Harvard strikes again.
The February 2008 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter (subscription only) contains an article titled Triglycerides: A Big Fat Problem. The article discusses the correlation of elevated triglyceride levels with the development of coronary artery disease, then lists eight methods for reducing elevated triglyceride levels. It’s this list I want to discuss, but first let’s consider what triglycerides are and what they do.
Triglycerides are storage fats composed of three fatty acid chains hooked onto a glycerol (a 3-carbon carbohydrate) molecule. Fats travel in the blood as triglycerides and are stored in the cells as triglycerides. Each time a triglyceride moves into or out of a cell, the three fatty acids must first be removed from the glycerol backbone. After the fatty acids move across the cell membrane into or out of the cell, the fatty acids are then reattached in a process called esterification. (The particular bond between the fatty acids and the glycerol molecule is called an ester bond.)
There is undoubtedly a correlation between elevated levels of triglycerides in a fasting blood sample and the risk for heart disease. But, remember, although correlation implies causation it doesn’t really prove causation. As far as I can tell there is no firm data showing precisely how elevated levels of triglycerides actually drive the development of heart disease, but there is a considerable body of data demonstrating a strong correlation between elevated triglycdride levels and heart disease. My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that elevated levels of triglycerides in fasting blood are a marker for heart disease, meaning that whatever really causes heart disease also causes an elevation of triglycerides. A ridiculous example of this would be large belt sizes and obesity. Obese people wear large belts, but the belts don’t cause the obesity.
If this is the case, then simply lowering triglycerides won’t really reduce the risk of heart disease unless however you reduce triglycerides also reduces the real risk. Focusing on reducing triglycerides only would be comparable to an obese person buying a smaller belt in an effort to reduce his bulk because, after all, non-obese people have smaller belts.
We know that chronically elevated blood sugar, even if it is within what is considered the normal range, is a risk factor for heart disease. (Despite the focus over the past several decades on cholesterol in it’s many forms being a risk factor, this has never been conclusively shown to be true. The correlation between elevated blood sugar and heart disease, although dismissed or ignored by lipid-hypothesis promoters is much more closely associated in a dose response manner by the data than is cholesterol. See this old post for an explanation.)
After years of low-carb dieting myself and of taking care of thousands of patients on low-carb diets, I can tell you one thing with pretty much certainty: Low-carb diets reduce triglyceride levels markedly. And I can tell you that low-carb diets reduce blood sugar levels as well. Most of the patients with the highest fasting triglyceride levels also have elevated fasting blood sugars. On a low-carb diet, these patients drop their triglyceride levels like a rock.
Now, having this history, let’s take a look at the eight methods the Harvard Heart Letter recommends to help people reduce their triglycerides.
1. Beware of bad fats. Cut back on saturated fat (found in red meat and full-fat dairy foods) and trans fat (in some fried and commercially prepared foods).
Always the first recommendation by those in the grip of saturated fat hysteria. In their minds, no matter what the problem, cutting saturated fat makes it better. You can eat saturated fat to your heart’s content and still markedly reduce your triglyceride levels as long as you rigidly reduce your carbs. Same with trans fat. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of trans fat, but many patients have brought about tremendous reduction of their triglyceride levels while eating a lot of processed food by simply restricting their carbs. This isn’t the ideal situation, but it does give the lie to the idea that simply reducing trans fat will reduce triglyceride levels.
2. Go for good carbs. Eat whole grains and cut back on sugary drinks and foods.
Cutting back on sugary drinks and foods is sound advice. But they have to be virtually eliminated, not just cut back on if you expect much triglyceride lowering. Unfortunately, ‘good’ carbs elevate triglycrides as much as ‘bad’ carbs. And here they go again with the whole grains nonsense. Do these people not realize that we humans can’t eat whole grains. If you don’t believe me, go get some wheat grains and try to eat them. These grains are in a protective shell that we can’t break through to get at the starch within. In order to make the much-beloved whole grains edible, they have to be processed. What these people mean by whole grains are grains that have been processed up to the very last stage that removes all the brown husks from the flour. Whole grains, as these people mean them, are processed grains. You can go out and increase your consumption of five-grain, whole-wheat bread out the wazoo and watch your triglycerides rise. I can tell you categorically that eating whole grains as intended by these people will absolutely not lower your triglycerides. Eating real whole grains probably wouldn’t have much impact because they would pass through undigested.
3. Check your alcohol. Moderate drinking is good for the heart, unless you are a “responder” in whom alcohol dramatically boosts triglycerides. To determine if you’re a responder, avoid alcohol for three weeks and have your triglycerides tested.
The responder business counts only if there is actual demonstrated causation between elevated triglycerides and heart disease, which there isn’t. I suspect something else is going on here, but in all honesty, if I were a ‘responder’ I would probably cut back on my alcohol consumption until I figured out what is really going on. Thank God I’m not.
4. Go fish. Omega-3 fats in some fish lower triglycerides. Have fish twice a week.
Omage-3s do indeed work to lower triglycerides and are protective against heart attack. But I would have fish twice per week only if I wanted to increase my mercury levels along with my omega-3s. A much better way is by taking mercury-free fish oil and/or krill oil in supplement form. If you insist upon eating fish, go for sardines. They are small, low on the food chain and haven’t had time to concentrate much mercury.
5. Aim for a healthy weight. If you are overweight, aim to lose at least 5% to 10% of your weight to lower triglycerides.
Weight loss will really help to lower your triglycerides if you accomplish it via a low-carb diet. In fact, if you go on a rigid low-carb diet, you will lower your triglycerides dramatically long before you lose much weight.
6. Get moving. Exercise lowers triglycerides and boosts HDL.
I don’t have a problem with this recommendation, although you can lower triglycerides and raise HDL levels much more quickly with diet than you can with exercise.
7. Stop smoking. Smoking isn’t good for triglyceride levels (or anything else).
From the data I’ve read on smoking, that habit seems to drive the forces of insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome. I’m pretty sure that insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia are the driving forces behind elevated triglycerides so anything you can do to reduce these underlying problems will reduce your triglycerides. Having said that, however, I’ve had a number of patients who smoked, refused to quit despite my nagging, and still lowered their triglycerides by eating low-carb. But don’t get me wrong – I believe everyone who smokes should quit.
8. Get help from a medication. Niacin, fibrates, fish oil, and cholesterol-lowering statins have all been shown to lower triglycerides.
Readers of this blog can, I’m sure, imagine my response to this recommendation.
If you want to lower your triglycerides, lower your carbs. It’s as simple as that. But you’ve got to really lower your carbs, not just make a half-hearted stab at a low-carb diet. If your idea of lowering your carbs is avoiding a dessert from time to time, but continuing to chow down on ‘good’ carbs all day long, you’re going to be disappointed. But if you eat a lot of meat, even red meat, accompanied by green and colorful vegetables and low-carb fruits, you should be rewarded with triglycerides that are almost always below the 150 mg/dl limit of what’s considered ‘normal,’ and you will more than likely find yourself with fasting triglycerides below 100 mg/dl, which is a very good place to have them.
On another note, I’m traveling today, so probably won’t be able to get comments posted until late tonight. I’m planning a post on the vitamin D situation that so many people have written questions about, and you won’t believe the latest from Anthony Colpo. All to come this week.
