Food First

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Brilliant Friends,

The “diet versus exercise” debate deals with the wrong question.

Living well isn’t about choosing between eating right and exercising. It’s about taking one step at a time. If you’re going for weight loss, or slimming down, don’t overestimate exercise.

Food and eating are much more powerful beginner tools in the hormone and metabolic shaping of your body and mind. Your body will respond immediately to good foods, especially healthy fats.

I had six pack abs and under ten percent body fat all my adult life – and I still could see the explicit changes in how I looked, felt, and performed once I dropped the protein shakes, avoided wheat and sugar, and ate more fat.

Timing of meals is ultra important. I’ve learned to not force food upon myself. If I’m not hungry, I’m not going to eat. It just makes sense. It also turns out that hormones coordinate hunger, fullness, and digestion of food. So eating on someone else’s clock doesn’t make too much sense.

Two hormones in particular are predictable and determine what happens with the food you eat: insulin and cortisol. Insulin starts low when you awake and rises when you eat. Cortisol inversely starts high in the morning and drops as you fall asleep.

Insulin is released when there is lots of glucose in the blood. When you eat carbs, insulin comes. Insulin is the signal for your body to take glucose out of your bloodstream into your cells. Liver, muscles, and fat cells take in glucose when you eat because insulin commands it.

It’s important that your body can release insulin when you eat a meal. This ensures that the glucose in your blood gets absorbed by your body. Too much glucose floating around in the blood, and you have high blood sugar. This happens when you eat and there isn’t enough insulin released to take in all the glucose.

Cortisol counteracts insulin. Since cortisol is highest in the morning, insulin will be least effective in the morning. It makes sense to avoid eating until later in the day, when cortisol drops and insulin response can be more effective.

In this way, your body has a system and timing for food absorption. Play around with timing your first meal. Try skipping breakfast. Try a later lunch. Delaying your first meal will give your body a chance to absorb the food better. Cortisol won’t be so high. Insulin will be released more effectively, ensuring the glucose from your food gets properly absorbed from your bloodstream.

Use fatty foods to regulate hunger when you do eat. Fat satiates hunger much better than starches, and tells your body to burn fat. Skip the fat and you’re going to have cravings all day long.

Imagine how strenuous exercise can complicate matters for you. Your energy needs will drastically change. Your body will need more building blocks, more vitamins, more minerals, and different timing of meals.

It’s all doable, and I support your decision to become stronger through exercise. But before you toss yourself into the algorithms of traumatic exercise recovery, figure out your practice of food and eating for your current state.

This will allow you to measure subtle changes and observe differences more clearly. To summarize eating if you are not exercising:

  • Eat your first meal later in the day
  • Eat lots of healthy fats, until you are full and satisfied. If you have cravings or feel hungry after meals, try eating more fat.
  • Eat carbs, such as starches, at the end of the day
  • Adjust the amount of carbs you eat based on your body fat and your energy level in the morning
    • Fat gain or hung over feeling – eat a bit less carbs
    • Low energy, dry eyes – eat a bit more carbs
    • If you do exercise, you will need more carbs

Live powerfully,

Steve

Photo credit daBinsi/Flickr. Posted under this Creative Commons license.

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Build Your Squat Episode 2

Brilliant People.

In this episode, I talk about how to ease into the squat, and what to do with your feet, your knees, and your butt. If this is your first time ever, it’s a good quick intro to squatting. Even if you’ve just been out of practice for a while, or if you’re a hardcore weight lifter, take a second to look at your squat technique.

It takes just a few things for you to maximize your output, strengthen your knees, and use your back correctly with the squat. My priority is to help you do this ultimate human movement the right way. Train with these few simple mental cues and build your squat to enhance your life.

Be gentle, take it slow, and build with care.

Live powerfully!

Steve

The Butter Coffee Dip

No, not something for dunking your donut.

The Dip. This is the term used by Seth Godin to describe the valley of hardship you must cross to reach the promised land of whatever endeavor you start. Every good result, beneficial enterprise, and upgrade in life involves some form of a dip. I’ll use the word plainly, without emphasis, moving forward.

Stop: This article is not for the sensitive or faint of heart. It’s meant to help you determine whether you’ve got the resources to be able to adapt to fat using butter coffee. There’s a bit of explicit and abrasive content here. And it’s long. It’s meant to challenge you. If you’re ready for it, please proceed. Otherwise save yourself some grief and leave this page – hopefully for another day.

The dip that I describe here is the barrier to using butter coffee for fuel. It involves the challenge that lies between you and proper fat utilization for energy and wellness. If you want to be ketogenic, or be able to primarily utilize fats for energy, you will come to this dip and be forced to reckon with your current metabolic tendencies. Butter coffee is an excellent gateway tool to optimal fat metabolism if you love coffee.

