Saturday, 8 August 2009

Low-Carb Grain-Free Flax Muffins

Flax Muffins:


25g (approx 2 tablespoons) ground flax seed/linseed.
20g melted butter
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg

Optional: herbs/seasonings, parmesan cheese, cream cheese in place of butter.


Mix all ingredients together, place into a muffin tin or microwaveable container and either microwave on high for a couple minutes or bake in an oven (approx 190C) for 15 minutes or until risen and brown. They do dry out quite quickly so keep an eye on them while cooking.

Makes 1 big muffin or two small muffins. Delicious warm, split open and spread with cream cheese or butter.

Nutritional Breakdown:

300 calories, 31g fat, 6g carbs, 5g Fibre, 11g Protein. Net Carbs: >1g.

(Note: While the case for consuming flaxseeds as part of a primal diet is far from clear-cut, indeed my opinion is that flax is not strictly primal, this recipe is great for those on very low carb diets who miss having something to spread their butter on. In my opinion, get your Omega-3s from other sources, such as fish oils, and use flax for 'greasing' the digestive track and baking the occasional low carb treat only.)

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Primal Challenge Day 1

I think most people started yesterday as Day 1 of the primal challenge but, as I'm in the UK, my day was nearly over when the challenge rules were posted so I have decided to start from today.

So, the first day of the primal challenge went something like this for me:

Breakfast: Two rashers of bacon.

Lunch: Quarter roast chicken, two rashers of bacon and some cheese.

Dinner: Two poached eggs, leftover chicken and a salad.

It wasn't all saintly though, I got my favourite low-carb Starbucks: a grande decaff Americano with a short of sugar-free hazlenut syrup. See, Starbucks is another dirty vice of mine. I even have one of their loyalty cards. Thankfully, I've weaned myself off their carb-laden fraps. Those things are evil!

A full update including my workout is listed in my Primal Challenge journal.

Monday, 3 August 2009

The Primal Blueprint Health Challenge

Over at Mark's Daily Apple, it's time for another Primal Blueprint Health Challenge!

I'm so ready for a challenge like this; my eating over the past few days has been fairly appalling. I'm just not motivated to eat well at the moment what with studying, submitting my final research paper(s) and preparing for my new job. It's kind of ironic that the thing that would help me to cope the most is the first thing that goes out of the window in times of stress.

Anyway, I've signed up and will be tracking my progress both here and on the journal I created in the Challenge forum. My goals are pretty simple: back to a grain free, sugar free, caffeine free, alcohol free existence and majorly cut down on dairy. Also, I'm going to try and get running outside again.

So, are you up for the primal challenge?

Sunday, 2 August 2009

The Pseudo-Scientific Nature of Health Blogging

I read a lot of blogs both in favour of and against a high protein, low carbohydrate lifestyle. I would like to think that I am fairly objective and open minded and that I strive to obtain all the facts from a variety of viewpoints and biases before forming my own opinion. Having written and published several of my own research papers (on memory and cognition), I am acutely aware of the need to be fully reflexive in any writing and acknowledge my own biases, preconceptions and those of any researcher or study I am reading to ensure that fact and opinion are kept as separate as possible.

Or maybe in this context I just like to see what the other 'side' is up to. Either way, as well as subscribing to many primal and low-carbohydrate blogs, I also have some more, erm, odd choices on my RSS feed. Take Disease Proof, for example, written by some dude on behalf of Dr Fuhrman, writer of the Eat to Live diet book and proponent of a largely vegan high-carb, zero/low animal protein lifestyle.

Firstly, let me state that in the grand scheme of 'diets' available, Eat to Live is probably one of the least offensive out there. It aims for natural foods, few grain products and lots of vegetables. I have no problem with that. What I have a problem with is its inherent biases against high-protein meat and animal product based diet to the extent that many of its blog posts are full of half-truths or even downright falsehoods. As some guy is attempting to sell a few books of the back of this blog, I think it's abhorrent to misrepresent information in such a way for pecuniary gain.

The problem with this blog is it is a prime example of how not to report mainstream research findings, time and again just regurgitating sensationalist headlines to support its lifestyle prescriptions, without fully considering the actual conclusions and applicability of the findings. Usually studies have sampling problems, data collection issues or correlational or statistical assumptions which mean that at best some vague relationship may be inferred and, at worst, the findings are more or less meaningless to a generalised population of people. Or else the data is massaged (ala Ancel Keyes) to enable a statistically significant effect to be observed.

