Building the Skill of Sleep

Having a small window of time in which to sleep has kept me busy experimenting with different ways to maximize that sleep time. There are about nine hours from the time I get home from work to the time I need to wake up the next morning. Obviously eight full hours of sleep is not going to happen during the weekdays. I’ve been playing with my daily schedule and metabolism and meal timing, finding different ways to give myself more time to sleep and to have better sleep.

I haven’t gotten into taking pills for sleep, not even melatonin, despite claims that it’s natural. Something about ingesting potent sleep inducers doesn’t seem good to me. I’d rather bring about sleep through good practices that allow me to come to that state. With that being said, I do take supplements that help with sleep in indirect ways. The most obvious is magnesium. It’s an electrolyte involved in nerve function and bone formation, and is a natural muscle relaxant. This relaxing effect allows for bowel movement, as well as a generalized feeling of calm, when tired. Taking this at night, about half an hour before bedtime, helps me relax.

So far, I have had only small gains in sleep quality and duration from the other tweaks I’ve been making. Small gains, but effective. The one I’ve been sticking to the longest has been exercise in the morning. Getting my kettlebell training session completed in the morning almost always leads to a better night’s rest. I think it lets me use up more energy, and gets my metabolism way high in the morning, setting up for a gradual decrease until bedtime. It also stimulates me, gets the fire burning, first thing in the morning, and I have found myself in an overall calmer and more confident state throughout the day. After syncing my movements, balance, and sense of space with the kettlebell or other training method, I am more in tune with my reasoning capacity and emotional control. Making better decisions from this state of mind keeps me away from manic spikes in mood resulting from bad decisions or bad reactions to things that happen. And that definitely helps me sleep better at night.

The next most consistent practice has been getting out in the sunlight during my lunch and break times at work, and full on sun bathing on weekend mornings at home. Having a solid 20 to 30 minutes of sun soaking fills me with energy, good vibes, and nutrients. It also tells my body that it is day time, and that I’m supposed to be awake and alert. This is sort of like having a circadian rhythm, a well-defined up and awake time versus a down and resting time of day. I really do think this rhythm is good for us, and it’s been helpful to use it as a guide for where I should be at what times of the day. Do I want to eat lunch inside under halogen lights, or do I want to expose myself to the incredibly bright sun? Do I want all the lights on at night when I want to be resting, or do I want to hang out in a darker environment, maybe with some candles lit? Turning the alertness on full blast in the morning and slowly shutting down at night has helped me redevelop a more reasonable sleep and wake schedule.

A third practice has been to eat dinner earlier. My wife and I were eating dinner after 8pm for almost a year in order to spend that meal time together. This was causing problems, though, for both of us. She was burdened with having to prepare meals late in the evening, and was eating more than she needed on most days because she would eat earlier too. I was eating way too close to my bedtime, often going to bed with a full stomach. I would wake in the mornings and sit up in bed, and sometimes hear and feel the food inside me still making its way down my belly. There was no way that was getting digested well. I’ve also read in Chinese medicine that having a full stomach during sleep actually takes energy away from resting and causes fatigue on the organs. I believe it, based on how I felt in the mornings upon waking. So, although it means eating on the train for me, and separately for both of us, we’ve decided to have our dinners earlier. I can’t believe how much of a difference it makes. I feel more energy at night, comfortable at bedtime, and more alert in the morning. My digestion has improved. Before, I relied on coffee and MCT oil for elimination in the morning, but now I’m golden after a swig of water.

One last thing I’ve been playing with is coffee, or less of it. I heard from a neurogenesis researcher on a podcast that caffeine, in the tiniest amount, stops brain cell generation. I’ve been wanting to see what it would be like to not have coffee more often, after having dabbled with it on travels. On the weekends, for the past few weeks, we’ve been holding off on the butter coffee in the morning. Instead, I’ve been making a tomato soup with marzano tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper, and equal amounts of butter and MCT oil that would have gone in the coffee. The result? I felt the same warm reviving energy and brain clarity as with butter coffee, without the caffeine buzz. What does that mean? I’m not even sure, but coffee stimulates to a higher level, and the fats alone still gave the same energy without that hyper wiredness.

And the best part of it all? I yawned so much the first Saturday I tried this, something I haven’t done for so long. I napped and napped, probably about four hours total, and still slept a full night. When I didn’t have coffee, I could tell when I needed to nap or rest. I would yawn or just get a bit drowsy, something I rarely felt when I had coffee. My guess is that I’m not any less tired on the days I don’t yawn. I think caffeine simply holds that sensation at bay. Useful sometimes, but not all the time. This is leading me to think more about how to reduce coffee intake further, while keeping up the fats in my diet. I’ll have to get creative with soups, and maybe get a new thermos for that!

I’m still loving the benefits that fats bring me, and fasting for most of the day, training early, and not having to worry about carbs, protein, fat. As long as I keep my food mostly clean, eat starches later in the day, and exercise, I’m able to maintain good health. The missing piece for me has always been solid sleep. Little by little I’m getting better at it.

