Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Coconuts: A Peculiar Fruit

Well there I go again, taking another couple week hiatus from typing my articles.  I'm sorry folks, summer is just a busy time for me.  I just got back from the trip of a lifetime to Kauai, Hawaii.  That's right, for 8 days I was immersed in the warm Pacific ocean, the constant cool Hawaiian winds, and more sunshine than my skin knew what to do with.  And there were fruits everywhere!!!  Trees with papayas, mangos, bananas, and of course, coconuts.  I'll let you in on a little secret:  Coconut is probably my favorite fruit of all time.  Something about the taste of it is just so incredible, and so heartily satisfying.  Getting some fresh coconut meat in Hawaii was a dream come true.  But the coconut isn't like your average fruit.  It's nutritional properties are quite unique, and while its still an extremely healthy food, its healthy in a different way than most other fruits.  In fact, the coconut is composed mostly of a substance you wouldn't think sounds very fruity: 


That's right, coconuts are composed of mostly fat. And not just any old fat, but that super scary crazy spine tingling SATURATED FAT!!!  OMG!!!  Crazy right?  Now stop freaking out for a second and let me explain something.  This saturated fat is very, very, VERY good for you.  I've said a million times and I'll say it again:  fat doesn't make you fat.  The fat in coconuts not only gives the fruit an amazing taste, but it also does many positive things for your body.  The saturated fats in coconuts (or specifically the oil in coconuts) isn't a long chain fatty acid like we find so often in products made with hydrogenated oils, but instead are medium chain fatty acids which behave quite differently.  These fatty acids have been shown to have anti-oxidant properties, as well as the ability to speed up your metabolism.  That's right, eat fat to burn fat, sounds great doesn't it?

Now you may be remembering all those times you've heard that saturated fat will destroy your heart, clog up your veins, and in general destroy your circulatory system.  I'll say this right now:  there is no proof that the saturated fats in coconuts will cause any harm on bad cholesterol levels or overall heart health, and in fact there is much evidence to suggest the contrary.  Trans fats from hydrogenated oils are the real killers out there, not the natural saturated fats in coconuts.  In fact, by consuming the fats in coconuts, you're actually encouraging your body to use fat as an energy source, which may help you shed a few pounds.  And to all who are still in the dark about the powers of fat, it's an EXCELLENT energy source.  It's actually better than any carbohydrate, because it has more energy per unit of mass.  Cool, right?

But coconuts don't just stop at the fat benefits.  They're also rich with vitamins C, B1, B2, and B3.  This convenient vitamin package will help boost immune system health and support a fast burning metabolism which will keep you energized, strong, and of course, lean.  Coconuts are actually quite low in sugar compared to most fruits as well, which is a welcome change from the normal enormous insulin spike you get when eating apples, grapes, or bananas.  In terms of overall calories, coconuts are actually a very calorie dense food, and I bet you can guess why:  the fat of course!  This means they're an AWESOME energy source, but make sure you plan your daily diet accordingly, because a coconut could bump you over your daily caloric goals quite easily.  Here's the nutritional information for a coconut:

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 cup of shredded
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 241
Calories 283
% Daily Values*
Total Fat 26.79g41%
 Saturated Fat 23.758g119%
 Polyunsaturated Fat 0.293g 
 Monounsaturated Fat 1.14g 
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 16mg1%
Potassium 285mg 
Total Carbohydrate 12.18g4%
 Dietary Fiber 7.2g29%
 Sugars 4.98g 
Protein 2.66g 
Vitamin A 0%Vitamin C 4%
Calcium 1%Iron 11%
That's a bunch of calories, eh?  But don't be afraid, believe me it's worth it to fit coconut into your diet.  It's extremely good for you and tastes absolutely delicious.  It's definitely one of the most interesting fruits out there, and will always be one of my favorites.  But remember though, if you ever travel to Hawaii, or another place where coconuts grow rampant, that more people are killed each year by a coconut to the head than are killed by sharks.

And with that, I say, GOOD LUCK!


Friday, July 13, 2012

Eating, The Manly Way

Let's face it.  Eating "healthy" sure doesn't sound manly.  It sounds like you're some pansy who's trying to watch their figure and stay trim.  Seriously, who wants to be all meek, skinny, and worst of all, weak?  Now there's nothing wrong with trying to lose a few pounds, but it just so happens that you're a man, and men should eat big, meaty, chunky meals that fill their belly and build big, strong, manly muscles.  How else are you going to move that massive weight?  The good news is that you can eat that masculine food you love, and still be lean, ripped, and BEASTLY.  

Oh, and to any women readers, there's no sexist nature intended in this article, it's all in good fun.  You can enjoy this food too, and get the exact same benefits, I promise.

So let's go over a list of the manliest, most heftily nutrient packed muscle building man foods we can find, and see if we can't figure out how to fill that plate with something big and meaty (and then maybe slip a few of those meager little veggies on the side...as if they'll even fit...HAR HAR.)

Beef:  Steak, ribs, burgers, veil, ground up, I don't care.  Beef is delicious, protein packed, and filled with so many nutrients that I won't be able to list them all here.  It's packed with B-12 and B-6, two vitamins that will aid in maintaining healthy metabolism and high energy levels, as well as assisting in central nervous system health.  We've already mentioned the protein, you'll get a LOT of it in every delicious, perfectly juicy bite.  Worried about the fat content?  Of course you're not!  And you shouldn't be, as every bit of fat in that beef is beneficial in some way.  Most of the fat is monounsaturated fat, the same stuff in olive oil!  The saturated fat is actually an EXCELLENT energy source, and may actually aid in losing weight, as it encourages your body to use fat as fuel instead of sugary carbs.  And contrary to popular belief, the saturated fat in beef isn't related to rising levels of bad cholesterol.  Pile a big fat steak on your plate and dig in, beef will make you BEEFY.

Whole milk:  That's right, we don't need none of that frilly "fat free" stuff, we want the whole, creamy, yummy, thick and refreshing kind of milk, the way nature intended it.  Every cup of whole milk is packed with 8 grams of protein from various sources including both whey and casein, and the natural sugars are great post workout to help those growing muscles suck up all those nutrients quick.  Mix in some whey protein and you've got yourself some of the most delicious drinkable stuff on earth.  And the fat?  It's the same deal here.  Saturated fat gets a bad rap, but when it's in its natural form it is actually quite healthy.  It will benefit blood lipid levels and is an AWESOME source of energy.  Pour a glass and be proud of that milk mustache.