It's quite plausible that perhaps the blogger doesn't know how to critique a scientific study? Who knows. Because many of the studies which are linked to as 'proof' that the Eat to Live dogma is 'true' have been criticised and pulled apart by those with a shred of understanding of sampling errors, correlational analyses and, well, basic common sense. Take the China Study, for example (as Disease Proof so often does): does it 'prove' the vegan hypothesis, or is it just a misrepresentation of the facts?

Which brings me to the second major issue with this guy. In the world of Disease Proof, questioning the gospel of Dr Fuhrman's Eat to Live is unthinkable. And if you present a rational scientifically-based argument against the Eat to Live principles, well, be prepared to be subjected to some childish insults (read the comments, they're golden!). Yeah, name calling, that ought to show them who is right!

Dude, learn how to systematically deconstruct quantitative research because it's sort of embarrassing to read!

So to summarise: if a blog/blogger misrepresents research, fails to reflexively acknowledge his/her position and biases, is inflexible in the face of conflicting evidence, resorts to abuse and insults if challenged, well, I would take their 'opinions' with a pinch of salt and, most importantly, stay far away from any endorsed products!

Monday, 6 July 2009

Essential Links

This post contains a list of links to blogs, sites, studies and information which I have found valuable during my quest for nutritional knowledge.

I feel the need to preface this post to implore that no piece of research, thought, post, blog or authority is infallible. As with everything, approach with caution, read critically, keep an open mind and question question question.


Bad Science: Not specifically related to health and fitness per se, but a good blog that draws attention to the need to be critical and open minded when presented with research findings.

Fat Head: The blog of the movie 'Fat Head' a rebuttal of the docu-movie Supersize Me.

Hyperlipid: Provides critique of mainstream 'high carb' 'low fat' research and commentary on important nutritional issues.

Junkfood Science
: Critical analysis and commentary of health and diet issues from a medical perspective.

Livin' La Vida Low Carb
: Blog on low carb living; also provides commentary and critique of mainstream research.

Mark's Daily Apple:The blog of the Primal Blueprint's creator Mark Sisson. For all information relating to the Primal Blueprint diet and lifestyle.

Son of Grok
: A primal living blog with some interesting looking primal recipes.


What if it's all been a Big Fat Lie? / The Soft Science of Dietary Fat (both articles by Gary Taubes)

Intermittent Fasting 101: Info on how to fast, the benefits of fasting and the research behing fasting.


Paleo in a nutshell part 1 / part 2

The Quality of Calories: What Makes Us Fat and Why Nobody Seems to Care (Gary Taubes' UC Berkeley Lecture)


Active Low-Carber Forums

My Diet: Before & After

Here is an example of my 'before' and 'after' diet. Both diets are around the same amount of calories (1500-2000). Their macros (percentage of fat, carbs, proteins) vary considerably.

The before diet, although wheat-free, was grain heavy and very low in saturated fat. This is the kind of diet that 'health experts' preach about - I was a nutritionist's wet dream!

A typical 'before' day:

Breakfast - porridge and a banana.
Lunch - chopped salad, oatcakes, tunafish.
Dinner - chicken and vegetable stirfry with brown rice.
Snacks - fruit, rice cakes, peanut butter, oat/rice cereal bars, flapjacks, nuts and dried fruit.

If I was eating as we, as a society, are prescribed then why was I chronically hungry, tired, weak, underperforming in my active pursuits and experiencing a range of health issues? This is where my nutrition research began. I was eating as directed by a society that lives by the 'carbohydrates' are necessary, fat is the 'devil' philosophy, so what was wrong with me? What was so bad about the alternatives?

So, to cut a long story short I read and read and read. And googled and googled and googled a bit more. After going through feelings of despair, confusion, anger and... well, more anger, my diet now looks a bit more species appropriate:

Breakfast - two egg omelette with bacon.
Lunch - cold meat, cheese and salad.
Dinner - vegetables and meat.
Snacks - nut butters (not peanut), fruit, nuts and seeds, small pieces of meat or cheese.

I have also started dabbling with intermittent fasting and will provide further information regarding this anon.

I guess the big question is: has the diet change been successful? Well, yes and no. With twenty-odd years of damage already done to my body from following the socially accepted and unquestioned diet 'norms' of high carbs, low fat I can't imagine that my body is going to correct itself after just a few months of this new regime. Time will tell.