The rewards are great. If you have ever fasted, or had to skip breakfast to do something first thing in the morning, you may have felt a type of euphoria before finally eating. High focus, light mood, ease of effort, and creative outpour. Some people fast regularly for these benefits.

There is a way to access this “mode of operation”, let’s call it, without the hunger. There is a way to have it for a long period of time. Every day. And for the rest of your life. Once you get past the dip.

For some this will be easy. My own adaptation was fairly simple, as well as that of other people I’ve spoken to. Anecdotally, these “lucky” people are under 40, have no major health issues like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, or organ dysfunction, and are physically active or relatively fit. You may not agree with the term lucky if you are within this group. Regardless, these are attributes I have seen that make the dip shorter or less troublesome.

I have seen others struggle with the dip more than I have. Much more. The type of person I have seen struggle to maintain ketosis are over 40, have some health issues like obesity, diabetes, or metabolic dysfunctions, and generally are not as lean or muscular as the first group. However, I have seen a few examples of people in this category of mine who made it through the dip, regularly drink butter coffee, and enjoy the benefits of ketosis.

Many people I’ve talked to, in both categories, had decided to discontinue their efforts toward ketosis because the struggles did not justify the goal. There are definitely people of the first category who did not make it through the dip.

Don’t take this as a scientific grouping of people who will and won’t benefit from fat adaptation or butter coffee. Argue all you want about this. This is my narrow, limited experience with people. Whatever your current physiology and life circumstance, I believe you have the chance to enter a new realm of wellness. And I believe it is most likely through a transition of diet that relies on carbohydrates to one that is more strongly based on fats.

I will apply an insight from a field outside of medicine and health to the task of overcoming the dip here. I heard this from a conversation between Tony Robbins, master life coach, and Tim Ferriss, the human guinea pig. It is an insight from a plastic surgeon, one who’s created more attractive looks for women by minuscule adjustments to their faces. This surgeon lives by the practice that a mere two millimeters of adjustment can make all the difference. Most people are just within one or two tiny millimeters from being irresistibly beautiful.

Take this with a grain of sea salt. I know the general feel about plastic surgery, and I understand how this comes off. However, I look at the core lesson. A tiny distance separates me from accomplishing things I feel are impossible.

This can be expanded to wellness. The idea that for most people, the prize of a healthy body and mind awaits just a few more steps from where they’ve stopped. Just a couple of tiny steps from the point of utter pain, suffering, or misery. I believe that for most of humanity, for most of the endeavors that have been attempted, this is true. Wellness on an individual level is not exempt. Here, I address a very small endeavor that has slipped past many because of the tiny adjustments that need to be made before reaching the rewards.

Before you fully enjoy the benefits of butter coffee and other good fat in your diet, you will come to a few barriers to pass. They were well worth my time and effort to overcome, and so I share this with you. I urge you to read these elements of the dip that I encountered in the past five years to adjust myself to this superior energy source. I welcome you to join me in enjoyment of ketosis, higher focus, and overall improved wellness. But only after accepting the reality of what you must surpass to get here.

First

You will need to move through the fear that grips most people.

  • It’s partly the fear of eating fat. Simple. Although you might eat animal fat already, the social mores against butter, lard, and other forms of fat are strong. People around you will stare, ask hard questions, and flat out make fun of you. I’m talking about people you work with, play with, and love. By starting this experiment of wellness, you are entering a world of fat consumption. You will be harassed. You must embrace this to proceed through to the other side. My most effective quote for dealing with this: “Fuck’em all”. In gentler terms, I didn’t deal. I simply looked ahead and kept moving.
  • There’s also the fear of taking control. You are tackling this big aspect of your life called wellness. If you are afraid of actively making changes to improve your wellness, you are not alone. It sucks to try something you thought was good for you and find it was a waste of time, money, and attention. It’s also embarrassing when your friends and family find out and they tell you that you shouldn’t have done that. So, you’ll need to accept this fear and move through it. You will need to accept responsibility for your wellness. Whether you suffer or not is in large part a result of your own daily doing. To be well, you must decide to do. Know that it only seems harder to be healthy. The reality is that it takes just as much effort to eat candy as it does to eat grass fed butter. You put either in your mouth and swallow. Eaten. The hard part is all the intangible stuff surrounding the butter. Fear. Accept and move through it. As a hack to get there faster, may I suggest meditation.

