Friday, April 11, 2014

Paleo Diet starting places and recipe resources.

A friend of mine texted me the other day saying she was going to get back on board with Paleo and gluten free. She was wondering if I had any good resources for recipes and so forth. I get asked this question a lot and, since I haven't published my own book on this stuff, I thought I finally talk about some resources that I like and use. Personally, I don't really use recipes or cookbooks much as I think it's more important to know what foods are Paleo, and then I just put the foods together I think will taste good combined.

First off, I have a few go-to resources I like. I think the two thought leaders in the ancestral health movement are Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf. Mark has written a great book called The Primal Blueprint and runs a great website at He has great recipes and testimonials and a ton of other really great content. While he uses the term "Primal", he means paleo, though he is more moderate in that he advocates an 80/20 approach; especially as it relates to dairy. He's a slightly older gentleman who is a former elite triathlete and really approaches the subject matter from a health and longevity perspective.

Robb Wolf is a former research scientist and is my personal guru when it comes to Paleo. Robb runs a great website with a lot of research articles and how-to articles at He has also written a superb book called The Paleo Solution. He has some great tips in his Quick Start Guide. Robb covers subject matter ranging from curing disease (i.e. autoimmune disease like MS, eczema, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, etc...) to fueling workouts to losing weight.

Finally, a gentleman named John Durant has written a great book called The Paleo Manifesto. It covers a lot of the thought behind Paleo and a whole lot more. There aren't really any recipes or much of a how-to, but it really discusses the thought behind the model.

Loren Cordain is the kind of the God Father of the Paleo movement in the US. He wrote the Original The Paleo Diet and has a great website at There are some great Online resources on his website.

Here are some cookbooks that are easy to find and use out there. Any Barnes and Noble will have some or all of these.

Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals

Primal Cravings - this cookbook talks about how to make your favorite foods Paleo.

Primal Blueprint Cookbook

Paleo Comfort Foods - I like the title and idea of this book. I don't have it but I'd love to get it.

Best Paleo Slow Cooker Recipes - this book I have and it has a lot more than just slow cooker food.

The Paleo Diet Cookbook - this is Loren Cordain's entry and I've heard him talk about it, it sounds like there's quite a bit of his research grounding in it.

There you go folks. These are some of the resources I like. I look at and almost daily. I'd be interested to get your input on them too!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hormones Control Metabolism, not Calories.

Here's a short post today. I realize I haven't been exactly prolific in posting and, for that, I apologize dear readers. There's a lot of dietary/nutritional information out there. And a lot of it is based on the same old conventional wisdom; and a lot of it is just plain wrong. Yes, it's true, clearly we're eating too much of SOMEthing(s) but it's more complex than that. Metabolism has everything to do with weight control and nutrient utilization. 

T-Nation put up and article this morning that I feel really illustrates well how this all works. As with most things in biological systems, it all hinges on the complex interplay of hormones and nutrition. I cannot stress enough how important this is: “@T_Nation: Calories don't control metabolism, hormones do. New article:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Females, carbohydrates and hormones.

(My beautful, strong wife)

A couple I know recently went Paleo. And they went whole hog, cold turkey. He got great results right away and felt fantastic. She, well, it wasn't so smooth. What gives? Here's an interesting article on the interplay in women of carbohydrates (NOT evil) and hormones.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

It's time to talk about CrossFIt a little. It's not CrossFit, it's sport and it's a coaching thing.

It’s time to talk about CrossFit. Recently at a CrossFit sanctioned event, a competitor sustained an injury that resulted in his being paralyzed from the waist down ( This added fuel to a fire that has been growing about the dangers of CrossFit. There is a growing sentiment in the general public that CrossFit is extraordinarily dangerous and that it, as a modality, is producing injuries.

Here’s the thing about CrossFit: Deadlifts, and squats and kettlebell swings are not proprietary CrossFit moves. CrossFit uses very conventional lifts and techniques in very unique and, in most cases, effective ways. But these lifts have been used for decades by lots of different kinds of people for lots of different kinds of reasons. There’s not a high school football player alive who hasn’t done squats or deadlifts. Military bootcamp has had people doing high rep pushups and pullups since time immemorial. Most Olympic athletes have done some Olympic lifting in their careers (i.e. cleans, jerks and snatches).  MMA fighters have been doing high intensity circuit work since the advent of the sport. In any other context these lifts and techniques would not warrant comment. One study (yes, somebody did a study on this stuff) showed that CrossFit'ers sustained 3.1 injuries for every 1000 hours training. Contrast that with runners who have been shown to sustain 30.1 injuries for every 1000 hours training ( In this light, CrossFit is a remarkably safe sport. 