The brain researcher says Szent-Györgyi was wrong: It’s no use taking vitamin C
Dr Zsófia Clemens, brain researcher: Albert Szent-Györgyi was no doubt wrong on the issue: it’s no use taking vitamin C. Taking vitamin C supplements will not contribute to better health, even if it’s not easy to accept this concept in the scientist’s homeland. Vitamin C has actually become a symbol of healthy life, particularly in Hungary. The never proven mistaken theory that supplementation with vitamin C may prevent diseases has prevailed for decades now. Despite all scientific findings to the contrary, the vitamin C frenzy has in fact strengthened for the past few years. When, however, researchers began to realize that vitamin C administered orally was not effective even in a daily dose of several thousand milligrams, the idea came up that it would be, if administered intravenously in high doses. Nevertheless, it would not.
Brain researcher and neurobiologist Zsófia Clemens, scientific manager of the Paleomedicina group, recently published a comprehensive review on vitamin C in the scientific periodical of the Ancestral Health Society (AHS). We interviewed her, the leading author of the article, about the subject.
The article published in the scientific periodical Journal of Evolution and Health
Paleomedicina: Would you, please, sum up the most important findings of this comprehensive review?
Zsófia Clemens: If we really eat healthy food, then we get sufficient vitamin C from our nutrition. Of course, it must be explained first what we mean by a healthy diet. If, however, we don’t take care of what we eat, it’s all the same whether we take vitamin C supplements or not, because if taken in tablets or capsules, vitamin C is not effective at all. To begin with, it’s a wrong approach that we expect miracles from a single nutrient separated from its natural environment. When we eat, the food we take in is not in an isolated form. Thus, thinking about the effects of vitamin C, we have to consider numerous interactions that occur between vitamin C and all other nutrients, also taking into account absorption, biological availability, and selection. No research has been made into this question so far. However, owing to its complicated nature, such research would be rather difficult to carry out anyway. Perhaps it would be of no use either, as there has been no scientific study so far that indicated that orally or intravenously administered vitamin C indeed has a role in preventing any kind of disease or death. In the article, we go over what we know about the connection between various diseases and vitamin C today.
Paleomedicina: Yet we still read analyses that praise the useful effects of vitamin C in the case of certain diseases. How is it possible?
Zsófia Clemens: There is a serious problem with those analyses in so much as they they confuse the results of interventional and cross sectional studies. Therefore, it seems as if there was great disorder in the relevant scientific literature. However, there isn’t! The cross-sectional studies have all demonstrated that high vitamin C concentration in the blood is associated with better health, while the interventional studies have shown without exception that giving vitamin C to patients has no use at all. It follows from the results of the two approaches that whereas vitamin C is useful for health, it will not help prevent disease if given in an artificial form as a supplement. Researchers publishing articles in the scientific media most often make the mistake of drawing a causal conclusion from a correlation. And, for lack of personal experience with patients, predisposed vitamin C fans generally cite this mistaken view when proposing vitamin C supplementation. Evolution developed the route of vitamin C in the human body during millions of years. Vitamin C supplementation with pills goes against nature.
Paleomedicina: You have said even stickier things than that! Namely, that the source of vitamin C is not to be found in vegetables and fruits.
Zsófia Clemens: That’s right. Vitamin C that is present in plants behaves, from a biochemical point of view, entirely differently from that found in animal sources of food. We scrutinize these differences one by one in our article. What is the least known in this context is that even heat treatment affects plant and animal vitamin C in a different way. At this point, we should definitely move away from the long-time erroneous assumption that not all types of vitamin C break down under the effect of heat, but only those that we find in vegetables and fruits. And, of course, those that are there in supplements. This is one reason why it is recommended not to drop vitamin C into hot tea. Vitamin C found in animal sources has a remarkably high heat stability. If you eat steamed calf liver regularly, you won’t become deficient in vitamin C.
Paleomedicina: What other animal foods contain vitamin C?
Zsófia Clemens: Apart from liver, it is found in skin, marrow, and kidney. Vitamin C is present in a concentrated form in these organs, which heap it up. In addition, glandular organs have high concentrations of vitamin C. These foods, for example calf sweetbreads, were much appreciated by consumers in the past, but now many people are averse to them. Offal of this kind may contain even 50 times more vitamin C than the amount found in the blood.
Paleomedicina: You worked on writing the article for almost a year. How confident were you about your conclusions?
Zsófia Clemens: There were powerful indications. I must say that the researchers who have firsthand experience of the nutrition and diets of hunter-gatherer societies have all arrived at the same conclusion, that is, that vitamin C supplementation is unnecessary alongside the consumption of animal source foods. Dr Walter L. Voegtlin, the only clinician who applied the paleo-ketogenic diet before us, also came to the same conclusion in the 1970s. In addition, our own patients, whose condition we followed up for quite a long period, confirmed it, too. We have also had numerous negative experiences associated with taking vitamin C pills. For instance, a little girl with epilepsy who had been on paleo-ketogenic diet then for a longer period of time and whose condition we were following up, did not become seizure free until she stopped taking vitamin C. I regard empirically based knowledge and feedback from patients as very important, and believe that there is no successful counselling on vitamins without them. I would advise everyone not to accept any advice regarding vitamins from consultants having no clinical experience. Untrustworthy information gathered from the Internet that hasn’t been proved by clinical practice may easily mislead people lacking sufficient background knowledge. Taking vitamins is far from being as harmless as most people think.
Paleomedicina: You even came across quite a lot of opposing views on the part of the reviewers. To what do you ascribe that?
Zsófia Clemens: That was probably because the criticism came from persons with rusty minds. Otherwise it couldn’t be explained how obvious facts can be assessed in totally different ways. Once something is ineffective, then it is definitely ineffective, no matter how many times we test it. It doesn’t need to be overcomplicated. However, the phenomenon is quite well known. For instance, whereas drugs prescribed to reduce high cholesterol levels are useless according to all existing studies and cause various side effects, it is hard to find physicians or researchers who would publicly defend their negative opinion regarding the taking of medicines. These facts directly contradict to the views prevailing in present-day medical practice. Moreover, researchers are openly averse to a meat and fat diet. Sadly, even those who believe in the beneficial effects of paleolithic nutrition, often find themselves on the wrong track. We are exceptionally lucky in this respect because we are able to draw from a large sample of patients as well as many laboratory tests to establish correct and appropriate conclusions.
Paleomedicina: What motivated you to start the project?
Zsófia Clemens: When I started to look at the scientific literature on vitamin C, I didn’t find any consistency in it. What I saw was that chiefly alternative (naturopathic) medicine practitioners or physicians who sympathize with alternative medicine preferred to use vitamin C. As these trends came from the East, they are concerned with dietary patterns that are close to the vegetarian diet. They try to mingle this fruit-and-vegetable attitude with some isolated facts associated with vitamin C. The result is catastrophic. The final conclusions of their articles are usually meaningless, most of the time implying that although we have been doing research on vitamin C for nearly 100 years, unfortunately we still don’t know whether or not it is helpful in preventing cancer, myocardial infarction, or cold. People have a distorted image of vitamin C. They are provided information which is totally misleading. The situation is the same in Hungary. I wanted to see, not least for the sake of our patients, whether we have to give them vitamin C for complete rehabilitation or for maintaining their good health.
Paleomedicina: Is intravenous vitamin C also ineffective in cancer therapy?
Zsófia Clemens: What I can say briefly about it is that there is not a single study to show that vitamin C has ever crucially influenced the expected outcome of cancer. Give it orally or intravenously, vitamin C will not prolong the life of a cancer patient.
Paleomedicina: What about other vitamins?
Zsófia Clemens: There’s complete confusion in that area, too. However, the situation is less complicated than in the case of vitamin C. With vitamin D, B12, B6, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron we had an easy time. It was enough to go over the laboratory results. It was evident from the tests that these needn’t be supplemented either, because a strictly adhered paleolithic ketogenic diet would ensure the physiological level in all cases. But how to measure the amount of vitamin C is still an open question, and, in addition, it has turned out that if we measured it in the blood of patients and relied on this value alone, that wouldn’t reveal much information about their condition.