Second

You will need to adapt to fat. This means your body will need to physiologically learn to effectively absorb nutrition from fat. This takes several days to weeks for some people, maybe more if you are not in the habit of eating a lot of fat. Keep your regular meals at first. Have just a cup of this coffee beverage with breakfast, or an hour before training. Eat “normally” otherwise. Feel it out.

  • Do you feel dizzy? This is a sign that you had too much MCT oil and your brain is in overdrive. Reduce MCT oil.
  • Is your stool wetter or more sour than usual? This is a sign that you are not able to digest as much as you ate. Reduce butter until stool is solid and smooth.
  • Did you get “cold diarrhea”? This is the classic sign of too much MCT oil for your system. Your body is trying to rid itself of excess nutrition. You aren’t ready for however much you took. Reduce MCT oil.
  • Did you get hungry within the next few hours of drinking the coffee? This is a sign that you are not able to optimally utilize fat for energy. Eat other food with the coffee, enough to satiate, not to the point that you are bursting and too full. Adjust the amount of food as hunger levels change through time. Balance the amount of butter in your coffee with the amount of food you eat. More butter, less other food.
  • UNLESS you went through a lot of stress the previous day. If you trained strength or exercised, if you had an emotionally difficult episode like a high stakes meeting or a fight, if you did not sleep enough, or if you had some other taxing situation the previous day, you naturally need more nutrition the next morning. Go with your gut feeling in the morning – literally. If you are hungrier than usual, add more butter than usual. Test the degree and duration of satiety.
  • Did your cravings come back? Distinguish cravings from hunger. Cravings are mostly in the mind, but they stem from a lack of significant nutrients. There’s an interaction between brain and gut that tells you you’re hungry or full. This goes back to amount of butter, adapting to fat utilization, and slowly replacing “food” with good fats. Slowly reduce the instinct to reach for sugary, starchy, processed, “fake” foods. No candy, ever. Seek instead “real” foods, incorporating good fats, green leafy veggies, and rice over bread into your meals. Cravings only grow as much as you feed them. Remember, address your brain.

Third

You will spend a lot of time making this every day. It also takes a long time to clean up. One of the greatest hurdles in making butter coffee is making butter coffee. It usually takes me a full 15 to 20 minutes to finish making mine. This includes heating the water, adding all the ingredients, blending, and pouring it out. You will have to make time. This means that other things will get pushed or omitted from your start-of-day schedule. If it’s Candy Crush, good riddance. If it’s meditation, perhaps you’ll want to plan more carefully. Also, don’t forget cleaning time. You’ll have a dirty and greasy blender, knife, measuring spoons, and coffee-making gear to reckon with. If you don’t tolerate dirty dishes in the sink all day, you will have to figure in the cleaning time.

Fourth

You will need to adjust and test the ingredients of butter coffee to suit you. You must find the best possible quality of ingredients within your means. Cleanliness of the coffee, source of butter and MCT oil, and quality of water are examples of components that affect your wellness. Do not disregard any symptom, do not diminish the value of any single ingredient, and pay attention to adjustments that you make.

Obtaining quality ingredients is one of the most difficult things in the dip. It is both “expensive” and hard to find some of these things, depending on where you live and how much money you can use. But know that this cost can undermine the cost of breakfast, going out for lunch, snacks and candies, and “healthcare” from complications related to your body running primarily on sugar.

Do your best. Compromise on ingredient quality only with full expectation of compromised results. The beginning is often exciting, with the heightened capabilities you feel from the first cup. The dip will require you to make adjustments and will stop most people from getting past the initial highs.

  • Did you get the jitters or a headache? Low coffee bean quality, cheap stuff, and blends are more likely to contain mold contamination, be overcooked, or not fresh. Coffee is a naturally enhancing food. There are a lot of qualities that aren’t identified. Much of the benefits from coffee are lost through these subpar characteristics.
    • Aim for single source or single estate or single origin. This means the beans are grown and processed in one place. The time and attention to the beans is more focused and you will get cleaner product.
    • Dark roasts risk overcooking the beans. If you “like” uber smoky coffee, carefully examine your symptoms. Overcooking coffee can damage the fats and the beneficial elements within the beans. Big name brands usually are careless about this process. Look for brands who pay attention to the roasting process, who talk about it and highlight it.
  • Did you get acne? I am prone to acne. Any bad fats I eat result in different types of acne. Some cause the small bumpy skin on my forehead, others cause large zits deep in the skin, and still others cause the smaller white fat pustules. Now, assuming you are avoiding fried foods from outside home, sugar, and vegetable or subpar animal fats, check your ingredients for the following:
    • Butter. Is it really grass fed cow butter? Research and get a clear answer. Grain fed cows produce fat that is not clean. You might as well be eating margarine. If you cannot find a clear answer, ditch and move on. I would avoid it altogether if I get noticeable acne.
    • MCT oil. Where are the coconuts or palm oil from? Thailand is usually the best source from my experience. The processing also matters, and some companies do not have control over that. Does the product you are using have that level of quality guarantee?
    • Powders. Chocolate, vanilla, cacao butter, cinnamon, collagen. Whatever it is, is it sourced from identifiable places? Or blended from multiple locations? Remember that blends involve extra storage and shipping times, unaccountable processes, and reduced integrity.
  • Is your coffee flat or greasy? Follow the instructions I laid out, verbatim, for making the beverage. Check your timing, making sure to keep things hot and blending fast and long enough for good emulsification.