Bacon:  OK....seriously...WHO DOESN'T LOVE BACON?  Thought you had to avoid it on a healthy diet???  WRONG-OH!!!!  Bacon is no less healthy than many cuts of chicken, turkey, beef, or any other meat you can think of off hand.  Sure it has some fat in it, but that fat, once again, is a great LOW CARB energy source that will both satiate you quickly and actually elevate your mood.  That's right, dietary fat makes you happy.  Before you complain that it can't be part of a clean diet, realize that there are thousands of people who've lost untold amounts of body fat while eating bacon almost every day.  Don't believe me?  Just do some online searching.  Bacon, like beef, is also packed with B vitamins, and DEM DER PROTEEEEEIIINNSSS.  I can hear those heavenly strips sizzling now, mmmmm.  Breakfast of the gods.

Eggs:  Fry 'em, scramble 'em, poach 'em, boil 'em, and PIG OUT.  Egg protein is one of the greatest sources of protein in the entire world, with a bio-availability in the high 90%'s when cooked.  That means your body can use almost all of the protein available in eggs with the upmost efficiency to build strong, lean muscle.  BUT, as manly as it may look, drinking raw eggs is a bad idea.  When left uncooked, egg protein only has a bio-availability of about 50%, so much of that protein is wasted in your body.  Plus, nobody wants salmonella.  You won't look too manly puking your guts out all night, right?  But seriously, eat those eggs.  Oh, and dietary cholesterol hasn't been proven to have nearly ANY effect on blood cholesterol, so don't worry about that either.  Sound good?  Great.

Sausage:  Awww yeah, brautwerst anyone?  Sausage comes in all shapes and sizes, with all sorts of fillings.  Sure, it's not the highest quality meat you can buy, but it's a great source of protein and has a lot of healthy fats in it as well.  Want something lean?  Go for the chicken or turkey sausage.  Want the tastiest thing this side of Neptune?  Get some biggun's packed with pork and beef, and pile them next to that big morning omelette.  I recommend eating sausage in moderation, but you definitely don't have to cut it out of your diet.  Just watch the sodium, as it can pile up quickly in certain kinds.  Also, look at the ingredients, and make sure as much of the stuff inside is stuff you can pronounce, preferably meat without additives.

Peanut Butter:  I eat this stuff by the spoonful.  Packed with healthy fats and Omega-6 fatty acids, peanut butter is the bomb.  It's an incredible source of healthy calories, especially when you get the natural, or "natty" stuff.  Natty PB brah...all the way.  In fact, the best peanut butter out there has the fewest ingredients.  While the general rule of thumb is to make sure there is NO trans fat in the peanut butter, you also generally want to avoid the stuff with "partially hydrogenated vegetable oils."  Those oils are used to make sure the peanut oil doesn't separate out of the butter itself, which is a pretty useless task unless someone is unbelievable lazy.  A little stirring might help those forearms develop anyway.  Brands I like are Teddie natural chunky, Smucker's natural, Jif Natural, Naturally More, and Power Butter.  Go ahead and have a couple tablespoons, and watch those muscles EXPLODE.

Spinach:  OK, you may be looking at me funny.  But hey, if it made Popeye a monster, it could do the same to you.  It's an aquired taste, but the aggressive flavor almost makes it manlier, right?  Try some light sauces or spices on it to make it more palletable, like mustard, salsa, cayenne pepper, curry powder, whatever floats your boat.  It's packed with vitamins and minerals, and will help you lose extra  body fat covering those shredded guns of yours.  Have a couple of forkfuls a day, and release your inner Popeye.

There you go you beastly dude you, eat up and get big, shredded, ripped, and NOTICED.  Enjoy your meat, your steak, your peanut butter, and those huge, giant, bacon filled omelettes.  Compliment any of these manly dishes with a side of veggies and you're in business.  You can eat healthy and retain your manhood, it's easy!  Now go eat some food, lift some weight, and growl at all the little meager folks cowering away from you.  You're a beast, and noone gets in your way.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Eat Fat Get Thin

OK, just a warning, I'm about to blow your mind.  That's right.  You will soon be so astounded that you may have to rethink all you thought you knew about dieting, losing weight, and gaining muscle.  Also, what I'll say kind of goes against some advice I've been giving (but not really) so far.  Are you ready?  Are you sure?  You say yes...but I'm still thinking you're going to be pretty surprised.

Remember when people told you to eat only lean meats?  How about when your mother and father told you at the dinner table to cut off all that fat on the side of the steak?  That globby white stuff that was so delicious, yet everything you ever read said that it would kill you?  Destroy your heart?  Clog your veins?  REMEMBER THAT??

Well I'm here to tell you that...surprise surprise..............THEY'RE WRONG!!!!!!  THAT STUFF IS ACTUALLY GOOD FOR YOU!  Imagine with me for a second.  Your distant ancestors, the cavemen of ancient times, survived on meat, and lots of it.  There was no sort of "dieting" going on back then.  If you were a vegetarian, you died.  If you refused to eat meat because it wasn't "lean" enough, you died.  You ate when there was food.  That's that.  Now cavemen didn't live very long, I'll give you that, heck their lifespan was only about half of what ours is now, at best.  But evidence shows that's not because of their diet, its more because of, well, predators, disease, and other misfortunes either brought on by nature or...stupidity.  In fact their diets were pretty darn good for what they needed to do, which was a LOT in one day.  Run, hunt, swim, climb, jump, run some more, all on nothing but raw foods and meats.  Not so bad, eh?

And when it comes down to it, the men of ancient days ate a LOT of saturated animal fat.  Did it cause them heart attacks and clogged veins?  Nope.  Saturated animal fat is a remarkably powerful source of energy, and kept them running hard all day.  And despite people thinking it'll clog your system and kill you in a few years, they're completely wrong.  It's a complete MYTH that saturated animal fat destroys your heart and circulatory system, as is summed up conveniently in this quote:

"A hundred years ago, fewer than than one in one hundred Americans were obese, and coronary heart disease was unknown."