But, CrossFit has been quite vocal about bucking the norms in the industry. They've been trumpeting they're "You're not doing it right" attitude and it's created a stir. Droves of people, experienced exercisers and otherwise, are heading to CrossFit boxes to try it out. When you have a mixed population of members in your gym, coaching becomes massively important. The GOOD boxes have an "on-ramp" program that new members must go through before they ever get to do a "WOD" (work out of the day). This ensures that you don't have novices killing themselves doing deadlifts and kettlebell swings. And it's a good idea. True, not every box does this and I think it's to their detriment. These clients will ultimately end up frustrated or, worse, injured, and are more likely to leave the gym. On-ramp clients are better integrated into the culture of the box and are more durable and will cope with workouts better. The not so good boxes throw everyone in the deep end and have them participating in WODS from day one. Therein lies, in my opinion, the problem. 

At it's inception, CrossFit had really interesting and intelligent programming. The ethos of "Constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity" has merit. With the advent of the CrossFit Games, HQ has veered sharply in the direction of forging elite fitness in a competitive setting. There are those in CrossFit for whom this is appropriate. They're fit, mobile, skilled and well prepared. This is the small minority of the CrossFit population. The vast majority of CrossFit'ers are average Joes/Jills with desk jobs who are woefully underprepared for that level of training. This is where the coaching comes in. Programming in the box should be geared for the lowest common denominator (not flattering I know, sorry). CrossFit likes to say that their model is infinitely scalable and I say that means it can be scaled UP as well as down. 

Poor programming, with poor preparation (and this means warm up and skill work) will lead to poor results for clients or worse, injured clients. It's worth noting that CrossFit imposes no structure on it's box owners. They can run it in anyway they like and program how they see fit. As such there's room for really great programming and for really poor programming. I'll confess that this is why I am so strongly attached to the idea of owning my own CrossFit box. It's my feeling that my coaching experience mixed with my physical therapy experience would uniquely allow me to help my clients excel while avoiding injury and increasing function.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The good, the bad, and the ugly of crossfit.

I posted an article on my LinkedIn page a few weeks ago by Mark Rippetoe on "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of CrossFit." It provoked quite a little debate there. I'm a fan of CrossFit and think that with good coaching and some structure it's an immensely powerful tool for getting fit and strong. For the general public and their fitness needs, I believe it's an appropriate modality (again I must add: with good coaching and progression). If you're at all intrigued by CrossFit, or curious about it, be sure to read the article below. Below is from my LinkedIn page:

  • CrossFit has become an incredibly successful business model. Here's an interesting article contrasting CrossFit: The Business Model and CrossFit: The Methodology.

    •  [Commentator #1] The only thing more trendy than Cross Fit, is people bagging on it. Not really anything interesting in the article. Just like in cycling, there are good coaches who know what is up, and there are idiots with low end certification who have no clue. All fast growing business experience growing pains. It just cracks me up how people need to bag on Cross Fit for what ever reason. less 15d ago

    • [Commentator #2] I thought the article offered a pretty balanced view of the pros and cons of CrossFit. Anything that gets people motivated and moving = good stuff. No, it's not "training" in the true sense of the word, but the definition is not paramount. My worry is about the low-end "trainers" who could cause more harm than good. Interesting article. Thanks for sharing Hugh! less 14d ago
    • Hugh MacEachran
Hugh MacEachran CrossFit is frank and unapologetic about producing generalists. Their emphasis is on what they call General Physical Preparedness (GPP). Strength and power are the cup, everything else is what you put in it. Rippetoe is a well known and credible character in the strength and conditioning community so his opinion matters. He's right in that CrossFit in and of itself won't produce specialists (weightlifters in this case). CJ will agree, however, that when you couple CrossFit with more specific "training" (cycling in CJ's case) the results can be impressive. Since Rip' specializes in weight lifting, he'll obviously be biased in that direction. less 13d ago

    • [Commentator #3] I have a very mixed feelings about CrossFit. I definitely thing that people who compete in CrossFit games are in excellent shape but I also think that as not a good a way to promote fitness and general health. It is not systematic enough and too dangerous for most people. A truly good training program should aim at stimulating your body (muscles, ligaments, cardio vascular system, and of course prepare you mentally) so that the change and progress could occur. CrossFit instead is showcasing their toughness aiming to achieve total and complete annihilation of your body. A good workout is not the one that gets your tired or makes you feel pain, but rather causes progress in your development. less 12d ago

    • [Commentator #3] CrossFit is a good way to test people fitness level but a very poor way to get then in shape. 12d ago