Live powerfully.

Fat for man

Most of us just don’t know how to eat fat anymore because we don’t practice it. Eating fat is a basic human act that makes a human healthy. It is satiating and nourishing. It gives energy to act. It replenishes building blocks of the body’s cells. It encourages the body to use fat as energy. This includes the brain.

When you eat fat, there is a feeling of satisfaction, pleasure, and rightness that is different from eating carbohydrates or dry protein. Protein is dry when there isn’t much fat on it. Fat triggers something different in the body, a feeling of abundance and satiety that puts a man at ease. And then, unlike the effect of swallowing a large amount of simpler carbohydrates, the general good feeling is sustained. Energy remains high. The mind is still clear.

Eating fat, though, can be difficult to figure out if you have been avoiding it according to conventional (last fifty or so years) dietary guidelines. This is most notably the food pyramid endorsed by our U.S. government. Fat is the very tip top of that pyramid, a hilariously small corner shared with sugar. When I followed that pyramid, I ate the equivalent of half a loaf of whole wheat bread, two skinless chicken breasts, two salads, and a bowl of whole wheat pasta per day. Because I would still be hungry at night, I usually also had two or three bowls of ice cream, pie, or other dessert after dinner.

I loved to cook, so don’t get me wrong, I would fix up some gourmet meals with these basic “macros” (I cringe at this word). What is the hunger though that persists after all this food? It’s probably a deficit in nutrition. What could I be missing? Well, what did I lunge for but sweet, fatty foods like ice cream? I was craving fat, and when you buy fatty desserts at a store, they’re usually saturated with sugar.

Fat has more calories by mass than other foods. So you’ll see that adding some butter to your rice or stew or veggies will make you fuller. Eating good quality meat with all of the fat will bring you more satiety than will chopping off and discarding the fat. So the amount of food, the actual bulk, that you eat may be reduced eventually. Don’t worry that you aren’t getting enough food to fuel the demands of your exercise, work, and other duties. Go by feel. Don’t waste food. Start small, adding fat like coconut oil, avocados, grass fed butter, and beef, pork, and fish fat to your usual meals. Or go big and learn the hard way like I did, that I no longer needed as much food when more of it was fat.

You can eat at more convenient times of the day, too, with more fat in your diet. After a time of eating breakfasts with more fat and less carbohydrates, you might find that you have better focus and more energy. The morning is a great time to have fat blended in coffee or tea, as fat does not trigger a large insulin response like carbs and protein do. The insulin response is what causes fuzziness. Eating fat in the morning is a great way to have food without breaking energy.

Eventually, you might feel fine without a solid breakfast, or any food for that matter. Just as mornings are quiet in nature, your belly and digestive system can also be quiet. Just hold off on eating for a few hours, maybe until lunch, and you’ll see that avoiding the sugar, carbs, low quality protein, and the vegetable oils in most “break-fast” items will open up a wellspring of energy in the morning. Work hard if you do find the focus, and eat when you need to eat. This is the true breaking of the fast.

Recognize the body’s need for fat. There’s a reason it tastes so good, feels so awesome, and makes you healthier. We came into existence as a species with fat as a food. Our giant brains are made mostly of fat. When you’re hungry, tired, achy, dry, grouchy, moody, and in a slump, stop from eating candy, snacks, and desserts. Hit up that grass fed butter. Eat real food and let good fat be a substantial portion of it. If you finish dinner and are still looking for snacks, think about how much fat was in that dinner. Find more.

Live powerfully.

Health, medicine, and will

There’s a difference between health and medicine. Don’t be fooled by big hospital advertisements like, “Thrive” that continue the meshing of medical treatment with living in a healthy way. It’s great that people high up in their ranks are making an effort to encourage healthy living, albeit in an effort to bring more people to their hospitals. But their food recommendations come from the Food Pyramid, their exercise recommendations from supposed experts, and their diagnoses are influenced by the medications that they are comfortable prescribing. It’s hard to reasonably accept “health” advice from a business that Thrives on surgery, pharmaceutical treatment, and office visits paid for by insurance companies.

To be fair, most of us pay insurance companies for all of these “benefits”. We’ve bought ourselves into the system. We believe that doctors exist to keep us healthy. When they tell us to take a pill or use an ointment or get surgery, we go ahead and do it. We know that it’s expensive to see a doctor and to get those additional treatments. So we get insurance. The problem is that we believe that this is our way to stay healthy.

Medical treatment exists for wounds, injuries, diseases, and conditions that individuals can’t properly self-treat. But you can see that the list of things we believe must be treated at a hospital or doctor’s office or from a pharmacy increases exponentially over time: a sore throat, headaches, an aching shoulder, weight gain, cavities, bone loss, high cholesterol, lack of focus. And because we’re already paying insurance companies, we might as well make use of that copaid office visit to get it treated.