One hundred years ago, people WEREN'T cutting the fat off their meat.  Foods were more natural, more pure, more RAW.  cholesterol levels were low, plaque in the veins didn't stick, and hearts beat more strongly.  It's simple, yet baffling at the same time.  But remember this:  People with the highest amount of saturated fat in their diet actually have the lowest risk of heart disease.  CRAZZYYY...RIGHT?

So why is saturated animal fat actually good for you?  Well instead of getting deeply into everything, I'll just list a few immediate benefits.  Saturated animal fat has been PROVEN to promote a healthy circulatory system, support immune system strength, allows for skin to remain healthy and vibrant, is an EXCELLENT energy source, and also.....here's the kicker...PROMOTES WEIGHT LOSS.

So if this stuff is so great, why are we so afraid of it?  Well in the 90's, there was a big movement called the "fat scare."  Just because the word fat means both a state of unfortunate bodily situation AND is a piece of food composition, food companies linked them up and began marketing "low fat" foods to get more customers.  They took fat out, sure, but guess what they put in instead.  Highly refined carbohydrates such as starches and sugars.  THOSE are what made America fat.  Yes, that's right, carbs make people fat, not fat itself.  Now remember I'm not against carbs, not by a long shot.  But if you're going to eat carbs, make sure they're quality, complex carbs.  Whole wheats and grains, as unrefined as possible.  Ya feel me?

Now time for the disclaimer.  Notice how the main subject of this article is saturated ANIMAL fat, not just saturated fats in general.  When it comes to sat fats, they are not all created equal.  Processed, man made fats do not have the same kind of benefit as the pure saturated fats from animal meat.  In fact, many processed fats WILL raise your bad cholesterol and CAN lead to heart problems.  Avoid trans fat and other processed foods rich in saturated fat, as they will do you no good.

So how would I suggest you change your diet?  Well, first of all, don't go crazy.  Don't worry about eating some of the fat on that dinner meat, as it will only do you good when kept within calorie limitations.  Now remember that fat is a great energy source for a reason, which is that it contains the most caloric content per unit of mass.  What does this mean?  That means that if you have 6 oz of super lean chicken, and 6 oz of fatty beef, the fatty beef will have more calories and less protein, as some of the mass is taken up by fat instead of muscle.  Make sense?  This means that if you're looking for the largest protein content, lean meats are still the way to go.  Does this mean that you should be afraid of the fatty meat?  I think we've already covered this........no you shouldn't.  It all just depends on what you want.

So there.  Your mind is blown.  Now go eat some fat.



Thursday, July 5, 2012

Barney Butter (Crunchy Almond) *Review*

The Food Guru here with another review of one of my favorite products of all time.  Surprise surprise, it's ANOTHER nut butter!  I'll tell you what, I'm completely addicted to this stuff, whether it be peanut butter, cashew butter, almond butter, pistachio butter, or all of the above mixed into one.  Heck, when I get the chance I usually whip up my own batch of homemade nut butter, a mixture of almonds, peanuts, and cashews.  Nuts butters are EXTREMELY good for you, especially in their natural form, and on my weight gaining journey I've been consuming a LOT of them.

Today's product is called Barney Butter, and specifically it's the crunchy almond butter variety.  I will say one thing first and foremost.  THIS STUFF IS FREAKING TASTY!  Seriously, be careful about sticking your finger in and having a little morsel, because more than likely you won't be able to stop.  I have to FORCE myself to put the lid back on sometimes, belittling myself with mental phrases like "OK Seth, come on now, what happened to all your self control?  You've had enough.  Stop eating it.  STOP."  And yet, for some reason it's like this stuff STILL jumps out the jar and into my mouth.  It is good, oh so good.

Health Factor:  As I've already mentioned, natural nut butters in general are VERY good for you.  That's because they contain a lot of healthy, unsaturated fats that help to maintain good cholesterol levels, slow digestion, and can actually be used as a good fuel source by your body on ketogenic diets.  Almonds themselves contain a lot of Omega-6 fatty acids, which when balanced properly with Omega-3 fatty acids (found in tuna, salmon, shrimp and all sorts of other fish and shellfish), can ensure your body stays in top form and is resistant to excessive inflammation.

Almonds themselves are also packed with antioxidants, which help to neutralize free radicals in your body and prevent disease.  They're also loaded with vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium.

Finally, almonds may actually help you to lose weight, despite being a high calorie, high fat food.  There have been all sorts of studies done on the consumption of raw nuts, including many tests on human subjects regarding diet and weight gain.  People who eat nuts at least twice a week were drastically less likely to gain unwanted fat when keeping their diet in check.  So what are you waiting for?  Have some almond butter, and don't you dare feel guilty.

Nutritional information:  

Here's the label from the back of the jar, which is probably easier to read than me just spewing off all the nutritional facts in the article. More efficient too, I'd say:

As you can see, this almond butter has similar caloric content to peanut butter, however much less saturated fat.  The ingredient list is short and sweet, and free of things like HFCS and hydrogenated oil.  It also has a relatively low sodium count, and low sugar as well.

But my friends, where I have to go off on this butter is the taste.  It is truly remarkable, and is without a doubt the best nut butter I've ever eaten to date.  You put a spoonful in your mouth, and it's like you took a little trip to heaven.  If the spoonful is big enough, you may close your eyes in ecstasy.  It's sweet, salty, and crunchy, and has such a beautifully strong taste that your whole mouth is enveloped in it.  Besides the perfectly sized chunks of almond, the butter is super creamy, and makes it awesomely hard to chew it.  It's like the perfect blend, and I'm not exaggerating.

Guys, this stuff is gold in a jar, NOT KIDDING.

So what are you waiting for?  Pick up some Barney Butter ASAP.  It's healthy, natural, and RIDICULOUSLY delicious.  It's a great break from peanut butter too, if you've gotten stuck in that rut.  It can fit into pretty much any diet too, whether it be weight loss, maintenance, keto, paleo, or mass gain.  Get some NOW, because these guys got it right.

......Barney Butter rules.  Good luck!


Monday, June 25, 2012

The "B" Stands For "BEAST"

We all know it's important to get our vitamins and minerals.  Heck, we've been told that by our parents since the dawn of our days.  They were right to say so, vitamins are crucial to essential bodily functions and maintaining a healthy physical and mental state.  Every vitamin has a different job to do within the body (while some do overlap), so it's important to get a broad spectrum.  Some vitamins are water soluble, and some fat soluble.  The water soluble ones you can pretty much take as much as you want (though huge doses usually aren't necessary), where as fat soluble ones you don't want to overdose on, as that can have some nasty consequences.

