Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Hit me up

I was sitting down on the couch today, watching telly, as you do. Too much of which can really do you harm, of course. It's one of life's guilty pleasures I guess. Something we all know we should do less of, but can't help.

Anyway, tonight's Horizon on BBC2 was about a breakthrough in understanding exercise and its effects on the body.
The basic premise was that (and here is when I awoke from my stupor, big time), 3 minutes of high intensity exercise PER WEEK will significantly improve your insulin response in just 4 weeks and by the 6th week, will start increasing your VO2 MAX.

Frankly, I was stunned. It doesn't seem right that something so easy to do should reap such benefits. (A bit like eating Paleo really).
Anyway, why are these things so important? Well, here goes.

Insulin Response. Why is it important to us? When you eat carbohydrates, your blood sugar level rises, this causes the body to release insulin to regulate the levels. There is an overlap, when the blood sugar level has fallen to normal, but there's a bit of excess insulin still circulating. This is why you often feel hungry after eating a lot of pasta or some doughnuts. (Not that you ever should, but hey). Anyway, this still holds true for those of us who eat Paleo, and if losing that excess weight is important to you, then the last thing you want is to be feeling hungry not long after you've eaten.

Insulin resistance provides a double whammy, really. On the one hand, it takes glucose from the blood and stores it away as fat, then it means you're hungry, and the whole cycle repeats. Nasty eh?

The way round this, is simple, getting your body to function with less insulin, getting it to react faster, to a smaller dose will not only minimise the hunger pangs, but also leave you in much better shape to face the world.

By switching to a broadly paleo diet you can reduce the big spikes in insulin that come along whenever you eat very high carb. food, like bread, pasta etc. Simply by NOT eating them.  Secondly, following a HIT program your body gets better at regulating blood sugar levels and therefore requires less insulin.

VO2 Max is the amount of oxygen your body can use during bouts of intense effort. It's measured in millilitres of oxygen per kilogram of bodyweight.
It's important, because it's an excellent indicator of your cardio vascular fitness. (The shape your heart and lungs are in). As you know, the better the shape, the less likely you are to suffer heart attacks, strokes etc.

Now that is out of the way, how do we improve these two vital functions?


It's so simple it sounds mad, but then didn't the paleo diet sound mad? And that's looking good now, isn't it?

Monday, Wednesday and Friday - 3 sets, 20 seconds each, maximum effort.
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday - Rest.

That's it! Seriously. If you want to go for a long walk, or lift some weights on your rest days, sure, go for it. Just make sure you do the HIT stuff on the right days, for the full minute!

So what sort of exercise should you do?
Well, sprinting is great, uphill especially as it reduces the impact on your joints. Cycling, it's the ideal thing for a stationary bike. You could even swim. The important thing to remember is you have to put everything you have into this, for the whole 20 seconds, so that you have nothing left in the tank. Then you rest and do it again once you've got your breath back.

It really is that easy.

If you want to look at the science behind it, have a look here
and here for the Horizon episode.

One disclaimer I'd like to add is that if you aren't used to exercise, go see the Doctor, first, as I'd hate to have your lawyer write to me.

Good luck and enjoy the 3 minutes a week you work out!



Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Paleo Basics

An Explanation of the Paleo Diet Principle.

First things first, The standard idea of how you should eat is Wrong. Dead wrong, It's making you ill, it's destroying your joints, your circulatory system, making you weak, tired fat and pushing you into an early grave.

That sounds harsh, yes? It's meant to be. It's the literal truth for most of us. There are a few people who have bodies adapted to a high carb, grain based diet, but they are the minority, rather than the rule. 

Homo Sapiens have been wandering this Earth for something like half a million years. For most of that time they ate meat, fish and whatever fruits, nuts, leafy veg and the occasional roots that they could find. It was only in the last ten thousand years or so that we started farming and eating grain based foods.

As I'm sure you're aware, evolution takes a long time, so ten thousand years is but the blink of an eye in evolutionary terms. this goes some way to explaining why we encounter so many problems when we eat grains, legumes, dairy, sugars and starchy tubers.

Our bodies simply are not adapted to them. For most of our species time on this planet, we have eaten wild foods, lean meats, low carb veg and occasional treats like fruits, nuts, maybe even a little honey.

