One of the most confusing “no-no’s” of the paleo diet is beans and legumes. Most of us have grown up learning hat beans are healthy for us because of their fiber and protein content, and many vegetarians and vegans rely on them as a protein source. But, according to the founding fathers of the paleo diet, legumes are no good. But what exactly is a legume, and why can’t you eat it? (Hint: if you read on, you’ll see that you can).
What Are Legumes?
According to Merriam Webster, legumes are “a type of plant (such as a pea or a bean plant) with seeds that grow in long cases (called pods)”. The fruits and seeds of these plants that we eat are also known as legumes. The legume family includes beans, peas, green beans, and peanuts.
Why Aren’t They Paleo?
There are a few reasons the paleo community excludes legumes. A few of the big ones include:
1. They contain phytic acid/phytates, which are “anti nutrients” that block the absorption of vitamins and minerals
2. They contain lectins, a class of proteins thought to cause “leaky gut” in the shorter term and problems like arthritis and poor vitamin/mineral absorption in the longer term
3. Cavemen didn’t eat them
Why They’re Not The Devil
Sadly, a lot of the paleo blogs that explained why legumes aren’t paleo were written with a lot of doom and gloom. I closed out my Safari tab thinking my body was going to self combust if I ate a black bean tomorrow. But then I dug a little deeper and found out it’s not so black and white.
1. Phytic acid is the stored form of phosphorous. Phytic acid is often called an “anti nutrient” because it binds minerals in the digestive tract, forming phytate (a mineral bound to phytic acid). This does happen, although phytic acid can be broken down by several processes including fermentation, cooking, soaking, and sprouting. However, despite this drawback, there are some other benefits to phytic acid. When it binds minerals in the digestive tract, it reduces the formation of free radicals, making it like an antioxidant. It can also bind heavy metals (like lead or mercury), reducing their accumulation in the body. You can read this article from a great group of nutritionists and scientists at Precision Nutrition to see more benefits of phytic acid.
2. Lectins are a class of protein that binds to sugars. In humans, lectins facilitate cell to cell contact, and in plants they often act as a protection or insecticide. Lectin poisoning is a thing, if you happen to enjoy raw beans. When food passes through our guts, it causes minor damage that is usually easily repaired by the body. However, lectins can cause damage when they slow this repair. When that happens, the digestive lining doesn’t function as well as it should, allowing some undesirable substances that would normally be contained in the gut to pass to the body, and inhibiting the absorption of certain good substances like vitamins and minerals. This is what is referred to as “leaky gut”. If you eat too many lectins, your body will respond by trying to evacuate the gut – i.e. fun symptoms like diarrhea, cramping, vomiting, etc. Gut damage from lectin overdoes can also cause immune responses like joint pain and skin rash. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Like phytic acid, lectins can also be neutralized by processes like soaking and sprouting.
3. Actually, cavemen may have eaten legumes! A study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America looking at tooth decay in prehistoric skeletons found that neanderthals ate a diverse diet of available plants, including legumes. Although this study was in Neanderthals, it is widely thought that Homo Sapiens enjoyed am ore diverse diet than Neanderthals, meaning it’s likely they would have eaten legumes as well. I mean, it makes sense to me that if the could figure out tools and fire, they could figure out soaking, sprouting and cooking.
What Should You Do?
As I love to say in almost all of my blog posts, the impact of choosing to eat these particular foods will depend on a variety of factors, including your genetics, your current state of health, and how much of them you eat. I don’t think legumes should be entirely avoided, but I also don’t think you should eat beans and peanuts at every meal either. That would result in leaving out a lot of other foods with important nutrients – like grass-fed meats and eggs, or vegetables, fruits, organic dairy, etc – that you might otherwise enjoy. There are real concerns about lectins in very high doses (which is why they don’t offer to put Castor beans in your burrito at Chipotle), but a cup of green beans with dinner a couple of nights a month or the occasional hummus and carrots snack isn’t going to give you leaky gut unless you happen to be very sensitive to lectins (research shows individuals on the autism spectrum and those with Crohn’s disease tend to be more sensitive to lectin damage). If legumes are causing a problem for your body, more likely than not your body will inform you of this fact in the form of stomach discomfort, gas, joint pain, etc.
What are your thoughts? Do you eat legumes? Avoid them?
18 Jun 2014
Today, I come to you with joyous news. Well, for me anyway. You see, as a registered dietitian and self respecting health professional, I just can’t stand Dr. Oz. I would venture to guess that many other health professionals worth their salt can’t stand him either, for multiple reasons. Allow me to explain.
