26 Dec

Get hard, stay hard; Part 1.

No, we’re not talking about vulgar and sexual stuff; the topic at hand is bone density.

Bone density is of exceptional importance for everyone. It becomes far more of a critical issue as you age and, regardless of the number of years that you’ve been prancing about on this planet, bone density is more often an issue for women. If it becomes a severe issue, what we are looking at is osteoporosis. En-route to getting to that level of severity, there is osteopenia. While osteopenia is a definite precursor to osteoporosis,  not everyone who has or is diagnosed with osteopenia develops osteoporosis. This is especially true if proper diet, training, and supplementation are implemented into one’s life.

Osteoporosis-Web-MDIf you’re having trouble comprehending why bone density could be such a critical issue, stop and remember that your skeleton (made of bones) is the support structure for your entire body. On a technical level if you have excessively lowbone mineral density, it would be like framing your home with balsa wood. With severe bone density the likelihood of stress fractures increases exponentially as well as “fragility fractures”  which amounts to literal bone failure. You know when you hear about someone’s grandmother falling and breaking her hip or wrist? That’s a fragility fracture. If she was someone younger, with stronger bones she probably wouldn’t have broken a hip simply from falling in the bathroom.

So where do these different levels of bone density fall? (We’re looking the amount of mineral matter per square centimeter of bones; Measured areal density in g cm−2)

  • Normal is a T-score of -1.0 or higher
  • Osteopenia is defined as between -1.0 and -2.5
  • Osteoporosis is defined as -2.5 or lower, meaning a bone density that is two and a half standard deviations below the mean of a thirty year old man/woman.

*The T-score, is the number of standard deviations above or below the mean for a healthy 30 year old adult of the same sex and ethnicity as the patient.

So with a little bit of a basic understanding of bone density, osteopenia, and osteoporosis, let’s look at why women tend to be at a greater risk of developing these issues (especially earlier in life then men.)

  1. Low energy availability/disordered eating
  2. Amenorrhoea
  3. Estrogen level issues

These issues are specifically extremely problematic for younger female athletes as they tend to have lower body weight, lower fat percentage, and higher incidence of asthma than their less active peers. The excessively low body fat is a problem for women as is can cause amenorrhoea and issues of low estrogen (estrogen is made by fat cells.) The asthma is relevant as the use of corticosteroids to treat asthma can significantly weaken bone over long periods of time.

Bone density issues can also be exacerbated by lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise, poor diet, excess consumption of alcohol, and smoking. That part shouldn’t be a shocker to anyone as the above lifestyle factors seem to be tied to pretty much every crappy health issue that seems to exist in our modern society.

So how do we avoid bone density issues if we’re ahead of the game or how do we work to reverse them if we’re getting a late start?

Well, let’s start with diet. The reason that I want to start here is that a garbage diet can fast track you to bone density issues as well as obesity, blood pressure issues, heart disease, cancer, and the general inability to look good naked.

Everyone is told from a super young age that you’ve got to load up on your milk and cheese so that you can get lots of calcium and have strong bones. Well, while calcium is important for bone density, riddle me this: Why, despite having one of the highest average calcium intakes in the world, does the U.S. also have one of the highest rates of bone demineralization in the world? Give up? It’s because on average the rest of the diet absolutely sucks. In regard to bone density and diet, it’s not just about the calcium that you take in, it’s about the calcium balance that you end up with. Say what?! Yep, even if your calcium intake is through the roof, chances are that there is a ton of junk in your diet that is causing massive calcium excretion issues.

This ebb and flow of calcium is heavily tied to there being a balance in the acids and bases in your diet, and no, we’re not talking about LSD. Everything that you digest ends up interacting with your kidneys as either an acid or a base. When the final dietary acid/base tally results in net acid load on your kidneys, you start running into calcium excretion. If there is a net acid load because sufficient bases aren’t present in your diet, it must be buffered by the bodies stores of alkaline base. This balancing of acids and bases isn’t something that’s optional, it absolutely has to happen. It turns out that the largest stores of alkaline base that we have in our body are the the calcium salts in our bones. To balance the overly acidic diet, your body cannibalizes the mineral stores of calcium in your bones and literally pisses them away.


