Monday, September 20, 2010

What I Eat (plus a little bit about confidence)

I got a comment asking about my food intake and I thought it would make a better post than a comment (plus my computer won't let me write comments right now).  But first a little bit about confidence.

I had a logic teacher in grad school who was always annoyed by statements like "I think that..." He felt that it added no information to the proposition.  I always thought he was wrong - knowing how confident someone is in some claim is important in many situations.  Diet is one of them.  There are some things I am very sure about, things I'm less sure about, and things I suspect but am really not sure about.  The first two groups are what I'll recommend to others - that is, if I tell you to absolutely do something it's because I'm at least pretty sure that it's right.  Now I could find out later that I was wrong all along - nobody has all the answers in this business.

What am I sure about?  Artificial trans fats and high sugar intake are bad for you.  I'm really sure that wheat is bad for you, less sure about legumes and dairy.  I'm sure that interval training is better for your karate-specific endurance than jogging, but I'm not at all sure which intervals are best (20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest?  30 s work, 30 s rest?  30 s work, 4 minutes rest?)  I'm pretty sure that green leafy vegetables are good for you but not absolutely sure.  I think you get the idea.

One thing I suspect but which I'm not confident about is the value of intermittent fasting (IF).  Basically, this is a style of eating where one fasts for extended periods of time on a regular basis.  Now everybody (almost) fasts for 8-10 hours a day, every day (when they sleep), so I wouldn't count that as IF.  To me IF means fasting at least 16 hours (leangains style) and at most 36 hours (alternate day fasting, or ADF), repeated anywhere from every day to once a month.  I do something very like the Warrior Diet (a book you can pick up) - I eat most of my food during a 2-4 hour window in the evening.  Is this something that works well for me?  Yes.  Is it something I would recommend to others?  Not until I get more evidence.  I suspect that periodic fasts will improve longevity - literally that they'll help me live longer - and there's some science to back that up, but it's pretty minimal.  If you want to try it, go ahead (as long as you're over 18 - it's not something I'd recommend for somebody who's still growing!), but I can't be sure it's a good idea.

Keep that in mind.

So here's what I eat most days:

I get up and have 5 capsules of fish oil, 3 capsules of Respir-All (a quercetin supplement with bromine), 1 Allegra D (prescription allergy medication), 1 capsule of green tea extract (about 80 mg caffeine and some other good stuff), 4 tablets of calcium carbonate (Tums - but not actual Tums, the Kirkland knockoff, because it's cheaper), all with water.  I make a mug of green tea sweetened with 1 packet Truvia to drink on the way to work.

At work I don't eat.  I drink water and up to 2 liters of cold green tea sweetened with Truvia that I made up the night before.  I have another capsule of green tea extract on my way home if I'm working out (which I do most days).  If I'm home I'll drink water and hot green tea.

If I work out early (like on a weekend, where the workout might end at 2 or 3) I'll have a snack when I get home.  Maybe 2 oz. of roast beef, 2 oz. of cheese from grass fed milk, and a couple of ounces of nuts (I like cashews from Trader Joe's - they come in individual bags so portion control is easier).  If it's a regular workday I won't eat until dinner (which is right after my workout.

Dinner:  Usually 1 lb. ground beef (from grass fed cows) browned in a pan with 2 tablespoons coconut oil.  I'll mix in some mashed sweet potatoes - I get white sweet potatoes (called Korean yams by my grocer), peel and cut them up and roast them in coconut oil or in tallow if I have any around.  I mash then and add in some more fat - tallow, coconut oil, lard, or butter, and stick them in the fridge.  Each day I try to eat about a pound worth - but not a pound of mashed sweet potatoes, I mean whatever I get after starting with a pound of the raw stuff (they lose a lot of mass because they lose water when I roast them, so it's the same calories but doesn't actually weigh a pound when I put it in the pan.)  I mix the mashed potatoes and beef together - the potatoes absorb all the fat and liquid, so I'm not losing any nutrients.  It looks kind of disgusting (I"ll post pictures as soon as I get a camera situation worked out), but I don't mind.  I also season it - garlic, cayenne pepper, a little salt.

Some days I'll have a package of smoked beef ribs and some noodles instead - I get these noodles called "korean vermicelli" which are made from sweet potato starch.  I make about 100-120 grams of raw noodles.  I cook them and add some sesame oil and red pepper flakes to taste.  I'll use the leftover fat from the ribs to cook my potatoes for the next few days.

Some days I'll eat (instead of either meal above) 5-6 eggs cooked in butter, half a package of nitrate free bacon, 4 oz. or so of cheese (from grassfed cows), some leftover cold cuts like turkey, ham, or roast beef that my wife leaves me, and the sweet potato vermicelli. 

With dinner I'll take a multivitamin, my D3 and K2, C and E.  I'll drink water or seltzer (plain, just carbonated water). 

Closer to bedtime - maybe 2 hours after dinner - I'll take 5 more capsules fish oil or 2 teaspoons of cod liver oil, eat about 100 calories worth of dark chocolate (85% dark from Trader Joe's), all with water.  I might also have some fruit or some nuts (nuts only if I haven't had any earlier).  Last night I ate 1/2 a cantaloupe at that point.

I'm actively trying to lean out now.  If I can get down to a good bodyfat level I'd add in more protein and more fat, but NOT more carbs.  I might start eating more fruit, or more low-carb desserts (I don't know if I wrote about this, but I take coconut milk, cocoa, and erythritol and a little vanilla and xanthan gum and refrigerate it - comes out like chocolate mousse). 

IMPORTANT:  My diet is not perfect, even by my own standards.  I should be eating more vegetables, I just don't like them very much.  I'm working on it!  I should probably cut back on caffeine - again, I'm working on it.  I'd like to do away with artificial sweeteners altogether, but I think I'm doing better with Truvia than I was with aspartame (I gave up diet soda just about a month ago).  I go out probably once a week on average - I stay grain free, but I'll eat regular potatoes, steak from grainfed cows, salads made with regular Caesar dressing, and so forth.  I have a bad habit of eating dried fruit with added sugar as a night time snack - which is not good, I know, I only do it occasionally.  I also cheat and have some ice cream over the weekend (but not every weekend).

So if you ate like me but cut down on the tea and sweeteners and added a large mixed salad every day you'd be doing pretty well!

This diet has me at the leanest I've ever been with relatively few cravings.  When I ate low carb I'd keep breaking the diet - like the day before a sparring session I'd eat some carbs, knowing they'd help me perform.  By intentionally putting carbs into the diet I have no excuse for cheating, and... I don't cheat as much.  This works suprisingly well!

I've always had trouble controlling my food intake when eating carbs.  By eating all my food in one sitting and staying away from grains I've been really successful lately keeping the portions under control. 

Feel free to ask more questions if anybody wants more details or if you want more explanation about why I do certain things the way I do them!  And thanks for all the positive comments!


  1. Any idea how much body fat you have lost? I don't want to lose weight, but I want to get leaner.

    Does your wife follow this too?

  2. I don't have numbers, but a year ago I wore size 38 pants and now I need a belt to keep my 33's from falling off. I'll post before and after pics soon. My wife doesn't train or follow any particular diet.
    If you want to get leaner, eat cleaner - protein, fat, some carbs but not too much, and do strength training. You'll get there!