Dr. Oz started out with such a great mission – use a celebrity platform to break down complicated medical information into easy to digest bits of information for everyday Americans. I’ve watched some of his early shows, where he explains plaque in the arteries using visuals and props. But then somewhere along the way, he started endorsing weight loss and other products. And all of a sudden this likable, easy to understand doctor was selling Americans on raspberry ketone extract and green coffee bean extract as a miracle, life changing weight loss product. The thing is, obesity and chronic disease are complicated conditions influenced by numerous factors to include genetics, hormone levels, environment, and lifestyle. It is impossible to lose weight or gain health without making at least some modest lifestyle change (and more often, modest changes aren’t enough). Even people who get weight loss surgery – once and maybe still viewed by many as a “cop out” – have huge lifestyle changes to make, like adjusting to significantly reduced portions, and taking protein and vitamin supplements to avoid deficiencies, all in addition to dealing with the emotional stuff everyone else trying to lose weight deals with. And even for the successful, weight loss is not miraculous. It often comes about via hard work and/or great sacrifice. You can’t just a vegetable here and there, walk on the treadmill occasionally, and miraculously lose weight due to some supplement/extract/miracle. It just doesn’t work that way. Yet Dr. Oz used his name and platform to essentially convince many Americans that it could. And while he never endorsed any specific product, when he calls raspberry ketones a “fat burner in a bottle” , people listen.
But yesterday, Oz had to face the music. Yesterday, Dr. Oz testified in front of the Senate Consumer Protection Panel on deceptive advertising for diet supplements and over the counter products. And Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri let him have it! It was great. I haven’t watched video yet, but she basically called him out on all the BS he’s sold people on his show. To read a recap and watch the video, check out the coverage from CBS News and Business Insider.
16 Jun 2014
Sun’s Out Guns Out for the win! The CrossFit Boston softball team finally got their first win of the season. It took us 4 games to finally figure it out, but we worked it out. Why did I decide to write about this today? Well, I guess I’m proud of what we’ve all done and how far we’ve come. What follows is my version of how we got to our first win.
The first game of the season, we had literally NO idea what we were doing. No one knew what positions they were going to play or what was going to win us games. And it was obvious. The other team capitalized on this and annihilated us. So bad that the mercy rule came into play. That was the beginning of our journey to learning how to win. Many lessons were learned… and taught clearly.
The second game we found out who were our positional players and how to rotate players through positions. We had a little bit of batting practice afterwards (which may or may not have included a post-loss consolation cider… come on guys, beer isn’t paleo) that finally gave some people some time behind the bat that they needed.
The third game we thought we were going to be alright, but then something fell apart. Not sure what it was, but the wheels came off. It was kind of a frantic game. We played with the lineup, which actually taught us that we needed to play with the lineup again :-)
This game was kind of a mess from the beginning too. We had 3 players who didn’t have a glove, so we had to ask some players from the other team if they wanted to join our team… which to be honest, we needed extra players since we barely had enough players to even play the game. (AAAAAHEEEEMMMMMM!) We had some ups and downs during the game. We were up by 7 or 8 points and all of the sudden, they came back and scored 11 runs in a single inning. We were moderately crushed. But we had another full inning to go, and only needed a couple of runs to tie it up. Batters up! We did it! We ended the inning up by 2 and only needed to hold out one last time in the field. It was a tough inning (mentally and emotionally), but we eded the inning without allowing a score.
So back to the question I asked earlier. Why did I decide to write about this? Because we all learned something. That is something everyone can take back to the gym. Every time we do something we should be thinking about how we can make that lift or movement easier. Learning how to make movements easier means that we have a better bar path or are using our hips in the most efficient manner. The more you do this, the more consistent you will be which just might get you that PR.
So take a lesson from our season thus far and learn something to make your time in the gym more effective.
11 Jun 2014
Before your regularly scheduled blog post, a quick announcement:
SHOW TUNES WOD: Tomorrow morning, the 7 am class will WOD to a show tunes medley playlist, courtesy of long time member and local food expert Audrey. This WOD will also be a chance to say goodbye to running coach Rachel Weiker, who is moving to DC for work. Show tunes are non-negotiable but singing/dancing are optional.