So how do we end up with overly acidic diets? Eat like a typical American. Go to the mall, walk around the food court, and marvel at an acid food orgy. Cereals, grains, hard cheeses, excess caffeine, white flour, sugar, ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS, meat (especially really fatty meats,) legumes, and pretty much everything processed are where your acids are coming from. Yep, pretty much everything in the average American diet. OMGWTF where are the bases?!?! This is a much shorter list as the only alkaline, base-producing foods are fruits and vegetables.

Does this mean cut all acidic foods from your diet? Hell no! You need fat and protein, lots of it. It just needs to come from the healthiest sources possible and MUST, MUST, MUST be balanced with adequate quantities of fruits and vegetables.

Here is an incredible list of acid/base values for 114 common foods that I found on Loren Cordain’s site http://thepaleodiet.com

Potential Renal Acid Load per 100 Grams

Beer, draft -0.2
Beer, pale 0.9
Beer, stout bottled -0.1
Coca-cola 0.4
Cocoa, made with semi-skimmed milk -0.4
Coffee, infusion 5 minutes -1.4
Mineral water (Apollinaris) -1.8
Mineral water (Volvic) -0.1
Red wine -2.4
Tea, Indian infusion -0.3
White wine, dry -1.2
Fats and Oils
Butter 0.6
Margarine -0.5
Olive oil 0.0
Sunflower seed oil 0.0
Cod fillets 7.1
Haddock 6.8
Herring 7.0
Trout, brown steamed 10.8
Fruits and Fruit Juices
Apple Juice, unfiltered -2.2
Apples, 15 varieties flesh & skin, average -2.2
Apricots -4.8
Bananas -5.5
Black currants -6.5
Cherries -3.6
Grape juice, unsweetened -1.0
Kiwi fruit -4.1
Lemon juice -2.5
Orange juice, unsweetened -2.9
Oranges -2.7
Peaches -2.4
Pears, 3 varieties flesh and skin, average -2.9
Pineapple -2.7
Raisins -21.0
Strawberries -2.2
Watermelon -1.9
Hazelnuts -2.8
Walnuts 6.8
Grain Products
Bread, rye flour mixed 4.0
Bread, rye flour 4.1
Bread, wheat flour mixed 3.8
Bread, wheat flour whole meal 1.8
Bread, white bread 3.7
Cornflakes 6.0
Crispbread, rye 3.3
Noodles, egg 6.4
Oat flakes, rolled oats 10.7
Rice, brown 12.5
Rice, white, easy cook 4.6
Rice, white, easy cook, boiled 1.7
Rye flour, whole 5.9
Spaghetti, white 6.5
Spaghetti, whole meal 7.3
Wheat flour, white plain 6.9
Wheat flour, whole meal 8.2
Beans, green/French beans -3.1
Lentils, green and brown, whole, dried 3.5
Peas 1.2
Peanuts, plain 8.3
Meat and Meat Products
Beef, lean only 7.8
Chicken, meat only 8.7
Corned beef, canned 13.2
Frankfurters 6.7
Liver sausage 10.6
Luncheon meat, canned 10.2
Pork, lean only 7.9
Rump steak, lean and fat 8.8
Salami 11.8
Turkey, meat only 9.9
Veal, fillet 9.0
Milk, Dairy Products
Buttermilk 0.5
Camembert cheese 14.6
Cheddar cheese, reduced fat 26.4
Cheese, Gouda 18.6
Cottage Cheese, Plain 8.7
Creams, fresh, sour 1.2
Fresh Cheese (Quark) 11.1
Full fat, soft cheese 4.3
Hard cheese, average 4 types 19.2
Ice Cream, dairy, vanilla 0.6
Whole milk, evaporated 1.1
Whole milk, pasteurized 0.7
Parmesan cheese 34.2
Processed cheese, plain 28.7
Yogurt, whole milk, fruit 1.2
Yogurt, whole milk, plain 1.5
Eggs, chicken, whole 8.2
Egg white 1.1
Egg yolk 23.4
Sugar, Preserves, and Sweets
Chocolates, milk 2.4
Honey -0.3
Madeira cake 3.7
Marmalade -1.5
Sugar, white -0.1
Asparagus -0.4
Broccoli, green -1.2
Carrots, young -4.9
Cauliflower -4.0
Celery -5.2
Chicory -2.0
Cucumber -0.8
Eggplant -3.4
Leeks -1.8
Lettuce, average 4 varieties -2.5
Lettuce, iceberg -1.6
Mushrooms, common -1.4
Onions -1.5
Peppers, green -1.4
Potatoes, gold -4.0
Radish, red -3.7
Spinach -14.0
Tomato juice -2.8
Tomatoes -3.1
Zucchini -4.6



Sooooo…. “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar.” -Greg Glassman

Our little page Diet 1.0 really is the beginning and end of eating for optimal health and wellness. Go read it if you haven’t already.

