Archive of ‘Science’ category

When Adrenals Attack

Even though I took a rest day yesterday, I woke up this morning feeling slow, foggy-headed, and generally like garbage.  I’ve been feeling like this since before Thanksgiving but today it was especially bad.  Not a huge shocker–I’m no stranger to adrenal fatigue thanks to some crazy hours, a Type-A personality, and a penchant to be reckless with my training.

Granted it’s my own damn fault that I don’t have a low-stree job, get 8-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night, or periodize my workouts perfectly to maintain 8-pack abs while taking enough recovery.


As I write this you could cut my brain fog with a knife.  I have a bad habit of ignoring my internal screams for mercy, but today is enough of a wake-up call to start taking it easy for the next couple of days (famous last words).  At the onset of adrenal fatigue it’s super important to tighten up your habits…standard Paleo/Primal habits always do a body good but take extra care to exercise smart (read: low-level, strength-based, minimal metcons, and don’t try to break any records) and make an extra-special effort to eat healthy fats (yes, please!) and antioxidants and consume enough food in general to fuel recovery.
The Man was feeling equally as atrocious–and it’s no wonder since he’s been working on grad school apps and GMAT prep and has probably slept a total of 4 hours all week–so instead of a long run like we typically schedule on Wednesdays, we just headed over to the gym, warmed up, and worked on some strength-based skills where we could both use a little improvement.

5 x 5 @ 70%

Push Press
5 x 5 @ 70%

Bench Press
5 x 5 @ 70%

Nothing crazy, but I felt great afterwards…a good rush of endorphines without overdoing the cortisol or sending my adrenals into overdrive (again).  Hopefully things will die down and I can stop being stupid so I can get back to my old self.
On another note, The Man has another late night tonight, so I’m racking my brain for something new I can try for dinner.  I certainly prefer road-testing recipes when I’m the only one who has to eat it…

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Primal Kitty

I mentioned before we left for the Thanksgiving holiday that we left Ms. Snugglebottom home alone this weekend…alone, that is, with a dozen crickets.

We got the idea from one of Mark Sisson’s posts a while back called The Tale of the Cat and the Crickets.  I suppose it struck a chord with us because we do suffer the chronic guilt that comes with pet ownership whilst working the hours we do.  While The Husky, at least, gets her daily walks (still not enough, I’m sure, for a doggie so naturally inclined to RUN), the cat lives exclusively indoors and has made a habit of spending a good deal of her time on the windowsill crying in agony as birds and bugs and rabbits and squirrels hop past in the yard.

My cats growing up were always outdoors cats–a luxury I took for granted in my rural upbringing.  It turns out, though, that the “house cat” is a relatively new phenomenon.  Cats are natural hunters that are best adapted to roam free, not spend day after day cooped up indoors with no natural prey except for shoelaces and toes under blankets.  It doesn’t take a genius to know that poor Ms. Snugglebottom, like so many other cats, gets anxious and would so much rather be outside chasing those critters through the night like the wild little huntress she is.

The cat does get a fair amount of play time with The Husky…they’re a terrific pair and it never gets old watching a 7-pound tabby cat try to hamstring a dog almost 8 times her size.  Leaving the two alone at home is enough to mute my conscience during our days at work, but this holiday weekend we were leaving the dog at a kennel in town…so instead of leaving the poor little kitty all by her lonesome for four days and praying she wouldn’t get so frustrated she’d take down the whole house, The Man ran over to PetsMart, shelled out a whole dollar and change, and came home with a round dozen of crickets…

Mark’s post gave a pretty convincing testimonial to the benefit of giving the cat a chance to exercise her natural predatory habits in the safety of the house, so why not?  I hoped that our cat, too, could have a chance to release some tension…kinda like a kitty spa weekend, just with a lot more bug blood and guts than I’m generally into.  Worst case, she’s be completely indifferent, though I sincerely doubted that would be an issue since Ms. Snugglebottom tried to kill and eat pretty much anything that moves or has the potential to move if she can push it around with her little paws.
The result?  Complete success.  Even when The Man walked in the door and set the bag down, she knew something was up…we had to hide it from her in a kitchen cabinet until we were ready to leave, and she sat outside it whining to get in.  Finally, she got her chance…

Give them to meeeee!!!!


We came home this afternoon and there wasn’t a trace of any crickets, living or dead, anywhere in the house. I’m assuming she ate them all, which would be great because I’m gonna be pissed if she just killed them all and hid them somewhere–like my bed–or if they just retreated somewhere hidden and started to breed…ick

I doubt it, though.  In the article, the author mentions that his cat could hunt and eat a couple dozen per day.  We’ll definitely be continuing the cricket hunts.  It took her a minute or two to get her wits about her when they all scattered from the bag, but in no time at all our little lioness was on the prowel, chasing some under the couch, others along the baseboards and even behind a row of books.