Our bodies evolved to process protein as fuel, not carbs. It's that simple. True, if you are running a marathon, then at some point you'll have to get some energy into your system and fast, thats the time for carbs. All other times though, stick to protein, something like 2 grammes/kg of body weight is the usual, much more and you wont process it, you'll come down with protein toxicity. While that isn't great, it basically means that it's impossible to get fat from eating protein. It just wont happen. Unlike carbohydrates and fats, your body will not ever turn excess protein into fat. EVER!

Now, i'm not advocating some carb free zone like Atkins or one of the other cranky, short term diets. Paleo is about being fit and well, and to achieve that, we need a myriad of plant nutrients as well as those we get from meat, fish etc.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. three meals a day, some form of meat, fish or nuts plus a selection of fruits, leafy veg and the odd root on each plate. Simple, I know, but if you make the effort to try and stick to it, after a few days your skin will be clearer, your joints will stop aching and you wont  feel welded to the couch every evening....You may just take the first of many steps away from your own grave.



P.S. Have a look at these links if you have the time, some remarkable stories about how changing your diet can save you from "incurable" illness.

How a doctor changed her diet and beat MS

How coconut oil may relieve Alzheimer's

And again.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Happy Pancake Day!

Just a quickie for you as its pancake day and even paleo people need pancakes.

This is a variation on all those recipes out there, you'll only want 1 or 2, they are VERY filling!


3 eggs.

Some butter or coconut oil.

1/4 cup (ish) coconut milk. (Not the low fat stuff).

1 teaspoon of honey.

Pinch of salt.

Dash of vanilla extract.

1/2 cup of coconut flour.

1 teaspoon baking powder.

1/2 a cup of water.


Mix the dry ingredients, beat the eggs, vanilla and coconut milk then add to the bowl with the flour etc.

Mix well, adding water until you have a nice, thick batter.

Get your pan really hot, add some coconut oil and a big spoon of batter, fry a couple of minutes each side.

Voila! Gorgeous coconut pancakes. Serve with fruit and yogurt, or a dribble of maple syrup.

Enjoy yourselves.


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Meet the wife!

Just incase you were getting bored with my droning on and on...I roped in my wife to write a bit so you can have another perspective on what it's like to be paleo (and, be married to me). You can find Melanie's stuff in The other half. She's also responsible for the great pic of the sea that now sits above my blog.

  Another thing you may notice is a forum. Feel free to post any comments, questions or tips and recipes you may have in there. You don't have to register, I wont give your details to anyone and I wont whine if your spelling's off (as mine often is). You can also post things or services you want to sell or buy if you like, no charge.

 That'll do for now, I'll leave you to mooch around a while and I'll be back later with a couple of cool recipes.



Monday, 6 February 2012

Been Dazed and Confused for so Long its not True.

Eat grains! Vegetable oils! Pasta good, beef bad! No red meat! More carbs, less protein, zero fat! Work out more! Saturated fat kills!

I bet we are all familiar with the above in some form or other, aren't we? I've tried following the traditional dietary advice and it just doesn't work for me. I get hungry all the time, gain weight, become grouchy and lethargic when my blood sugar drops. For years I thought it was just me. That there was something wrong with my body, or my mind, that I was lazy, greedy, you know how it goes. All those "experts" saying what and how much you should eat...Maybe some chain smoking super model can survive a while eating like they say, but it ain't healthy...or pleasant.

When I first came across the paleo way of eating (and living) it was a revelation. All those times I'd been unable to sustain a traditional diet were suddenly exposed as "Not My Fault." It's mostly down to controlling your body's production of (and sensitivity to) insulin. There are a few others too, such as lectins, but that's for another day.

Staying on top of the insulin curve means you have more energy because your blood sugar doesn't spike and cause a flood of insulin to take all the blood sugar and store it away as fat. (Leaving you starving and without energy again).

Any time you eat grains or potatoes or sugar, your body is flooded with insulin and the above happens. That's why you can eat a massive pizza or huge bowl of pasta and soon be hungry.

It's a vicious cycle, but there is a way out of it. Turn the food pyramid on its head. Take 60% of your energy needs as protein, then the rest as fat and carbs. Only carbs from leafy plants, fruits and roots, though.

What about heart disease?  Well, again, traditional advice is counter productive. Eating a high carb diet promotes fat storage in your body. What's more likely to be bad for your heart? Your body using the energy you eat? Or locking it away as fat? I think the answer is obvious.

Most of the bad press that fats receive is almost certainly down to the grains or other "anti foods" that they are usually combined with.