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 where we tackle how training and supplementation can be used to prevent or improve upon bone density issues

References (a.k.a. People who are much smarter than I am)

WHO Scientific Group on the Prevention and Management of Osteoporosis (2000 : Geneva, Switzerland) (2003). “Prevention and management of osteoporosis : report of a WHO scientific group” (PDF).

“National Osteoporosis Foundation — NOF’s Clinician’s Guide to Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis”


Remer T, Manz F. Potential renal acid load of foods and its influence on urine pH. J Am Diet Assoc 1995;95:791-797.

22 Dec

50/50 Bacon and Beef Blend Burgers

BaconBeefBurgerPlatedA couple words of warning before we begin, 50/50 Bacon and Beef Blend Burgers will make you:

  • PR all your lifts
  • Debate whether or not you ever need a vegetable again
  • Possibly slap someone
  • Fight to the death for the last one
  • Say things like “panty dropper” and “mouth-gasm”

Yes, 50/50 Bacon and Beef Blend Burgers are that good. Some sweet potato fries make them that much better too. Want to know how to satisfy all of your wildest meat fantasies and impress your friends and family? Here we go!

What you’ll need (this was for 5 people and there was only 1 burger left):

  • 2.5 pounds of thick cut bacon
  • 2-2.5 pounds of ground beef (preferably grassfed); quantity is dependent on how “bacony” you want them, we went 2.5 pounds
  • 3 sweet potatoes
  • Some olive oil
  • Some sea salt
  • Some fresh ground pepper
  • SHARP and fairly heavy knife (I used a 7″ Santoku)
  • Any burger toppings and garnish that you want (we used romaine lettuce for our bun substitute and had some roma tomatoes and white onion on there)

Alright, WAY before you begin, freeze your bacon until it’s rock solid. This is going to be imperative to be able to cut your bacon as small and uniform as we want to get it to blend well in the meat mixture.
However, if you have a meat grinder you’ll get to do this much faster and easier and won’t need to freeze your bacon.

BaconandBeefSlicingOnce you have your bacon frozen and ready to go, slice across all of the strips and then cut across that frozen slice. We are looking for what amounts to minced bacon. Feel free to further cut any pieces that aren’t uniform.

After you finish cutting all of your bacon into uniform little pieces, throw it into a bowl and add your beef. Just let it sit for now as the temperature difference is too great to mix adequately.

While the 50/50 bacon and beef blend comes to a consistent temperature, you can start working on the sweet potato fries.

Preheat your oven to 375 dergees

Cut your sweet potatoes into whatever shape and size makes you happy. Once they are all sliced, season as you desire. I have found that it’s hard to beat a little bit of olive oil, sea salt, and pepper.  The trick to having them seasoned evenly is to throw them all into a plastic bag and then add the olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Just shake, toss, and massage the bag and everything should be evenly coated.

Dump your bag out onto some baking sheets with enough space that the sweet potato fries don’t overlay or excessively bunch together. If the oven is preheated, pop those badboys in there. I didn’t mention a time because it will be so dependent on the shape and size of your fries. Just keep an eye on them.

Time to return to the bowl of bacon and beef. Mix the two meats completely, but as gently as possible. I thought about “fluffing” the meat as I mixed it. After the two meats are evenly mixed, make them into balls somewhere around the size of tennis balls or baseballs. Go too small and the beef will get over-cooked, go too big and the bacon will BaconBeefBurgerRawPattybe under-cooked.

Now is a good time to get either your grill pan, cast iron skillet, or actual grill heating up. We want to be cooking over moderately high heat. We tried a grill pan and the grill and both were exceptional. Grill was less cleaning FYI.