Health is different. Being healthy involves the food you eat. It involves the way you move every day. It involves what you do with your thoughts and how you act. It originates from your decisions and most basically from your will. Sure, it’s very important to read and learn about food from people who have experience and who have learned from people before them and they before them. It’s important to know how to move, and to learn from someone who knows how to move and how to keep the body functioning well. It’s important to know how to cultivate your mind and to learn this from people who have done so and who have good minds and strong spirits. But most importantly it comes from your will to be a healthy creature.

Will yourself to good health. Don’t count on the “medical community” or the government and their food pyramid to bring you to good health. They will not. You will. Figure out what is causing your pain, your suffering, and discomfort, and see if you can’t get rid of it on your own. Since when did a person have to get permission from a doctor to do something good for their own health? Never. You give yourself the permission to observe and test and try and explore the old knowledge and experience that humans have had and will need to rebuild to be healthy. Your health is yours to build. And when you need medical treatment, you go to a doctor you trust and hear them out and get treatment according to your rational judgment.

But before that, go to your grandparents or someone old and trusted and ask them what their parents and their grandparents ate. Look up what our ancestors ate and how they lived. Scientific thinking involves evaluation of the one million years of human existence, not just the effects of a pill on a symptom.

Free yourself from the system. The system is there to do something efficiently. If you don’t need that something done, you don’t need the system to do it efficiently for you. Freeing yourself to act for the good of your health is not as hard as you think. It’s just different. Remember the moment when Neo was freed. It wasn’t after being chased by agents, taking the pill, or getting dunked and reborn and unplugged. No, it was the moment he decided to follow the white rabbit. It’s the decision.

Live powerfully.

Restart

The last couple of weeks have been a sober return to good health. In large part due to my wife’s tireless cooking and preparing groceries, we have been able to get back to our normal diet.

The end of last year was polluted with the degenerative tradition of gifting sweets from family, friends, and coworkers over the Holy Days of the United States of America. Cookies, candies, cakes, and all kinds of creations from the products of modern agriculture saturated my body and mind. I had started to feel pain in my joints, knots in my neck, and generally lower energy and negative mood. I had at least two teeth getting cavities. It was time to stop the nonsense. I happened upon some delicious food provided at my workplace for lunch, and had two full plates of basmati rice topped with curried lamb, cilantro, and fried shallots as an indulgence. Incredibly, but of course, I felt no fatigue from eating this food as I continued to do good work. I was very grateful for this boost.

It is good to eat during the day here and there, as availability of good food and time allow. Eating a good midday meal provides energy and building material for the body. It also lowers tension and eases the mind, for times that do not require maximal intensity from a man. Eating bad substances like sugar, vegetable oils and wheat reduces energy and substitutes poor building materials for the body. It triggers defensive responses from the body in the form of hormonal reaction to the flood of manufactured substances, immune attacks on the food and body against poison, and a negative mindset in response to a general sense of unease and fading vitality. In short, it is better to avoid this kind of meal when it is reasonable to do so.

These types of products are farmed and processed for maximal profit to the man who makes them and for minimal benefit to the man who eats it. Humans can be much more vigorous and happy without them. However, along with the addictive nature of over-processed products, the marketing is almost inescapable. Almost. One of the easiest and most effective ways that my wife and I have avoided bad food product is to simply not buy them. These things end up in the pantry because someone picked them up off of a shelf and paid for them. That someone is you. It’s your choice what you eat, and it’s your choice what you buy. You can buy foods that are in their whole form or closer to it. You can buy foods that are raised and grown well. It’s in your control.

Man of today worries that he or she will not have enough energy to live without regular meals. This is a fallacy built of the rigid work schedule that was necessary to maintaining the structure of an agriculture-based society. In order to fulfill the labor that man was bonded to each day, living in the same place and no longer moving through the land for food and water, meals became routinized. In turn, the labor and the society were built to maintain a steady supply of food, which encouraged a regimen of eating and a ration of food. As humans of this type of society grew in number, and their ways became exponentially more efficient through the industrial revolution, the desire for regular meal times became more and more a need. Workers had to produce maximal products in a day to give employers profit. Meal times were measured and rest times were limited. This practice is still in effect nearly three hundred years later.

We are capable of going without any food for much longer than you would think, if you are in the habit of eating two or more meals every day. This cognitive bias is especially pronounced if those meals consist of manufactured substances. Depending on the current state of a man’s body, he can live well for days without any food. It is not likely that a human will die even after weeks without anything to eat but water. This is only natural, as man became man and survived as man for one million years taking food from the earth. To hunt for meat and search for edible plants, man had to endure periods of time without food. Those who couldn’t live without this ability to hunt and forage on an empty stomach would not survive. How could they? Even if they were fed and helped by their sturdier fellow men, would anyone want to couple with such a person? It doesn’t seem likely that such weak humans could be supported for long. It is even less likely that similar people would be born of them as their children. After one million years, the men that are alive are probably adapted to the changing environment in which they live.