Fifth

You will need to find the goldilocks amounts of nutrition, the golden timing, and fine tune the quality of your results.
  • Hunger will come sooner or later. The more fat-adapted you are, as they say, the more energy you can obtain from butter coffee and the longer you can perform without eating. Adjust amounts of butter to see how much you need for proper energy. You don’t want to be faint later in the day, and you don’t want to physically deteriorate. I can last ten or more hours on butter coffee if I must. Ideally, I eat around hour eight. Remember, I have been doing this for years. My body is adapted. In the beginning, and for a very long time, you will not be. Prepare to experiment!
  • Find the ideal time for this drink. I like to have my coffee first thing in the morning. Sometimes I can sit all morning and work and drink all my coffee within a couple hours. Other days I have to go somewhere far and will sip while I drive, over a longer period of time. Lately I’ve had to walk the dogs at my mom’s place, and I find that doing this first thing (yes, before my coffee) is most beneficial for every creature. It hasn’t killed me. I have plenty of energy first thing in the morning without any nutrition added, so I am sticking to this schedule. You are different from me. Find your ideal timing for coffee.

Sixth

You can’t avoid discipline. There is no way around this in the dip. You simply must stick to your goal. You must regularly work to make butter coffee right for you and to become fat adapted. Let me end this long article with a long quote by Jim Collins from his excellent book, Great By Choice:

“Discipline, in essence, is consistency of action – consistency with values, consistency with long-term goals, consistency with performance standards, consistency of method, consistency over time. Discipline is not the same as regimentation. Discipline is not the same as measurement. Discipline is not the same as hierarchical obedience or adherence to bureaucratic rules. True discipline requires the independence of mind to reject pressures to conform in ways incompatible with values, performance standards, and long-term aspirations… the only legitimate form of discipline is self-discipline, having the inner will to do whatever it takes to create a great outcome, no matter how difficult.”

I told you it was long. Now make a decision.

Live powerfully,

Steve

If you need more information or guidance from my experience, please contact me by email. I have limited availability for consultation. If you have questions or comments for other readers, please leave them in the comment section of this post.

 


 

Collins, Jim. Great By Choice (2011)

The Brilliant Beast Blog Daily

Pillar of Strength

I was back in the gym this month for the first time in four months.

Something was funky about my squats. I kept wondering why it felt so tricky to keep my back firmly aligned. Things felt a little wobbly once I had loaded weight on the bar.

I was using torque from my feet, spreading the floor. I was pulling out on my knees. I was keeping my butt engaged. And my shoulders were back and down, tight. But I felt like the torque from my legs was bleeding out somewhere, not making it all the way up to the bar.

What was going on?

Then I got a gut feeling. Literally. My gut. I had forgotten all about belly pressure.

Abdomen Pressure

Your belly is a powerful element for exertion. It provides structure for the most strenuous power outputs in life. Lifting a heavy load on your shoulders, hauling something off the ground, and pushing a dead car down the road all require you to keep your belly tight for maximal effort.

It’s because your belly is critical in transferring power from the feet to the point of push or pull. How, when it’s the softest part of the body?

The softness is actually the key. Because your abdomen is flexible, it can act like a balloon. Suck in a deep breath, down to the diaphragm, and you find that you can tighten your belly down around that air. Now feel it. Rock hard.

Ever had your head bonked against your dad’s belly and wondered why it felt like a bowling ball? Well, he was utilizing abdominal pressure.

This balloon of pressure is the pillar through which power can transfer most efficiently from your hips up to your shoulders. When you have it firm, your belly is the connecting structure that keeps your torso sturdy.

With a deflated belly, you put most of the power transfer back on your spine. Not as rigid, not as effective.

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The Weight Belt

Now you might see the value in using a belt during your heaviest powerlifting reps. Wrap a normal belt around your midsection, just above the navel. Breathe in, down against your diaphragm, and push with your belly against the belt. Feel some power there?