It’s time to make those big meatballs into bacon and beef patties. The secret here is to just smash them down with the palm of your hand. Don’t sexually molest them as you make them into patties, the less interaction the better. 1 smash down and then adjust any major deformities in the patty. Season each side with some fresh ground sea salt and salt and pepper. We found that wax paper was great for separating large numbers of patties.

Go check on your sweet potato fries and flip them over.

BaconandBeefBurgerGrillBy now the cook device of choice should be good and hot. Start putting patties on, but keep some space between them. If you decide to do them on the grill, you’ll need to keep an eye on them because all of the fat content will cause flare ups. Keep a little water on hand to keep the flames at bay.

As they are grilling, start slicing up all of your toppings and garnishes. Remember to watch for flare ups and fires!

Give one last check to the sweet potato fries and make sure that they have all cooked evenly and see if there are any that need to be flipped one last time. I like broiling them a tiny bit at the end to crisp them up.

Go flip the burgers. Make sure that they are cooked through, even if you tend to like rare/medium-rare, you’ll need to cook these closer to medium because of the bacon. We’re looking for 165 internal degrees by the end of the day.

Pull the sweet potatoes out of the oven and pull the burgers off the cooking device of your choice. Let the meat rest while you finish anything else that you need to do.

By now you should have all of your pieces in place. Assemble and plate as desired and be ready to have a “mouth-gasm” of your own!

Here are the rest of the pics:

21 Dec

Vanessa’s Story

VanessaKBSwingVanessa wasn’t an athletic kid although she always admired active women. Every 4 years she would sit in front of the t.v. mesmerized by the twisting, turning, and powerful movements of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. But, for various reasons she never had a chance to participate in any athletic pursuit until middle school when she worked up the nerve to try out for the cheerleading squad. And much to everyone’s surprise, she made the team!  Now, all that inactivity as a child, paired with less than ideal eating habits and a genetic propensity to being heavier resulted in a somewhat chubby body. Vanessa was very aware of this and after some teasing from classmates about her “big butt”  began to try to change her eating habits.

“Low Fat” diets were all the rage back in the 90′s as were the bone thin bodies of Kate Moss and other waifish models. And a waif, Vanessa was not. So, in an effort to fit into those cheerleading skirts, her Girbaud jeans (remember those anyone?), and to get rid of her “big butt” she plunged herself into a low fat diet often eating less than 10 grams of fat per day. She was also walking, running, going to gymnastics and tumbling with her cheerleading squad, and also going to cheer practice. Over just a few short months in her freshman year of high school, she dropped from a weight of around 140lbs on her 5’4″ frame, to barely 90lbs. She stopped menstruating, looked weak and frail, and began to worry her friends, teachers, and parents. Her mother threatened to send her to “Woodland Hills”, the local psych hospital, if she didn’t gain some weight. Of course, she resisted for quite a while… but as bodies will do when pushed to extremes, it rebelled. Even though she was eating barely anything (less than 500 calories per day) the weight loss slowed, stopped, and then she began slowly gaining weight. She also began binging and purging. The years of caloric deprivation had become too much and she would binge unintentionally. First, just picking at some cookies or cake left in the house, then completely losing control and eating until she was literally sick. Of course, the only thing she could do to mitigate the damage was to purge. She would make herself throw up until she tasted stomach acid burning her throat and mouth. Surely, that meant she had gotten all of it up. Often, she would gag until she coughed up blood, knowing in the back of her mind she could rupture a blood vessel and potentially bleed to death. It didn’t VanessaRingDipmatter. All that mattered was getting all those calories up.

Meanwhile, her wait rose to around 130-150, fluctuating between months of starving and then losing control again and gaining it all back. She began to realize she was probably never going to be a waif. Inspired by some of her Dad’s fitness magazines and Oxygen, and as silly as it sounds, Demi Moore’s body in “Striptease”, she decided she was going to start lifting weights. And lift she did. She read plenty of Muscle and Fitness, Oxygen, Self, and basically every fitness magazine she could get her hands on. She tried every bodybuilding split known to man and followed every bodybuilding diet she could find. She did get stronger. A lot stronger. She built a good bit of muscle despite the misguided training. But, she didn’t lose much fat. Her body composition was better but nothing like the models in the magazines. She wondered why this wasn’t working. So, she would try to lose weight reverting to her old food depriving ways… only to binge and purge a few weeks later. This continued for… years. Well into college. She continued to lift weights and looked fit but nothing exceptional happened. Her weight stayed within a “healthy” range but her results never ever matched her efforts.