I know from short periods of intentional fasting that I can even go for a run for fifteen or more minutes in the mornings for four days with a minor reduction in energy toward the end of the third day. And though I am more athletic than the average person, I have no experience in a life of hunting and foraging. A domestic man like myself can last for four days without food and still run. How much more capable would a wild man be? Perhaps he could track, find, observe, and then kill a large animal after several days without food. Watching videos of men in the Arctic hunt for seals all day long in extreme cold, I saw that men could last without food, catch an animal, eat a small portion of it, and then carry the rest back to their camp. A group of men would probably have an even greater ability to find good food on a regular enough basis.

All this says man can go without food for a while and be even healthier than when eating throughout the course of the day, day after day. Even abstaining from food for the first part of the day and waiting to eat a good dinner brings my body good health. There are no rules to eating, for who should ever tell anyone what or how to eat food for their own body? That is each human’s choice. The only thing in the way of a guideline I can derive from my experience is that enough good food gives good health, positive energy that does not turn to fatigue, and steady mood that does not turn to misery. Too much food or bad food does otherwise. Find the foods that you can eat in a way to improve your health for the course of the life that you choose.

Life is tough as it is, but this is a good thing. If you are feeling miserable day to day, there is a good chance that you are not providing your body with food that gives you the energy and the substance to be healthy. Remember too that some things you eat may be taking away from health, regardless of how good the other stuff is. Work it out!

Live powerfully,

Steve

Break in routine, nothing new with Thanksgiving

Feeling tired today. And training didn’t wipe that away as I’d hoped it would. I expected as much. Thanksgiving week brings with it lots of junk food, namely wheat and sugar, and alcohol too. It also brings a disruption to my daily schedule.

I’ve been training every day, but getting up and going to bed at different times. This also threw off my energy. My main focus this week is going to be to get back on schedule.

The past couple of weeks have been a great trial period of getting my training sessions in at the start of the day. I want to reinforce the sleep and energy schedule that I’ve been building up through routine. I’m finding greater energy from eating dinner and going to bed without excessive delay. I miss out on shows and movies and chill time, but I gain in not being tired and miserable and lazy the next morning. I love the newfound ability to jump out of bed and start living at the crack of dawn, without compromising sleep.

It’s a work in progress. Days like today I learn again from negative feedback how important discipline and routine are.

Live powerfully.

Sweet is sweet, taking off armor, and a Turkish getup improvement

Brilliant friends,

Just some thoughts of the week. I’ve included something about food, something about mind cultivation, and a bit on strength training.

Sweet is sweet

Some desserts might seem healthy, but I have to look at the big picture. I got interested in the fruit preservation craze that’s rocking the paleo, homesteading, rewilding, and gluten-free communities.

I got some amazing strawberries from the farmer’s market, and delicious figs from my mom’s backyard, and made some compote and fruit leather over the last couple of days. I also made oat bars with flour and oats from a health food store. It was fun, but it certainly wasn’t beneficial to my body.

Whether it’s cooked-down fruits or processed sugars, it all affects me the same way. I get the crash, I feel crummy, and I wake up the next morning feeling hungover. I’ve noticed that gluten-free labels, all-natural or organic labels, and fad-diet-friendly ingredients are so good at disguising the same old problems. At the end of the day, you are still eating a bunch of refined stuff.

The only thing that’s been a consistently rewarding dessert for me is whole fruit or a sweet potato. I mean rewarding in that it’s satisfying, it doesn’t make me crash, it doesn’t give me acne, and it doesn’t make me feel hungover the next morning. Whole foods just seem to be the way for me. Looking back, I could have enjoyed the fruit as it was, fresh and whole, and walked away feeling much better.

Taking off armor

This is the practice of shedding the protective layers you built throughout your life: the reactions, the thinking, the precautions you accumulate to keep yourself from harm. The point is to uncover your heart and let wisdom and love shine. This is a concept from The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chodron.

Chodron says that whenever you come to a situation that is uncomfortable, you find an opportunity to grow. The growth happens when you figure out that you’re somehow shielding yourself from the discomfort, and you intentionally pull off that protective shield so that you can expose yourself. Through the process, you learn more about yourself and grow stronger in that domain.

This applies to so many levels of life. In physical training there’s always a weak spot or a point of discomfort that can be improved. It’s the movement portion over which you have some sort of mind block, whether it be a knee injury on the squat, or a shoulder tweak on the overhead press. Everyone has weak spots that can be exposed and developed.

This brings me to a tiny part of the Turkish getup, a strength training movement I’ve been practicing over the last year and a half.

A Turkish getup improvement

I found a sticking point in my half-kneel positions, both on the way up and on the way down. There’s a moment where I have the kettlebell held straight overhead, and I’m in a lunge position with one knee down and the forward leg planted.

I never realized this, but my hip flexor of the leg with knee down is still slightly flexed in the position. Another way to say it is that I’m slightly bent at the hips. I shouldn’t be – the optimal position is straight from the knee to the hips to the shoulders to the weight. On reviewing video I found it’s true for both sides. This flex causes my torso to be tilted forward. This in turn causes the weight to be in front of my center of balance.

The forward shifted weight causes what I have been perceiving to be a slightly uncomfortable moment. Both as I rise up and as I descend to the ground, I find that the moment my knee touches down there’s a bit of awkward tightness. I always felt a bit rushed or uncomfortable at this point, and now I pinpointed it.

