“We are less hurt by the contempt of fools than by the lukewarm approval of men of intelligence.”

Luc de Clapiers de Vanvenargues

So I’m waiting patently in a Raleigh Starbucks last night for the the cute (in a Suicide Girl kind of a way) barista to whip up my tall red-eye and, being the curious, fidgety sort that I am (and from all outward appearances, probably not needing the said red-eye), found myself thumbing through a Starbucks Nutrition By The Cup fact sheet.  Interesting, to say the least; and, well, scary as all hell, too.

Now, I love a good cup of strong-as-black-iron joe as good as the next guy, and, to be perfectly honest, I confess to having done more than my part to keep the Starbucks enterprise afloat during these turbulent financial times — this in no way diminishes the fact, though, that it’s common knowledge within the Paleo community to steer clear of the sweet stuff (in all forms — food and drink) while supporting your favorite corner purveyor of delectable caffeine.   And while most will readily identify sweet foods as being an item to steer clear of, the froo-froo drinks oftentimes escape the same level of scrutiny. Now, I’m a plain and simple red-eye kinda guy myself, so I don’t give these concoctions much more thought than damn, those things have got to pack a pretty hefty carb wallop — until last night, and waiting for the cute barista to work her magic, and my perusing of the Nutrition By The Cup fact sheet.  And what I found was — hot holy-damn, Batman.

And holy hot-damn in more ways than just this egregious example.  Wow, make that bad boy a venti with whipped cream, and you’re hammering down a whopping 120 grams of sugar in one, single pop.  120 grams! Just to write that makes my pancreas quiver with over-exertion.

Now, I don’t consider Starbucks to necessarily be part of the problem of American (and world-wide, really) obesity, but some of the company’s product offerings certainly are a reflection of that underlying problem.  Now maybe that’s a lame distinction, but let’s face it: we can blame these companies all we want for what they offer, but the true, underlying problem here rests solely on society’s shoulders.  Companies more so respond to consumer demand than do they create the same.  At least, that’s the case theoretically, and within an enlightened, educated and engaged society.  And therein lay another (and possibly the more substantial??) part of the problem — a collective, societal apathy towards true, inner health — which translates into lack of education, enlightenment, and engagement.  It’s a vicious, vicious cycle.  And one that’s apparently pretty damn tough for some to break free of.  The pursuit of health, though, is no different than any other worthwhile pursuit; the first step to success is mental — first and foremost, you gotta want it.  Really, really want it.  All else will surely follow.  And I don’t want to slide into a theological discussion here, but I also see this as a spiritual issue; the body being the vessel of the spirit and soul.

What to Eat?  The Essentials —

Sarah, aka Paleo_princess, offered up a question/musing to the “Twitterverse” the other day that got me thinking about how I go about making my own food choices.  What thinking process, or mental template, do I employ so as to make my day-to-day food consumption decisions?  Anyone who’s ever “dieted” (note: the lack of having to “diet” and, therefore, not being consumed by all that the word “diet” insinuates, is the yang to the Paleo Way’s yin of what is actually consumed.  The Paleo Way is a lifestyle more so than a conventional “diet”, and this is the essence behind its success) knows that the war is ultimately lost in the myriad of small, day-to-day skirmishes; that is to say, “diet” meets its death by a thousand bad meal choices.

So here’s my macro-nutrient “hierarchy”, so to speak; my mental template against which I hold all meal choices throughout the day.  And this, truly, is the extent of it:

  1. Meat/organs/eggs, and/or good fats.  In a pinch, raw (if at all possible) nuts
  2. Raw dairy
  3. Veggies/salad and the like.  Occasionally, a small sweet potato
  4. (and a way distant 4 at that) fruit

If #1 or #2 is unavailable, I will not eat.  Simple as that.  Now, am I’m what would be considered “textbook” Paleo?  Absolutely not.  And if consumption of raw dairy gets me booted from Paleo island, so be it.  I tolerate and respond well to raw dairy, and so I include it (albeit sparingly) in my diet.  The thing, folks, is this: in much the same way that genetics are the “guardrails” and not necessarily the “railroad tracks” of one’s ultimate phenotypical expression, there is a fairly wide “zone” of proper human diet.  About the only “universals of avoidance”, that is, things well outside of everyone’s “guardrails”, are simple carbohydrates, grains, legumes, sugar and hydrogenated fats.  I’d say that raw dairy teeters on the rails, and as to which side it ultimately falls is an individual tolerance issue.  And know this, too — there is no biological need for carbohydrates — the body does quite well in the total absence of carbs,via protein and fat (ketone) utilization.  I think of veggies and fruit as taste and texture variety, and little more than that.