I don’t think it’s advantageous to use the belt for lighter lifts. There is value in squatting and deadlifting without a belt. It helps you engage your core by itself, and you learn proper technique. Having a belt through all training, from the lightest weights, can make you depend on it and have a false sense of security.

On your heaviest lifts, though, it can be a powerful tool to scale your well-developed technique. It also helps you build your belly muscles by enabling a greater output from them.

Training Belly Pressure Without a Belt

Start without a belt, using the principle of abdominal pressure in training. Try it first without any weight on your shoulders. Do body weight squats, taking in a deep breath and pressing your belly against it, and hold it in until you squat and stand back up. Then release the breath.

Hold and release your breath for each rep. You may need to take a little breather in between. Don’t pass out. You need oxygen to stay conscious and to stay healthy.

By the way this is great training for low back issues as well. The stability from your belly pressure will help you maintain spinal alignment. Use the principle for daily activities, like lifting things off the floor, picking up grocery backs, and taking out the trash.

Ask me something. I’ll answer.

Live powerfully,

Steve

Collagen or Not

Brilliant Friends,

I love collagen powder. The stuff from grass fed cows is amazing in my morning butter coffee. It makes the coffee blend better with the butter and creates a fuller consistency.

The collagen gives me a boost of energy, and works wonders for recovery from strength training. This form of protein supplement has given me a boost in recovery over the long term, helping me build flexible joints and tissue. I noticed my skin and nails seem healthier too.

In the short term, however, it isn’t as helpful. I’ve found that I get hungry and lose focus around hour four when I add it to my butter coffee. Without the protein, I can last the entire day before dinner without feeling hungry, distracted, or weak.

One possible reason for this is ketosis, the state in which we run primarily on fat for energy. Protein intake can end ketosis. This is not a bad thing at night for me, when I don’t need deep focus. But in the morning it feels more sluggish than running on good fats.

I haven’t actually tested my blood for ketone levels, but I can tell when my mind is clear and focused versus when I have lower focus and energy.

Since I’m already getting enough good collagen from grass fed or wild meats, especially the tendons, extra powder in the morning coffee probably hasn’t been missed. Other than the great taste and texture, of course.

The other thing is hunger. Protein intake signals the digestive system to start, stimulating hunger. Hunger can be distracting, although my energy level may still be high. The Bulletproof Diet suggests taking collagen in the morning for women over 40 and for anyone trying to lose a lot of weight.

I am not 100% sure of this, but I have also heard and read that women may benefit from protein in the morning without the downsides. It sounds a bit weird that men would have a different outcome. But that’s true for other biological processes, so it isn’t necessarily false.

I still add the collagen for my wife, daily. She doesn’t eat as much meat as I do and can probably benefit from the extra protein. Of course, I’m talking about a few teaspoons, not heaping scoops.

On mornings after training, I will have one or two tablespoons.

What works for one may not for another. And what works for you today may not work best the next day. So keep pivoting.

I’m curious to find out how big of a difference this makes for you. Soon, we’re all going to be using individualized amounts of fat, protein, and carbs. We’ll be fine-tuned to our needs for optimizing each day. Until then it’s just a matter of simply trying.

For us it’s more than simply putting something in the mouth when there’s hunger. It’s about true satiation, duration of focus and energy, and how we feel, think, and act.

Let me know what you’ve experienced.

To powerful living,

Steve

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Butter Coffee Tweaks

Brilliant Friends,

The Bulletproof Executive, Dave Asprey, recommends that men eat eight to ten tablespoons, and women six to eight tablespoons, of fat per day. Or, about 50% of calories from fat.

That seems like a lot.

It probably sounds psycho to most people. But not to us, who know how important fat is for cell membrane construction and function, hormone production and balance, and energy and focus.

Between my morning coffee and dinner, I eat about seven to eight tablespoons of butter, plus other fats from meat, coconut oil, etc. to satiety. That looks like around nine tablespoons for me. So, Asprey may have a good number.

But it’s not like I went from a “normal diet” to nine tbsp of fat in a day, or even a week, or even months. Over the course of the first year that I started to drink butter coffee, I gradually went from two tablespoons to four to six. I just went by feel.

How hungry, how tired, how sore was I from the previous day? How did it make me feel to blend in more or less butter in my coffee? Was I going to have a long day, an emotionally difficult or demanding schedule, or a big training session?

Butter coffee has been the start of my nutrition and daily ritual almost every single day for the past four years. Getting good fat, lots of it, changed my life in every critical aspect I can imagine. My mood, my focus, my strength have all fundamentally changed because of it. Eating this way is something that I’ll perpetuate for the rest of my life.