I always encourage paying attention to what you eat. Read the labels on all 7 BBQ sauce bottles in the grocery store before you choose the best one. Ask the butcher if the meat is grass-fed or not, or if he knows where it came from. I even wrote about how it is OK to be a pain in the butt about your diet. But I also know that the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) has recently written about “orthorexia nervosa”, a new type of disordered eating (but not yet an eating disorder) . Essentially, orthorexia is the obsession with eating otherwise healthy foods, or a “fixation on righteous eating” (according to an article on NEDA’s website). You might consider someone who brings a tupperware of eggs, bacon and vegetables to brunch at a restaurant with friends, or someone who will not eat if they are hungry because there is nothing healthy enough around, or someone who refuses to join friend socially because they will be tempted to eat/drink something unhealthy, as orthorexic. You might also consider this person “dedicated to achieving their goals”. It seems like it’s a fine line between “a fixation on righteous eating” and simply paying attention to what you’re putting in your mouth. It’s important to pay attention, of course. It’s also important not to abandon all social interaction and beat yourself up over a cookie every now and again.
What do you guys think? Is “orthorexia” a real problem, or should we all be a little more obsessive when it comes to our food?
06 Jun 2014
I was lucky enough to take a couple of days off this week and head down to Newport, RI with my family. Jessica had a conference during the days so I was able to spend some Daddy time with my girls. A good vacation is when you can get some great rest and be in bed by 9pm. It is rare that I am able to get the same type of rest when I am home.
As athletes, we often overlook the importance of nutrition and sleep for performance. Too often we focus solely on the time we spend while in the gym. Pushing our bodies farther than before to squeeze out every last drop of energy. Now that we have Alex on board, weekly blogging about nutrition, and have held multiple nutrition challenges, everyone understands that you CAN’T OUTWORK A SH*TTY DIET.
So, that leaves us with sleep. How many hours a night do you routinely sleep? There is a ton of research out there suggesting 7-10 hours is the optimal range. The number does truly vary by many factors: age, gender, region to name a few. What is most important is the hours required routinely and any accumulated sleep debt.
For example, lets say I normally sleep for 7 hours but there is this deadline at work and I pull a couple of nights with only 3 hours of sleep. I have accumulated 8 hours of sleep debt and it will have an impact on my functions. The body is going to yearn to get back to homeostasis and your performance will suffer until it does.
Beyond just day to day performance, habitual sleep deprivation can contribute to the following:
- increased risk of obesity
- increased risk of heart problems and diabetes
- increased risk for depression and substance abuse
- decreased mental acuity
Make sleep a priority just the same as you make your training a priority. Schedule it in and don’t allow it to simply be a go to task after everything else is complete. Stop whatever you are doing and get to bed!
WHAT’S ON TAP
21 Push Press, 95#/65#
Deadlift – 3RM (20 min)
Work up to a max set of 3 for the day
Teams of 2 (same gender) Relay Style
15 Overhead swings, 24kg/16kg
15 Power Snatch, 75#/55#
21 Squats, 95#/65#
This is the CrossFit Challenge done as a circuit rather than prioritized. We refer to this as the “Vertical Tabata Challenge.”
Perform each of the following for only twenty seconds. Rest for ten seconds while quickly transitioning to next movement.
Rest for 1 minute after each round and repeat seven times for a total of eight rounds. Total your weakest output from each exercise from all eight rounds. This time your rowing score is in calories.
1. Front Squat – 3RM
2. Perform 2 rounds of this circuit:
Box Jumps, 20″ in 2 minutes
Lunge 2 minutes, record steps
Row 2 minutes for distance
Squat 2 minutes, record reps
Rest 5 minutes between circuits
For time & load:
15 Back squat, 15 rep max weight
10 Handstand Push Ups
10 Back squat, 10 rep max weight
8 Handstand Push ups
5 Back squat, 5 rep max weight
6 Handstand Push ups
1. Max Pull-ups – TEST
2. Power Clean max weight for 15 reps
Tabata Squats, total reps as your score
Power Clean max weight for 15 reps
Tabata Squat, total reps
1. Max Dips – TEST
2. AMRAP 20
Max reps L Pull-ups
Gym Closed for CrossFit Level 1 Seminar. Meet at Harvard Track at 9AM.
Gym Closed for CrossFit Level 1 Seminar. Meet at Harvard Stadium at 9AM.
04 Jun 2014
In a lot of science journalism, there is a lot of jumping to conclusions without really digging into the science. This week we saw headlines screaming about how diet soda can help you lose weight! So you should start drinking diet soda to beat those sugar cravings, right?
Not so fast my friend. There are a few things wrong with this study.
