Category Archives: Nutrition

Is Organic Really Better for You?

Now a days we’re seeing organic everything. Even clothes come in organic options. Maybe it nurtures that part in us that wants to make the world a better place. Or maybe it just gives us a slight sense of moral superiority? Either way, it’s time to dig a little deeper into what “Organic” really means.

Organic Isn’t the whole story

Although organic is a much better choice than factory farmed meats and vegetables, its not quite the slam dunk it’s been marketed to be. I’d be wrong to assume products labeled “Organic” are of the highest quality. It really comes down to the practices of the farm. I know this may sound like just another step you have to take in the endless journey of food options, but since eating is the one thing we’ll never stop doing, a little research goes a long way.

According to the USDA Organic vegetables must be grown in soil that has been free of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides for 3 years prior to harvest. As far as vegetables go this is about as much as we can hope for. Unless you want to grow your own garden which of course I think is awesome if you have the time.

Meat, poultry and eggs are a different story. This is where I’m skeptical of the “organic” labeling. There are advantages however, especially from an animal cruelty standpoint. The USDA requires “that animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors (like the ability to graze on a pasture), fed 100% organic feed, forage, and not administered antibiotics or hormones.”

All great stuff as long as the farmers actually commit to these practices. From a nutritional standpoint the argument for organic is a little less compelling.

Organic Is More Nutritious, Right?

According to a 2012 publication by Harvard’s Medical School “Researchers discovered very little difference in nutritional content, aside from slightly higher phosphorous levels in many organic foods. Organic produce did have the slight edge in food safety, with 30% lower pesticide residues than conventional foods. Organic chicken and pork were also about a third less likely to contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria than conventionally raised chicken and pork. However, the bacteria that causes food poisoning were equally present in both types of foods.”

So it appears that the main upside with organic is better treatment of animals and lower levels of pesticides. A big plus! However, pasture raised animals in my opinion is still the optimal choice. This is where we see the highest levels of nutrition, the least amount of animal cruelty and the most environmentally sustainable farming practices. Go Pastured!

Justin Schollard

justin_03971.jpg


Lose Weight Fast With a Zone Paleo Hybrid

Hey tribe, question for ya…

What motivates you to get to the gym everyday? Health? Strength and stamina? What about looking good in a bathing suit? For that matter, how about looking good naked? Bingo!

That’s totally ok.. It’s not a bad thing to want to look good. Appearance is a powerful motivator. Obviously it can be taken too far as with anything, but I think its fair to say that one of the biggest reasons we get our butts to class day in and day out, put ourselves through the wringer with exercise and diet is to make us feel more confident about our appearance.

We all have desires; career, relationship, personal, etc. Coming into this world to create the life we want and mastering one’s self is the code we get to spend our lifetime cracking.

That means what you choose to eat is just as important as what you choose to do for a living or how you choose to spend your free time. All too often I see members and clients alike showing up to workout with admirable consistency, yet remain physically unchanged after months, sometimes years of dedicated training.

A little subtle probing almost always reviles the answer; poor diet. Not surprising really, and theoretically easy to fix. However, we are creatures of habit, and despite our best intentions we all too often resort back to default patterns.

So, what do we do?

Given the undisputed evidence supporting a sound diet, first we need to get clear on what diet is going to best support our unique goals and body type. Next, we need to set ourselves up for success.

Don’t look at a new diet as a complete sea change that happens overnight. Otherwise you’ll be left with a formidable void that will no doubt find you in a moment of weakness elbow deep in a box of your favorite snack just days into your resolution.

Instead, think of crowding out the bad with the good. For example: Just commit to eating a salad everyday. Once that becomes the new norm try adding in a few extra glasses of water throughout your day. Once thats no longer a problem, incorporate eggs or a protein shake for breakfast, and Presto!

Within a few short weeks your new diet is in full effect with no trace of that evil void.