Now you remember I wrote an article on why multivitamins aren't necessary in a highly clean and varied diet, and I still stand by that statement.  However there are a few vitamins that are definitely good to supplement if you live a certain kind of lifestyle.  For us gym-goers, who work out hard and heavy on a regular basis, one of the most important vitamins to supplement is vitamin B.

Why vitamin B?  Well, in Olympic weightlifting, there is an enormous toll taken on your central nervous system.  In fact, we lifters are almost never sore muscularly, as we have highly advanced recovery diets, massages, cold and warmth techniques, stretches, and other methods to ensure our muscles are ready to go another round only a few hours later.  The main issue with the sport is allowing the central nervous system to recover, which if left to its ways is a very slow process.  Pretty much the best methods of CNS recovery are: sleep, eat, and vitamin B.  That's right, vitamin B is actually quite helpful when it comes to restoring CNS function in a short amount of time.

There are a couple ways to effectively supplement vitamin B.  The first is to actually inject a vitamin B complex directly into the bloodstream.  This ensures extremely efficient absorption, and many people who get vitamin B injections say they feel like superman the next day.  Joint pain is gone, they feel wide awake, and usually cannot WAIT to lift.  Believe me, that's quite the change from the normal "zombie" state associated with lifting.

The second way is to orally supplement vitamin B.  While a B complex is best, I personally usually supplement very large doses of vitamin B-12, only one part of the complex.  B-12 is virtually impossible to overdose on, and therefore it's easy to take a LOT of it and ensure your body has all it needs.  Any extra will just come out in urine.  A word of caution though, just B-12 will not completely repair your CNS completely by itself (although B-12 by itself can have a large effect), it needs support from other B vitamins such as B-5, B-6, B-2, etc.  This is why it's important you do get other B vitamins in your diet, either through food or separate supplementation.  A person is much more likely to overdose on other B vitamins such as B-6, so don't take it in as large a quantity as you would B-12.

Oral methods of supplementation include pills/capsules, or liquid.

Here's a lot more information on B-12 and the entire B complex via the Livestrong.com site:


Now as you may have guessed, Olympic weightlifters aren't the only people who experience CNS burnout.  Anyone who hits the gym on a regular basis is at risk of "burning out," especially if you're giving it your all in the gym like you should be.  Don't be afraid of getting burnt, but try to avoid it if possible.  Get plenty of sleep, keep your diet up to snuff, and make sure you supplement your B vitamins.  They go a LONG way in ensuring you're able to perform at your best on a constant basis.

There's one more little thing I'd like to discuss about vitamin B-12.  The vitamin can be derived from two main sources, Cyanocobalamin and Methylcobalamin.  There's a rumor out there that the Cyanocobalamin version of the drug is harmful to your body because it's bonded to a Cyanide molecule.  There have been studies done on this claim, and all have shown that Cyanocobalamin has NO noticable effect on your body whatsoever.  Zip.  Zilch.  None.  This is good, because this version of the drug is MUCH cheaper than the Methylcobalamin version, specifically because it's synthetic.  It's also more stable, and more efficient at getting into your body.  

Don't want to take my word for it?  Here's an article describing exactly the same thing:

Before I end, I'll just add a little personal note in.  The very first night I took a 1500 mcg B-12 pill, I woke the next morning feeling SOOOO much better than I had the day before.  The feeling of mental fatigue and cloudiness was absolutely GONE.  B vitamins are an extremely powerful thing.  Take advantage of what they can do for you.  They're cheap, effective, and boy do they let you perform at your best.

Lift hard, lift often, be a BEAST, and as always, GOOD LUCK!

Friday, June 22, 2012

New Olympic Weightlifting Blog: Liftm0re

Well, I figured it was about time to create my own little place to write about my journey into becoming a competitive Olympic Weightlifter.  My new blog is called liftm0re, and will serve as a place where I put insightful/poetic observations and thoughts related to training, PR's, failures, competitions, workouts, and basically anything related to this crazy lifting lifestyle.

It won't be quite as "factual" as The Food Guru, but hey, that might make it more fun to read in the long run anyway.  I'd really appreciate if a few of you checked it out, and if you like it let me know.  The more feedback, the better.

This also means I won't post Oly lifting stuff on The Food Guru anymore, so it's a win win for people who don't want to read about it....hah.

Anyway, I really hope you guys enjoy it, and thank you so much for the continued support.

Here's the link!


I'll be back with more food related goodness later this afternoon.  I've got a few new cool article ideas, stay tuned!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Kava: Nature's Chill Pill

Every once in a while, I try something new that absolutely blows me away.  It's not often, but it does happen, and when it does it's a real treat.  I mean who doesn't like to be truly astounded?  My most recent experience with the magic of nature came just last Friday while I was at work.  It's rather fitting that this summer I got a job at a beautiful little health food and supplement store called "Rising Tide Natural Foods" in Kittery, Maine.  Not only is the place stocked with the healthiest, purest versions of any sort of food, drink, or supplementation you could imagine, but the employees there (including myself, if I may be so bold) are the nicest you'll find anywhere.  The owner, Paul, takes great pride in his shop, and is an encyclopedia of every supplement and their effects.  He was the one who let me try this new miracle of nature, and I can guarantee to you he saw in my face how blown away I really was.

So enough beating around the bush.  What exactly is this crazy thing I'm talking about?  It's called Kava, and it's probably one of the best relaxant supplements on the shelf.  It causes any sort of anxiety or tension to vanish almost instantly, and at the same time is able to relax every muscle in your body into a soft and wonderfully "loose" state.  And the best part is, it does all this extremely quickly WITHOUT affecting cognitive ability at all.  You can still think just as clearly.  Crazy, eh?