- The study only lasted 12 weeks, which is fairly short in terms of weight loss. Quite frankly, I don’t care how much weight you can lose in 3 months, I care how much weight you can lose in 3 years. Speaking of which,
- Several long term findings have contradicted this study, including the San Antonio Heart study, which found that every diet soda per day was linked to a 65% increase in the likelihood of overweight and a 41% chance of obesity over a 7-8 year period, and the Framingham Heart Study, which found that people who drank diet soda were still at risk for metabolic syndrome and high blood sugar.
- The study was funded by the soda industry. Now, not all studies funded by the man produce results that benefit the man, but most do.
Of course, correlation does not equal causation (unless you think the declining divorce rate in Maine caused the drop in margarine consumption nationwide), so associations between diet soda and weight gain don’t mean diet soda causes people to gain weight. But it means we should think about these associations, and what could be influencing them, before throwing a few 12 packs of diet coke in our carts. Because chemistry and biology aren’t the only things influencing weight gain, a lot of it is psychological and even economic (I addressed this a little bit in an earlier post on high fructose corn syrup). For example, some people swap regular soda for diet soda, and figure that justifies an extra cookie after dinner. Other people struggle with emotional eating, and swapping Pepsi for Pepsi One isn’t going to address that problem. On top of all that, diet soda is full of artificial sweeteners of questionable safety (especially in high doses). The point is, there’s a lot more that goes into health and weight loss than swapping one thing for another, and all of these things should be considered.
What are your thoughts on diet soda and the beverage industry’s contribution to the fight against the obesity crisis?*
*The second part of this question brought to you by the fact that I have started reading Salt Sugar Fat and am curious to hear others thoughts on the topic.
02 Jun 2014
“The greatest adaptation in CrossFit is of the mind.” -Greg Glassman
CrossFit is so physical. We push our bodies to the limit. Everyday we ask more of ourselves. We hit the WOD, some strength before or after, practice some skills, then mobilize and feed our bodies so we can come back in and do it all over again. This is what CrossFit is between 3-6 days per week.
Read that quote again by CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman. How powerful and true it is. He first made that statement while he was still running the CrossFit Level 1 Seminars around 2004. He and Greg Amundson (CrossFit Amundson, CrossFit Goal Setting, and Santa Cruz Original Firebreather) were observing seminar participants attempt muscle ups. Two males went up for the first attempt ever. Male 1 nailed it. He came down and his buddies were all congratulating him. He responded with humility I knew that I could do it. Meanwhile, Male 2 failed and as his buddies came to offer condolences, he stated that it was ok and that he knew he wouldn’t do it.
You see, you will achieve what you believe. Of course you need to have the appropriate skills and strength. That being a given, your mind will determine the rest.
28 May 2014
Two weeks ago I wrote about how there are really no sugars that are healthier for you than other sugars. The gist basically is that added sugar (so, not the kind you get from fruit) isn’t all that great for you and should be included in minimal amounts in your diet. In the comments section, coach G2 made a good point about how sometimes during longer workouts, sugar can be a good thing. To build on that, I want to talk a little about when taking some nutrition during your workout is a good idea and some of the better sources.
When Do You Need A Sugar Fix Mid WOD?
For most class WODs, which consist of about 6-30 minutes of metabolic conditioning and 0-15 minutes of strength, you won’t need to eat carbohydrates during as long as you’ve eaten something beforehand. Generally you will need additional carbohydrates during your workout when it is longer than 60-90 minutes or very high in intensity. (I’m talking about a 7 mile run, 90 minutes of Olympic lifting, or following a 60 minute class with another 30-60 minutes of strength or gymnastics work, not 70 minutes cursing on the elliptical or bike).
Eating carbohydrates during a longer, more intense workout helps prevent drops in blood glucose and liver glycogen (stored form of carbohydrate), and may improve motor skills. What this means is, you will be able to continue exercising at greater intensity and with better coordination and accuracy over the longer term (like I said, over 90 minutes) when you eat carbohydrates during your workout than when you do not.
How Much And What To Eat
During a workout, the recommendation is to take in 30-60 grams of carbohydrates every hour, in small increments every 15-30 minutes, starting when you’re about 30 minutes in (Stellingwerff et al 2011). Carbohydrate during a workout should be taken in small amounts in 15-30 minute intervals to avoid any stomach issues.