Once you’ve reached the basics of nutrition I just mentioned and are ready to take it to the next level, there are 2 diets in my opinion as a trainer for 10 years that have reigned supreme in terms of efficacy and overall heath.

Paleo and Zone

First, lets talk Paleo

In a nut shell (no pun intended) its meat, vegetables, nuts, seeds and some fruit. The idea being that we as humans did the majority of our genetic evolution during the paleolithic area where our hunter/gatherer ancestors lived mainly from tracking and eating plants and animals.

Makes sense, right? Especially when you consider how long evolution takes to make a significant change in a species and the fact that in parts of Africa there are still hunter gatherer tribes alive today.

In the book “Born to run” author Christopher Mcdougall lays out a compelling case that humans are in fact, endurance predators. With our unique self cooling ability to sweat combined with our Achilles tendon and nuchal ligaments which are mainly found on running animals, along with both type 1 & type 2 muscle fibers.

Type 1 being for long distance running and type 2 being for explosive sprints or “going in for the kill” as McDougall calls it.

A study in the Journal Of Applied Physiology Vol. 104 compliments this theory by showing the surge in hormones we experience while sprinting. Quadrupeds (4 legged animals) especially hoofed ones have no ability to self cool as they run and therefor can only run short distances before they must stop to recover, giving humans (or endurance predators) the evolutionary advantage when it came to tracking and catching them. We would literally run them to death.

In my opinion this diet works wonders for people looking to drop weight and get healthy. The biggest reason is because there are no grains or sugar which are arguably the biggest cause of our current health epidemics. Once you become “fat adapted” as Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple calls it, you turn into a fat burning machine.

However, I think even Sisson would agree that an “ultra low carb diet” under 100 grams a day, isn’t necessarily the best option for performance athletes. For this I would recommend:

The ZONE Diet

This ones a little trickier. It involves a calorie ratio of 40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat, eaten in portions called “blocks”.

Each block consists of 9g of carbs, 7g of protein and 3g of fat. The number of blocks you eat depends on your size.

All foods are categorized and its up to you to pick the type of proteins/carbs/fats you wish to eat and measure them out in proper potion sizes bases on the number of blocks you should be eating. You need a healthy foundation in task management for this one. However, if you are an athlete who’s exerting energy as fast as you’re consuming it, then this diet may give you the competitive edge you need to keep performing.

The reason I wouldn’t recommend the 40/30/30 ratio or “zone” diet unless you’re consistently training hard 4 or more times a week is because carbohydrates are fast energy, pure and simple.

Unfortunately our evolution hasn’t caught up to modern abundance yet, and therefor our bodies are still wired for scarcity. Meaning that as a survival mechanism we store that extra unused energy (carbs) as body fat until the day comes when we need it. The reality is that day rarely, if ever comes, but the stockpile keeps building.

The Ultimate Combo Zone AND Paleo (Zoleo?)

Personally, what works great for me is a hybrid between the two. I avoid grains especially ones containing gluten, but because I am a coach, athlete and inherently thin guy, I maintain a moderate level of carbohydrates in my daily diet. I keep it around 150 grams a day. Mainly from yams, rice and some fruit. I try to keep my protein levels north of 150 grams a day and eat all the nuts and vegetables I want.

If you look at ZONE and Paleo as dietary parameters, or a continuum of sorts, you can gage which direction to lean toward based on your exertion levels. For instance; If your goal is pure performance then you might want to turn your dial more towards Zone, but if you look at exercise a bit more casually, but want to stay trim then shifting your diet towards Paleo will be your best option. If you’re like me then you’ll most likely land somewhere in the middle.

Happy eating


Is ALL Bread bad?

 Is all bread really that bad for us?