    • Hugh MacEachran
Hugh MacEachran Alexander, your point is well made. However, that's all in the coaching, not in the exercise modality. A good coach, CrossFit or otherwise, will prescribe the most appropriate skill and intensity level for the client. Good CrossFit boxes with good coaching have "on-ramp" programs that steadily, slowly ramp people up to the point where their skill, strength and fitness level can handle the load. CrossFit is infinitely scalable and that's one of the beautiful elements of the model. less 12d ago

  • [Commentator #3] Hugh, you are right. And just like with every rule there are exceptions. I 100% agree that with a good coach who will recognize the developmental needs of an athlete people can get good results. The only problem that I see is vast majority of people who are doing it are not that good. Fundamentally CrossFit was created a way to train military and law enforcement professionals who are supposedly already in a good enough shape. For an average person this style of training poses great risk of injury. I would argue that a traditional strength training protocol would be more appropriate for most beginners while CrossFit should be left for competition when the foundation is already built. less 12d ago

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts too!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Whole30 - What did we learn? What does it mean? How do we use that going forward?

So my wife and I have recently completed the Whole30. For those of you not familiar, it's basically super strict paleo for 30 days. The idea is to reset your insulin sensitivity, break bad habits, and eliminate inflammation in the body by removing toxicants like gluten, excessive carbohydrate, dairy, legumes and so forth. For us, since we eat paleo all the time, this mostly meant removing that nightly glass or two of wine, and occasional cheats like dark chocolate, or non-paleo foods at restaurants or friends houses. It was not a huge stretch for us.

However, it WAS a difficult thing to do. Going out to eat became a bit of a chore as so many foods, while maybe MOSTLY paleo, became ineligible for the 30 days. Also, I know for myself, that the glass of wine with dinner is a ritual that signifies the end of the day and letting go of the day's stresses. The first week found me missing that ritual. But, after that, it wasn't something I devoted much thought to.

During the 30 days I became visibly leaner and lost some 5-7lbs. I slept well and my workouts were of their normal quality. My wife saw changes in her physique and body composition as well. We had regular talks about what this all meant and where to go from there. Essentially asking the question:

"What have we learned here and how do we use that going forward?" The answer is, at least in part, that we learned something about moderation. Our periodic cheats and nightly glass(es) of wine were definitely adding some fat to our frames but not making us overweight by any stretch of the imagination.

My conclusion behind all of this is that it's great for breaking bad habits and giving some perspective on whether what you're doing is working or not. How that's measured will be different from person to person. Some people's digestion will improve, some will lose weight, some will see changes in sleep quality, and some will just simply feel better. If you don't adhere to paleo normally, you're like to see much greater changes. As we're pretty strict about paleo around here, there was less change for us.

Breaking bad habits is never a bad idea. And learning about what foods do and don't agree with you is useful too. Mark Sisson over at Marks Daily Apple has a similar 21 day challenge using his Primal Blueprint. He uses the term primal but, it's paleo. I'm not a fan of "cleanses" in general but I do think that putting good fuel into your body, lowering or eliminating inflammation, and letting your gut heal is a good thing too!

As always, please feel free to contact me with questions. I do nutritional coaching and would love to help you achieve your goals!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Blood Sugar, Carbohydrates and Alzheimers.

I've mentioned before that I listen regularly to the Paleo Solution podcast with Robb Wolf. On this past podcast he had board certified neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter. Dr. Perlmutter sees, among other patients, many Alzheimers patients and has really done his homework on causes of the disease. He's written a book called "Grain Brain"  where he discusses in great detail the negative effect of carbohydrates on the brain (among other things). The more I learn about these things, and do my own research, the more I've come to believe that our bodies are simply designed to run lean on carbohydrates. Now, before folks go getting their britches wadded up like they so often do when I talk about this stuff, I'm not vilifying carbohydrates. It's just that our society now has access to SO MUCH carbohydrate that average folks can too easily over-consume. 

I highly recommend that you listen to this one podcast and listen to Dr. Perlmutter talk, in very approachable terms, about the connection of carbohydrates and neurological impairment. You download that here.

He has really done his research and cites peer reviewed research from well known medical journals like The New England Journal of Medicine among many others. For instance:

 "Mayo Clinic researchers have told us, for example, that risk for mild cognitive impairment, the harbinger for Alzheimer’s disease, or full -blown dementia is an astounding 42% lower in elderly folks who consume a diet higher in fat and lower in carbohydrates, as reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease." 

He's also written a great article in The Daily Beast (the online home of Newsweek Magazine). Go have a look here.

His point is that, to some degree, Alzheimers is preventable and in fact that many neurological disorders are as well through lifestyle items like nutrition and exercise. I encourage you to read it the go look up the journal articles and learn more.