Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The 30-Day Diet Challenge

If you’ve read a few of my blog posts you’ve probably noticed that I lay a lot of blame on modern industrial foods for causing much of the health problems that Americans (and the industrialized world) suffer from today. I’ve even identified the seven most deadly foods that you should seriously consider avoiding.

But many who have removed the seven deadly foods will still suffer from lingering problems caused by unknown food sensitivities (or allergies). And not all food sensitivity reactions are obvious, such as coughing, hives, or a swollen throat. Some people may have one or more of the following symptoms when problematic foods are eaten:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Constipation
  • Emotional instability
  • Excess body fat
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Heart burn
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Indigestion
  • Irritability
  • Mental depression
  • Mental fog
  • Migraines
  • Muscle weakness
  • Overweight
  • Stomach Ulcers
  • Underweight
  • Weakened immune system

Often, people suffering from these symptoms will not associate them with food sensitivities. Instead, because they cannot find the true cause of their symptoms, they may just suffer in silence, using supplements or drugs to get some temporary relief. This prompted me to put together this 30-Day Diet Challenge.

The Challenge
The sole purpose of this diet challenge is to help you figure out which foods are hurting your body and causing health problems and which are not. Ultimately, you will be able to create your own personalized food sensitivity list.

It is entirely possible that once all problematic foods are removed, you can find complete relief from some or all of the symptoms listed above. (1) If after the challenge you continue to suffer from some of these symptoms, you will know that the issues are not caused by diet and can look at other possible causes.

This diet challenge is pretty simple (although not necessarily easy). For only 30 days, your diet will be EXTREMELY strict, avoiding all foods that are either evolutionarily new (e.g., wheat, milk) or are common allergens (e.g., soy, tree nuts, shell fish). The diet then targets any weak areas in your nutrient intake and gut health (which is a critical part of your digestive and immune systems).

Because this challenge is resetting your diet, there is absolutely no cheating during the challenge and all rules must be followed exactly (no picking and choosing the rules you don’t want to follow).

After day 30, you will start re-introducing excluded foods one by one to see if you are sensitive. I describe a heart rate technique at the end of this post that you can use to detect even the slightest sensitivity. Once your list of food sensitivities has been compiled, you will have your own customized diet that is perfect just for you.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

How to Build Muscle and Strength, Part 3: Nourishing Muscle (and the rest of your body!)

So far in this series I've talked about how some exercise techniques can efficiently increase your muscle mass and strength. In this post, I'll talk about how a high-quality diet allows those techniques to work more effectively (because exercise can only get you half way to a stronger body). Without proper nutrition, you cannot develop the muscle mass and strength you crave.

Actually, let me belabor this last point a bit more. Today, most people turn to supplements when looking to build muscle or enhance athletic performance. While a few supplements can be used to help achieve some of these goals, they can't reproduce what a simple, high-quality diet can accomplish.

But how do you define a high-quality diet? Is it low-fat or low-carb? Does it include animal foods, saturated fat, and cholesterol? Should it also include grains and vegetable oils? What about supplementing with multi-vitamins? This post attempts to answer all of these questions (and more).

Just be forewarned, this post is pretty long because basic nutrition isn’t something you can effectively condense down into a one or two page post. But it shouldn’t take you long to read because I move quickly from one section to the next. I have also provided many, many references and links (more than 210!) if you have questions about something that I mentioned.

If you just want the bottom line of what to eat to maximize your health just skip down to the conclusion.

Your Nutrient Sources
Before I jump into the essential nutrients you need to eat every day, I’ll start by covering the foods that you should eat every day. These foods, if properly prepared, will supply you with all the nutrients your body needs to be fit and resist disease. These nutrients are vitamins, dietary minerals, protein, fat, and water.

So what are we supposed to eat? As omnivores, humans have been adapted to eating plants, animals, and insects for about 2.6 to 1.5 million years. (1) More recently, humans also adapted to getting nutrients from starchy plants, dairy, and grains. (2,3)

By far, the biggest advantage an omnivore has is not only flexibility with acquiring essential nutrients (which enhances survival), as well as making use of non-essential but healthful nutrients (e.g., antioxidants, phytonutrients).

Which Foods to Eat
It would be nice if we could all just eat one superfood that would have all the essential and non-essential nutrients that enable us to be healthy. Unfortunately, no one food source can provide all essential and non-essential nutrients. As such, any healthful diet will make use of a broad range of foods.

Overall, the best food sources are:
  • Animal foods. Animals provide the best source of easily digestible high-quality protein that contains all the essential amino acids required by humans. (4) Animal foods also provide superior forms of fat-soluble vitamins (e.g., vitamins A, D3, and K2), (5,6,7) dietary minerals (e.g., iron, zinc, calcium), (8) and are the only dietary source of vitamin B12. (9)
  • Edible plant foods are a rich source of certain water-soluble vitamins (e.g., vitamin C), as well as safe starches and sugars, soluble fiber, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. A few plant foods can also provide complete protein (most do not).
  • Some funguses can provide essential vitamins and a source of complete protein. (10)
  • Healthful probiotic bacteria found in fermented plant and animal foods (e.g., yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir) can improve and support gut health. (11) Although probiotics are not technically an essential nutrient, their positive effect on good gut bacteria can help produce a few essential nutrients (e.g., biotin, vitamin K). And poor gut health has been connected to a host of degenerative diseases. (12,13)