Paleomedicina: And what’s the truth about liposomal vitamin C?
Zsófia Clemens: Liposomal vitamin C dosing is based on the misconception that ideal absorption requires vitamin C to be given continuously. Nevertheless, it doesn’t. The Inuit are hardly ever in a position to have access to food containing vitamin C daily. At the same time, the Inuit, and all other people, equally have the capacity to accumulate vitamin C in certain cells and organs. This again runs contrary to a deep-rooted disbelief that vitamin C, as a substance that dissolves in water, leaves the body quickly.
Paleomedicina: Intravenous vitamin C, liposomal Vitamin C, Szent-Györgyi vitamin C – are all these absurdities? Ineffective and worthless?
Zsófia Clemens: Yes, they are.
Paleomedicina: Will they believe it to a brain researcher, here in Hungary, in the shadow of Albert Szent-Györgyi?
Zsófia Clemens: In Hungary, Szent-Gyögyi’s homeland, it is very difficult to accept this concept. Vitamin C, Albert Szent-Györgyi, the only Nobel Prize awarded for scientific research conducted in Hungary is part of our national identity and pride. It’s with nostalgia that we remember the times when our devoted parents put vitamin C into our tea when we were ill. We grew up with the belief ever since childhood that taking vitamin C is as vital and natural as breathing. In this way, our approach to it is emotional. Nevertheless, biology pays no attention to feelings or emotions. I would like add though, that our assumptions are not meant to hurt the scientific merits of Albert Szent-Györgyi, who, contrary to popular belief, did not discover but in fact isolated vitamin C, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for his biochemical discoveries associated with cellular respiration. Though Szent-Györgyi himself took large doses of vitamin C in his later years to fend off disease, he did it out of personal rather than scientific conviction, because he never did research of that kind.
Paleomedicina: When and how did you come across vitamin C?
Zsófia Clemens: When I was a child, I did not hear about any other vitamins. My parents, who were both physicians, gave it to me indiscriminately. Then at university, we learnt ascorbic acid synthesis as part of a subject called plant physiology, which seemed so complicated to me at the time that I felt it was impossible to learn. Otherwise, I don’t remember I ever stumbled on it again during my university years. Nevertheless, I was impressed by the nutritional habits of hunter-gatherer peoples, which they passed down to the coming generations for centuries. I was especially affected by the work of a Canadian researcher, Karen Fediuk, who investigated the eating habits of the Inuit from the point of view of vitamin C. Going back to an earlier question, that was the first scientific accomplishment regarding vitamin C that I considered logical and authentic. We received feedback and vice versa, which confirmed that vitamin C-related biology works in the same way with us, first-generation Central European champions of paleo-ketogenic nutrition. The human race is very homogenous. We are right when we consistently apply the principles of evolutionary medicine to our patients, and don’t let business govern our work.
The Paleomedicina approach is that of evolutionary medicine which has a wholly scientific basis. We do not use naturopathic methods and we distance ourselves from such methods. Our scientific papers published in international medical journals can be viewed here.
“I have lived a long life…but I wish I had gotten more Instagram followers.”
Nobody has ever uttered these words on their deathbed. And yet most people are living their life as if that’s the only thing that matters.
Are you feeling anxious? Are you lacking purpose? Are you addicted? There’s a reason.
- Video games.
- Social media.
Modern society is frying your brain like a Mcdonald’s french fry.
You think you’re using these technologies as tools, but instead they’re using you. This is no conspiracy – these tools were designed to addict you.
You have been trained to seek instant gratification – whatever you want, you want it now.
The result? An onslaught of endless noise. A damaged brain. A loss of meaning. A numbness to sensation.
But it’s not a lost cause. Like a car, you just need an oil change.
Ever heard of a dopamine fast? Well, that’s your oil change. It’s the antidote. It’s your “f**k you” to modern society.
Read more to learn about what dopamine fasting is and how it will give you back control of your life.
What is Dopamine?
You know when you get that Instagram like and it feels good? That’s dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a chemical in your brain responsible for motivation and reward. It’s a messenger between your brain cells, emitting a signal to the brain whenever it expects or receives a “reward.”
Stare at this photo below. Does it make you tingle inside?
What about this one?
This is modern day cocaine. Even something as simple as these photos can prepare your brain for a dopamine hit. If only it would get you to focus on this article like you do on your Instagram…
Let’s be honest. Despite all our human progress, we’re still fairly simple creatures. At our core, we are primal. We do things because they feel good.
That is how habits are created. Your brain is incredibly neuroplastic. Reward and reinforcement condition you to act in specific ways. If you do something once and receive a positive response, your brain will want to do it again.
But in our pleasure-addicted world, the search for the ultimate dopamine hit can become a nightmarish treasure hunt for nothing but fool’s gold.
Dopamine Gone Wrong
Dopamine itself is not the culprit here. Without dopamine, you’d have no motivation. They can be genuine and beneficial. They’re evolution’s way of saying you’re onto something good, promoting your own survival or even propagating the human race (or, as we like to call it, sex).
Dopamine is the whip that your genes use to get you to do things.
Until fairly recently, dopamine hits were always coupled with some evolutionary benefit. It took hard work and accomplishment to get a dopamine rush.
The Instagram notification of hunter gatherer times was the appearance of an elephant to kill for lunch. The pornography was a woman in bed. Both of these things increased your likelihood of survival. And as we well know, surviving is great.
The problem is that dopamine can be hacked for the wrong purpose.
Today, most dopamine hits bring no real benefit.
Instead, they are exploited as a mechanism to suck more time and revenue out of you. Facebook uses neurochemical techniques to make you more addicted. For example, they vary the frequency of notifications to keep you surprised and coming back for more (brain science shows that variable reward increases the addictive potential) [*].
Yes…this is why you keep getting random notifications when your Crazy Aunt posts a new photo.
And because dopamine hits today don’t produce a biochemical benefit, you never reach satiation. Here’s an example:
Hunting for a juicy cut of steak would give hunter gatherers both a dopamine hit and nutrient satiation.
Going to the nearest convenience store and bingeing on sugar only gives you the dopamine.
Because the hit is so easy to obtain, you never feel satisfied and Over time, you tolerance threshold increases, which makes it even harder to satisfy yourself next time you’re seeking a hit. And just like that… a vicious cycle that turns you into a dopamine addict.
Like a toddler with a lighter, this is a recipe for disaster.
Slowly but surely, you begin losing your ability to feel happy and motivated by real, meaningful things. Why make love to your partner when you can update your instagram profile to boost engagement?
Congrats: you have officially discovered the easiest way to destroy a society.
“Dig up the root of thirst so that Mara the tempter may not crush you again and again.”
One of the most prevalent themes in religion is demonic temptation. Evil things approach you under the guise of innocence, tempting you with fruitful rewards.
This was Satan in Christianity and the arch tempter Mara in Buddhism.
Modern society is back to tempt you to eat the apple: “Just try a little, it’ll feel good.”
Why does this theme recur over and over again? Because many of these pleasures are in our genetic interest in the short term… all at a severe cost in the long term.
This is the evil trick of genetic selection.
It lures you in with an external reward, telling you that your life will be complete if you get it. Just one more raise. One more job promotion. One more house. Then everything will be perfect. You work and work, and finally you get it…until you realize the joke’s on you!
You’re like a hamster on a wheel, on a mad dash towards the next pleasure. Just when you think you’re making progress you realize you’re back where you started.
A hamster on a wheel thinks it’s in control. But it has no free will. It exchanged it for the next dopamine high. You have too.