I tried getting on one knee without any weight, with the other leg forward and foot planted, to open up my hip. I can lean forward very far if I let my front knee bend. However, when I kept my torso upright and focused on pushing back with the front leg, there was a lot of tension in the quad of the rear leg. I never noticed because I never thought to look.

I plan to work on mobilizing my hip flexors, which are the upper parts of the quadriceps that connect the femur to the pelvis. The fun part will be seeing how this affects that specific part of my getups.

The connection

So I learn another element of my movement on yet another day of practice. Run into an uncomfortable situation, identify the things that impede exposure, and remove to learn.

We do a lot of things on a regular basis and notice that sometimes we run into uncomfortable situations. The easiest thing to do is to hid from it, ignore it, or put up the defense for it. The more difficult way is to look at what is bothering us.

It could be a food that doesn’t make you feel great but is habitual. It could be the remark someone makes that offends you. It could be the nagging pain you feel when you walk.

We all have ways of skirting these sticking points in life. Ignore the symptoms, pretend you didn’t hear it, walk differently to avoid the pain. I find that there’s so much to address that I can’t hit on them all. But there’s always at least one thing that I can nail. One piece of armor I can let go.

Live powerfully,

Steve

Butter coffee every day, intermittent fasting, and all diets lead to one

I still drink butter coffee every morning. I mean like literally every single morning. It’s just another part of my day, as much as the sun coming up. Well sometimes more so, on days when I get up at 4 a.m. to make a 6 a.m. training session. Coffee steam rises before the sun.

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If I haven’t said this before, I’ve got to say, I just love drinking my butter coffee. I’m forever grateful to my friend Dan for introducing me to the concept one sunny morning at the gym, after a great 5×5 powerlifting session. And of course I’m grateful to Dave Asprey, the Bulletproof Executive for developing and marketing it to the Westside of the world. I guess I could go on to thank the Himalayan people of Tibet and Nepal for really harnessing the power of mountain yak butter and tea and inspiring Asprey.

I think some things need to be clarified about butter coffee drinkers, ketogenic diets, and intermittent fasting. First of all, when I drink butter coffee, it’s not the only thing I eat the whole day. I have one and sometimes two solid meals, usually large, generally involving rice, meat, and veggies. I love to cook. I make whole meals with my wife every day for dinner.

Secondly, butter coffee when done right is not a nutritionally deficient meal substitute as critics hail it to be. Grass fed cow butter is superfood. It has vitamins, minerals, and multiple types of fats that are essential to the human diet. Actually, I can’t think of a more nutritious meal than butter coffee, although I don’t normally call it a meal. It’s packed with energy and is satiating like no other food.

Naturally, I must make the third point that butter coffee is not everything. It doesn’t have all the nutrients needed to sustain  recovery and energy. It has a lot. Not all. And we’re back to the first clarification, that butter coffee is not the only thing I have as food.

Nor do I encourage anyone to drink only butter coffee and eat nothing else. Which brings me to ketogenic diets, high fat diets, and the intermittent fasting craze. Look. When I first started intermittent fasting, I didn’t even know that it had a name. I would drink my butter coffee without any carbs or protein, exercise, and wait until late in the day to eat. Sometimes because I was busy at work and didn’t want to lose focus, I would go until dinner time without eating anything.

My energy was tremendous, my focus lasted for so long, it was awesome. But i did it because it worked. It just so happened to happen that way, and when the internet started to break out with the words “intermittent fasting” everywhere I was just as confused as the all-American big breakfast eaters.

Sincerely, though, I don’t have anything against any one diet or another. I do have a thing about doing things that work. If it works for you, great. If it doesn’t, just let it go and find something that does.

I believe that all diets lead to one: the one that works for you. That sounds evasive, I know, but really each person is going to need to figure out what works for the long run. Do I really want to jump from diet to diet for the rest of my life? If I’m eating food, and I’m feeling good, and I have energy when I need it, and I’ve been doing this from age 25 and I do it to age 50, why would I suddenly change it all with the next fad diet that comes hopping my way?

Who’s got more authority over my wellness, me or the Diet-Creators out there? I’m going to vote for me.

Really, all diets lead to one. If you do what’s right for you, you’re going to figure it out. You have the discernment to realize when something is not working for you. If intermittent fasting is upgrading your life, then keep going with it. If you can’t make it through the morning with just butter coffee, find something else that works for you.

At some point, you have got to take an plain look at what you are eating and figure whether it’s building you or hurting you. All diets lead to one. No single food is going to cover all your bases. You need variety and you also need some level of consistency. Eat the things you know make you feel healthy and strong and clear minded. Eat less of the things you know don’t make you feel that way.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing enough. I like to reference this phrase every once in a while: Little by little, every day, I get better in every way.

