4-2: Easy dietary changes to reduce inflammation

Asking people to change what they eat is harder than asking them to change their religion.

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Drool fuel.

OK, you may have to take my word for it. But food habits are strangely near and dear to most people. My mother in law is still thinks high-fat yogurt will give you a heart attack, and my mother frets when I tell her I typically skip the bread. “But your body needs carbs!”

Conversely, when you change your eating habits, you may have the urge to run around evangelizing people to stop eating spaghetti. Well, maybe not you, but I did. Paleo gave me results so fast that I couldn’t shut up about it for a good four months. And if you don’t believe me, look at new vegans, or new fruitarians, or heck, new Crossfitters. They all get that gleam in their eyes.

I’m not going to evangelize, proselytize, or otherwise beat you over the head. I’m going to tell you about my experience with different diet types and point out the common patterns that worked for me. Then I’m going to show you easy ways to test those patterns for yourself.

How does this affect CPPS?

Inflammation makes all muscle problems and movement problems worse. So if you want the best results, eat (mostly) foods that don’t cause inflammation.

The easiest way to reduce information is to stop eating grains.

What are grains?

Grains are foods made from or with wheat, oats, barley, rye, and corn. There are others, but these are the big ones you’ll find in American food.

Grains are not the same thing as carbs, though they are all carbohydrates. There are many non-inflammatory carbohydrates – like most fruits, sweet potatoes, and others.

What are examples of food with grains?

• Bread
• Pasta
• Chips
• Cereal

• Oatmeal
• Popcorn
• Barley
• Rice

What’s so bad about grains?

All grains contain one or more of the following compounds:

  • Lectins are plant compounds that can damage the parts of the intestines that absorb nutrients. When the damaged intestines absorb large, undigested protein molecules into the bloodstream, the body’s immune system responds to those molecules the same way it responds to invaders. Inflammation is among the symptoms.
  • Gluten is a plant protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and even beans. It acts the same way as the proteins mentioned above: the body confuses it for an intruder and increases inflammation. Not everybody is gluten sensitive, but cutting it out was how I discovered that I am.
  • Advanced glycation end products is a fancy way of describing how sugars combine with fats and proteins in the bloodstream and also cause the body’s natural security guards to sound the alert, also causing inflammation.
  • Phytates are acids found in plants that bind to minerals in the digestive tract – minerals the body needs. For this reason phytates are linked to chronic disease, though not necessarily to inflammation

What you should try

After all that info, this would be my starter recommendation.

1. Cut out grains.

Try a week without bread, cereal, pasta, and chips.

Eat more fats – like meat, fish, coconut, and even dairy to compensate.

When you crave carbs, try a banana or a sweet potato.

2. Make most of your meals out of just meat and vegetables.

Like this:

BREAKFAST: Scrambled eggs, coffee with heavy cream, sausage or bacon, cooked peppers.

LUNCH: A big salad with mixed greens, peppers, apples, sunflower nuts, balsamic vinegar, avocado oil. Plus MEAT! Natural sausages, chicken, a burger with cheese and no bun.

DINNER: Meat plus cooked veggies. Easy peasy: steak or chicken with a sauce and some microwavable steamed veggies.

BEFORE BED: I love a protein shake. This may be anathema for paleo purists and other health nuts, but waking up hungry sucks. Plus it’s like a little dessert. Get a variety sweetened with stevia if you can – it tastes good while remaining low-carb and still natural. My favorite for taste, purity, and price is Stevia Chocolate from MyProtein.com.

3. Don’t starve. Calorie restriction comes later, when you’ve mastered your new eating patterns.

4. Save fasting for later, too. Unless you have experience doing it.

5. Try to eat enough at your meals that you don’t snack. If you do snack:

Cheese, nuts, and veggies are your friends. And a little fruit if you need.

5. Save the junk food for the weekend.

If you get serious about diet, you’ll figure this out later. But for now, make the chips, the cake, the cookies, the crackers, and even the booze a reward.

Dieting programs I have tried and/or currently do

Abs Diet

Back in 2007, I was 230 pounds – 25 pounds above my “walking around” weight today. Unlimited college cafeteria fare and Costco-quantity snacks gave me a wobbly pair of man boobs.

Picture of you with man boobs

Back then I got a cheap subscription to Men’s Health, which I would never recommend to anybody. 85% ads, and the same articles recycled every 6 months, all with bland and often contradictory advice on diet and working out, and columns from a cynical, drone-ish mindset. By a year in, I’d admire the handsome guy on the cover for a few seconds, and then throw that rag in the trash.