Who cares that you got a promotion. Who cares that Tom over in sales got a bigger bonus. Or that you didn’t get enough likes on your last post. There’s more to strive for.
External pleasurable things tend to be ephemeral. They disappear faster than Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Rewiring Your Brain: Monkey vs Human Brain
Every time you get a dopamine hit, you’re rewiring your brain.
Willpower is a muscle even if it’s weaker than Charles Barkley’s golf game for most people.
You know that voice in the back of your head telling you not to do drugs? Not everybody has that.
There are two main neural systems that regulate decision making:
- Your Monkey brain – dominated by the amygdala (if I got a fancy degree from Harvard, I’d refer to this as the A-System [*])
- Human brain – dominated by the prefrontal cortex (sometimes called the I-System [*])
The Monkey brain is concerned with maximizing immediate reward, while the Human brain is focused on maximizing long-term reward.
This ability to consider the long-term ramifications of our actions is indeed what sets us apart from the monkeys [*]. It’s the reason why you’re able to make it this far in the blog post instead of throwing poop at people on the streets like our herbivore ancestors.
But this monkey brain still lives inside of you. And if you don’t tame it, it will master you like Gepetto mastering Pinocchio.
Imagine you’re staring at a candy bar. The internal struggle begins. The battle between your monkey brain and your human brain. The monkey inside of you sees the candy and all it can think about is the rush of sweetness you will get as soon as you bite into it.
“I need that candy. I need it more than anything in the world,” you say to yourself, “that candy bar will change my life.”
On the other side of the spectrum, a properly trained human brain will fight back: “Fuck that. I’m going to feel like crap after. It’s not worth it. I need to stick to my diet.”
You thought Evander Holyfield vs Mike Tyson was a big fight…? This is bigger. More than just an ear will be bitten off…
But if you don’t train your brain, it will lose. The brain is a muscle like any other. Without the proper regimen, it will have no strength to fight..
Instead of exercising self-control, most people are pounding dopamine bars. Instead of building the willpower muscle, they’re causing it to atrophy away. It’s like showing up to the gym and stuffing your face with donuts in the locker room instead of lifting weights.
Too much dopamine causes the balance to shift too far in the monkey direction: the amygdala is hyperactivated and the prefrontal cortex is hypoactivated. Every time you do this, you’re strengthening the strings of your monkey puppet master.
The short term-focused systems dominate. You’ve muted your human brain, and this creates massive feedback loops. The more you give into the monkey brain, the stronger it becomes.
And if you’ve seen Planet of the Apes strong monkey is a scary sight because it has NO reservations. It wants more. And it wants it now.
This is why if you struggle with willpower in one aspect of your life, it’s unlikely you’ll have pristine discipline in another.
Can you remember the last time you saw a cocaine addict reading books and meditating?
Other Side Effects of a Dopamine Addiction
Man’s worth can be measured by things upon which he sets his heart.
––– Meditations 7.3
This shift towards the monkey system has massive consequences. It doesn’t just create addictive behaviors – it reshapes your whole life.
Just like physical obesity is from junk calories, mental obesity is from too much dopamine. You’ve stuffed your brain with junk and it’s incapable of functioning properly.
According to AJAC, a veteran personal trainer and mens self improvement writer:
“Mental obesity is dopamine addiction, the mind is trained to say “yes” to everything that is presented to it. This inevitably slows down and halts higher level thinking, and turns people into social media addicted zombies.
Their minds become controlled by infotainment, and the same way a physically obese person obsesses over food, they obsess over checking every feed and have intense anxiety over missing out on anything.”
Some other side effects include:
- Short attention span – Studies show that the attention span of an average student has dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds. Chimpanzees have an attention span of 20 seconds. There you have it – humans are less focused than monkeys.
- Cluttered mind
- Anxiety – Constant dopamine makes you upset when you’re not getting it. Do you feel a constant state of depression and anxiety? It may be because your dopamine bar has been reset too high and your brain is addicted. You’ve got a heroin addict living inside your head.
- Instant gratification addiction – Only looking for immediate results.
- Dysfunctional personality styles: Excessive social media has been shown to lead to dysfunctional personality styles: narcisissm, shyness, need for confirmation, constant negativity and low self esteem [*]
What is the antidote?
What is a Dopamine Fast? Fasting Is Ultimate F*** You.
“Nature has intermingled pleasure with necessary things — not in order that we should seek pleasure, but in order that the addition of pleasure may make the indispensable means of existence attractive to our eyes. Should it claim rights of its own, it is luxury. Let us therefore resist these faults when they are demanding entrance, because, as I have said, it is easier to deny them admittance than to make them depart.” —Seneca
If your monkey brain is beating the shit out of your human brain, it’s time to wake up.
You need to start taking your brain seriously. Your brain is the most powerful weapon in the world, yet you’re not taught to use it properly.
Imagine handing a monkey an iPhone without any training. Do you think it would read the kindle? Or watch videos of monkeys throwing poop at each other all day?
If you’ve never been trained, you’re no more capable than a monkey… How do you expect to one second float around in a warm goo in your mother and the next to sit down, shut up and obey?
Without an instruction manual, you’re completely lost. All you know is you want some damn cake.
If there were one, page 1 through 100 would say in large letters: DON’T SCROLL THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA ALL DAY OR EAT SUGAR. Then page 101 would say don’t be a vegan. The end.
Like going to the dentist to clean plaque off your teeth, you need to clean the plaque off your brain. You need to rewire your brain, reset your habits, and put yourself back in the driver’s seat.
How do you do that? Through the dopamine fasts.
As you’re about to learn, the dopamine fast is the antidote to this hedonistic lifestyle. It is the ultimate reset button you’re looking for.
According to Dr. Cameron Sepah, a clinical psychologist and professor at UCSF Medical School who’s helped to popularize this new Silicon Valley trend, “taking a break from behaviors that trigger strong amounts of dopamine release (especially in a repeated fashion) allows our brain to recover and restore itself.”
“Dopamine Fasting 2.0” is based on the behavioral therapy technique of ‘stimulus control’ for addictions, and is much more practical to implement, since it doesn’t require total abstinence.
It’s time to take back control of your life and attack the problem head on.
How Do I Dopamine Fast?
A dopamine fast requires that you abstain from activities that release dopamine. To do this, you pretty much have to do the exact opposite of what you’re used to. No phone. No internet. No clothes. (Kidding, you’re allowed to use the internet.)
If a behavior is problematic, you need to cut it out.
How do you know it’s problematic? If it’s causing you:
- Distress (you’re bothered by how much you do it)
- Impairment (interferes with your optimal social or school/work performance)
- Addictiveness (you want to cut down, but cannot consistently do so)
There are a number of ways to integrate this practice into your life. My favorite way: a monthly dopamine fast.
It is a day you mark on your calendar. If you don’t have a calendar, tally it on your wall like a prisoner. One day a month, you will fast from all dopamine.
Dr. Sepah’s “Dopamine Fasting 2.0” approach recommends the following schedule:
- 1-4 hours at the end of the day (depending on work & family demands)
- 1 weekend day (spent it outside on a Saturday or Sunday)
- 1 weekend per quarter (go on a local trip)
- 1 week per year (go on vacation!)
Activities to Cut Out
This isn’t going to be fun. In fact, it has to not be fun. This is why there’s no roller coasters in prison yards. You’re supposed to cut out anything that stimulates dopamine. That’s right, folks – it’s time to cut the strings of the monkey that are controlling your life.
There are two approaches.
(1) go cold turkey on ALL possible dopamine hits.
(2) just cut out the problematic behaviors.