Live powerfully,

Steve

The beauty of oxtail, an easy training session, and why goals matter

The other day I made some simple stew out of grass fed oxtail from Alderspring Ranch. Oxtail is just the cow’s tail. If you haven’t tried it, you must. The beautiful thing about oxtail is that it is simultaneously fatty, tendonous, and meaty. It’s perfect.

It can be made with minimal ingredients – salt and pepper are enough, salt alone makes it delicious. I wish I took a photo of the dish, but I didn’t, and thus it’s not on Instagram. The hard part about making oxtail is the time. It takes about two hours to cook it down to the proper tenderness. Put the tail in a heavy lidded pot with water covering about three quarters of it, add seasonings, bring to a boil, then reduce to a low boil or simmer. Wait one and half to two hours, until it’s falling off the bone. Simple.

The broth alone is to die for. If you’re eating grass fed oxtail, you have the most essential food in front of you. Good fats, collagen, and meat packed with micronutrients. Try it with white rice and a veggie dish, like broccoli or collard greens.

I had to temper my training load today. Woke up earlier than I wanted, and didn’t feel great. I think I’m getting over a little bug that’s going around. I took about 12-15 grams of vitamin C the day before and shook off the cough, but woke in the morning feeling a bit tired still.

So I did the usual warmup, five sets of goblet squats, hip bridges, and halos, and then started with two handed swings. I used the same weight, 24kg, as I wanted to see if I could handle it before moving down to 16kg. The first few reps were a bit of a shock, as my mind was really not engaged. I focused on making powerful contractions of my glutes and belly, and things got better. I proceeded to do a couple of two hand sets, then finished with one hand swings. I was working on maximal hip thrust, actively pulling with my lats on the down swings, and keeping the shoulders squared on the one hand swings.

Getups felt fine with the 24kg. I’m consistently doing ten sets under ten minutes, meaning I am ready to move up to the 32kg kettlebell. I’m waiting to establish a stable income before purchasing one, though. They are usually over $100. The time will come, so for now I am mastering the 24kg.

Goals matter because goals drive us. If you ask me, no physical training should take place without first thinking about the goal. It’s really easy to start something and then find that it’s not worth it. That’s because the effort to go to the gym, eat differently, and the feeling of being tired is hard to justify when you’re not getting closer to or hitting a target.

The type of goals I look for are long term. Losing ten or twenty pounds is a great goal. For how long? If this is something you would like to do for the rest of your life, we can start talking about how to do that. Then everything else makes sense. The struggle becomes meaningful, and more likely than not, the struggle lessens when the goal is long term.

I’m currently working on accomplishing the Simple goal of Kettlebell Simpler and Sinister. I know, I keep talking about this kettlebell stuff. The thing is, it’s what works for me now. Going to a gym is not feasible for me. Driving there and back, monthly fees, too many people, and not being able to train barefoot just aren’t worth it at the moment. Sure, there will be a day when I get back to deadlifts and squats.

With my goal in mind, I have a thing to train toward. If I get better at swings and getups with the 24kg, I know I can eventually take up the 32kg. I know what I need to eat, and how much, and what not to eat, to be able to recover and feel good enough to train again the next day.

This is a long term goal. I’m not going to get there in a few weeks, or even months. I’ve been going at it for almost five months now, and I probably have about the same amount of time before I get close. I’m not sure though. I do know that I will get there.

Whatever your goals are, they are good. They are right, they’re what you want, they’re worthy of achieving. Think deeply on them, believe in them, and commit yourself to achieving those goals.

Daily routines get you there. Pick things that are doable. Exercises that don’t exhaust you. Meals you can cook without a bunch of trouble. Things that don’t add more stress. But do this with your goal in mind. And just keep doing them.

Live powerfully,

Steve

A dip in strength

I felt a noticeable dip in strength yesterday as I trained with my kettlebell. A fluctuating sleep schedule, the sudden rise in temperature, and food were factors.

Personal trainers find it difficult to maintain their own wellness. While I don’t like to call myself one, I am training someone in strength and it is private training. The difficulty with this industry is that most people want training either before or after work. That means very early hours or later hours. For me it’s early, which I actually love doing, but I’m not getting up as early on my days off. So my sleep cycle breaks.

I started my training much later in the day today too, when my energy dipped a bit. I had a lot of sugar the day before in St. Louis style barbeque made by a friend, which was delicious, so I don’t regret it. But this did affect my energy level even more yesterday.

As I started my warm up exercises, I felt light headed. On the first set of swings I knew it wasn’t going to be a great session. I did my best to maintain technique and made it through most of the sets without issue, minus one. On the last rep of one of my sets, I lost focus and just felt the weight yank down on my arm. I didn’t get injured, but 24kg dropping is not a pleasant feeling.

Getups were fine. It seemed that my energy had a much shorter time limit. I could give full output on the first few swings, but then later in the set I felt my strength diminish. Right after each getup, my strength just left me.

Such is the downside to inconsistent behavior and environment. Although I’m not happy with my training session, I’m not disappointed either. Life brings days like this and I’m just glad that the worst to happen was a dip in training performance.

Some grass fed steak, lots of water, plenty of magnesium and vitamin C, and a good night’s sleep should do the trick.