Let me tell you, I'm not one to be immediately swayed by so called "miracle" supplements such as this. Most natural stuff I look over as being good for you, but not particularly effective.  Many times remarkable results are obtained mostly through placebo effect.  But in this instance, that's not the case, AT ALL.  Let me tell you a little bit of my first experience with Kava.  I came upon the stuff while pricing new items, and Paul came over to see how I was doing.  As he saw the Kava, his face lit up instantly and he immediately started going into the history and chemical makeup of the stuff (of which I'll tell you in a bit), and proceeded to ask if I'd ever tried it.  I said I hadn't.  He began to unscrew the cap of the little bottle, and said bluntly, "Let's do some Kava."  He took out the cap (which doubled as one of those mini liquid droppers), filled it with the liquid (which had a brown, semi opaque type of look), and squirted some into my mouth.  I was completely ready to feel absolutely nothing, but that DIDN'T happen.

At first, my mouth went slightly numb.  I swallowed it, and while Paul continued to talk to me, I could feel my body start to release tension.  It went from top to bottom, an unbelievable "descending" feeling.  My nervousness was gone, and I realized I was slouching.  It's as if all at once I slipped into one of the most relaxed states I'd ever been in.  I didn't understand it, and I didn't care to.  I just knew the stuff worked.

So where does this Kava come from?  Well, it's actually a root extract, and has quite a history with different native tribes and tropical climates.  The plant is actually called Piper Methysticum (meanining "intoxicating pepper"), and comes from Western Pacific locations.  You might also see it called "Kava-Kava," but a Kava expert tells me that this double name was probably formulated by supplement companies to sell more product.   It's been used by several Polynesian tribes for its sedative properties, and is actually a large part of many tribal cultures and rituals.  In the purest Kava, only the roots are used, and are rich in what are called "Kavalactones," the active relaxing agent of the plant.  These Kavalactones are unique in that they're able to relax muscles and minds without effecting cognitive ability.  You'll be comfortable, chill, and free of stress.  It's also been known to increase sociability, and as Paul puts it: "it has all the good effects of alcohol, without any of the bad ones!"  He means of course that it will make you comfortable in social situations, a very useful tool.

Would I recommend Kava?  Yes, I definitely would, both for athletes and average people alike.  For athletes, it's a PERFECT way to unwind tight muscles and pent-up tension, and make sure you get a great night's sleep.  For a hard worker, it can release the stress of work quicker and more safely than any complicated blended stress reliever pill.  It's all natural, safe, cheap, and usually readily available at any local health food store.  I really encourage you to try it.  It's a really fun and fantastic experience, and I truly believe that Kava can improve both your mental and physical state to a huge degree.

I know I'm picking up a bottle next chance I get.

If you want the best Kava, go for pure the pure root, which you can buy at www.bulakavahouse.com
These guys do great business, are very nice, and know this root inside and out.  If you have any questions, I'm sure they'd be more than willing to help you out.

Stay cool, chill, relaxed, and Kava loving.  Good luck!!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cytosport Muscle Milk Bottles *Review*

As most of you probably know by now, I'm a HUGE connoisseur of protein supplements.  Whenever I get the chance, I try out something new on the shelf and see how it compares to what I've already had.  The other day I ran out of Combat Powder, and needed a quick, single day replacement for post workout nutrition.  I drove over to Walgreens, walked up to the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of Chocolate Muscle Milk by Cytosport.  After my workout, I chugged that sucker down, and well.....here's my review of the stuff:

Taste:  The chocolate version tasted great!  Sure, it wasn't the best protein I've ever had, but it wasn't far off, especially for a single dosage.  It's very thick and filling, and tastes like a real and substantially chocolatey shake.  Not hard to drink at all, and honestly it tasted good enough that I wished I had more.  The chocolate flavor is very potent, and doesn't taste very "chemical" at all (as some other proteins do.)  Reminded me of a brownie, even though it's been years since I've had one of those.  I will say though that I'm not a very picky person, and can appreciate most forms of chocolate flavor.  You may be a little more discerning, but I can say that I'm quite confident you'd enjoy the beverage.


Protein Content:  As far as the protein factor goes, the profile definitely isn't bad.  Is it the greatest protein source out there?  No.  But it's a good blend of many different proteins, including milk protein and a few types of whey.  The whey isn't amazingly refined, so I assume it won't absorb quite as quickly as a heavily filtered whey isolate or hydrolyzed whey.  Still, unless you're splitting hairs, it's not a huge deal, in fact I think it's good to have a blend so that the protein will feed your muscles over a longer period of time.  One bottle has a total of 25 grams of protein, which isn't huge, but is enough.  Just to compare though, most powdered proteins will give you about 50 grams of protein for the same number of calories as in a bottle of Muscle Milk.  So you're not getting a super concentrated dose, but the amount of protein your body can absorb in one sitting isn't that impressive anyway, so it's not a big deal.  Overall, the protein is of medium to medium high quality, and there's a decent amount of it.


Other Nutritional Profile:  One thing I noticed right away about Muscle Milk is that it has an interestingly large fat dosage.  Cytosport calls in "functional fat," which I assume means that their marketing it as healthy fat.  One bottle has a total of 9 g of fat, 1.5 g of which is saturated.  I'm not completely sure, but I think the fat mostly comes from the milk, as well as the oil used in the ingredients.  I can't vouch for exactly how high quality the fats are, but let's just say they don't raise any red flags or scare me away.  

A 14 oz bottle of Muscle Milk has only 3 grams of sugar, which is quite low considering the very sweet taste.  There are artificial sweeteners used, but I have no problem with those, though some people might.  The ingredient list is quite long, which I usually don't like, but expected in this case because most protein shakes have quite a bit that goes into them.  

Here's the nutritional information right off of Cytosport's website (click to enlarge):


Price:  Not the cheapest stuff out there, but definitely not the most expensive.  One bottle is around 3 bucks, not a killer investment if you need some quick protein.  I'd only use it as a temporary replacement for powder though, because you generally get a LOT more bang for your buck with powder.


Name:  SUPER COOL!  I mean seriously, "Muscle Milk"?  That's AWESOME!  Wish I'd thought of it.  Sure beats "whey protein isolate," or "mass gainer."  It's like, 

"Hey George, whatcha drinking?"

"Oh, nothing special, just MUSCLE MILK!!!"

Love it!


Overall, would I recommend the ready to drink Muscle Milk 14 oz bottles?  As far as the chocolate goes, yes I definitely would.  It's a great replacement for a powder for a day or two, and is a viable post workout protein source.  It's got a good blend of protein types, tastes great, and won't break the bank.  If you get a chance, try a bottle!  Let me know what you think!