If you cut out all dopamine hits for one day a month that means:
- No food.
- No caffeine.
- No phone.
- No internet.
- No computer.
- No substances.
- No making fun of vegans.
This sounds like a drag. You’re cutting off the monkey in your brain, like a parent cutting off their kid’s allowance. It will rebel.
However, Dr. Sepah’s modern version of Dopamine Fasting is a bit more practical. His “Dopamine Fasting 2.0” is based on the behavioral therapy technique of ‘stimulus control’ for addictions, and doesn’t require total abstinence. All it requires is abstaining from the problematic behaviors you identified above.
The choice is yours, but I like to mix in both.
What to Do During the Fast
The only thing you’re allowed to do all day….Read my blog posts….
Alright, actually…so you’ve cut the fun stuff out and you’re ready for your hard reset. What should you do during a fast?
My day is usually centered around walking, light exercise and meditation.
If you’re looking for more ideas, sign up below for a PDF of all the things I like to do during a dopamine fast (& 15 Stoic Journal Prompts).
6 Things to Do on Your Dopamine Fast (& 15 Stoic Journal Prompts)
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Benefits of Dopamine Fasting: Why Do it?
#1 Discipline is Freedom
It’s a paradox. The more disciplined you are, the more freedom you’ll have. They seem like opposites, but in reality they’re tied at the hip.
Want to be a slave to big Pharma in 20 years? Eat “freely.”
Want to be a slave to your iPhone? Download games freely.
Want to be a slave to your mind? Succumb freely to impulses.
Everything worthwhile takes time and effort. By giving in to dopamine, you’re reprogramming your brain to focus on the opposite.
Over the last hundred years, freedoms have increased immeasurably. The battle for freedom has in many ways been won. But at what cost?
Instead of being imprisoned by culture, people are imprisoned by their own brains. You’re free to protest, but you’re locked in a prison. You’re free to complain about anything… but you can only complain by writing it on a wall locked in a bathroom stall.
That’s how free you really are.
Fasting from dopamine and building better habits will strengthen your discipline and allow you to truly be free.
#2 Break Your Addiction to Comfort
The pursuit of dopamine will shrink your comfort zone to the size of a microwave. Today’s pleasure-addicted world is using dopamine hits to mask their pain.
Dopamine is a medication. But a medication with more side effects than what is listed in a standard pharmaceutical commercial.s.
Dopamine hits are used to avoid unpleasant experiences. Instead of living with your own thoughts, experiencing boredom or dealing with anxiety head on, you retreat to your phone.
When’s the last time you’ve even taken a shit without looking at your phone? Now you’re playing Candy Crush with double pink eye.
Of course, this is bound to backfire. Avoiding the problem only amplifies it. It’s like allowing a homeless person to sleep outside your home because you’re afraid of saying something. And then the next thing you know he’s sleeping with your wife.
Slowly acquiescing to dopamine trains your addiction to comfort, eroding your discipline. You cede control. You can’t find the motivation to do the important tasks.
Things that are uncomfortable do not produce the same dopamine spikes, so your craving brain avoids them.
Basically, if everybody is trained to experience pleasure, after a while you can’t put up with any discomfort. But discomfort is the only way to grow. Discomfort is a call to arms. A pleasure addicted society is a mediocre one: A society who’s greatest accomplishment is their Fortnite score, instead of their 100 year Cathedrals.
What starts merely as avoidance of pain turns into full-blown addiction to comfort, trapping you in a comfort cage.
A dopamine fast is the long, shit covered crawl that will break you out of this comfort prison.
After all, everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.
#3 More Resilience
“Here’s a lesson to test your mind’s mettle: take part of a week in which you have only the most meager and cheap food, dress scantily in shabby clothes, and ask yourself if this is really the worst that you feared. It is when times are good that you should gird yourself for tougher times ahead, for when fortune is kind the soul can build defenses against her ravages. Seneca
The reason you can’t be alone with your painful thoughts is the same reason you can’t motivate yourself to go to the gym. Or meditate. Or eat beef liver. Or stand up to that coworker that constantly takes credit for your ideas. You’re afraid of the pain, and you’ve trained your brain to avoid it.
This is so often how you are defeated, one seemingly small concession at a time. You don’t just wake up one day and become mentally and physically weak. Each and every time you give in, you erode your self-discipline.
A dopamine fast will give you more resilience. Like a vaccine, small stressors harden you to pain. The pain of giving up your biggest addictions will train you to deal with the real disasters when they come.
Deliberately putting yourself in uncomfortable positions prepares you for the inevitable unplanned discomfort. Whereas weakness leads to stagnation. So sleep on a bed of nails, put glass in your shoes… and remember that it’s not the end of the world the next time your barista forgets your half and half.
You obviously don’t need to go that far. But without any discomfort, you’ll never be comfortable.
You’ll never solve the biggest problems in your life if you don’t face them. Like a ticking time bomb, they explode in unexpected ways. The addiction to comfort is the fuse that ignites the nuclear explosion.
Most people live in fear of hard challenges, but you will not. You will become mentally and physically resilient.
#4 Tame Desires Before They Devour You
An addiction to hedonism will destroy your life.
The example of Marcus Aurelius and his brother Lucius epitomizes this. Marcus lived a life of philosophical inquiry and discipline, shunning parties and games in favor of studies and self improvement.
On the other hand, his brother and co-emperor Lucius was known for his extravagant parties. He once threw a party that cost the equivalent of the entire Roman army’s annual pay.
Marcus pored over books, Lucius poured drinks. Lucius dropped philosophy in search of more freedom and leisure, whereas Marcus was disciplined in search of fulfillment. Marcus rose early and studied. Lucius slept in and had a hair of the dog.
In the end, Lucius’ habits devoured him. His hedonistic lifestyle addicted him to the dragon of dopamine. Like a schizophrenic pendulum he swung back and forth between deep lows and very high highs. Lucius ended up dying early as an alcoholic, and Marcus ruled the Roman Empire and lived a life of fulfillment.
If you’re interested more in this dichotomy, check out Donald Robertson’s new book How to Think Like a Roman Emperor.
The stoics believe that entertainment is not inherently good or bad, but it is unhealthy when pursued excessively. It becomes a problem when you are more interested in doing what’s pleasurable than doing what’s good for you. When you scroll through Instagram instead of reading that book that’s staring at you from the shelf.
Time and time again, pleasure in the short run leads to pain in the long run. The road that seems the easiest never actually is.
Tame these addictions before they enslave you.
#5 Increase Your Long-Term Fulfillment / Meaning
There are two paths you can follow in life:
- A life where you’re addicted to comfort. You make decisions by avoiding short-term pain and seeking pleasure.
- A life where you seek self-discipline and reason. You attack discomfort and transform it into power. You use it to fuel you to accomplish great things.
One gives you fleeting pleasures. The other gives you lasting fulfillment.
It takes a Herculean effort to stay disciplined amongst the noise, to fight the siren call of the pleasures. But in the end, it produces something more satisfying than pleasure: genuine purpose and meaning.
As Marcus Aurelius said, “Real fulfillment comes from acts you do.” He also said “Check out my son Carnivore’s twitter account.” It’s not going to come from the shallow dopamine hits. To get real pleasure, you need to replace these superficial pleasures with better hobbies.
You need to achieve what the stoics called apatheia: freedom from harmful desires. Joy is a byproduct of achieving long-term goals, not ravenously snacking on quick dopamine hits. This is why Marcus was able to achieve much more pleasure than his brother who was more addicted to pleasure than I am to steak.
Epictetus underscored this point: “Freedom isn’t secured by filling up on your heart’s desire but by removing your desire.”