The question of whether someone should eat bread often surfaces when discussing carbohydrates in a diet. Humans have been consuming bread for over 6,000 years and have had an affinity for the stuff ever since the first person got the idea to mix ground up wheat flour with water and bake the doughy byproduct. The smell alone instantly reminds us of home even though most of our parents probably didn’t bake it. To paraphrase Michael Pollan from his book “Cooked” real estate agents often recommend baking a loaf before showing your house to fill the air with the nostalgic smell of fresh baked bread.

Unless you are fortunate enough to live near an authentic baker chances are the bread you’re eating today is a far cry from what humans were surviving, thriving and even writing poetry about up until the last century. The reason is quite simply; baking bread is hard, at least the traditional sourdough way. It’s way more of a craft than it is a simple process of measuring the exact ingredients together in a bowl. Real bread and the cultures that make it delicious are a living breathing thing that need coaxing into fruition. Because of this, baking bread at home became less and less realistic as americans began to work more and more and as with any commercialized convenience, big corporation jumped at the chance to pick up the slack and do the work for us. This is where it all went to shit. See, plain sourdough or any bread for that matter only requires a few ingredients, but its the chemistry of these ingredients that make it something to celebrate. You cant live off of flour but you can live off of bread.

 In the beginning all bread was sourdough and was made by letting unbleached flour and water collect bacteria by sitting out in a bowl under a cloth.  Eventually the mixture would collect the appropriate air born microbes required to create the wild yeast cultures. A fermentation process then begins and the various bacteria in the culture raise the acidity levels creating that distinctive tangy taste in baked sourdough as well as improve its resistance to mold and staling. True sourdough is much more nutritious than what most of us consider to be bread today. The unbleached flour and slight fermentation slows down the absorption rate into the blood stream there by giving it a lower glycemic index than the sliced loaves we’re a custom to now a days. This helps keep our insulin levels down by not raising our blood sugar levels so rapidly. The problem with the Wonder Bread brands of today is the use of bleached flour, commercial single strain yeast and added sugar for improved flavor. Wild yeast takes time and is hard to create at mass scale. Commercial yeast on the other hand is much more predictable and can easily be replicated to produces huge quantities in a short period of time in order to satisfy the demands of a carb addicted culture. Unfortunately, the big corporate advertising dollars worked and the majority of americans now picture perfectly cut bleach white slices in a plastic bag when the think of bread. It may satisfy our carb fix but does more harm than good by leaving us calorically rich but nutritionally poor.

How Many Carbs Should I Eat?

Researchers are linking the alarming consumption of processed flour with the rise of gluten intolerance and celiacs disease. My feeling is that bread, in and of its self, made from the best ingredients the old fashioned way absolutely falls into the “sensible indulgence” category. However, the commercialization of it has rendered the stuff harmful to our health and a major reason we are experiencing metabolic epidemics in the developed word. Although we all love it, I would recommend taking a very close look at the source before purchasing any kind.

In his book “Grain Brain” neurologist David Perlmutter, MD rattles our conventional beliefs about the consumption of carbohydrates in general and grains in particular. He reveals clinical evidence linking the over consumption of grains and sugars to dementia, ADHD, chronic headaches, depression and scientifically proves how our mind and body thrive from cholesterol to the contrary. He argues that by simply removing grains from our diet we can undue the majority of the health problems the modern world faces. By eating a diet rich in fats and cholesterol we actually active our “smart genes” and spur the growth of new brain cells at any age. A feat the was widely considered impossible for adults to do until the early 2000s.

I guess what this really boils down to is the understanding of carbohydrate’s effect on the mind and body. Carbs are a tool. What I mean by that is if you are an athlete recovering from an intense training session then sports science points to around 30 grams of carbs as the optimal amount to replenish your glycogen levels post workout especially if you intend to train again that day. For athletes, 200-300 grams of carbohydrates a day from high quality sources like quinoa, yams and sprouted rices are perfectly legit to maintain high levels of performance. However, If you are spending the majority of your day sedentary and /or trying to loose body fat than triple digit daily carb intake will have an extremely different effect on you than the athlete. Inflammation and high triglyceride levels are much more of a threat for this person because their body is in a constant state of “storage mode”.