Lift hard, lift heavy, refuel, and as always, good luck!!!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Healthy Fast Food?

Well my friends, I think it's about time I shared with you a quick little blurb on my favorite fast food.  That's right, I do eat fast food, though I don't think it resembles the greasy burgers and salty fries you're imagining.  In fact, I think it actually tastes a lot better than both of those, and is most definitely a lot more filling.  Oh, and you know if I'm writing about it, then it's actually legitimately HEALTHY!!!!  Too good to be true?  Not at all!

So where is this magical place?  Why, I'm sure it's in your nearest big shopping district.  It's called Panera Bread, and boy do they serve some good stuff.  Panera is famous for delicious salads, sandwiches, and a bakery that will put most others to shame.  The stores are well designed, modern, comfortable, and welcoming.  And while you may be screaming "NOT FAST FOOD!!!" -- you'd be dead wrong.  The food there is remarkably fast.  Often I place my order, get my little buzzer thing, and by the time I'm sitting down the darn thing is already going nuts (and scaring me half to death.)  Believe me, that food is speedy.  

You know what else is great about Panera?  They post caloric information right next to the menu items.  Now while you may be a little leary as to how accurate it really is, I believe they're required by law to put the same portions in each bowl in order to comply with those measurements, so you won't have to give or take too many calories from the stated number.  

Now keep in mind, NOT EVERYTHING in Panera is healthy.  In fact, you can get yourself into a lot of trouble with both the bakery (those pastries are incredible), and certain greasy sandwiches or cheesy soups.  Now don't get me wrong, everything tastes fantastic, but if you want to stay healthy, watch both the number of calories and the content of each sandwich, salad, or soup.  When I'm in Panera, I usually get the Thai Chopped Chicken Salad.  It's 470 calories for a GIANT bowl of tasty salad that's completely loaded with protein and healthy carbs.  Sure, the dressing is pretty sweet, but is completely manageable.  If you want to make it even better, take out the little Chinese noodles (as good as they taste.)  

Want a better idea of the nutritional information in Panera's food?  Here's a link to that exact information for your dieting knowledge:

I believe the best sandwich choices are:

Roasted Turkey and Avacado BLT (510 calories)

Smoked Turkey Breast on Country (420 calories)

And the best salad choices are:

Thai Chopped Chicken Salad (470 calories)

Poppyseed Chicken Salad (340 calories)

Asian Sesame Chicken (450 calories)

BBQ Chopped Chicken (500 calories)

As far as sides go, I'd suggest either an apple or whole grain baguette.  The chips are baked though, so they're not the worst thing going.  

Panera is definitely my favorite fast food joint.  If you keep your head on your shoulders and don't get tempted by the crazy chocolate stuffed croissants or cheesy, creamy soups, you can walk out of that place with a pretty healthy meal in your belly.  Remember folks, not all fast food is bad.

Enjoy your meals, choose wisely, and as always, GOOD LUCK!!!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

When To Shovel It In

Today, my coach put the hammer down.  He watched me in my last set of squats, and told me bluntly something I already knew in the back of my head:

"Seth, your form looks great.  Your speed is good, your depth is great, and as far as technique goes everything is fine.  But there needs to be about 50kg more on that bar, and the only way that's going to happen is YOU HAVE TO EAT MORE!"

(imagine all that with a thick spanish accent, even though he's like half Chilean and half eastern European.)

Now, I was repping 110kg.  That's about 245lbs, and I was squatting it so deep my butt was basically touching the ground.  My max is around 140kg, or 310lbs, to the same depth.  For skinny little me, that's not bad, and others might be happy with those numbers.  But when it comes down to it, I really should be cleaning 110, easily.  My leg strength is lacking, and in all honesty it's really ticking me off.

Squats and food go hand in hand.  When people Olympic lifters diet down, their squat is usually the first thing to go.  Then the clean, and finally the snatch.  The more leg dominant the movement, the more it will suffer from calorie cutting.  I've been stuck at around 163lbs of body weight, and I knew I needed to bump up my calories (from 3200), but hearing it so aggressively from my coach put me in high gear.  I shoveled down about 4 grand today, and will try to hit close to that with each successive training day.

But enough about me.  How can I relate this back to you?  Well, I'd like to let you in on the little hints your body might be giving you that it's about time to increase caloric intake.  They're pretty easy to spot, but not necessarily isolate as a diet issue.  And let me tell you, I experienced ALL of them, without any real clue as to why for the longest time.  DON'T make the same mistake I did:

Constant Fatigue (despite adequate sleep):  Sure, this could be a bunch of things.  But if you know you're getting AT LEAST 8 hours per night, are healthy without disease, and haven't changed much in your training recently, you can probably guess that your body is running on fumes.  Increase caloric intake by a few hundred calories, and see where that takes you.  I can almost guarantee you'll INSTANTLY feel better.

Strength Decrease:  If your lifts aren't going up  (and again, you know that other factors aren't to blame), it's time to put a little more food on your plate.  Don't be afraid of another sweet potato, or another helping of chicken and rice.  You'll thank yourself for it when the very next day your bench feels better than ever.

Injuries Won't Heal:  OK, this one could be for several reasons, and you shouldn't immediately attribute it to malnutrition. That being said though, eating too little will definitely not aid in healing.  It's very likely that a muscle tear, strain, or general aches and pains will get worse the more undernourished you are.  I noticed recently I've been having more and more strange pains in my legs that were never there before and appeared for no apparent reason.  Every day I've increased caloric intake, they've been barely noticeable.  I'm not sure what the details are on this one, but running low on food can show itself in strange places.

ALWAYS HUNGRY:  Well this one seems obvious, however many people fail to eat more even when their body is screaming for more food.  Listen, if you're getting a clean diet of complex carbs, lean proteins, and healthy fats, and are still hungry at the end of the day, don't be afraid to eat more.  If your food is nothing but quality, then your hunger pangs are definitely not false/fake.  Feed your body when you need to.  It's as simple as that.

Name Calling:  Yeah...I'm constantly getting called "skinny" by my coach.  Pretty obvious incentive to eat more.

Eating more can be daunting, but like I've said before, as long as you're eating clean, and training hard as hell, you will NOT be disappointed with the results.  Your body won't be able to afford to put on much weight as fat, and the little that does show up will live in the shadow of massive muscles.  I can't wait for that day, believe me.

