Playing around with your diet is something I recommend. I am always changing the foods I consume and the proportions of carbohydrates, fats and protein. I am a firm believer in that there is no ‘one size fits all’ diet, it is an individual process. It’s not static either. The amounts of the macronutrients you need change depending on what is going on in your life. When I was training a lot (3-5 times a week, with tonnes of cardio) I would always struggle to get enough protein. Now that I have ceased this kind of training protein is not as important as it used to be.
I have recently been following a blog by Matt Stone (not the South Park creator) called 180 Degree Health. I really like what Matt has to say and he is one of the most widely read guys I have come across. The big idea that he is pushing at 180 Degree Health is to do with thyroid function and body temperature. In his opinion some of the most successful therapists are those who have focused on increasing thyroid function. The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate metabolism within the body. Metabolism is affected by altering things like body temperature, the rate of digestion, how much food is used for energy or is instead stored as fat. This has a further knock on effects on things like insulin sensitivity, stress management, inflammation etc. So you can easily see that proper thyroid function, just like Ron Burgundy, is kind of a big deal.
Matt suggests that best was to raise metabolism is by following a 30 day program called RRARF, which stands for Rehabilitative Rest and Aggressive Re-feeding. The basic premise of the program goes like this:
1. Intentionally eat as much food as you can each day. If you are hungry despite just eating, eat again. Do not argue with appetite.
2. At each meal include all of the macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates and fats.
3. Eat starchy unrefined carbohydrates (potatoes, corn, brown rice, oats, sweet potato, and other root vegetables) and plenty of them. Fruits can be eaten, but favour starch of simple sugars. Refined carbohydrates/sugars should be avoided or minimised.
4. Eat plenty of saturated fats while keeping vegetable oils and omega 6 fats to a minimum. Include lots of meat, fish and dairy.
5. Include lots of non-starchy vegetables like salads, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, celery, cucumber etc.
6. Do no exercise. Light stretching or walking is fine; anything more strenuous should be avoided. Avoid stress as much as is feasible.
7. Go to bed early and sleep as late as you want. Get in at least 8 hours sleep, take afternoon naps if you can.
8. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, and anything else impure or overly stimulating.
9. Enjoy it. The whole experience should be as tranquil and meditative as possible.
While I generally eat very well (cooking most nights, taking lunch to work), I really enjoyed myself over the summer. I had been to a lot of music festivals and enjoyed my fair share of boozing. Getting this business going has been hard work and often means working late. Added to this I am now back at college, which makes it difficult trying to fit everything in. I still don’t feel I have fully recovered from the excessive amounts of exercise I was previously doing. Marathon training is a punishing on the body and from a guy who doesn’t really do moderation, I trained hard. With all this in mind the thought of eating lots and sleeping just as much really appealed to me. And if I could do it under the guise of being healthy and learning more, even better.
While following the diet it was recommended that I regularly test my body temperature and blood glucose. These can be used as inidcators to see how I was improving (or not if the case may be).
Body temperature is a very accurate assessment of how well your metabolism and thyroid is functioning. Broda Barnes is probably the first person who really focused on healing the thyroid to improve the rest of the body systems. Barnes believed body temperature should be between 36.5 and 36.8 degrees in Celsius or between 97.8 and 98.2 degrees in Fahrenheit. The best way that Barnes found for testing this was upon waking, before getting out of bed. So for a month this is exactly what I did, sticking a thermometer under my arm before getting up.
When you eat food your body breaks it down. Some of this (mostly carbohydrates) will be broken down to glucose. When this happens the body releases insulin to help the glucose get into the cells, where it is then used for functioning. A blood glucose test gives an indication of how effectively this process is happening. A pinprick of blood is tested by a machine giving you an instant score.
There are two main tests around this. The first is fasting glucose. This looks at the levels of glucose in the blood after 12 hours of not eating. This is easily done first thing in the morning although I will have to say that often there had not been exactly 12 hours since my last meal when I was testing. The other test looks at blood glucose after eating. This can be done 1 hour or 2 hours after a meal (postprandial). The tests are a way of checking how well your insulin is working (known as insulin sensitivity). Being able to eat a huge meal and 2 hours later have normal blood sugar levels is a very good indication that your body is functioning well.
There is a lot that I want to explain based on my experiences from following the program. I kept a detailed diary of everything I ate, my weight, my body temperature and blood sugar levels. Stay tuned for the next couple of posts as I will go through the pros and cons of RARRF.
For anyone who wants to know read about the programme in more detail click here and download the free e-book.
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Chris Sandel is the founder of www.seven-health.com. He is a nutritionist, working with works with clients on a one-on-one basis, as well as creating online trainings and products about health and nutrition. He is the author of The Health Trap: Why "Healthy" Eating Isn't Always Healthy which is available on Amazon UK and Amazon USA.
Chris has two free emails series. One is on simple tests you can do at home. The other is his take on the world's healthiest foods.