In health,

Keith

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Keith Norris is a former standout athlete, a military vet, and an elite strength and conditioning expert with over 35 years of in-the-trenches experience. As a serial entrepreneur in the health and wellness space, he is an owner, co-founder and Chief Development Officer of the largest Paleo conference in the world, Paleo f(x) . As well, Keith is a partner in one of the most innovative lines of boutique training studios in the nation, Efficient Exercise. He’s also a partner in ARXFit training equipment, and a founding member of ID Life. In his spare time, he authors one of the top fitness blogs in the health and wellness sphere, Theory To Practice.

28 COMMENTS

  1. “And know this, too — there is no biological need for carbohydrates — the body does quite well in the total absence of carbs,via protein and fat (ketone) utilization. I think of veggies and fruit as taste and texture variety, and little more than that.”

    So do you not buy into the whole acid/base being kept in balance thing? I always feel like my bones are wasting away every time I have a protein only meal ha ha.
    Of course it never bothered me when I used to eat giant bowls of granola before bike rides.
    Nice post,
    Clay

    • Clay,
      pH balance is maintained in the presence of adequate fat intake, so make sure to get in your quota of good fats. And you’re right about the removal of grains from the diet serving to reduce the acidic load on the body. Now, if I could just curb my coffee intake… 🙂

  2. Clay, I think the whole acid base thing is more a theoretical attempt to understand increased calcium excretion than a finding of any affects on bone density. A paper that addresses the issue of osteoporesis and protein intake:
    http://www.jacn.org/cgi/content/full/24/suppl_6/526S

    The author explains that the calciuria observed on higher protein diets is not due to bone leaching, but due to the increased calcium absorption that occurred on the higher protein diet. He goes on to say that there is a negative correlation between fractures and protein intake.

    • Hey thanks for the link Cynthia.
      Keith, is there anywhere you could point me to get more info on the connection on pH balance and fat intake?
      Thanks again
      Clay

      • Clay,
        Google around and see if you can find anything on “rabbit sickness”. This should lead you in the right direction.

        • Will do, sounds similar to rabbit starvation, this is interesting, I somehow have never noticed it in regards to pH balance.
          Thanks again…..again

          • Not expressly written as such; you’ll have to read between the lines. This is also assuming your protein intake is high and your grain intake next to non-existent. Also, rabbit sickness = rabbit starvation; my misquote.

  3. From an epistemological point of view, one of the most stunning epiphanies I had was the realization that so much of our current medical/nutrition “wisdom”/”science” is based on fundamentally unhealthy biochemistry. Richard at Free the Animal (as does Peter of Hyperlipid) makes this point quite frequently and is spot on.

    Meaning, all of the “data” that say things like “Based on our “study”, optimal cholesterol levels should be between X and Y.” is based on people eating all the things we didn’t eat. Ergo all that data is, probably, fundamentally unsound and should be interpreted very carefully, if not thrown out wholesale. (I exaggerate, but I think you get the picture.)

    When I realized this – I felt a bit like Neo after he took the red pill and was forever a part of the unvarnished, ugly, real world.

    I have tried to explain this to friends when they ask me about Paleo. And it hits them too hard to even ponder that the very basis of human nutrition/health that “scientists” are working on is fundamentally flawed.

    They think me arrogant and most certainly wrong, b/c this view is a scant minority of a minority (Ad populum fallacy).

    Admittedly, we Paleo-ites are probably wrong on a lot of stuff as we try to triangulate to find and navigate to the platonic Truths of human health/nutrition/fitness but the basic Paleo precepts will get us closer than we are now.

    • Your observation is spot-on, Patrik. This also caries over to the question of what “normal” aging should look like. I can’t tell you how many people I talk to about fitness who use the old “yeah, but I’m (fill in the blank) years old…” cop out. And no use using myself as an example to the contrary, b/c I’m a fitness “freak”. When I tell them that I only accumulate approximately 2 hours a week in exercise mode (a far cry from Doug’s 12 minutes, but still 🙂 ), and maintain plenty of other interests outside of fitness along with an ultra-demanding, full-time gig (outside of the fitness industry), I get the nod of patronization/disbelief, followed by a quick change of subject. There are always a few, though, who are willing to question what “normal” should be. Your analogy to Neo’s “red pill awakening”, by the way, is most accurate.