Before I got to that point, though, I bought the book The Abs Diet, the official diet plan of Men’s Health. Abs Diet boils down to:

  • Calorie restrictions
  • Mostly natural sources of food – no frozen pizza or TV dinners
  • Getting equal portions of all the food groups
  • Eating a whole lot of ice and air in your smoothies
  • Feeling a little hungry all the time

My results:

I lost a lot of weight, and I wasn’t nearly as good about calorie restriction as they wanted me to be. I cut down to 203, and then went back up to 210 as I put on muscle. And possibly some fat again. However, my big results most likely happened because I was overweight to begin with.

I also farted a lot on this diet. That was because of the oatmeal and other grains that Abs Diet said were just fine.

I also felt hungry frequently, and would end up eating more. The first part is a virtue of abs diet, and it’s good to know that a little hunger won’t kill you, but you shouldn’t have to starve all the time.

And finally, I didn’t know it, but I had a ton of inflammation from the grains and sugars allowed in that diet. It wasn’t until I discovered paleo that I cured my inflammation.

Paleo/Primal Blueprint

Not long after I took up martial arts, I made a friend named Tom. Tom was a big guy – pushing 300 pounds. He was strong enough to throw me off of him with one arm.

One day he came into class looking like he’d been champion on The Biggest Loser. He was dramatically thinner – and still just as strong. So I asked where he bought the steroids.

“No, bro. It’s paleo.”

He told me to research it. I read Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It by Gary Taubes. I thought it was a great argument, so I tried The Primal Blueprint diet by Mark Sisson.

The Primal BluePrint is a variant of paleo, and its fundamentals are:

  • No grains – so no bread, crackers, cereal, or oatmeal
  • Most of your calories come from healthy fats, like coconut oil or meat and fish
  • Allow your body to begin to adapt to ketosis, where it uses ketones to use your body’s stored fat as energy
  • Natural sources of food, like organic produce and grass-fed beef
  • Lifestyle changes like lots of sleep, play, and movement
  • Dairy is allowed in Primal Blueprint, but not in other paleo diets
  • Reduce your carbohydrate intake to between 50 and 100 grams/day, and from natural sources like bananas and sweet potatoes

My results:

Primal was a game changer. The farts went away. I stopped swelling – which dramatically improved my martial arts training. I lost weight rapidly again, and then went up to 207, and plateaued there for a long time. I got several comments from guys at the dojo asking if I was working out more. I wasn’t.

Keto (Ketosis)

Keto is all the rage now. I tried cutting my carbs and keeping them there a few years ago, when it was just budding. My experience is limited, however, because I had already been maintaining a fairly low-carb balance.

The fundamentals of keto are:

  • Keep your total carbohydrate intake below 30 grams/day (which is surprisingly hard to do without a food plan!)
  • Depends on fat as your primary food source, or
  • Depends on using your body’s ketones to eat its own stored fat, causing weight loss

My results:

I found keto to be a lot of work for a slow payoff. If I ate a banana before bed, all of my hard work was gone. Plus, when training for a sport (like MMA), it’s nice to have some fast-absorbing energy in your bloodstream.

Fasting

Fasting is skipping one or more meals. Some folks skip a meal every day, while others skip a whole day once/week.

Fasting is more of an add-on to a diet than a diet itself. It pairs very well with low-carb diets like paleo and keto because your body is already prepared to use its own fat cells for energy.

Fasting can be intimidating because few of us ever go hungry. Men also show better adaptation to fasting, possibly because men would go on days-long hunts, and had to get through hunger to bring back meat for the tribe.

When I fast, I skip breakfast, and I use caffeine to suppress my appetite. Some folks are tougher than me and don’t do that, but I think that’s a good way to start.

My results

Initially, my results were amazing. I cut down to 188 pounds at my peak. I was cut, and I had a lot of energy. That felt great!

When I let stress get me, I started eating more, and I fairly quickly returned to my plateau of around 207.

I tried fasting again a year later, and could not get results. Then I discovered the other missing piece: when you fast, you must not overeat to compensate.

Eating less is easier when you fast. But it’s still really tempting to eat extra – and extra junk – when you break your fast.

Now I fast 3-5 days a week – and if I’m “hangry” in the morning, I will have one scoop of protein powder to see me through. Once again, I feel more energy by eating less overall, and I’m thrilled as the weight is slowly dropping.

Programs for further research

After this, if you’re interested in taking it farther, here are some resources and books that will be a lot more help:

Precision Nutrition – If you’re serious about losing weight, this was the only program that helped my wife lose her post-baby weight. Like this course, they focus on habits that help you, not prescriptions. They’re more adaptable than a “one size fits all” approach.

Price: $1000 for a one-year membership with coaching and classes (not an affiliate link)

The Primal Blueprint – Probably the best resource on paleo. The blog could stand alone, but their books gather and organize the information superbly. Their cookbooks, however, are strangely obsessed with eating gourmet at every meal. Who has both the time and money to make “non-farmed shrimp scampi with Tibetan morels and handmade raspberry-calamari sauce” every night?  

Price: The blog is free. Books range $15-$30.

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