Good Luck!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Food Worship #14: The Kidney Bean

Sorry folks, I know it's been a while since you've heard from the Food Guru.  I've been quite busy, but finally have a little time to sit down and discuss with all of you another of my favorite foods.  As you may or may not know, I'm a huge fan of beans.  They're a fantastic source of carbohydrates, and are absolutely DELICIOUS.  They come in all shapes and sizes, and I could honestly go for a few days rambling on about each one regarding its benefits, nutritional value, and why YOU should be eating them.  But today, I must choose only one.  And so I've made it my second favorite, as I've already written about my number one (the chickpea, or garbanzo bean.)  Today's bean of choice is....*drum roll*.....the humble kidney bean.

These medium sized beans are a little bit funny looking, being shaped like, well, kidneys.  But I assure you, they're one of the best foods you could ever put in that ever improving body of yours.  Not only are they delicious, but they have a whole host of powerful health benefits that will without a doubt make you feel (and look) absolutely amazing.  As per the usual routine, I'll now provide several bulleted categories of beneficial aspects of the bean, as any professional blogger would (despite me not actually being professional...yet.)  Let's get started, shall we?

Fiber:  First and foremost, as with a LOT of beans, kidney beans are very rich in fiber.  Fiber can help lower cholesterol and greatly improves digestive health.  It also makes your body more efficient at digesting the other foods in your diet and utilizing the nutrients in each one.  In all honesty, you want to get as much fiber in your diet as you can, ESPECIALLY if you have a high protein diet (as any muscle-head would.)  Fiber is your friend.  One cup of kidney beans will have about 220 calories and a whopping 16 grams of fiber!  That is a LOT of fiber, and will do your body a LOT of good.

Complex Carbs:  If you're looking to build muscle and have long lasting, powerful energy throughout the entire day, you need a lot of good quality, slow digesting complex carbs. In terms of carbohydrates, you can't get much higher quality than kidney beans.  They'll provide your body with exactly the energy you need, and will promote muscle growth and glycogen replenishment.  Unlike sugary carbs, complex carbs will NOT provoke as aggressive insulin response by your body and therefore will allow you to avoid unnecessary fat gain.  Kidney beans are like high octane, awesome quality fuel for your body, so eat up!

Stabilize Blood Sugar:  Not only are fiber and high quantity of complex carbs an excellent source of digestive health and long lasting energy, they also both help stabilize blood sugar, leading to less fat gain (if you're bulking up), or easier fat loss (if you're slimming down.)  Low and stable blood sugar levels are crucial to a healthy diet and trim figure, especially as you age.  

Protein Packed:  Kidney beans are absolutely LOADED with protein.  One cup has about 14 grams of protein, and while the beans themselves don't provide a complete amino acid profile (the protein in the beans isn't immediately available to your body for muscle building), when the beans are combined with a good whole grain, the amino acid profile can be completed and you'll get all the benefits of that hearty, protein packed legume.  Want the guns to impress the ladies?  Grab yourself a can of kidney beans and dig in.  

Nutritional Profile:  To wrap the rest up into one little section, kidney beans have a great nutritional profile overall.  They're very low in saturated fat, very low in sugar, and of course, if you buy the right ones, are all natural.  I love the canned beans, which have all the same nutritional benefits, but unfortunately with a bunch of added sodium.  If you get canned beans (which again, is completely FINE), make sure to rinse them thoroughly before consumption to wash the majority of that salt right down the drain.  Easy enough, right?

Here's the nutritional information for canned kidney beans:

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 cup
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 8
Calories 218
% Daily Values*
Total Fat 0.87g1%
Saturated Fat 0.128g1%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.484g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.069g
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 873mg36%
Potassium 658mg
Total Carbohydrate 39.91g13%
Dietary Fiber 16.4g66%
Sugars 0.56g
Protein 13.44g
Vitamin A 0%Vitamin C 5%
Calcium 6%Iron 18%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Nutrition Values are based on USDA Nutrient Database SR18
(Lots of sodium if left un-rinsed, so make sure to remember that step.)

All in all, kidney beans are a must-eat if you're at all concerned with health, fitness, or general well being.  They're absolutely delicious, and go well in all sorts of recipes.  Personally though, I love just eating them plain with some good spicy seasoning next to a piece of tilapia and some natural almonds.  YUMMY!  They're cheap, accessible, and ridiculously healthy.  Pick some up ASAP!

Love the kidney bean, a magical fruit, and as always, GOOD LUCK!


Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Salty Situation

Every now and then you consume a little more of something than you had intended.  Maybe you saw it coming, maybe you didn't, but it happened (or was going to happen) regardless.  This kind of situation is a very common one in the diet world, and honestly, I think it usually falls into one of two categories.  You either eat too much sugar, or too much salt.  The first one I'll discuss in a later article, however I wanted to cover the necessary steps to take if you find yourself overdosing on sodium, as I happened to do this weekend (though somewhat intentionally.)

Now I knew that this weekend I would be training with my coach down in Eliot, Maine for two days, and would be spending the night in the gym.  Not wanting to break the bank on eating out, I decided to pack some food.  I only had one small suitcase, and no cooler or anything like that, so my options were limited.  Not only that, but I'd be training quite hard, therefore I knew I needed quality protein and carbs and PLENTY of each.  Can you guess the most convenient food packing option here?  That's right...CANNED FOOD.  Into my suitcase I threw two giant cans of tuna (10 oz), two giant cans of chicken (also 10 oz), a four pack of 5 oz tuna cans, and a 4 serving can of black beans (I also packed some oatmeal for breakfast, and had a wholelotta whey protein).  Every single one of these foods is AWESOMELY clean and has an epic nutritional profile, except for one little blip, which of course, would be the sodium.  Holy moley, that was a boatload of salt.  Somewhere around 2000 mg per meal if I calculated it correctly.  That's about 85% of my daily recommended intake.  What was I to do in order to battle such a crippling dosage of salt?

Well, the first thing to remember is that you cannot destroy your body (or your diet) in one or two days, no matter what you do.  It just doesn't work like that.  You won't wake up twenty pounds lighter just because you had an awesome workout the day before, and you won't wake up a fat lard the next day if you had one extra slice of cake.  Diets are about long term results, and the same goes for sodium.  Sure, if you consume a lot of it one day by accident, you'll probably retain a lot of water and feel (and look) pretty bloated.  But your heart won't stop, your blood pressure won't skyrocket, and you won't die.  Phew!  Now that we got that out of the way, let's see what I did to minimize the huge salt intake on my body.  