Live powerfully,

Steve

Why I Eat Grass Fed Butter

The Beginning

My life changed at age 26. It started with my disgust at the pain and suffering I experienced on a daily basis. I had aching joints from old injuries, depression, and low energy. I was lifting weights but it was bringing more pain than joy.

I decided to make a change. The first step was a different type of exercise, called progression strength training. Starting from the beginning, with very light weight, I relearned the basic strength movements. The emphasis was placed on training and learning, rather than “working out”, breaking a sweat, or pumping up my muscles.

As I developed better movement, I came upon a nutritional breakthrough. A friend that I had met at the gym introduced me to butter coffee. It was a powerful blend of grass fed butter, medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, and clean coffee. Because I was regularly training, I noticed some immediate changes when I started to drink butter coffee.

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My energy and focus was very high. I was on an elevated level of mental clarity not only at the start of training, but throughout the entire session. I was executing movements with much more precision. I could pinpoint problems and work very effectively to solve them. It was no longer necessary to get into “beast mode”, or hyper adrenaline driven states, to lift heavy. I could do a bit of meditative breathing and approach heavy lifts with calm.

I made a lot of changes to my diet. I began to eat fat. Lots of it. From grass fed animals, to wild fish, avocados, and eggs, I tried to obtain the best quality fats and ate as much as I wanted. It really doesn’t take much fat to satiate a person. But it takes more than you’d think, if you haven’t eaten much fat in a while.

My Mood Improved After a Few Weeks

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Six months into a diet based on grass fed beef, grass fed butter, white rice, and green leafy vegetables, my wife and I noticed a significant change in my temperament.

First and foremost, I am different today than I was five years ago. I used to have mood swings. At times throughout the day, I was suddenly angry, sad, or depressed, and felt helpless. Shortly after my friend introduced me to butter coffee, I noticed my mood swings diminish. I felt better, happier, lighter, and more focused – more in control of myself.

The mood swings disappeared. No more food coma. I stopped waking up in anger, because I no longer felt the generalized discomfort of inflammation. I was eating about 80 to 100 grams of grass fed butter and other healthy fats each day.

Grass fed butter is higher in omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA, than conventional grain fed butter. These two fats have been shown to reduce depression. I believe this was essential in dissolving my recurring bouts of depression and constant feelings of anger.

My Pain Went Away

I had frequent “tension” headaches before, and those stopped. Knee pain went away, walking became a comfortable and enjoyable thing. Back pain went away, and now I spend my mornings making coffee when I wake up instead of pacing off unbearable pain.

The elimination of knee and lower back pain had a great impact on my strength training. I was able to surpass previous plateaus because I wasn’t bothered by aching joints.

It makes sense to me that if fat is used in the development of cells in the body, the right type of fat will build the ideal structure of cell membrane. The wrong type of fat, or damaged fat, will build faulty and dysfunctional cell membranes.

Since nerves are also made of cells, I deduce that eating wholesome fats was largely effective in relieving pain.

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My Hair Turned Black Again

The top of my head had been peppered with gray and white hairs ever since the eighth grade. It was a hard period of life, on the backdrop of puberty. Genetics did not seem to be a factor, because no men in my immediate family had experienced this. Something within my biology was fundamentally affected by the stress I had experienced.

Then at age 26, when I made diet changes, my hair started to darken. At 31, my head of hair is as black as when I was a toddler.

This happened as I ramped up the amount of good fat in my diet.

Hair graying has been linked in the past to vitamin B12 deficiency. One subject was given supplemental B12 and their gray hair colored again. I think a lot of papers used this study as a source to link B12 and hair color.

Part of my diet changes at age 26 included supplementation of B12. But that’s not all to the story.

I also made a lot of other changes to my diet. Primarily, I began to eat fat. Lots of it. From grass fed animals, wild fish, avocados, to eggs, I tried to obtain the best quality fats and ate as much as I wanted. It really doesn’t take much fat to satiate a person. But it takes more than you’d think, if you haven’t eaten much fat in a while.

Hair color is determined by a function of the hair follicle. Hair follicles are made of cells. Cells have membranes which transport chemicals in and out. The proper functioning of the cell membrane will lead to the health of the cell, the follicle, and the hair. Part of this function has been found to be regulated by vitamin B12. Thus, the connection between hair color and this vitamin.

Interestingly enough, animal fats are a good source of B12. So it may be true that B12 has something to do with hair color.

Just supplementing B12 may have some effect on hair color.But I think the idea of only taking pills is limited. Think of the bigger picture.

If follicle cell membranes are made of fat, and if I provide good fats for the building of my cells, then it makes sense to me that my change in diet had some role in my hair color’s return to “normal”.

It was Easier to Retain My Strength and Muscle Mass

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With ample fat in my diet, my body was less and less prone to shed muscle during pauses in my strength training. I used to be a “hardgainer”. It was very hard to maintain muscle mass without daily whey protein shakes, massive amount of bread, pasta, and chicken breast. Even with creatine, I could hardly keep the muscle I made if I stopped going to the gym.