Good food choices for the middle of a workout will be easy to digest and low in fat and fiber. Good examples include:
- Gatorade or sports drink
- Dried fruit
- 100% juice
- Flavored coconut water (the peach mango flavor is amazing)
- Energy/sport beans or candy (I’ll address the difference in a minute)
- Fruit (stick to lower fiber options or ones that you’re familiar with. Protip: if you don’t regularly eat bananas, don’t eat one while on a long run).
About those energy beans vs. candy? They provide essentially the same thing in terms of sugar during your workout. The Energy Beans cost more than the same amount of regular jelly beans, but have fewer ingredients (although most are still sugar), no artificial flavors (at least not the flavors I looked up), come in a one serving bag, and make you feel all fit and healthy when you eat them.
How do you know when you’ll need a little added carbohydrate during a workout? My answer is usually if the workout is longer than 90 minutes and higher than moderate intensity (which would be walking or cruising on the bike) or if you feel depleted or drained during your workout. Start with familiar, easy to digest foods and expedient with what works for you.
My favorite mid workout snack, despite making fun of them, is the Energy Beans or Gu Chomps (same thing as the Cliff Energy Blocks) for long runs and dried fruit for weight training. What are your go-to mid workout snacks?
19 May 2014
I have had some conversations with a few of you and a consistent remark has been that you miss seeing the whiteboard of everyone’s results for the day on Wodify.
Pocket Coach does not currently have this feature and it may be developed for it either. He is the thing; this is about you and your progress and benchmarking your loads, volume, etc off of another is NOT ideal. You may be creating a glass ceiling for yourself or you may be biting off more than you can chew.
You need to be in tune with your body and its abilities. Know ahead of time what you think you can do. Then as you are warming up make the decision if you can do more or less.
As you read this you are probably thinking to yourself, “Ok, great Neal but what about seeing everyone’s scores.” So we are bringing back the old school! Post your results daily to the blog for the day. This is how we get everyone doing it. If you train in the AM and want to see what the PM did, post your results and others will begin doing so as well.
If you have a comment about the training for the day or questions, post them to comments. This will help us understand what topics you are interested in reading about and make the blog more robust for you, The Community!
Go Post! Now Greg Williams!
Here was 7am getting after it this morning.
14 May 2014
This past Sunday, Mother’s Day, I was relaxing and watching the Today Show, when I saw something that made me do this:
Let me explain: they had a segment on cooking Mother’s Day brunch featuring Mary J. Blige’s personal chef. She was making a bunch of delicious looking stuff and making it healthy. One item was granola, using mostly nuts, dried fruit, and palm sugar. And as she’s describing the granola she keeps talking about palm sugar as “a better sugar” and a healthier sugar. Now you see why the face palm?
I see this on a lot of Paleo blogs too; they’ll use honey instead of sucrose, and almond or coconut meal instead of flour and proclaim it a healthy item. So now seems like a good time to tackle the “better sugar” question.
The Glycemic Index
Let’s start here with a quick review. The glycemic index is a measure of how a particular food or beverage affects your blood sugar compared to 50 grams of white bread. Low glycemic foods have a glycemic index (GI) below 55, and high glycemic foods are above 70. High glycemic foods cause a larger spike in your blood sugar, resulting in more insulin production and usually followed by a drop off. This cycle occurring over and over again can lead to insulin resistance, and ultimately diabetes. Lower glycemic foods tend to hit the blood sugar more slowly, resulting in less insulin release and a more stable curve. This graph illustrates it well (hint: you want to be closer to the blue line).
Now here is where a few common sugars fall on the glycemic index:
It would stand to reason that lower glycemic sugars like palm sugar and agave would be good for you compared to sucrose, right? Not so fast. Sugar its still sugar. All forms of sugar are calorically equivalent at 4 calories per gram, and are still a source of calories that provides zero nutritional quality (no fiber, no vitamins, no minerals, no other nutrients). Agave is highly processed, and coconut palm sugar production may well be unsustainable.
It’s kind of like what I said about high fructose corn syrup and sucrose: just because one thing might be similar or slightly better than another thing, doesn’t mean both are good for you. If you’re pursuing a healthy diet, finding the healthiest type of sugar is like finding the healthiest version of Frosted Corn Cereal – one may be better than another but neither are all that great for you. If you are making something that requires sugar, think about how you can cut back on the sweetness. Maybe add a banana instead of some of the butter in cookies or bread, which will maintain consistency and add more natural sweetness. Or check out Stevia. I haven’t done any research personally (meaning I haven’t used it a bunch yet), but I’ve heard great reviews.
What are your thoughts on sugar? Do you have a go-to type of sweetener?