Firstly, if you're going to consume huge portions of salt, you need to consume even larger portions of WATER!  That's right, I probably drank two gallons each of those days.  Drinking more water will actually cause you to retain less, and will also do wonders in helping your kidneys filter out all those extra minerals.  Chug that stuff like there's no tomorrow.  I had at least two bottles of it with every meal (6 meals), as well as two bottles worth in my pre and post workout shakes.  DO NOT STOP DRINKING WATER.  I saw very minimal water retention, and I think drowning myself in the stuff did the trick.  Obviously don't drink past a semi-comfortable level, but don't be afraid to stick your head under the sink and go to town.  

Second thing to do?  Consume more POTASSIUM.  The sodium/potassium ratio in your body is a very important one, and must be respected.  In an ideal situation the ratio should be 1:1, meaning for every milligram of sodium you take in, you should have one milligram of potassium to match it.  The reasoning for this goes down to the cellular level, however without getting too complicated I'll just say that sodium and potassium are both EQUALLY responsible for ensuring proper hydration of your body, and without the correct balance you're in for trouble.  Potassium actually helps regulate the amount of sodium your body retains, so consuming more may ensure that you don't hold on to that crazy salt dosage.  It'll also help combat the hypertension inducing effects of sodium, lowering blood pressure considerably.  No matter your sodium intake, it's usually a good idea to make sure to eat potassium rich foods on a regular basis.  This goes even more-so if you're regularly physically active.  While I suggest whole foods such as bananas for this purpose, another easy way to get more potassium quickly is to consume a sports drink like Powerade or Gatorade (my solution for this weekend.)  

Despite a pile of salty food this weekend, I kept my diet clean and my body happy by counteracting the effects of excess sodium intake.  A little too much salt every now and then is no reason to fret, as long as you don't make it a habit.  Keep conscience of your sodium intake, and take the simple steps listed above in order to ensure it doesn't get out of hand.  

Eat big, train hard, drink LOTS OF WATER!  Good luck!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Heartbreaking Dawns 1498 Scorpion Chili Sauce *Review*

OK, I confess, I'm a wannabe chili head.  Allow me to explain.  A "chili head" is someone who absolutely loves, and in some ways is quite addicted to, incredibly spicy, flavorful foods.  These usually include the peppers which are truly the hottest of the hot, the chilis that make Jalapenos taste like unflavored popcorn, and Habaneros akin to a quick night time snack.  I'm talking peppers like the Naga Viper, the Trinidad Scorpion (and similar strains like the Butch T or 7 pot), and of course the infamous Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Pepper).  All of these peppers boast heat ratings over a million Scoville Heat Units (SHU).  To put that in perspective, a Jalapeno is only about 3,000 SHU.  These peppers are HOT!!!!!

Chili heads also enjoy many sauces and spices created from these super hot fruits.  I've had quite a bit of experience with sauces myself, and have always liked challenging myself with what I've considered to be quite spicy foods, and am always looking to try the next level.  My tolerance to heat isn't bad, but it's nothing compared to the true chili enthusiasts, or perhaps I should call them "heat seekers."  However I am always looking to try the next step up, and decided I'd like to purchase a real powerhouse hot sauce and give it a go.  I  wanted one that would make Tabasco look like the wimpiest little bottle going, but still wanted one made with natural ingredients and actual peppers, not just super hot extract.

After a lot of research, I came upon a company called Heartbreaking Dawns, and let me be the first to say that while my experience with hot sauces isn't as vast as some, these folks blow everyone else out of the water.

Heartbreaking Dawns is a company based on home brewed sauces made with the tastiest combinations of natural ingredients you could ever come upon.  They've got everything from pineapple jalapeno sauces to super spicy yet flavorful ghost pepper varieties.

I, however, wanted something with a little more kick.  So I settled on their "1498" sauce, made with Trinidad Scorpions, one of the original peppers to dethrone the Bhut Jolokia as the hottest pepper in the world.  Boy was I in for a treat.

Flavor:  This sauce tastes absolutely fantastic.  It's not just a destructive, eye watering heat with no flavor to boot, oh no.  It has an extremely rich combination of ingredients (discussed in more detail later in the article) that taste FANTASTIC together.  This sauce went through many prototypes, and boy did they get the end product right.  It tastes great by itself, but even BETTER on food, and BEST on meats.  Seriously, it's got all sorts of fruity aroma, including hints of blueberry and scotch bonnet peppers as well as the very flavorful Trinidad Scorpion pepper.  It adds a lot of character to almost any meal, and honestly I can't really imagine it going poorly with anything.  It doesn't overpower, despite the intense heat.  Awesome!

Heat:  I won't lie, this stuff is HOT!  But I'll also say that it isn't killer.  Sure, if you think Tabasco is hot, you'll have a little bit of an adjustment period (and will want to go light on the sauce at first),  but it won't set your whole face alight.  It's got a "nice" burn to it that lingers, and makes you sweat it out for a little while, but actually feels good once you get used to it.  As you can probably tell, it's hard to describe.  All I can say is that if you're looking for a kick, this sauce will DEFINITELY give it, especially in larger quantities.  But it can also be used sparingly for a great heat without making you cry for hours.  Be prepared for tongue and throat burn though, they can get intense.

Ingredients/Nutritional Information:  Here's a picture of the ingredient list.

As you can see, the ingredients speak for themselves.  No extract, no artificial sweeteners, no HFCS, just all natural ingredients.  Nearly zero calories per serving, only a TINY bit of sodium (very unusual for hot sauces), and a blend that'll make even seasoned food critics quite intrigued.  It's fantastic, and it really brings a smile to my face to see such natural ingredients in such a tasty sauce.

Other comments:  Check out how cool that logo is, really tattoo-esque, right?

Overall, I highly highly HIGHLY recommend this sauce.  It's a perfect blend of heat and flavor, and is about as natural and healthy as you can get.  It'll add awesome kick to any food, yet will also compliment the existing flavors quite nicely.  You can't go wrong with Heartbreaking Dawns.  Be adventurous, get some heat in your life!