In today’s world, this is a challenge. We’re overstimulated from every direction, our attention spans whittled down from beautiful, long nails to bitten stubs of a madman.
All of this is echoed by neurochemistry. Low-level pleasures activate only one part of your brain, whereas higher-order pleasures engage broader neural networks [*].
#6 Fasting Teaches You to Be Grateful
Constantly pursuing pleasures only makes you need more. It’s allowing your base instincts to run the show, appointing your monkey brain CEO of your life.
From the perspective of your base instincts, you’re NEVER good enough. You’re never going on enough vacations. You don’t look like George Clooney. You’re not as wealthy as Bill Gates. But trust me, even George Clooney has felt self conscious about his gray hair.
The monkey ceo is ruthless. He won’t be happy until your head is on a stick and he’s eating bananas off your back.
But it’s not true. You have everything you need to be happy. It’s all in your control. It all comes from within.
An addiction to dopamine will tell you otherwise, but breaking that addiction will free you.
#7 Increase Productivity & Focus on Long-Term Goals
“Nothing, to my way of thinking, it better proof of a well-ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.” — Seneca
The ability to focus is a superpower, and a dopamine addiction is your Kryptonite.
The culprit: people have trained new habit loops and taught their brain to look for dopamine instead of doing long-term work.
Your monkey brain is always searching for the feeling of reward from the Instagram notification or the new text message until it can’t stand an hour without it.
Everybody has been trained to think for the short-term. But if you can break out of this paradigm, you will dominate.
You’re running a marathon, but most people are standing in place. They think they’re going faster but they’re really stuck in place on a treadmill. Meanwhile, you’re casually pacing to the finish line.
#8 Increases Creativity & Imagination
You can’t ever create anything if you’re never alone with your thoughts.
Your imagination is a muscle. If you’re constantly ingesting, you never imagine.
Being alone with your thoughts is the key to becoming great. If you slow down and give your brain time to create instead of ingest, you’ll be surprised by the genius you’re capable of.
Give your mind the silence it needs. Your brain is craving this fast.
#9 Rewire your brain: Dopamine Sensitivity
Your brain has been rewired by these demonic technologies and this addiction to comfort comes with crippling side effects.
Even if it doesn’t feel like you’re addicted, your brain has been rewired. As discussed above, the seesaw of reward has shifted more towards the monkey brain than the human brain.
You’ve trained your brain to focus on short-term instead of long-term goals, diminishing the impact of long-term thinking.
Every time you scroll through Instagram while working, you lay new habit paths in your brain.
You teach yourself that distraction produces reward. Not learning. Not skill acquisition. Not building things.
You give your thumb all the power. Our beautiful opposable thumb that evolved to dominate the world has now been reduced to a slave to the iPhone scroll. You’re focusing on the wrong things and pursuing vacuous rewards.
Once you learn about neuroplasticity, you’ll never use these menacing technologies again. Every thought and action you take literally rewires your brain, creating insidious associative behavior. It’s like you rip out the dash on your car and are plugging random wires into each other. Next thing you know, you try to turn on the stereo and your car starts driving in reverse.
The hyperactivated dopamine hits of the world also change the benchmark of your dopamine levels. It decreases your dopamine sensitivity over time. Meaning you no longer feel the same reward from a satiating, delicious steak. Instead, you need the sugar.
The scariest part is that this can eventually cause your entire brain to adapt. It rewires all your circuitry around motivation, inhibitory control, executive function and conditioning [*].
How You’ll Feel on a Dopamine Fast
Here are some things I experience on dopamine fasts:
- My mind is quiet but focused. Like an ocean with an oil spill, your mind is polluted. Once you lift out the dopamine it will be like a clear reef.
- At times, I crave the dopamine. It feels like the monkey inside my brain crying in pain. But weirdly it feels good. I meditate on it. I control it. And I starve it.
- I experience massive insights. About business. About life. About myself. I’m pretty sure I cured cancer but forgot to write it down. When you clear out weeds, you allow flowers to blossom.
- I realize how much of a waste of time these shallow pleasures are.
- I notice more beauty around me. Things I don’t usually experience when I’m glued to my phone. Even the plants were beautiful. This is also why I think it’s so unethical that vegans eat them…
Your brain has been hijacked.
Big food companies have created foods that addict you.
Social media companies have created notifications that addict you.
Scientists have created porn that you crave.
It’s time for the way out. And that way out is fasting.
Cholesterol is one of the most feared molecules in the world today.
Yet new research shows it’s one of the most beneficial molecules for your health.
How does everyone have it so backwards?
How Did We Get Here?
Why did cholesterol get put into the penalty box? Three main studies damned cholesterol:
1) 1913 Russian study on rabbits showed that cholesterol caused lesions.
2) Ancel Keys and his CORRUPT seven countries study showing a correlation b/w saturated fat & heart disease
3) A study in Framingham, MA 60 years ago claimed cholesterol led to heart disease [*].
All three ultimately led to the diet-heart hypothesis and Food Pyramid.
Cholesterol was the critical second link of the diet-heart hypothesis. The hypothesis was that saturated fat increased cholesterol. And based on the studies above, that cholesterol then caused heart disease.
After cholesterol was found to be present in artery walls in patients with heart disease, cholesterol was blamed as the cause of the disease.
But we convicted the wrong enemy.
The Truth About Cholesterol
All three studies used to convict cholesterol would turn out to be flawed and corrupt.
The 1913 study on cholesterol by the russian scientist was on rabbits. Rabbits are herbivores. Of course they react negatively to cholesterol.
Ancel Keys cherry picked seven countries out of 22. After including all the countries there was no correlation.
There was not a shred of truth in any of the three studies.
A 30 year follow up to framingham actually showed a negative correlation between cholesterol and disease.
“There is a direct association between falling cholesterol levels over the first 14 years and mortality over the following 18 years (11% overall and 14% CVD death rate increase per 1 mg/dL per year drop in cholesterol levels).” [*]
So of course the USDA and health authorities backtracked on their cholesterol recommendations and saturated fat vilification right…? Of course not. They doubled down and still recommend people limit saturated fat.
Studies Confirm LDL and Total Cholesterol Are Not Risk Factors
Now that cholesterol has been rigorously tested, more studies continue to emerge that cholesterol is not predictive of heart disease.
In 1987, a thirty year follow up to the Framingham study was conducted — the study that crucified total cholesterol in the first place.
Those aged between 48 and 57 with cholesterol in the mid range (183-222 mg/dL) had a greater risk of heart attack than those with higher cholesterol.
They also found that “for each 1 mg/dL per year drop in serum cholesterol values, there is an 11% increase in both the overall death rate and the CVD death rate.” [*]
In fact, there are zero studies that show that high LDL is a risk factor, independent of triglyceride levels and HDL levels. [*]
What matters is the functioning of your lipid and energy transport system.
And a big reason why there is often a correlation between LDL, HDL and heart disease is because they are potentially indicative of a broken system.
And you know what? New scientific research confirms this.
There’s not a single randomized control trial that shows people with high LDL die younger. David Diamond has done some great work here.
In fact, some studies show that higher LDL-C is associated with equal or greater lifespan [*].
When it comes to total cholesterol, a study in Hawaii found the same. Having low cholesterol for a long time actually increases risk of death:
Instead of continuing to dig their heels in, I do appreciate the honesty of the study above: “we have been unable to explain our results”.
This study from UCLA showed that 75% heart disease patients had LDL below 130 mg/dl — the level at which doctors prescribe statins.
The above data shows that saturated fat can raise cholesterol. But no evidence has shown that, independent of other factors, high cholesterol is a cause for concern.