I don’t say this to brag. And I’m not saying you should be eating nine tablespoons of fat tomorrow. I do want you to know it was a journey of trial and error before I got it just right, to my liking and to the best performance enhancement for me. If you get it down in one try, more awesome.

Either way, getting that much good fat through each day is hard enough. Butter coffee is one of those incredible life hacks that can get you there. It’s also a hard one to make a regular part of life. Understandably so.

Portability, Butteriness

It’s hard to make it to go. The coffee cools, the butter congeals, and you end up with a lava lamp by the time you get to work.

Three things.

First, make it quick. Once your water’s hot enough, brew the coffee immediately and promptly blend everything, then pour it into the thermos as soon as the coffee is blended. No delays, screw on the tops, keep the heat.

Second, blend it for a full twenty seconds. That means if the second hand on the clock is at 12, you blend until it’s at 4. This breaks the fats down better and the coffee stays in tact longer.

Third, get a good thermos. I use Thermos. Also Zojirushi.

Butter based on feel

You don’t have to stick with a specific amount. Two tablespoons for two cups of coffee is a good starting point. After a while, your body adjusts to digesting fat and can probably handle more of it. Try more to get it creamier, if you dare.

Caveat: there is a limit to how much butter a certain amount of coffee will hold. A couple of days ago I plopped eight tablespoons into a liter of coffee. The fat started to stick to the sides of my mug. Not a bad thing, though. I just drank it faster!

Really, you can add more if needed. When you feel drained from the training session the day before, a mighty dose of fat can revamp your energy and aid in the recovery process.

Brew by the clock

Get the coffee acidity just right by playing around with how long you’re allowing your beans to steep, and how hot the water is. I don’t settle for overdone coffee. It upsets my stomach and makes me weak. Find the sweetest setting for the coffee that tastes right and feels awesome. I set the kitchen timer to three minutes for my French Press, so I don’t forget it in the midst of measuring out my powders like a mad scientist.

Increase MCT oil by increments

Now here’s where you want to be more delicate. Make adjustments incrementally. I mean a half or quarter teaspoon at a time. Other than inspiring you to excrete immediately if you have too much, MCT’s in excess can get you in a sort of brain overdrive. When I skipped from one teaspoon to one tablespoon, I got the runs and felt slightly dizzy for a couple hours.

With that being said, it is amazing fuel for your brain and the rest of your body. Sugar is not the only fuel source for your brain! C-8 and C-10 fatty acids (MCT’s) get converted into ketones and work like jet fuel. It’s the same metabolic process as when you are in fasting, when your body starts to use it’s fat reserve as energy.

You can also tinker with the type of MCT. There are C-8 isolated oils out there, which are most easily used by the brain. I’ve been using this form for a couple of years now and it is quite intense, and much more direct than regular MCT (C-8 and C-10 combined). I take just under a tablespoon of C-8 oil and I feel great.

Find your sweet spot!

I love talking with friends about how to make butter coffee better. It’s one of my favorite topics. So if there’s anything you’re wondering about for making butter coffee, just let me know. I’m more than willing to help you figure it out.

To powerful living,

Steve

Tools

Amazon Affiliate Links

Note: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

I will only link to tools that I use, find meaningful, and that I believe could benefit my brilliant readers.

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Butter Coffee Gear

Essential butter coffee brewing tools

Grind.

Bodum BISTRO Burr Grinder

Duration of use: 2½ years and counting

Features: Metal burr grinder does a fair job of pulverizing coffee beans. Never jams. Grounds end up in glass beaker with silicone rubber sleeve protection. Easy to disassemble and clean.

Downside: Need to jar it and tap to make grounds empty out completely into beaker. The plastic container on top shifts out of the largest ground setting during grinding – better to keep it at the second to last setting for coarser grounds.

Application: Sits on the counter top for daily morning brew at home.

Hario Mini Mill Slim Hand Coffee Grinder

Duration of use: 4 years and counting

Features: Small enough to be a true handheld travel grinder. Adjustable ceramic burr for ground size. Removable handle for compact storage. Good for pour over brewing on the go.

Downside: Grounds are inconsistent. Requires time and effort for finer grounds.

Application: I took it backpacking through Bali, Singapore, Thailand and Korea. Stored butter coffee ingredients like vanilla beans in the clear bottom part.

Brew.

French press

Duration of use: 2½ years and counting

Features: Stainless steel French press beauty brews 30 ounces of coffee. Double walled body keeps coffee hot while brewing. Smooth lines make it easy to clean. Ergonomic handle and contoured spout make pouring clean and effortless. The lid

Downside: Some water gets trapped under press screen, but tilting all the way gets it out.