      I agree — and if I haven’t said it before, I’ve been remiss — both Richard’s site (Free the Animal) and Peter’s offering (Hyperlipid) are excellent, excellent resources.

  4. Great Post Keith

    RE: Fruit

    I was first introduced to the Paleo lifestyle @ five years ago via Neanderthin by Ray Audette. He distinguished between fruit and berries (not sure why) and advised to avoid fruit if weight loss was the primary goal.

    I have adapted his advice and through trial and error arrived at a the point where I eat fruit, but only what is seasonally available where I live.

    I believe that above all else our ancestors were opportunists. They would not have passed up fruit if it were available. However, it would not have been available year round from all over the world as it is now.

    The result: I gain a few pounds through the late summer and early fall and then quickly lose it when the fruit is gone. I don’t feel deprived. My diet is more varied, but on a larger macro cycle. I have the benefit of all of the wonderful things that fruit has to offer, but the feast of fruit has an end that occurs naturally and the lean times, literally, come with the shortening of days and colder temps.

    • Good observation, Michael. Additionally, the fruit our ancestors ate was a far cry from the modern, sweeter version we have today. Something to keep in mind.

  5. @Keith

    Almost makes you wish you had taken the blue pill, eh?

    🙂

    This little intrepretation nails it:

    [The question then is not about pills, but what they stand for in these circumstances. The question is asking us whether reality, truth, is worth pursuing. The blue pill will leave us as we are, in a life consisting of habit, of things we believe we know. We are comfortable, we do not need truth to live. The blue pill symbolizes commuting to work every day, or brushing your teeth.

    The red pill is an unknown quantity. We are told that it can help us to find the truth. We don’t know what that truth is, or even that the pill will help us to find it. The red pill symbolizes risk, doubt and questioning. In order to answer the question, you can gamble your whole life and world on a reality you have never experienced.]

    Bingo.

    BTW not to get too BB, what are your thoughts on the “Gironda” dips versus standard dips?

    http://www.ironguru.com/vince-gironda-dips

    The main difference, it seems, is the position of the hands (turned in)and flaring of elbows out.

    (Ironically, the cartoon shows standard grip, not the one shown by the photos where hands are turned in.)

    We have a 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 C&Js WOD today at CF — gonna kockout a few of these Girondas as well as some Bulgarian ring dips too.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mKyrPmmPt0

    • Patrik,
      I love to use Gironda dips when I’m in one of my few-and-far-between Bodybuilding/”get swole” macro-cycles. I love the angle and feel at a lighter weight/higher rep range, though the movement looses its grove at a heavier weight/lower rep scheme. I don’t believe, though, that Vince — the snarky ol’ bastard that he was — ever intended the movement to be done in a low-rep scheme. BTW, that kid makes those Bulgarian dips look easy. People tend to dismiss just how friggin’ taxing ring work is, especially for someone (like me) who carries a lot of (too much?) lower body mass.

      Oh, and sign me up for the red pill any day, even with its accompanying mental distress. I never bought into being comfortably numb with the rest of the “sheeple” 🙂

      • Just got back. Tried the Girondas and the Bulgarian dips.

        Conclusion: Tough. Real tough.

        I think the Girondas have potential to cause injure as the angle feels very strained at my shoulder. I will play around with these a bit.

        Bulgarian ring dips are simply awesome. Gonna throw in at least 10 after every WOD and see if that improves my strength.

        • Another — or possibly the main benefit — of ring work is that I don’t think you can find better shoulder stability exercise out there. Want to build an impressive and athletically functional upper body on a budget? Get 20 ft. of climbing rope and a set of rings and have at ’em both.

        • Good plan. Have you considered a superset with Bulgarian dips and a barbell muscle-up or power snatch variety?

  6. Keith,

    I couldn’t agree more regarding Starbucks. About a month ago we cruised throught the Starbucks drivethrough and for a little treat I thought I’d try the grande cinnamon dolce latte (based on a recommendation). Good lord, I couldn’t believe how sweet it was.

    I came home and researched the nutritional guidelines for that drink and was astounded at the sugar content. If memory serves it was close to 50g of sugar. I poured the rest down the drain and now make it a point to just get plain coffee, or an Americano.