VanessaSnatchDespite what seemed like wasted effort, her boss at the recreational center where she worked as a weight room attendant, thought she had potential as a trainer and suggested she get her trainer’s certification. And she did… and she trained clients, taught aerobics classes and loved it. She changed her major to Exercise Science and decided to pursue her passion for exercise as a career. But, because she never really dealt with her diet issues and was still trying to lose body fat and was failing to see her body change in a way that resulted her training she felt she might not be “cut out” for training. Would anyone listen to her advice? She also wanted financial stability and she was living in small town in Louisiana at the time that she felt couldn’t provide enough clientele to support full time training. So, she decided to go to nursing school and gave up her training job. She did manage to compete in a fitness competition right before starting nursing school. She got lean, really really lean but lost a lot of muscle and had to do an unsustainable amount of cardiovascular activity and eat a very low calorie diet to get there. This she knew she couldn’t keep up further making her feel as though she just wasn’t cut out for a career in fitness. So off to nursing school she went. And wow… was that hard. The stress level was high, the hours were long, and Vanessa was miserable. But,her pride wouldn’t allow her to quit. She also continued working out on top of her school load. She couldn’t and wouldn’t give her workouts up.

VanessaBlackTopThree years after beginning nursing school she graduated, moved to Texas and continued to workout with a vengeance and working in the very intense and stressful Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit of a local hospital. She dreaded work. She cried before almost before and after every shift. She questioned her decision to go into nursing. Maybe she should go back training? No, she decided it was too financially risky. Plus, she was still struggling with the food issues. WHY WHY WHY couldn’t she lose fat? Why was she always tired? Why didn’t anything work besides starving? Something wasn’t right. So, she thought, maybe I should just go to grad school. Being a Nurse Practitioner would mean more money and shorter work days in a less stressful environment. Plus, she could help people stay healthy! She could encourage others to exercise, eat well, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Perfect right?

Well, grad school was of course hard. She managed to still workout and even found a completely new style of fitness that involved really intense training, olympic lifting, powerlifting, running, rowing, gymnastics, and a really supportive community. And she was pretty decent at it. This became her new passion. She wondered if she should even finish grad school. But again, that pride thing kept her from quitting. So she trained, and trained hard. Learned some new theories on working out and nutrition (What? Her beloved oatmeal isn’t helping her lose fat?) and started to feel better about her competence athletically. But, she was still plagued with fatigue and body fat that wouldn’t budge.

While finishing up school she began working in physician’s office that specializes in balancing hormones including the thyroid, estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and the adrenal hormones. Some of the patient’s symptoms seemed eerily similar to her own issues with fatigue, weight, and stress. She got some blood work done. And voila. There were some definite issues there. It wasn’t clear what had caused the issues or how long it had been this way. Perhaps the eating disorder at such a young age and the consistent nutrition issues since were to blame. Maybe it was the stress of school. Maybe (probably) it was a combination of these and many other factors that led to the VanessaShow2hormone imbalances. She learned a lot in just a few months of looking at her own hormones and making some dietary, lifestyle, supplemental, and medication changes.Things started to change. She started to lean out, she got stronger, her fatigue and depression lifted. She decided maybe she COULD do a competition again? And she did. No starving and no insane amounts of cardio. She managed to get her bodyfat into the low teens and felt the most confident she ever had, both onstage and off.

With her new found health came a new found confidence in her ability to help people attain optimal fitness. Who else could better empathize with those who want to get into better shape and feel stuck and frustrated than someone that has spent the better part of the past 16 years fighting that fight and learning what does and does not work. And now she also had the medical knowledge to pinpoint problems that most trainers wouldn’t think about. So, she decided that perhaps she’d return to her passion and combine it with her medical knowledge to help people in a unique way achieve their healthy and fitness goals. You can rest assured that Vanessa will work with ALL her HEART to assist you in becoming your healthiest, happiest self.


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