Guest Blog: The Human Diet

Mary Turner is an All Strength Training client and reformed vegetarian.  We asked her to share some of her experience in discovering the paleo diet and what it has done for her.

“If it’s important to you, you will find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse”

We have all seen this quote on the walls at AST. I think it applies to our diet as much if not more than our training. Within this last year I have changed my diet significantly. As a vegetarian of 20 plus years, it was not easy. But the longer I researched the Paleo diet, the more important it became to change my diet. So, I found a way.

I realized that as humans we are animals and we have a natural diet. Just as cows are supposed to eat grass, homo sapiens are suppose to eat meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. For years, eating the true human diet was not important to me, so I found excuses. Below are my three favorite, which I still hear from vegetarians as well as meat eaters.

1. Eating something that walks around is disgusting!
Yes, it is. But animals eat animals.
2. Organic Wheat, Dairy, etc is natural so it must be good for you.
Trees are natural too. Are you going to eat some bark for dinner?
3. Vegetarianism is good for the environment.
No, actually, it’s not. In fact, it takes more resources to grow all that wheat to feed you than it does to grow a cow. If you really want to know more about this read The Vegetarian Myth.

As humans our bodies are designed to process protein from meat, carbs from veggies and fruit, and fat from animals and nuts, for the other systems in our bodies to utilize. I had been substituting a large part of my diet with grains, dairy, legumes, soy, etc all things that my body is not designed to digest. For years I struggled with depression from lack of fatty acids only found in meat. Now, getting out of bed isn’t the hardest thing I do every day. I had digestive issues which disappeared immediately after I started eating meat. Waking up three times a night was the norm. This was due to my blood sugar dropping due to the lack of protein in my diet. I could go on and on about all the changes I have experienced. If you want to read the full story go to http://marcat-recoveringvegetarian.blogspot.com/ (Well, if I am going to plug books I’ve read, I might as well mention my blog)

Now, you may think, ya ya ya, you were a vegetarian and I’m not so I am getting the protein I need. That may be but if you are still eating wheat, dairy, corn, rice, soy, legumes, etc. you are damaging your body similarly as to how we damage a cow when we feed it corn. Basically, every time you eat wheat, yes whole wheat too, you damage your intestinal lining in addition to spiking your insulin levels. But, I am sure Zach has already told you that! If you want to learn more about what these “foods” do to you I highly suggest reading The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf.

We tend to look at diets as something we are on instead of something we have. Now, when someone makes a comment about my “strange” diet, I just reply “I’m not on a diet, I have a diet, the human diet” These same people comment on how great I look and ask for my advice on “dieting” quite often. Then, they go to Chipotle and come back with a burrito (not in the bowl, in the tortilla) and you can bet there have rice, cheese, and sour cream in there too. I get very frustrated and often think about how the trainers must have felt trying to help me in my vegetarian days. Which takes me back to the beginning of my thoughts here, is being a healthy and lean human important to you?

Common Misuses of Foam Rolling

Foam rolling, or self-myofascial release (SMR) if you’re fancy, is widely accepted as a useful tool for correcting postural dysfunction and alleviating muscle soreness and stiffness.  However, just like anything, there is a right way and a wrong way to apply it.  Here are some of the more common mistakes that I see when it comes to soft tissue work, and how to fix it:

Working in a Haphazard Order

Particularly when used for corrective exercise and treating posture dysfunction, there are specific patterns you should follow when foam rolling.  Instead of just jumping around to whatever feels the tightest,follow steps to ensure that as you release tension in one area, it preemptively releases tension in other areas along what are called the myofascial lines.  here are a few simple guidelines to follow to get the most out of the least amount of time:

  1. Always, always start with the feet (plantar fascia) first.
  2. Work from the pelvis outward.  If you need to release tension in my calves and my glutes, start with the glutes and work toward the calves.  If it’s the lower back and the traps, start with the lower back and work along the vertebrae of the spine until you arrive at the traps.

Rolling Stiff and Lengthened Muscles, Not Tight and Short Ones

Here is the best example of this scenario – somebody will walk into the gym, grab a lacrosse ball or foam roller, and start attacking the area between the shoulder blades.  Why?  Because the area feels stiff and sore.  Logically, this would make sense; however, in application all it does is make the problem worse.  Here is why.

In corrective exercise, there are typically two types of muscles, usually situated opposite each other.  There are muscles that are loose and lengthened (and often weak, but not necessarily), and muscles that are tight and short (usually stronger than their loose and lengthened counterparts, but again, not necessarily).

If you look at your typical desk jockey, you will usually see rounded shoulders, a hunched upper back, and a forward head tilt.  This usually results in tight and short anterior delts, pecs, and traps, with loose and long scapular retractors (rhomboids, teres major and minor, posterior delts).  If all I roll is the upper back complex, all that serves to do is release even more tension, which makes the muscles even looser and longer, and allows the opposing muscle groups to get tighter and shorter.  A better approach would be to open up the chest and shoulders with soft tissue work first, and then briefly work the upper back to increase blood flow.

Ignoring Trigger Points

The point of foam rolling is to find the areas that create the most discomfort, and apply generous amounts of pressure until the scar tissue that has built up in that area begins to break up and release muscular tension.  However, human instinct is to run away from the pain, so what normally happens is that if I spend 2 minutes rolling my IT band, I’ll spend 1:45 rolling the areas that aren’t too awful, and just sort of pay passive attention to the intense pain that comes from the areas that are in need of the most attention.

Instead, pay attention to the two or three areas in each muscle that create the most tension – especially the ones that cause any sort of radiating tension in other muscle groups.  There are your trigger points for that area.  Spend most of your time here and don’t worry about the rest.

Soft tissue work has a plethora of benefits to everybody from word class athletes to busy executives to the senior citizen who is just trying to maintain mobility, but it only works when it’s applied correctly.  Take these three tips and make the appropriate adjustments to get the most out of the least amount of time.

Quick Tip: Limit Food Additives to Stay Lean

Along with controlling the macronutrients of the food you eat (protein, carbs, and fat), it’s important to make sure that you limit any additional ingredients that might be added that provide no nutritional value, and oftentimes only serve to keep bodyfat on and inhibit change in body composition.

Take, for example, heavy cream. While it’s great to add to your coffee to provide flavor and slow down the release of caffeine, not all cream is the same. A random sampling from a local Jewel Osco found four different brands of heavy cream, and 3 of them had ingredients beyond just cream. In fact, one of them was actually an organic brand (Land O’ Lakes) and still had additives. Here is the ingredients list:

Ingredients: HEAVY CREAM, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF EACH OF THE FOLLOWING INGREDIENTS;NONFAT MILK, SORBITAN MONOSTEARATE, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, CARRAGEENAN, SUCRALOSE, MIXED TOCOPHEROLS, NITROUS OXIDE.

Compare that with Dean’s brand heavy cream:

Ingredients: HEAVY CREAM.

So make sure to check your labels and if you don’t know where it came from or what it does, you may want to put it back.