Application: Good for brewing coffee on rushed mornings. Brew hands-free for four minutes while adding butter coffee ingredients to blender. Pour finished coffee out and blend. Pour over brewing, in contrast, requires full occupation.

Pour over

Hario V60 Buono Pouring Kettle

Duration of use: 5 years and counting

Features: Light steel kettle can boil 1.2L water over all types of stove tops. No cleaning needed if good water is used. Lid fits very well and rattles when boiling. Spout is ingenious, pours pinpoint water for precise soaking of coffee grounds.

Downside: Handle angle and spout length require some distance from grounds. Difficult to brew directly into a tall blender if counter is too high.

Application: Hario is the authority brand on pour over coffee brewing. I use this every morning to make coffee. The ceramic dripper cup, featured below, can be placed on top of the blender lid opening, and the coffee brewed directly into blender and other ingredients. Paper filters are also needed. See Make Butter Coffee for the setup and instructions.

Hario V60 Ceramic Coffee Dripper (Size 01, White)

Application: Size 01 fits enough grounds for about two mugs of coffee.

Size 02

Application: Size 02 fits enough grounds for about four mugs of coffee. Officially it’s 3 cups, but I stretch it with more grounds and careful brewing.

Measure.

Duration of use: 1 year

Features: Light yet sturdy spoons. Shallow bowl fit into small package openings. Easy to clean.

Downside: Ring holding them together was flimsy and came apart. Spoons constantly fell out of ring.

Blend.

Keep.

Add zojirushi and stanley

 


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Ankle Torque

Here we go Brilliant Friends,

If you’ve loosened up your ankles and calves, it’s time to engage them during the squat.

Initiate torque

I use starting stance imagery to set myself in position. Butt flexed, I rotate my femurs outward. This builds torque in the hips and it spirals down my legs. Remember, torque is rotational force.

This torque now acts upon my knees through my femurs. It transfers down to my shins, which rotate against my ankles. My legs are feeling nice and tight in standing position.

Normally, I would let my feet turn out from this rotational force. But not anymore. My feet are planted.

Anchor down

Keeping my feet pointed forward, I hold the tightness in my ankles and it stabilizes my stance. I’m using the torque from my legs to exert outward rotational force on the floor with my feet.

It feels like my feet are gripping the ground. I use the mental cue, “spreading the floor” to activate this system.

If my feet were pointing outward, my femurs would already be rotated out and there would be no torque. I wouldn’t be able to exert the same amount of tension in my ankles. So the key is to keep my feet pointed forward.

Complete the circuit

Since the ground isn’t going to turn, the torque from my feet goes back up through my ankles, knees, and hips. It feels as if my hips and legs are screwing my feet into to the ground, and my feet are screwing my femurs into my hips.

So the force I’m exerting from into the ground is actually being pushed back up from the ground. It’s a complete circuit of torque.

Descend

Initiating the downward movement from starting position is a bit counterintuitive with all this torque business. But the trick is to keep “spreading the floor” with my feet and pull out on my knees.

I can then start to sit back with my hips. I’m pulling myself down with rock solid stability. Hitting parallel is no problem when everything’s nice and tight through the feet and ankles.

The key is to make sure my feet do not turn out to the sides. In fact, I started training barefoot for this reason. My shoes would often slide on the gym floor during the descent, letting my feet spin out to the sides. Torque would bleed out, leaving me unstable.

By the time I came up out of the hole, my feet would be spread nearly parallel to the bar. So I now train shoeless.

Rise out of the hole

Pushing back up is as simple as maintaining torque in the ankles, knees pulling out, butt pushing forward. I keep my torso tight, and my feet locked on the ground, supplying the torque that ties it all together.

It’s like opening the pickle jar. When your hand slides, you lose torque. As long as my feet are tight on the ground, facing forward, I can utilize that force to crank myself down and back up in rock solid stability.

Even a tiny bit of improved ankle flexibility gives you so much more torque on the squat, deadlift, and daily life.

Do, then do again.

To powerful living,

Steve

Get Rid of Slack on the Deadlift

Brilliant Friends,

Here are a couple of thoughts on a more effective deadlift.

A common point of energy waste in the deadlift is the initial lift of the weight from the ground. That exact moment the weight comes off the ground should be the first upward movement of your body as well.

You would think this is intuitive. But if you watch deadlift videos on Instagram and Youtube, you’ll notice that a lot of people start their lift with their butts. Before the weight lifts off the ground, their hips have already moved up a few inches. You might notice this about yourself, too.

This is inefficient channeling of energy through the legs, and takes away from upward movement of the weight.