New evidence continues to pile up that cholesterol alone is not the culprit when it comes to heart disease. And that lowering it is not necessarily beneficial (in fact in some cases it can cause more damage).
In 2019, the BMJ reviewed 22 interventional trials and found that “‘The preponderance of evidence indicates that low-fat diets that reduce serum cholesterol do not reduce cardiovascular events or mortality” [*]
In the recently unearthed Minnesota Coronary experiment researchers lowered cholesterol like they intended by 14%.
But this led to a “22% higher risk of death for each 30 mg/dL reduction in serum cholesterol”
This study was BURIED for 40 years.
Lastly, remember the seven countries study that blamed saturated fat and cholesterol for heart disease? Well Zoe Harcombe added in 290 more countries and the correlation flipped. Cholesterol actually becomes negatively correlated with heart disease.
What BioMarkers Are Predictive of Heart Disease?
Yes, cholesterol is present in the artery walls of heart disease patients.
But it’s because it was there to rescue their artery walls.
It’s like condemning firefighters for starting fires just because they’re present at all fires. The logic is completely backwards.
What matters is how the fire started in the first place.
LDL, the “bad cholesterol”, is not predictive alone. Of course not. Because it is not inherently harmful. It’s only indicative of an atherogenic environment when it’s coupled with inflammation and oxidation.
What is the signature of inflammation and oxidation?
It usually rears its head as high TG / HDL ratios and high fasting insulin.
In a recent study of 103,446 men and women, LDL levels showed very minimal effect on heart disease.
But an increase in triglycerides/HDL ratio doubled the risk of heart disease. [*]
High triglyceride/HDL ratios are indicative of high remnant cholesterol, which is a better indicator for heart disease than LDL alone [*].
Dave Feldman showed below that remnant cholesterol correlated highly with all cause mortality.
And guess what is significantly associated with remnant cholesterol? Insulin resistance [*].
When it comes to biomarkers, I like to see:
– Total / HDL < 4
– TG / HDL < 1
– HDL > 40
– TG < 100
– Fasting insulin < 10
– Fasting glucose < 5 mmol/L
LDL, the “bad cholesterol”, is nowhere to be found…Why?
Big pharma can’t make money off the REAL predictive biomarkers
Make sure to also keep an eye on fasting insulin levels.
From the great Ivor Cummins: When insulin is low, high LDL particle count and high triglycerides don’t indicate that you’re at higher risk. [*]
But when insulin is high, the risk of high triglycerides and high LDL is magnified.
When fasting insulin is >15 uU/mL, your risk of heart disease with the same triglyceride levels go up 6.7x. And with the same LDL-P levels, it increases 11x.
High LDL with high insulin is much more concerning than high LDL with low insulin.
Too Little Cholesterol is Worse Than Too Much
Cholesterol is an organic molecule found in cell membranes and most tissues. It’s in the food we eat and is naturally occurring within our bodies.
Of the cholesterol present, around 75% is created in our bodies, and 25% is ingested.
Cholesterol is one of the most vital compounds in our bodies. So vital that our bodies make around 3000 mg of it every single day. [*] We can’t leave it to chance to get it externally – it’s that important.
Without cholesterol, we would literally be dead.
Cells would disintegrate. We’d have no hormones, no brain function, and no muscles. Every cell membrane is constructed out of cholesterol.
- Cortisol (anti-inflammatory stress hormone)
- Aldosterone (regulates salt balance)
- Vitamin D
- Bile (required for fat and vitamin absorption)
- Brain synapses (neurotransmitter exchange)
- Myelin sheath (insulates nerve cells)
Not having any cholesterol is MUCH worse than having too much of it.
Cholesterol is one of the most important molecules in your body. It is not a direct etiological agent in heart disease — it is merely correlative because it can indicate fundamental damage.
Exercises for Sculpted Legs — No Lunges Required
Lunges are like the Brussels sprouts of the exercise world — you know they’re good for you, but you can’t seem to develop a taste for them. Luckily, lunges aren’t your only option. There are plenty of other leg exercises that build lower-body strength while challenging your balance and flexibility.
So, if you loathe lunges but want the lower-body perks, Nedra Lopez Matosov, trainer and owner of the New York City-based fitness studio The P.E. Club, suggests incorporating these five killer leg exercises into your weekly workouts.
1. Sumo Deadlifts
Deadlifts are amazing for sculpting the hamstrings and glutes, says Lopez Matosov, adding that the sumo deadlift’s wider stance targets the hard-to-reach inner thighstoo.
- Stand with your feet wider than your hips. Point your toes out, between 30 and 45 degrees.
- The weight (barbell, kettlebell or dumbbells) should be right in the middle of your legs.
- Stick your hips back and hinge forward to grab the weight with both hands, using an overhand grip.
- Bend your knees slightly as you lift the weight, pushing through your heels to stand. Make sure to squeeze your glutes.
- Slowly return the weight back down as you hinge forward again.
Read more: 6 Deadlift Variations to Add to Leg Day
“This move is great because you are working the entire leg — plus glutes — and you get your heart rate up too,” Lopez Matosov says.
- Stand in front of the step.
- Lift your foot leg onto the step — planting your whole foot — and step up, placing all your body weight into it. Make sure to squeeze your glutes at the top.
- Slowly lower down to the starting position with control.
- Repeat for desired repetitions, then switch to your right leg.
TipFor an added challenge, hold a dumbbell in each hand.
3. Glute Bridge
This strengthening move not only sculpts your legs, but it also opens your hips too, Lopez Matosov says.
- Lie on your back with your feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor, knees bent so that your feet are near your butt and plant your arms at your sides.
- Engaging your abs, squeeze your glutes and lift your hips as high as you can, pressing into your heels.
- Pause at the top of the movement for an extra squeeze, then slowly lower back to the starting position.
4. Single-Leg Deadlifts
Kick your deadlift game up a notch with this single-leg version, which is great for increasing strength and stability, Lopez Matosov says. “You will notice your legs feeling leaner and your booty higher after including these consistently into your routine.”
- Stand tall and soften your right knee with your right foot planted firmly on the ground.
- Lift your left leg straight behind your body as you hinge at the hips to bring your torso parallel to the floor. Think of moving your body in a seesaw motion: you hinge at the same rate that you lift the leg behind you.
- Your hips should stay square throughout the entire movement, avoiding the tendency to turn them out.
- Once you’re parallel to the ground, squeeze your right glute, push through your right heel and pull your core in as you return back to standing tall.
- Repeat for desired number of reps, then switch sides.
TipTo help with balance, you can place an object in front of you to touch as you lean forward, or if you want to up the ante and increase the move’s difficulty level, hold a dumbbell, says Lopez Matosov.
5. Kettlebell Swings
“The kettlebell swing is a powerful and effective exercise that works your inner thighs, hamstrings, abs and glutes,” says Lopez Matosov, who adds that this heart-pumping move can also double as cardio.
- Begin with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart. Place the kettlebell down about a foot in front of you.
- Bend forward and grab the kettlebell by the handle. Begin to bend the knees slightly to allow your back to flatten and look forward.
- Pull your belly in tight as you begin to lift the kettlebell back between your thighs. Allow your forearms to graze your inner thighs as you hinge forward.
- Exhale as you push your hips forward and squeeze your glutes, which will propel the kettlebell forward.
- Then hinge back allowing the kettlebell to swing between your thighs.
TipDon’t lift the kettlebell with your arms, Lopez Matosov say. The explosive power of the movement should come from your hips, glutes and core. And if you feel discomfort in your back, make sure to bend your knees and engage your abs, especially as the kettlebell swings forward.