It’s not exactly a forest full of natural prey, but we got a little closer.  We made a happy kitty.

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Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter? Here’s Why You Should.

(mmm beefcake…I mean, butter…)

On the way back from the gym yesterday, I suggested we go out to breakfast at one of our favorite spots in Austin after the 5k.  The Man—as all good Men do—promptly agreed with me that this was a wonderful idea.

“Yeah, we definitely should!  God, I’d LOVE some Eggs Benedict…it’s just a shame that Hollandaise sauce is so bad for you.”

“What are you taking about?  Hollandaise sauce is pretty Paleo-friendly…it’s just egg yolk and butter.”

“I know!  It’s got SO MUCH butter!”

“Um…that’s not a bad thing.  It’s OK, (laughing) I know you were born and bred on I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!”

“Shut up.”

You see, in 29 of his 30 years of life, The Man was raised like so many others of us to believe that fat is evil and butter may as well be Satan himself in edible form.  To avoid butter in all its fatty (and vitamin-rich) glory, we’ve been handed tubs of margarine and “heart-healthy buttery spreads.”

I’m not just talking about I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!…I’m also looking right at you, Country Crock…and you, too, Smart Balance and Bestlife!  In fact, let’s round up all margarines and “buttery spreads” for a sec and have a looksee at what they’re made of and how they’re making you fat and diseased.

First of all, buttery spreads are some of the most processed foods around.  Until recently, most of them were just piles of artificially flavored hydrogenated vegetable oils, aka extremely high in trans fatty acids.  By now, we’re well-versed in what trans-fats can do to you.

Since then, however, products like ICBINB have claimed that they’re still awesome for you because not only are they lower in fat than real butter, they are free of all of the trans-fat and have replaced it all with non-hydrogenated polyunsaturated fats from vegetable and soy oils.  And we all love vegetables, right?
Let’s rag on ICBINB a little bit more and take a look at the ingredient list…(Thanks, Wikipedia!)

Vegetable Oil Blend (“Soybean oil, non-hydrogenated soybean oil, liquid canola oil”)  

Nut and seed oils are, as a whole, a big No-No because they’re insanely high in Omega-6 fatty acids.  The human body is made up of mostly saturated and monounsaturated fat, and needs these same fats to build and repair its cells.  We’re told instead that we have to replace saturated fats with vegetable oils, which oxidize easily in the body and lead to inflammation and cell mutation. 

What’s more, soy and canola oils are very highly processed, genetically engineered, degummed, and otherwise teeming with some pretty wacky SH**.  Even without all the processing, rapeseed, the base of canola oil, is toxic to humans.  Soy is a whole other story.

Potassium Sorbate, Calcium Disodium EDTA

Potassium sorbate is the potassium salt of sorbic acid and is a common food preservative.  Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (ooh, big word!) is another preservative but makes appearances in a lot of industrial scenarios for its ability to dissolve limescale, bleaching paper, and improving the stability of cosmetics towards air (Source).


Natural Sweet Cream Buttermilk


Vegetable Mono- and Diglycerides

I had to Wiki this one… “common food additives used to blend together certain ingredients, such as oil and water, which would not otherwise blend well.”  These are formed synthetically to help keep your ICBINT smooth in texture because all that vegetable oils doesn’t mix well with water on its own.

Citric Acid

Citric acid is added as a “natural” preservative, as ICBINB lasts a LONG time in the fridge…too long.  It is also an emulsifying agent that keeps liquids and fats blended.

Soy Lecithin

Lecithin is another anti-emulsifier.  Soy lecithin is the byproduct of soybean oil extraction.  In the case of margarine and buttery spreads, lecithin is added as an ‘anti-spattering’ agent for shallow frying (Source).  
Vitamin A (Palmitate)

A major derivative of palm oil found in a lot of spreads like ICBINB, this is added as a supplemental source of the vitamin to a lot of dairy products after the natural form is lost through fat removal. 

Beta Carotene (for color)

This is how ICBINB gets its yellow-orangey color.  I couldn’t find anything about the exact source of carotene (ie whether it’s naturally derived or not) in ICBINB being natural or not, but I’m not holding my breath.

Natural and Artificial Flavors

I see “artificial flavors” on a label and the red flag goes up.  Obviously, an artificial flavor is a flavoring agent derived from a substance “not identified for human consumption.”