Grass fed red meat will be high in omega 3 and actually good for your heart. Have you ever heard of the Gascon paradox? Supposedly Gascons have one of the lowest rates of heart disease in all of Europe. This despite their diet being heavy in saturated fat. Duck fat. No one could really understand it. After all, saturated fats are bad, aren't they?
Well, no. Saturated fat that has a high omega 3 to omega 6 ratio is very good for you and eating food that is rich in these will not make you fat.

What you must avoid are certain vegetable oils such as rape seed oil, and if you need oil to cook with, use saturated fat, as olive oil and other, similar polyunsaturated fats become toxic when heated. They turn into transfats which are only slightly better for you than eating a chunk of lead every day.

What's it all mean?
Eat more protein, don't sweat the fat, enjoy your food and substitute the bad things, like potatoes and grains for big heaps of tasty leaves and, yes, another slice of beef, with the fat left on.

Eat well.


Sunday, 5 February 2012


It's very easy to get stuck in a rut, and very hard to get out of it. After all, we are creatures of habit, no?

When you eat a certain way for a period of time, don't exercise, or do anything else over and over again, you end up sort of programmed into that behaviour and, when you start making the change, it can be a bit of a jolt. That's why its important to step back and assess where you are and where you want to be from time to time.

  I often find myself in the middle of a bunch of press ups or half way through a run, thinking of reasons why I should stop. I'm cold, my feet keep slipping, my hands aren't in quite the right place, it looks like rain. The list goes on, and I'm sure we all hear those little voices. The important thing is that we don't engage with this negativity. Even arguing against it is a form of engagement. So how do we deal with it?
By focusing exclusively on the effects of our exercises.
Take press ups. They can be pretty tough, especially when you are reaching your upper limits, you start noticing that maybe its hard to keep your feet from slipping or you really want to change your hand position, but instead, concentrate on the tightening of your abs as you hold your feet in place or the tightness in your arms as the unfamiliar position of your hands work your muscles a little differently.

Running's the same. Bad traction, bumpy trails, soggy shoes, rain, cold, snow...they are all incidentals that don't matter. If its raining, so what? You'll be in the shower soon, anyway.
The trail is slippery, bumpy and uncomfortable? Great, go a little more carefully and enjoy the burn in those muscles as you run,  as long as its safe and you aren't injured, why stop?

When it comes to diet, the same rules apply. We get conditioned to have a huge pile of carbs with each meal, curry and RICE, meat and POTATOES, PASTA and sauce. It sure can feel odd when you start to unburden yourself of these conventions and there are a few "cheats" that can help you adjust, like cauliflower rice, noodled vegetables and other (less harmful) starchy root veg.
Just like with exercise, you need to "be in the moment" and enjoy what you are doing. Adding a ridiculous amount of spinach, kale and whatever other veg you like to a curry is a great way to not miss rice. It adds loads of extra flavour and textures too.
Experiment and don't let the old fashioned rules about how to eat restrict your choices. After all, those rules are largely responsible for the epidemics of obesity, diabetes and other metabolic syndrome diseases that abound.

For a quick lunch, try grilling a cheap fish and making a quick salsa of tomato, cucumber, onion and pepper. Tastes great, is dirt cheap and ready in 10 minutes.
Paleo does not have to be expensive.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Comfort food.

Eating paleo is simple in the summer. The long, warm days and evenings lend themselves to salads, cold meats, barbecues and fish, but when we spend the few daylight hours that winter grants us out in the cold, we need something with a bit more oomph. Something that not only sates us, but warms us up and gives us that glow that we used to get from mum's cooking.
Winter means hearty stews, big lumps of meat and plenty of vegetables. Those are what our bodies need, and as we get better at listening to them, the easier it becomes to give our bodies exactly what they require.
Here's a variation on another classic French recipe. Petit sal au lentilles. Is a great stew of salted belly pork and vegetables, perfect for warming you up after a day in the snow.
Of course, being paleo means I no longer eat lentils and, to be brutally honest, no one likes the things anyway, so the stew is actually better this way.

Petit sal sans lentilles.

1 and 1/2 lbs of belly pork.
5 carrots (diced).
A large onion (diced)
3 sticks of celery (diced)
4 cloves of garlic.
Bouquet garni
A smoked sausage. (A paleo one).


Slash the skin on the belly pork and salt both sides heavily, rubbing it in well.
Refrigerate over night.
Wash the salt off with water, quickly, so as not to let the meat absorb too much water. Then place in a pot, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for an hour.
Skim off any fatty stuff from the surface of the water and drop in the bouquet garni, onion, carrot, celery, garlic and a good pinch of pepper.