High carbohydrate consumption combined with extremely low activity levels is a recipe for type II diabetes. A completely unnecessary disease that is the result of the insulin receptors on our muscle dying off causing insulin resistance because there’s no more room in the muscles for all the carbs we’re eating. Since insulin is a storage hormone and needs to put those calories somewhere body fat accumulation is the only other option. Excess glucose in the blood and higher body fat levels begins to cause inflammation int he arteries; a huge biomarker for heart disease. The pancreas can’t keep us with all the insulin demands and eventually burns out. At this point you are now injecting insulin with a syringe and have officially graduated to type II diabetes. A completely preventable epidemic.

How do we know how many carbs to eat then? Let movement dictate consumption. If you think of movement in a continuum with “extremely active” on one end and “coach potato” on the other, dial your daily carb intake to fuel your lifestyle. My opinion is always err on the side of low carb especially if you’re struggling to lose weight or keep it off. Adjusting slightly higher if needed, but never from sugar or refined carbohydrates.

Justin Schollard


Take a second look at saturated fats

 

 

Microsoft PowerPoint - Presentation1

 

When it comes to fat a simple walk down the aisle of any grocery store reveals literally dozens of choices. Everything from Olive oil, canola oil, Coconut oil, Grape seed oil, Palm oil,  etc…  All of which claiming to be your option and in some way shape or form “better” than the other guys. Stroll over to the refrigerated section and again we’re confronted with a slew of other fat choices: Butter, margarine, cheese, half and half etc… So whats one to do? Who’s telling the truth when it comes to healthy fats? Well, one thing is for sure; the common beliefs about fat is way off target.

This blog is specifically about saturated fats and why we shouldn’t avoid them.

Saturated Fat:

Animal fat such as butter, cream, lard, eggs, beef (grass fed of course) and even coconut oil are a few examples of saturated fats. You’ll notice that all of these fats remain solid at room temperature and the reason for this is simple; a fat is considered “saturated” Or “filled-up” when the chain of carbon atoms are fully “saturated” with a hydrogen atoms. Thus blocking oxidation, allowing no room for rancidity to take place and making it “shelf stable” or “solid”. That’s it. Not because it was created in a lab by a bunch of mad scientists plotting the end of man kind (although the demonization of it by current conventional wisdom would have you thinking otherwise). It’s actually some of the most naturally occurring stuff out there. Especially compared to some of its competition. Yes, I know what you’re thinking.. “what about cholesterol??” right? Well, lets not forget that only about 25% of the cholesterol in your body actually comes from your diet. The remaining 75% is produced in the liver and secreted into the body when necessary, and although saturated fat raises LDL (“bad cholesterol”) studies prove it also raises HDL (“good cholesterol”) too! Which is absolutely essential to your cognitive and physical health. So before you carve saturated fats out of your diet keep in mind that according to scientist Dr. Loren Cordain author of The Paleo Diet, over 50% of the calories consumed by our hunter-gatherer  ancestors came from saturated fats found in animals. That means that for nearly a quarter of a million years of evolution we ate saturated fats. You can see why I find it so absurd to suggest that all of a sudden the human body is incapable metabolizing it and subsequently getting heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol and you name it from eating animals? All of which in the last 100 years of our existence? …Nah. I mean, it couldn’t possibly be from processed/bleached flour, grain, high fructose corn syrup, puffed wheat, genetically engineered crops and hydrogenated oils could it? C’mon, That’s just silly. Those billion dollar multi-national corporations would never sell toxic products right? Ha.

Ok enough on that. FYI, watch the documentary “Food Inc.” if you haven’t already. It’s a masterful depiction of the current state of our food industry.

