“A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.” – Cicero
This picture has absolutely nothing to do with the following post; it just makes me smile. My hometown BBQ joint: Railroad Bar-B-Que, in Kyle, Texas
Longtime TTP readers will recognize my “four pillars” approach to health and wellness; namely, intelligent exercise, appropriate lifestyle (including diet, emotional/spiritual health, proper sleep, etc.), pinpointed supplementation, and the leveraging smart technology.
Ok — so maybe BBQ and fine whiskey are the 5th pillar? 🙂
But seriously. Many of you also know that I not only live by these “four pillars” in a day-to-day physical sense, but I also believe in them to the extent that my financial viability is tied directly to these ideas. Being a partner in Efficient Exercise, a co-founder of Paleo f(x), a founding member of ID Life, and an ARXFit partner means that I truly believe in this approach, entrusting not just my physical health, but my financial health to this synergy as well.
Because it’s likely to be the most controversial piece to my “quad-pillar” system, I’d like to focus today on pinpointed supplementation. Why the controversy? Well, It’s confusing for some to see my, on the one hand, championing of all things Ancestral and Evolutionary in (what may seem like) stark contrast to my wholehearted endorsement of ARXFit technology, HRV monitoring, 23and Me-like testing, and industry-revolutionizing supplementation strategy.
And just an aside (and for what it’s worth), I think the whole FDA crackdown on 23andMe is friggin’ bullshit. Information is neither good or bad in and of itself, and how I react to information is my own business. But hey, that’s another topic for another time.
Anyway, so which is it? Do I endorse the cave and spear, or the lab?
Well, my feeling on the matter is this: science and technological advancement are a double-edged sword. It is by science and technological advancement that we can miraculously fix even the most broken of bodies. But that same science and technology can create the conditions by which those bodies become broken to begin with. The latter problem is rooted in “science without wisdom”. Wizened science, on the other hand, views all advancement through the lens of our evolutionary history, and in even finer detail, down to the n=1/epigenetic level. Science is not bad per se, nor is rapid advancement in technology — as long as it remains true to evolutionary precepts and your own n=1 results.
Science can help us tease out the conditions under which we evolved, and vet those conditions against our own body’s reaction to a less-than-stellar 21st century environment. Genetic hand matters, of course. But even more so, on-going epigenetic signaling matters! It really is just as simple (and as complex) as that.
So what’s with the hacks and/or supplementation? Well, let’s face it — even though I know all of the things I ought to do to optimize my health, I don’t always follow through. Just as my ancestors were initially unprepared for the Ice Age, my own body senses this 21st century environment as an onslaught. Business sometimes keeps me from getting more than about 6 hours of sleep per night. I push the envelope (and quite often!) in my training. I eat clean for the most part…until I don’t. I have my fair-share of chronic stressors. The air I breathe and the water I drink are not as pristinely pure as I’d like. Even under the best of conditions, my food is raised in an environment of mineral-depleted soils and a dusting of toxins. The good news is, though, that I can identify and mitigate the damage. Which is exactly what testing, hacks and proper supplementation allow me to do. I consider these the bridge that get me from “good” to great.
Blood tests, DEXAs and Screens/Surveys
Being tested is one thing, of course — reacting to the results of those tests is another thing entirely.
For example, after pouring over the results of my most recent full-on blood panel, I saw that my (almost) daily intermittent fasting habit was beginning to negatively affect my thyroid function. I’m just too big a guy, with too much daily work output to be able to get away with not eating for the first eight hours after waking. Buck-thirty-five hipsters can not only get away with, but flourish under IF conditions. 220lb lumberjacks? Not so much. I changed my AM routine to allow time for “breakfast”, and viola — my numbers (and feeling of general bad-assery) snapped right back into place. Funny how, even for me (who prides himself in knowing himself) “energy ebb” had become my new-normal, even if this had not yet begun to affect my body composition.
But here’s the thing: a boat-load of data will do nothing if you either (1) don’t know how to interpret and/or react to the data, or (2) can’t react fast enough to the data on hand. Also, the sheer volume of data may cause a kind of mental paralysis to set in. Just chill the hell out. There’s no need to overthink this stuff. Cover the basics first, then seek to improve the fringes. And most times you’ll find that if the basics are covered, the fringes will take care of themselves.
So is a blood test better than a survey? Well, it depends on how good/accurate each is, of course. But the other piece of the answer depends on whether one can react appropriately to the results.
A blood test is an indication of an immediate moment in time, whereas a frequently-taken, properly designed survey/screen would, in theory, dampen some of the swings. The best of both worlds would include routine survey plus intermittent blood work. A kind of coarse and fine adjust, as it were.
This is one reason why I’m so stoked on the ID Life all-inclusive survey approach to supplementation. It’s the only legit, accurate survey vis-a-vis base supplementation, and why (together with the uber high quality ingredients) I wholeheartedly endorse the company.
So, I can take the ID Life survey frequently (1x/month for example, i.e., prior to every order) and adjust my vitamin D or Omega-3 supplementation (for instance) accordingly depending upon the season, my current latitude and sun exposure, and my current intake of natural vitamin D or Omega-3 resources. Then, maybe 2x/year, I can take blood test to see if I’m on the right track. Wash, rinse, repeat and adjust as necessary.
The Holman Omega-3 test
So I’ll see what my results are from the Holman Omega-3 (additional info on the test and the doctor behind it at the link) test to see if my current eating and supplement regimen is working vis-a-vis my lifestyle. Frequent, intense workouts and a go-go life and work schedule would, I imagine, necessitate a larger than expected dose of Omega-3s. But then again, maybe not. We’ll see how I fare, and what I do about those readings, when I get the numbers back (3 to 4 weeks).
And a big thanks to Mike T Nelson for getting the Holman Omega-3 test kit out to me!
Moving forward, I’d like to see how things look after a 6 months or so on the ID Life individualized dosing plan. Test, quantify, retest; adjust as necessary.
Late edit (1/5/14) – for the results of my Omega-3 test, see this post.
In health, fitness, and ancestral wellness –