Simmer, covered for another hour or so until the meat is tender.
Slice the sausage and add to the pot for the last 20 minutes.
Remove the meat and slice into thick steaks, place 1 or 2 on each plate and serve with a generous helping of the stock.

Serves 4 or 5 very cold and hungry people.

Until next time.


Friday, 3 February 2012

How to get started and why it will work.

By now, if you've been reading my posts you may be thinking of giving it a go. Well done. You've taken the first step on your journey to being lean, fit, strong and healthy.

  There are a whole bunch of things you'll have to learn and unlearn...A new way of looking at and evaluating food, exercise, even life. It's daunting, almost enough to make you say "Hang it all, I'll try something easier."
It's not so complicated, really.
It's as simple as this...You ready?

1 Do not eat anything that contains cereals. Such as flour, wheat, rice oats, corn.

2 No legumes. These are peas, beans, peanuts and anything with soy or soya.

3 No sugar. If you need sweet, try a little honey, maple syrup or agave nectar.

4 Cut down on caffeine. I mostly drink green tea now. I still have the odd coffee, but not the 10 cups I used to have.

5 No potatoes.

That's it. It's all you have to do. (Pretty much). There are some other things you can do to tune the diet, but that's the main part right there.

If you need raw fats for salad dressings, use olive, coconut, hemp or walnut oils.
For cooking use coconut, duck fat, butter or nut oil.

I'll cover the reasons later, but just make sure you don't heat up olive oil, ok? (It makes it into a trans fat and they are really bad for you).

You have a period of adjustment ahead of you, but nothing impossible. Check out the recipes and see if you like the sound of them.
Then, when you are ready, try and eat 3 meals a day. Really try. Feed yourself decently and you'll be amazed at how you don't hanker after a choccy bar at 10 o'clock. Any time you're hungry between meals, eat some protein or a few pieces of fruit.

You can do it.

Now, go for a walk. About 40 minutes worth. A nice easy pace. Thats it. Day one complete!
See ya tomorrow.


Eating well isn't just about a salad.

One of the worst things about traditional diets is the utter boredom that accompanies meal times. You either have a bland bit of chicken and some flavourless veg or (perhaps even worse) you get a teeny, tiny portion of something halfway decent.
Neither option has ever suited me. I do love "proper" food. It's about a lot more than just the taste, too. There is the whole experience to be had, especially with something like moules. The smell of the garlic, shallots and wine in the sauce, the unctious, sweet flesh of the mussels, hell, the sheer eroticism of sharing a huge bowl of them with someone you love and eating with your fingers. Chins shiny with remnants of the creamy, buttery sauce. There isn't too much that can top this dish on a Friday night when its cold outside and you're curled up in front of the fire.
A pound of fresh mussels per person.
4 ounces or so of butter.
A couple of glasses of muscadet wine. 4 large cloves of garlic.
6 shallots.
A small pot of double cream.
Plenty of parsley.
Salt and pepper.
Fill the sink with water, tip the mussels in and scrape away the beards and any limpets etc that cling to the shells.
Discard any that are cracked or do not close.
Finely chop the garlic, shallots and parsley.
Melt half the butter and gently fry the garlic and shallots for 5 minutes. Do not let them brown. Tip in the wine, jack up the heat and throw in all the mussels, giving them a good stir.
Bring to the boil and cover, lower the heat and let them simmer for 5 minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the mussels to a serving dish, raise the heat again and reduce the liquor a little. Add the rest of the butter and stir it in then lower the heat, add the cream and stir it for a minute or so before pouring it over the mussels and serving.



Thursday, 2 February 2012

Good days. Bad days.

Like anything, when you set out to make a fundamental change to the way you live, there are going to be a few bumps in the road.
  It's unrealistic to think that you can move from a largely unhealthy, convenience based diet to pure paleo without the odd slip. It's a whole new way of looking at the food you put in your body.

The important thing is that you just try. Sure, if that cream cake in the fridge is breaking your heart, then eat it. Just don't use it as an excuse to fall completely off the wagon. Whatever happens, remember that your commitment to eating healthy is doing you good and don't give up on it because a little slip up makes you feel like you've failed.

If most of your days are paleo, then you are allowing your body to heal and regain its true strength. Ne happy.

'Till next time.