Magazines told me that this was just my body type. I needed to train hard all the time if I wanted to be muscular and fit. Even for a guy with my stamina and energy, that was hard to maintain over the years. I burned out.

When I regularly drank butter coffee in the mornings, my biology seemed to change. I was eating fewer meals – two, sometimes one –  but still gaining strength and muscle. At first it was confusing.

I noticed that I could go to the gym after two weeks of inactivity and still pick up from where I had left off in terms of weights. Maintenance of muscle and strength was much easier.

At 168 lbs. body weight, I was stronger than I had ever been in my life up to that point. From the time I began strength training with only butter coffee to sustain me, I had so much energy and focus that I didn’t injure myself once during training.

I was eating fewer meals, feeling more satiated, less hungry, and became stronger. I felt that I was on to something.

My Brain Regenerated

I had two minor concussions. The first in high school football, when I took a big hit to the facemask from a lineman. The second in college rugby, during a tackle drill. This second time was more severe, and I temporarily forgot the names of people close to me. By the time college was over, I had poor short term memory.

Over the years, things got worse. I would forget what my girlfriend said the previous day, and get into arguments about it. I had trouble keeping appointments and staying on top of finances. It was frustrating. I knew something was wrong with me, but I didn’t think there was a way to snap out of it.

Then I started eating good fats. As my mood improved with my changed diet, so did my memory.

I could think more clearly, but I was also remembering things better. I felt much better about seeing friends, because I could remember what we had talked about previously. The fights over conflicting accounts faded with my girlfriend. I was able to remember to pay bills.

My mind also grew in capacity. I was able to learn things as if it were grade school again. I listened to podcasts, read books, and researched things online like never before. It was a renaissance, and I couldn’t get enough. I had forgotten how much I loved to learn, and my mind was starving. So I fed it.

The brain is the center of the nervous system. And the nervous system, including the brain, is made mostly of fat. Myelin, the white sheath over the neurons, and the stuff that makes the brain look grey and white, is fat. The electrical currents that pass between neurons, the brain, and the rest of the body are conducted along nerves that are encased by the fatty composition of myelin.

If there is a low supply of fat from food, where else would the body obtain the fat needed to produce myelin? It makes sense then that eating good fats supplies good building blocks for the conductivity of nerves. And the brain is the major nervous organ.

With this logic, I believe that eating lots of good fats has helped me to regenerate my brain.

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Why This Matters

Why does this matter? This ongoing experience tells me that a change in food changed my body. And if that’s the case, you might benefit as well.

Every person is unique. This is not just a nice thing to say to you to make you feel special. It’s truth. If you do not have the energy you want, the focus you need, the body composition that feels right, and a mind that is functioning, it is well worth your time to investigate. You need to try things, test them for positive and negative effects, and make decisions about food. This is the only way to know.

I emphasize that fats are building blocks of the body’s cells. This is important because cell membranes engage with signal molecules. It amazed me, but didn’t surprise me, to learn that the molecules which engage with cell membranes include hormones.

Insulin, steroids like cortisol, sex hormones, and ghrelin, which creates hunger feelings, are some of many hormones that are signals to make the body function well. A functional body is able to maintain balance of its internal environment. Temperature, body size, fat, bone, and muscle composition, and salt are a few things that hormones help to balance.

Now, when a person is well balanced, with a normal body, responsive hormonal production, sensible appetite, and in possession of sex hormones in the right amounts, you might think that person is pretty comfortable. They wouldn’t be too cold, or too hot, or hungry just after a meal, or overweight, or cranky.

However, if the opposite were true, and a person has an imbalanced body, hormones in excessive or limited amounts, and dysfunctional regulation of all the systems in the body, you might think they would not be very comfortable.

I believe I am a good person. I want to be happy, I want my family and my friends to be happy, and I want my neighbors and the world in general to be happy. I want to help someone if I can. I have passions for creating beautiful things, and I like to work hard and do my best. I think almost all people are like me. Very few want to destroy life and cause pain.

I also believe that people are not able to think clearly, act in accordance with their values, and make wholesome decisions if they are fundamentally uncomfortable. I think it’s really hard to build a life that you want if your body is out of whack. It’s difficult to put in sustained, good work toward a steady goal when you are constantly hungry, unreasonably emotional, and have no energy.

And I think that fundamentally, what a person eats provides the building blocks for their destiny. Yes, a few are incredibly strong and able to overcome sub-optimal bodily function. These few have built amazing lives despite poor diets and disagreeable bodies.

But most people have a lot of trouble with health. Most people are suffering because they don’t have good building blocks to make a body that functions well.

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A body that functions well supports a mind that operates well. A mind that operates well manifests a soul that means well. For me, lots of good fats provided an overhaul of my health. There are many other things I incorporated besides fats. But I believe through logical thinking that good fats are the central element of the diet that brings wellness in my body, mind, and soul.

Here are examples of good fats and other foods that I eat to build wellness. Research, try, test, decide.

Live powerfully,

Steve