Not all saturated fats are high in Cholesterol however. Take Coconut oil for example. Coconut oil is a medium chain triglyceride (MCT). meaning it absorbs quickly in the body and doesn’t stick to the walls of arteries like some longer chain fatty acids might do. Coconut oil is really proving itself to be a miracle food. Not only does it provide all the antioxident and  health benefits of saturated fats from animals with out the potential down side, but recent studies are revealing anti-cancer affects as well. It is also being shown to regulate blood sugar by slowing the absorbion of sugar in the small intestines as well as promoting a healthy digestive system. Brain health and other cognitive functions are also improved by consuming coconut oil on a regular basis. Check out these videos on ihealthtube.com for some great information on coconut oil and all its benefits.

As with anything in life moderation seems to be the answer. We can’t gorge on bacon and cheese all day just like we can’t continue to follow an out dated food pirimid that has been debunked several times since its creation in the 1970s. Most notably by  Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and one of the foremost childhood-obesity researchers in the U.S. in his outstanding lecture entitled Sugar: The Bitter Truth. Which highlights the inverse relationship between a lower national fat consumption over the past 30 years, yet an increase in the metabolic diseases that were supposed to be associated with fat consumption. The answer: as fat consumption decreased, sugar consumption soared resulting in unprecedented health epidemics.

My opinion: A healthy balance of high quality proteins, vegetables and nuts with a small amount of carbohydrates (100 grams or less a day) mainly from rice and yams seems to be the winning recipe for me and most of my clients. Only a series of blood tests can tell you for sure how your body handles a higher fat diet but from what I’ve seen it works wonders.

 

Justin Schollard

 

 


The proper Food Pyramid


The Incredible Egg

Three yolks from two chicken eggs; one of thes...

Image via Wikipedia

Hello There!

I feel like there are more mixed messages about eggs than any other food out there. The other day I was shopping at Trader Joe’s (buying 2 dozen eggs), when I overheard the person behind the free sample booth dishing out mini servings of egg white salads say to a customer “and it’s made with just the egg whites so you’re not getting all that terrible fat and cholesterol.” Wha what?!? It was all I could do to not interrupt this person and publicly debate him on the nutritional properties of eggs and the misconceptions regarding egg yolks… But that wouldn’t have been fair. He was most likely just repeating what he was told by some other misinformed soul. So, I refilled my free mini coffee, continued shopping and knew exactly what I’d be writing about in my next blog.

Yolk or no Yolk?

Lets first dive into exactly what egg yolks do for us and why it’s so important to eat them. We all know that eggs are high in protein (roughly 6-8 grams per egg), and aside from being some of the highest quality protein found in any food, eggs are also packed with vitamins and minerals. The majority of which are found in the yolk! One of the most powerful is an essential nutrient called Choline that according to incredibleeeg.org “contributes to fetal brain developement and helps prevent birth defects. Two eggs provide 250mg of Choline or roughly half of the recommended daily intake for pregnant or breastfeeding women.” Choline also aids in brain function by maintaining the structure of brain cell membranes and helps relay messages from the brain’s neurotransmitters through nerves to the muscles.

Egg yolks also contain two very important antioxidants, Lutein and zeaxanthin, that help prevent age related blindness through higher bioavailability of these antioxidants than other food sources.

Why the bad press?

It’s amazing to me that after all these years and countless studies proving the benefit of eggs the majority of people still shy away from including them, more specifically the yolks, into their daily diets. A major reason why foods like eggs and meat have been demonized for the last century (despite being eaten by every human civilization for the past 250,000 years) is because the founders of our food pyramid (William K. Kellogg ring a bell?) placed breads and grains as the foundation to a healthy diet promoting a low-fat/high fiber diet as your best defense to reducing your chances of getting high cholesterol and/or heart disease caused by saturated fats.. Nothing could be further from the truth.. Want proof? Just take a look at the rate of obesity, heart disease and diabetes in our country today and then take a look at the abundance of carb laden foods and snacks everywhere you turn especially in our school cafeterias. W. K. Kellogg was a smart business man and knew that people, as we often do, associate a brand with quality. Especially in a time when research in this area was very minimal and information was hard to come by. Fast forward a hundred years and many of us are still hanging on to that old belief that carbohydrates should make up the majority of our caloric intake despite health the epidemics related to processed grains popping up like wildfire. 