As for the “natural” flavoring, the US Code of Federal Regulations defines “natural flavors” as the following:

“the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or any other edible portions of a plant, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose primary function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional

Personally, I love real butter and prefer it to margarine and other fake spreads (my Mom is Lithuanian and I grew up on the rich, buttery, bacon-y fare of the Old Country).  I could go on and on about how butter and other natural sources of saturated fat aren’t just good for you but necessary for optimum health, but I think the worst part of the whole butter-vs-buttery spread debacle is that yet again, we took something and bastardized it just because “fat is bad.” 

Spreading toxic waste on (healthy whole grain) toast isn’t worth it to me when I could instead be devouring a plate of poached eggs in all their yolky goodness floating in a lake of Hollandaise.  Just sayin’.

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How I Shop: The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

Buying absolutely everything local/organic/grass-fed gets tough when you’re on a budget.  You should always make an effort to get as much as you can.  However, that’s not always possible.  I get it, trust me. 
When you’re tight on cash, the solution is NOT to stop buying quality food completely and surrender to SAD-approved cheapies.  All you need is a little planning.  There are certain things you should always buy organic–hands down–because they are the most likely to contain pesticides, hormones, and other nasty crap.  There are also some foods that you really don’t ever need to get organic because they are either easiest to farm without pesticides or easy to clean yourself.
One rule of thumb I’ve heard in the past is that anything with a skin (i.e. bananas, oranges, etc) is fine when they aren’t organic because you can wash and peel them.  I don’t like this as much because I’ve definitely been that crazy lady standing over a display of apples wondering if it’s safe to buy the huge, shiny, non-organic Red Delicious variety (“Is it good enough to wash them if I EAT the skin…?”).

Thankfully the Environmental Working Group has come to the rescue again and published the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.  The Dirty Dozen are 12 foods that should ABSOLUTELY be purchased organic.  Conversely, the Clean Fifteen are 15 foods that are generally OK when conventionally farmed because they have the lowest levels of pesticide residue.
The EWG estimates that we can reduce individual pesticide exposure by 80 percent simply by following these guidelines.  Ideally you’re buying as much organic produce as possible, but using these lists as a minimum standard is a good place to start.  (Here’s a printable list.  I laminated one in Scotch Tape and put it in my wallet because I’m cool like that.)
The Dirty Dozen
1.      Apples
2.      Celery
3.      Strawberries
4.      Peaches
5.      Spinach
6.      Imported nectarines
7.      Imported grapes
8.      Bell peppers
9.      Potatoes
10.  Domestic blueberries
11.  Lettuce
12.  Kale
The Clean Fifteen
1.      Onions
2.      Corn
3.      Pineapples
4.      Avocado
5.      Asparagus
6.      Peas
7.      Mangoes
8.      Eggplant
9.      Domestic cantaloupe
10.  Kiwi
11.  Cabbage
12.  Watermelon
13.  Sweet potatoes
14.  Grapefruit
15.  Mushrooms
Use your common sense, too.  If you’re wondering if something is safe if it’s not organic but isn’t on either list, just ask yourself if it resembles something that is to be on the safe side.  For example, I always buy organic raspberries and blackberries because strawberries and blueberries both are listed under The Dirty Dozen.  Conversely, I’d be ok buying conventional honeydew melons because conventional cantaloupe and watermelon are safe.
If you’re really trying to pinch your pennies and still get quality food, there are a couple of additional steps you can take.
-Eat locally.  Local produce is cheaper to transport and chances are you’ll know where it comes from and can do some research to ensure clean and sustainable farming practices.
-Eat seasonally.  When it doesn’t have to be shipped in from another continent, produce is cheaper and higher quality.
-Hit up a Farmer’s Market.  Not only are you supporting small farming enterprises in your community (feel-good points!), your produce will be fresh and affordable.  If you’re worried about sustainable farming practices, you can just ask the dude at the stall.
-Buy frozen.  Not only are frozen veggies really convenient and durable, they are just as nutritious as fresh as long as they weren’t cooked before they were packaged.  However, you don’t want to boil them or steam them in the bags.  I just toss them into a glass bowl and nuke for a few minutes.
-Go without.  Really, REALLY strapped for cash and can’t afford ANYTHING in the organic aisle this week?  Just avoid buying anything on The Dirty Dozen list or anything that seems too similar.  There’s plenty on the safe list to help you stay full of veggies and sleep better at night knowing you’re not flooding your system (as much) with toxins.
Ultimately it’s up to you to decide what you do and don’t put in your body.  A little extra planning and strategy in the produce aisle can really pay off (literally)…but as always, if you’ve got a little extra to spend this week, don’t hesitate to go above and beyond.

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