Source: Article by Jaime Osnato (https://www.livestrong.com/article/13724466-leg-exercises-no-lunges/)
Oatly oat milk is a dairy-free alternative to milk. If you haven’t tried it yourself, maybe you’ve heard someone in line at Starbucks order something like a “matcha latte with oat milk.” It tastes creamier and more milk-like than many other plant-based milk substitutes and has grown like crazy in popularity, but is it healthy? Let’s take a look at the ingredients and nutrition facts:
Oatmilk (water, oats), rapeseed oil, dipotassium phosphate, calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate, sea salt, vitamin B12, riboflavin (B2), vitamin D2, vitamin A.
Nutrition Facts per 1 cup (240 ml)
Calories – 140
Fat – 7 g
Saturated – .5 g
Trans Fat – 0 g
Cholesterol – 0 mg
Sodium – 100 mg
Potassium – 390 mg
Total Carbohydrate – 16 g
Dietary Fiber – 2 g
Soluble Fiber – 1 g
Sugars – 7 g
Includes 7 g added sugars
Protein – 3 g
One of the first things I notice is that there are 7 grams of added sugar per cup of oat milk, even though there’s no added sweetener in the ingredients list. So where does the sugar come from? The only carbohydrate source is oats, a grain that’s very low in sugar. It turns out the added sugar in Oatly comes from their production process, where added enzymes break down the oat starch into simple sugars, primarily maltose . Maltose has a glycemic index of 105. For context, white flour and doughnuts have a glycemic index of 85 and 75, respectively. The glycemic index is a scale from 0 to 100, meaning that maltose has a literally off-the-charts impact on blood sugar levels. A 12-ounce glass of oat milk (the amount in a medium latte) has about the same blood sugar impact as a 12-ounce can of Coke.
The third ingredient, after water and oats, is rapeseed oil, the slightly less flattering name for canola oil. Usually, rapeseed oil is used in the automotive and chemical industries to make things like engine lubricant and biodiesel, whereas the version used for cooking is known as “canola oil”. Both are extremely processed, inflammatory, and unhealthy oils and can even contain up to 2.03% of trans-fats . Trans-fats have no safe level of consumption and have (finally) been officially banned in the US . Seed oils like rapeseed and canola oil are one of the few foods left that still contain toxic trans-fats . Based on its nutrition information, we can calculate that each 8 oz cup of oat milk (the amount in a small latte) contains about the same amount of oil as a medium serving of french fries. A large latte with oat milk would contain over 10 grams of rapeseed oil, much more oil than in a large fries. Every time you drink a latte with oat milk, you’re getting the toxic and inflammatory equivalent of a medium to large serving of french fries.
After water, oats, and rapeseed oil, the next ingredient is dipotassium phosphate, a food additive in packaged foods originally derived from animal bones and urine. It is now extracted from phosphate rock and put through chemical reactions to make it edible . Other foods that typically contain added phosphates are processed meats, soda and colas, fast food, and frozen chicken nuggets . The FDA, whose policies and guidelines are usually decades behind the science, claim that phosphates are GRAS (generally recognized as safe), but the FDA said the same thing about artificial trans-fats until 2015, when the scientific research had been showing otherwise since at least the 1990s. In the case of phosphates, a 2012 study on their hazardous effects concludes, “In view of the high prevalence of chronic kidney disease and the potential harm caused by phosphate additives to food, the public should be informed that added phosphate is damaging to health” . Chronic kidney disease is now one of the leading causes of death and disability in the US .
To more closely resemble the nutrition facts on a carton of regular cow’s milk, Oatly fortifies its drink with added vitamins and minerals. They include added Vitamin D (a very important nutrient), but use the less effective Vitamin D2 in place of Vitamin D3. Your skin produces Vitamin D3 naturally; in contrast, Vitamin D2 is produced by plants and mushrooms exposed to sunlight. Although supplemental Vitamin D3 is nearly twice as effective as Vitamin D2 at raising Vitamin D levels in your blood [10, 11], Oatly has decided to opt for the less expensive D2, presumably to keep it 100% vegan.
Oatly claim their goal is, “to make it easier for people to upgrade their lives by switching to a more plant-based diet.” While they may have good intentions, little about this oily grain water will upgrade your life.
Triglycerides are fats that are found in the blood and they are normally healthy and contribute to important physiological processes. They are used by the body for energy and are used for the storage of it as well. They are also essential to the transport of cholesterol, necessary for brain and nerve health, throughout the body. However, sometimes the triglycerides levels in the blood can become too high, and this can lead to long term health complications like heart attacks and strokes. One major cause of high triglycerides comes in the form of foods that we eat every day.
Foods that are high in saturated fat are a big contributor to the buildup of excess triglycerides in the blood. And, foods high in triglycerides to begin with like oils and butters are also responsible for increasing triglyceride levels. But, there is another food source of these elevated levels in the form of carbohydrates, particularly simple carbohydrates. The body takes in carbohydrates and converts them into body fuel producing glucose. Extra glucose that the body does not use for energy purposes is stored in the form of fat. And therefore an excess of calories from simple sugar sources can lead to an excess of triglycerides in the body.
Essentially, the way in which simple sugars are a major cause of high triglycerides has to do with the way in which the body processes these so differently from complex carbohydrates. When foods rich in simple carbs are ingested, the body uses them for energy very quickly, and the result is a rapid rise in glucose levels in the bloodstream. The pancreas responds by upping its production of insulin. An overload of carbs that the body simply can not use all at once combined with a maximum capacity of the storage of glycogen can lead to the conversion of the excess glucose into triglycerides by the liver. These manufactured triglycerides are sent to fat cells. This relationship between triglycerides and sugar intake indicates the extreme connection between diet and maintaining healthy levels of blood fats, and shows how simple carbohydrates can be a key cause of high triglycerides.
High triglycerides can negatively impact the body in many different ways. And, the presence of higher than acceptable ranges can also indicate other issues with the blood fat levels within the body. Persons with elevated triglycerides also often have lower than desirable levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol, which can protect against heart disease. The cholesterol HDL ratio in these individuals can also be elevated. It is acceptable for the ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol to be 2 or less (this number can be calculated by dividing the level of triglycerides by the total HDL). Higher ratios can often coincide with the presence of blood clotting disorders as well.
Higher than normal levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides are associated with a significantly increased risk of both heart attacks and strokes. In fact, high triglycerides have been linked to a nearly thrice as likely chance of having a heart attack. It has been suggested that evaluating the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides within the body can be the best way to predict heart disease, furthering the importance of identifying these levels early and eliminating any known cause of high triglycerides and cholesterol.
High sugar foods should be avoided like a plague to eliminate the risk of elevated levels of triglycerides. Sweets like donuts and cakes as well as candies should be avoided by persons who have higher than desirable levels of the blood fats. Another often forgotten simple sugar based cause of high triglycerides is sugary beverages like soda and many fruit juices. Even diets that reduce or eliminate some food sources can be stymied by the incorporation of these sugary drinks. But, it is not just the tasty sweets that can be considered a cause of high triglycerides. Many foods that aren’t often thought of as necessarily bad for the body can be culprits too. White flour and white rice, for example, contain simple sugars that the body uses the same way it does the simple sugars from a candy bar. Complex carbohydrate choices are better substitutes for these such as brown rice and whole wheat flour.
The management of high triglycerides is typically a complex assortment of varied treatment methods including medical management and monitoring, lifestyle and dietary changes as well as sometimes the use of medications like fibrates and statins if necessary. Many people happily find however that reducing the dietary cause of high triglycerides has a dramatic impact on returning the levels of these blood fats to healthy levels, therefore dramatically decreasing the risk for serious and long term health complications.