Bottom line: The food pyramid is upside down. The fats that come from eggs and meats are essential to our biology. Our bodies use it to make hormones, regulate blood sugar and assimilate proteins to name a few.

What about all that cholesterol?

According to a 2010 study by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) the amount of cholesterol in a single egg is 14% lower than previously recorded and the amount of vitamin D is 64% higher. According to the American Heart Association, your genetic makeup determines how much cholesterol your body will produce – not your diet.  Your liver produces about 75% of your total cholesterol which your body needs for digestion and creation of certain hormones, the remaining 25% comes from food.  So, if you’re already genetically pre-disposed to high cholesterol then 4 eggs a day might be a bit much, but the benefits of including 1 or 2 to your diet far out way any risks that may be associated. 

With all the misconceptions about food out there, a good rule of thumb is that if it goes bad it’s probably good for you. Anything with a shelf life is suspect and most likely packed with preservatives and artificial ingredients. When it comes to something as naturally occurring as an egg, I would advise anyone without reservation to enjoy in abundance. So trade in your puffed wheat cereal (a.k.a. poison) and try a couple of eggs for breakfast. It’ll be the best decision you made all day.

To your health,
Justin Schollard


Sugar, pasta, bread: Stay away!

Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (saccharose)

Image via Wikipedia

I recently received the following email from a new reader and thought I’d share what I wrote with everyone…



Hi Justin,

My friend forwarded me your blog link. I was wondering when you say to not eat sugar, are you talking refined/processed sugar or also things like bread, pasta, potatoes (carbs)? By the way, what is your take on baked potatoes? Awesome blog!
Thanks,
B


Hi B,
Thank you for the email, its a great question.
No matter what your fitness goal is always remember one thing; sugar is the enemy! Regardless of the form it comes in sugar is going to significantly hinder your dieting objectives. Yes, some sugars are worse than others. Naturally occurring sugars in fruit for example are definitely a healthier choice than say a bag of skittles, but if we really get down to it what are we trying to achieve by eating fruits in the first place? The answer is nutrition. So, if the same if not more nutrition can be attained elsewhere through things like veggies, SuperFood powders and berries(I know its still fruit but berriesare packed with micro-nutrients and have very little calories) then why ingest the extra 20 grams of sugar you’d get through fruits like apples, oranges, bananas etc…? Bottom line, refined sugars are to be avoided at all costs. Fruits should be eaten in moderation.
Breads, pasta, and rice are also dietary enemies with the sole purpose of wreaking havoc on you metabolism. Don’t be fooled by clever packaging that claims to be a healthy choice. The fact is that these forms of carbs are essentially processedand bleached of all their nutritional value. Even if its “organic whole wheat” remember that that’s only a less-bad option from regular white bread or pasta and not to be mistaken as a health food. Yes, it’ll have some fiber and a few nutrients in it, but again it goes back to my earlier statement about getting those same nutritional qualities elsewhere without all the baggage. Your main source of carbs should come in the form of raw nuts, organic beans, veggies, little fruit, and yes, on occasion a potato. Which is a much better alternative than any flower based carb or rice.
The unprocessed starch in potatoes is great for replenishing glucose stores after a workout, and for people acclimating to a low carb diet it can be a great alternative for getting trough bread/pasta withdraws. Potatoes also have a pretty decent amount of magnesium and potassium as well… But remember the goal is to wing ourselves from using carbs as our main energy source and to switch to burning fat as our fuel. We do this by consuming less carbs and more fats. So, although potatoes are a healthier option moderation is still the key.

Thanks again for the email!

To your health,

Justin Schollard

%d bloggers like this: