Monday, December 14, 2009

Preparing For Adventure

As the semester comes to an end, I have two major things on my mind:
1. Finals
2. Getting ready to go to Ecuador and climb a 20,000ft mountain

I've previously discussed the apparent conundrum of eating healthy primal food while embarking on some sort of epic backcountry adventure, and I believe that this upcoming expedition will be the ultimate test of just how difficult that is.
For one, Ecuador is a developing country and foodborne illness is a real threat there, so the food I will be able to buy there will be somewhat limited. I will be largely dependent on nonperishable food that I am going to bring from the US.

So far, I have:
A GIANT bag of mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans)
Kind bars
Summer sausage
Beef jerky

I will also probably make a bag of trail mix containing nuts, dark chocolate chips, and some sort of dried fruit (maybe cranberries and/or goji berries, if I can find the latter).

Also, I'd like to mention that I intend to experience as much of Ecuador's culture as possible -- and yes, this is going to mean some non-primal food indulgences. I figure this may be the only time in my life that I go there, so I'm going to take advantage of it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Health Politics: This is just ridiculous

Anyone who's known me for more than 5 minutes will attest to my strong belief in the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. However, there's one thing I believe in above that, above all else. There is one fundamental belief on which all my other beliefs are based: the belief in the complete and ultimate freedom of the individual. The freedom to live one's own life however one wishes, including how one treats one's own physical body.

That is why this absolutely infuriates me.

First of all, college is about academics, not physical fitness. It's wonderful that colleges have gyms available for students to use, but that's not why most of them are there. For me, my choice to attend Western State was influenced by its location in a place where I can climb, snowboard, and engage in plenty of other outdoor activities, but if playing outside was all I cared about, I wouldn't be paying a couple thousand dollars and taking challenging classes. Secondly, singling out overweight and obese individuals for a particular class is discriminatory. Lastly, the idea of a government-funded institution (as per the article linked above, Lincoln University is a private school but receives money from the government) actually forcing a particular lifestyle on adults is nothing short of socialism.

I'm in college so I can someday become a geologist. Despite being a healthy and fit individual, being forced to take a Phys Ed class would be detrimental to my studies. At Western State, one has to pay an extra fee to take more than 18 credit hours per semester. Thus, any fitness class taken for any amount of credit could potentially prevent me from being able to take a class that I want or need. On a related note, I'd like to say that I absolutely support Phys Ed requirements in high schools. The fundamental difference between college and high school is that college students are adults and capable of making their own lifestyle choices, no matter how beneficial or poor said choices might be.

One of the rebuttals to this argument is that colleges have General Education requirements that force students to take classes that are unnecessary for their major or career path. And I counter that argument with the statement that college, while focused on preparing students for careers in various fields, also serves to produce well-rounded individuals with a functional understanding of the world.

I work out 5-6 days a week by choice. I use the fitness equipment (treadmills, freeweights, bench press, bouldering wall) provided in my school's gym by choice. I choose to be picky about what foods I put in my body. Living a sedentary lifestyle is a choice. Eating twinkies and potato chips is a choice. Grown men and women don't need a government to make their lifestyle choices for them.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Post-Workout Nutrition: Fasting vs. Eating

As previously stated, exercise is the one area in which I have had a hard time letting go of some of my conventional wisdom habits. I have developed a primal workout that I try to do every other day, but I'm still a slave to the distance running. For one, I like it. Secondly, while it's easy to see how sugar, highly processed foods, and grains are bad for the body, it's a lot harder to see how running a few miles is bad.
What I have discovered is what appears to be a compromise between the primal lifestyle and the fact that I really enjoy endurance activities (this time of year, running is mainly to keep me in shape for mountaineering). I do a distance run at a decent pace (about 8min/mile) twice per week followed by an intense lifting session, and do primal workouts 4 days a week (right now, that involves rugby practice 3 days/week, but because it involves a lot of sprinting and bursts of energy, I'd say it's fairly primal ... but rugby is over in a week so I'm not sure exactly what types of workouts I'll be doing to replace it when the time comes). This schedule seems to allow me to improve my cardio-vascular fitness level at a good pace.
One primal idea that I have implemented in the past couple weeks that seems to have greatly helped both my strength and endurance is the post-workout fast. Having been told for years how important it is to eat protein and carbs after a workout to replenish my muscles glycogen stores, I usually followed my intense workouts with some sort of meal (often, a protein shake).
That, to put it nicely, is BULLSHIT. Fasting for 1-3 hours after a workout has yielded exponentially better results than eating directly after a workout ever has. I read something about how eating after a workout diminishes the amount of HGH (Human Growth Hormone) released by one's body, therefore decreasing one's actual muscular gains. All I can say is, not only have I noticed that I'm stronger, but I feel less sore the day after and my "recovery time" has decreased. It even seems to have helped my cardio workouts, as far as improvement from one week to the next.
So, admittedly, I still do cardio, and I may always do cardio (because I'm doing it to be able to do fun things like climb mountains, not because I think it will get me in shape), but my workouts are becoming more primal, one step at a time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ellipticals are retarded

Ok, so the title was a little harsh. It was meant to be; this week has sucked pretty bad so I feel like insulting things I don't like.

Ellipticals serve two purposes. One, they are excellent tools for people with injuries -- both for rehab and for maintaining
some degree of fitness when running just isn't an option. Two, they help people who are significantly overweight make progress towards fitness by reducing the impact stress that running causes for these people.

They are not meant to be means of continued physical fitness or improvement. First of all, they are about the most un-primal "fitness device" in existence. I challenge anyone to come up with a real-life situation where anyone would move their legs in the exact same motion for any extended period of time. Even when you're walking, hiking, or running, each step is slightly different -- based on the terrain, how fast you're going, and what direction (are you running in a straight line for 3 miles or are you turning corners?). Minute differences, like a tree root or rock in your path, are going to affect your stride.

The "impact stress" is part of running. The elliptical wasn't invented until 2004, so people somehow managed to get and stay fit without them for most of human history. Besides, our ancient ancestors found a way to deal with the "impact stress" of running, so you can too.

"But I can't read my chemistry textbook when I'm running on a treadmill!"
If you're capable of reading and comprehending anything other than a book written for elementary school children, you aren't going hard enough. Period. Do you really think that raising your heartrate by 5-10bpm for 4 hours is actually doing anything for you?

This is a really stereotypical statement, but I feel like being an asshole right now, so I'm going to go ahead with it. People who use ellipticals are usually the most un-primal people ever. Victims to the latest fitness craze, they meticulously count calories, read ingredients (especially the fat/saturated fat content), and follow up their fake cardio session with whatever workout is being touted in this month's issue of their favorite fitness magazine. They probably have a rather large stockpile of those ridiculous 100-calorie-pack snacks (never mind the outrageous amounts of sugar in most of them!), fat-free yogurt cups (most of those have HFCS in them), and assorted products found in the "sports nutrition" aisle of the grocery store. Often, they're also females between the ages of 18 and 35 who have spent no less than $50 making sure they have the most stylish, chic, color-coordinated outfit at the gym.

Women can be such fucking retards...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Going primal in the backcountry

Another challenge I have faced in my life is continuing to eat primal while on expeditions into the backcountry.

You would not think so, but climbers/backpackers/etc are a group of people that are, in general, pretty set in their "conventional wisdom" ways of eating on expeditions. I could not count the amount of times I've heard something along the lines of "you need more carbs because you're exerting yourself at high altitudes which makes you need even more energy blah blah blah." I used to buy into that bullshit (I'd eat healthier at home but load up on the carbs during a climb) but I have noticed that since making the effort to bring primal snacks/meals with me on climbing trips, my hiking speed and endurance has
drastically improved.

Furthermore, if you think about it, mountain climbing is a very primal activity. Most of the hikes I've done here in Colorado are anywhere between 7 and 15 miles with anywhere from 3000' to 5500' of vertical gain (per day ... anything longer and I backpack in the night before and hike/climb the next day). What do you think "Grok" spent most of his day doing? Walking around looking for food. He probably did more mileage than this since there isn't much food to be had at the top of a 14,000 ft mountain, but the added exertion of the vertical gain makes up for the lack of mileage. Most mountains here (at least, the ones worth climbing to the top of) are an all-day -- or even multi-day -- affair.

So, being that it is a primal activity, it makes perfect sense to eat primally while doing it.
Some of my staples for climbing trips are:

Kind bars - I think they have brown rice syrup so not totally primal but they have lots of nuts in them  
Larabars - See my post about them :)
Nuts - I usually take a big bag of whatever nut mixture I feel like ... almonds and cashews are my favorite  
Fruit - apples are the standard pick because they can't get squished like peaches or blueberries. Great when accompanied by some healthy fat and protein like peanut or almond butter.

All of these are healthier and more primal than Power Bars (check out THAT ingredients list!) and the soy-ridden Clif Bars that the climbing community raves about ("they're like, organic, so they must be good for you, right?!")

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Spicy almond-crusted sole with heirloom tomato salsa

As previously stated, one of the biggest challenges to being a primal college student is the price of healthy food. Luckily enough, one of the two grocery stores in Gunnison happens to be a City Market, so they regularly have meat products discounted on "manager's special" (which is basically stuff that they have to sell within a day or two). Sometimes it's crap (i.e. pre-seasoned with crap that is inevitably not primal), but sometimes I get lucky
I picked up a package of sole fillets relatively cheaply a couple days ago, and decided to try something new with them.
I made a "breading" that consisted of almond meal and spices: cumin, cayenne pepper, chili powder, and thyme, and breaded the little pieces of fish by dipping them into a beaten egg and then in the almond meal mixture. Just like making normal breaded stuff, only this "breading" is actually primal!

While baking the fish (for about 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit -- but I have a gas oven so it takes longer -- it might not take as much time in a regular oven), I made some homemade salsa to go with the fish.

To make the salsa, I used about 1/4 cup of chopped red onion, some chopped cilantro, and 4 heirloom tomatoes (they come in various sizes so you might need more or less depending on which varieties/colors you choose. I picked ones that were different colors). Pretty easy!

I will say that I got the tomatoes at the farmers' market so they were a little more expensive (I do think its important to support local farms), but if you're pressed for cash you could just use cheap regular tomatoes from the grocery store.

Almond meal is not super cheap, but this recipe does not use that much of it ... maybe about 1/4-1/3 cup.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Being Primal on Campus

I will really try to update this more often, but I've been kind of busy and without regular Internet access for the past couple weeks. And by busy, I mean I'm taking 17 credit hours this semester, including some classes that actually have some substance and require thinking (as opposed to, oh, say, any class in the Recreation department. Because it's so hard to write an essay about your favorite thing to do outside). Fortunately, I find most of my classes interesting; the only one that seems a bit dull is Geoscience Writing (GEOL-302), which is required for my major. Even my art class is ok.

So the point of this blog is about my experiences being primal as a college student. Obviously the main challenge that any primal student faces is the price of healthy, organic, grass-fed/cage-free food. Most of the time, I can't afford to eat completely organic, which raises the question of which is better to sacrifice: the organic produce or the grass-fed/cage free beef? While I think beef infused with hormones should be avoided at all costs, I don't like the idea of putting chemicals sprayed on fruits and vegetables in my body either.

The reason for avoiding meat with hormones in it is that I definitely believe that consuming these hormones causes imbalances in human hormones, which directly contributes to a lot of the prevalent health problems in our society today. This is not to say that grains don't play a huge part as well, but, while I'm no biochemist, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the hormones in animal products also do their share of damage.

The other big challenge that one might face, as a primal college student, is living in the dorms and eating the crap served by school cafeterias. While it is quite conceivable that one could get 3 chicken sandwiches and just throw away the buns, surviving on that and the wilted lettuce in the salad bar doesn't seem very thrilling.

College throws a lot of unhealthy temptations at us. Spending all day sitting around in class (unless you're fortunate enough to be a geology major), unhealthy cafeteria food, all-nighters requiring copious amounts of caffeine, pizza, and of course, keggers. Yes, you can theoretically stock up on healthier options to resort to when your floormates are ordering pizza, but there is a certain social stigma that one will inevitably encounter in this situation. And just try convincing a bunch of 18-20 year old women that Shape magazine is not the ultimate gospel of fitness and nutrition.

In my next entry I will discuss my experiences living primal as a college student -- now, prior to, and during my transition to this lifestyle.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Climber Food: Larabars

Apparently, these have been around for a few years now, but they've definitely spiked in popularity fairly recently. They've become more widely available at major grocery stores, and in a greater variety of flavors. And it's for a good reason: they're about as natural a snack bar as you can get. They're pretty high in sugar, so they're not something you want to be snacking on while you're chilling out at home or at work, but for a paleo-friendly source of energy while you're hiking, biking, paddling, or doing something else amazing, they're hard to beat.

The Pros:
- Totally paleo. No soy, no dairy, no gluten, no crap.
- Taste. If you eat them at home, they're kind of "meh," but they taste great on the side of the mountain.
- Size. They're small and lightweight -- they'll easily fit in the pocket of your hiking shorts for easy access.
- Variety. There's a ton of different flavors, so even the pickiest of paleo hikers will probably be able to find something they like. Also, you don't have to eat the same thing day after day if you're on a longer trip.

The Cons:
- Fructose. Dates, the primary ingredient, have one of the highest fructose contents of any type of fruit. Not something you want to be eating in large quantities.

The Verdict:
Larabars are a good option for eating clean/natural foods while hiking or doing some other physically rigorous activity, but due to their high sugar (natural fructose is still fructose) content, I would only eat them as pre-workout/during-workout food.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The start of something new

This is my blog. It has no single focus, but much of it will be focused on my attempts at living a primal lifestyle as per the "Primal Blueprint" of Mark's Daily Apple. This is an interesting challenge, given my diverse collection of interests and goals in life.

I came to discover the
paleo/primal/whatever you want to call it lifestyle after being diagnosed with a fake medical condition (one which I will not publicly identify). I was put on prescription medication for this condition, but after discovering the Primal Lifestyle, I ditched that. This brings up the point, however, that there are numerous "medical conditions" (both real and fake) that the folks at the pharmeceutical companies would have you believe require lifelong treatment regimens that conveniently line their pockets while pushing our economy further into the shitter (see: nationalized healthcare). However, these issues can be treated, managed, and possibly cured (yes, I said cured! A dirty word in a medical world heavily influenced by pharmeceutical companies) by simply making a few lifestyle improvements found in the "primal blueprint." Does medication help people? Yes. Should it be used in place of a healthy lifestyle? Absolutely not.

I will at some point post a more lengthy entry on this, but I thought that a simple introduction would be appropriate for the time being. I devote most of my free time and money to climbing (and other outdoor stuff), so if you are bored enough to be reading this, expect to see a lot of trip reports and posts related to that as well.

Also, as a disclaimer I will say that I am not 100% primal. I still eat low-carb tortillas (usually as more of a convenience -- it's hard to take bacon, chicken, eggs, etc on a backpacking trip) and I am a human being and have my vices. I think the important thing for people trying to be healthy is to pick and choose what unhealthy things you really like and what ones you don't
really care that much about and to use moderation in indulging in the ones you choose to have.