions not eaten every day. Mix things up a lot.
- Prefer getting good amounts of exposed skin in the sun over supplementing D. Do both, just don't sacrifice sun time because you take a pill. Trust me. No pill will give you the sense of well being that comes from 20-30 minutes full sun exposure if you can get it.
- Focus on nutritional density. Big portions of meat, lean or fatty, is not it. Organ meats are it. Sardines, oysters, mussels, clams, raw milk, kefir.
- Prefer stews, soups, braises, slow-cooker dishes to grilling all the time.
- Get a true feeling of hunger regularly, then go a few more hours. Extend that to 24-30 hours sometimes, but probably at least once every couple of weeks. This is easy when otherwise well fed, with attention to nutritionally dense foods (the Real "Superfoods.")
- Focus on a handful of good compound exercises that are moderately heavy for you, 1-2 sets each; 1-2 times per week at the upper end; once every 2-3 weeks at the lower end. I do deadlifts, leg press, seated upright cable row, pulldowns (done as chin-ups), chest press machine, and shoulder press machine. It's all I need. Do it fasted sometimes or as often as you go.
- Get in the pool as often as you can. Tread water lightly instead of swimming vigorously. Swimming vigorously kills fat burn and goes to glucose/glycogen, according to Ray Cronise. Don't take a hot shower after, or get in the Jacuzzi. Don't even towel off. Air dry while walking laps around the pool in the sun, as though you're on a rotisserie. Bonus if you go when a breeze is blowing.
- If you tolerate dairy and in particular milk, use milk & kefir as your go-to daily nutritional density supplement (liver once per week, too). 20 oz per day should be plenty, twice or three times that after a workout and over the proceeding 24 hours.
- Pay attention to your gut. This is the big blind spot and missing link in Paleo. "Probiotics" give you expensive shit; that's all. You need prebiotics, primarily of the sort that can get all the way through your colon (large intestine) without having been previously digested in the small intestine. Resistant starch is the ticket for that. Moreover, resistant starch taken with a probiotic like kefir will actually protect the bacteria through the stomach and small intestine, such that they can actually get to your colon and take root. But this is the topic for my next two posts.
- Ditch the scale. I haven't stepped on one in a couple of months, instead focussing on various markers of body composition. I'll eventually step on the thing but not until I'm satisfied with my body composition. I don't need any distractions.
OK, that's about it. My next post will be about the tons and tons of research into Resistant Starch in the last 30 years that's not financed by someone with a financial interest. I've collected a veritable shitload, thanks to the help of commenter, retired Air Force, Arctic Circle living, lay digger upper of research papers: "tatertot." Following that will be a post cataloging my own results over the last couple of months, as well as that of many others including my T2D mom.
Both tatertot & I firmly agree that resistant starch is an enormous blind spot in Paleo. Go look at what they find in human shit fossils (coprolites). Hint: not a full rack of ribs and a side of salad dressed in olive oil and balsamic.