    The red pill/blue pill analogy is so appropriate. Seems like one has to be ever vigilant in everything that we consume.

    • @Keith and @Andy

      Not to get too philosophical and deep into epistemology/red pill/blue pill BUT….here is something else to chew on.

      When I speak to Paleo fellow travelers about nutrition, they invariably say something like:

      “Man, wouldn’t it be great if the government put money in/recommended/studied Paleo etc etc”

      My reaction:

      1) As a libertarian/conservative taxpayer, I’d rather they not waste my and others’ monies on any sort of recommendations no matter how good/healthy they appear. Even Paleo.

      2) They have been doing a bang-up job so far with the low-fat (mis)-information cascade, haven’t they?

      3) Last and most powerful I think is the following.

      From http://www.cafehayek.com/hayek/2006/09/the_new_market_.html

      [Today, most economists agree that, left alone, people will act in their own best interest, and that the market will coördinate their actions to produce outcomes beneficial to all.

      Neuroeconomics potentially challenges both parts of this argument. If emotional responses often trump reason,there can be no presumption that people act in their own best interest. And if markets reflect the decisions that people make when their limbic structures are particularly active, there is little reason to suppose that market outcomes can’t be improved upon.]

      This is the argument for government intervention — we have limbic structures that are non-optimal for making rational decisions, therefore government should make decisions for us.

      Here is Russ’s answer:

      [My next EconTalk conversation will be this Monday with Ed Glaeser—we discuss the dangers of soft paternalism, this kind of so-called gentle urging by the government (warning labels, mandatory opt-out provisions) to “improve” our decision-making.

      Glaeser and I share one important belief derived from neuroeconomics: politicians have a limbic region of the brain just as you and I do.]

      Anyhow, gotta get back to work. Cheers!

      • Russ Roberts over at Econ Talk always puts up some interesting stuff. Gotta love the George Mason school of economics; I believe Walt Williams (who I admire) is also a prof out there.

        I gotta say that I’m conflicted on the whole issue of “nudging”. I agree that markets and people’s decisions in general — even if those decisions are ostensibly self-interest driven — are far from rational. I believe that nudging is a powerful and effective tool. In fact, “nudging”, in my mind, is just a new term for “coaching” + financial incentive. I believe that government can use nudging very, very effectively to achieve stated goals. My problem is rooted in my inherent distrust of government entities, i.e., my distrust of the “nudger’s” true agenda. I guess for me it boils down to this: I’m not willing to trade short-term success for long-term disaster.

        • Well, with regard to nudging from the government, IMHO, there are two issues:

          1) You have to assume they are altruistic.

          e.g. does the agro-lobby have any sway in Washington…nah…

          2) Assuming they are successfully altruistic, are they right?

          e.g. a lot of good-hearted people out there still believe the cholesterol hypothesis. Why should I give them my tax monies and have them “nudge” anywhere?

  7. Keith,

    we talked about fruit…….why only a “pinch” of nuts? arent they the good fat we want? especially if they arent high omega 6, i.e. macadamia

    • As a snack, you can’t do much better than raw nuts. My focus, here, though, was more so on meals; I should have clarified this position.

  8. Keith, why are fibrous vegetables so far down the list? Low in calories, high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and they can go a long way towards making a meal more filling. I try to make them the focus of my meal, along with some type of animal or embryo, and if I’m still hungry after my portion of meat, I fill up on more vegetables.

    • Nothing at all wrong with your way, ebrunner. My focus is on caloric bang for the buck, though. I have a large amount of lean mass to fuel, (w/an already very low BF %), so my daily caloric requirement is rather high. Much easier to get those required calories via protein and fat intake (and tastier, at least for me). Meesus TTP, on the other hand, consumes a much larger portion of her overall caloric intake in the form of vegies/fruit than do I. Lots of room for personal preference here.

      • Keith, I am like you. That protein/fat combo calorically works the best for me. I always see your cooking postings, and am realizing that my diet is something similar to yours. Today I had macadamia nuts, shrimp, bacon, broccoli, and some fruit……I thinnk you would approve for around 2,000 calories.

        How tall are you and how much do you weigh, Keith?

        • 6′-even, approximately 215 lbs. Don’t worry your total caloric intake, it’s impossible to guess-timate even a ballpark figure, and if you’re eating the correct macro-nutrients, it doesn’t matter anyway. Just learn to listen to your body; eat when you’re truly hungry, and everything will take care of itself.

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