You can develop a better deadlift by minimizing this power leakage from the start. The aim is absolute tension and rigidity before the “pull” (what we call the lifting portion of the deadlift). By doing this, you will be able to maintain good form throughout the lift, keeping your back neutral, knees out, and head aligned. This will minimize and even prevent your upper back from curving forward into a slouch.

Start Position

To create the most effective output, focus on the setup. Once you grab the bar:

  • Straighten your arms
  • Push your feet into the ground
  • Pull up against the bar just short of lifting it to anchor yourself into the ground.
  • Pull back on your shoulder blades, like the wings of a jet folding in after take-off.
  • Flex your butt, think of squeezing your sphincter
  • Spread the floor with your feet (see my squat newsletter  for description)

If someone came by from any direction and pushed you, you would not be budged. No looseness in any part of your body, upward, downward, or sideways. Everything should be rock solid and ready for take off.

Back

Your back should have a straight arrow pointing through it from top of the head through the end of your butt.

Eyes

As you take hold of the bar, focus on one spot on the ground in front of you and do not look away. This helps with keeping the head in a neutral alignment with the rest of your spine.

The Pull

And here goes. I like Mehdi Hadim‘s two-part cue the best:

  1. Push the ground away from you
  2. When bar passes knees, slam your hips forward into the bar

Descent

You now stand upright with bar held at arms length.

  1. Pull in a belly breath and lock it into your lungs for abdominal pressure.
  2. Let down the weight in the exact reverse way. Start with hips moving back, keeping tension in butt, hamstrings, knees and feet.
  3. When the bar reaches your knees, allow them to start parting and bending, maintaining full tension.
  4. Do not drop the weight. It’s sloppy and rude, and it will mess up your back and everyone’s eardrums. Think Batman. Be quiet, be swift, and be gone.

I’ll send one on grip next. Try these with minimal weight first. As in, just the bar. Or a broomstick.

To powerful living,

Steve

 
Copyright © 2016 Steve Ko, All rights reserved.

Torque and Getting Deeper on the Squat

Brilliant Friends,

If you’re just joining this newsletter, welcome. This newsletter is here to bring you unusual yet effective techniques to learn powerlifting. You can find the first newsletter about learning the squat in the archives above. I suggest you go over the mental imagery and cues in that one first before proceeding with the tips in this letter. Practice them and become comfortable with them.

Torque: The Core of all Human Movement

Let’s get deeper on the squat, now that we’ve covered the basics. Continue to practice sets of five squats, body weight, and deepen your understanding of the importance of Torque. For those of you who did not pass physics, torque is rotational force. Squeeze a towel dry and you are creating torque by twisting it.

Every human movement and power output is generated by torque. Our bodies, our skeletal systems, are designed to create force by rotation. This is true for walking, where our back foot propels us through inward rotation of the hip, translating frictional force from the ground up through the abdomen to the shoulders.

It’s true for a simple bicep curl, where our wrist, elbow, and shoulder all pull against each other in rotational motions to bring up an object that is gripped in our hands. Gripping things is also a work of torque, where each finger joint is pulling with rotational force against the next finger joint, and the bones of the hand pull in rotationally against the muscles that lead to the forearms, to secure an object within our grasp.

To understand that torque defines all human movement will give you a better mastery of your body mechanics. The squat is no different as a combination of several systems of torque.

Feet Spread the Floor: Revisiting the Starting Stance with Torque

The well-established starting stance of the squat (see first post for more details) begins with flexing your butt, which creates outward rotational force on your thighs. Your femurs rotating outward place torque on your shins, and this creates torque on your ankles. When your ankles are being pulled outward, your feet, pointed forward, are creating torque against the ground by rotating outwards as well. They are not actually moving outwards, but the force created from your hips allows you to grip the ground through your feet.

This is why thinking of “feet spreading the floor” gives you a good cue to create that rotational force as you prepare to squat.

Creating “the Pillar” out of your abdomen, or taking in a breath to your belly and tightening the abs against it, allows the force from the ground to travel through your torso to the bar or weight without getting lost in bending or twisting motions. If your torso is soft, or extending, or otherwise not rigid through the squat, you will lose the torque created at the ground along the path through your body to the weight on your upper back.

So, before loading weight or a heavy bar for squats, familiarize yourself with performing the exercise with a rigid Pillar of a torso. This is where mobility of the hips, knees, and ankles is essential for allowing your torso to remain upright and solid through the movement. Limitations on joint mobility will tempt you to compromise your torso stability in an effort to get lower in the squat. We’ll talk more about mobility in a bit.

Knees Out: Torque Preservation Throughout the Squat

“Knees out” is also a mental cue that encourages preservation of torque through the squat. As you pull yourself down into the hole, and up out of it, keeping your knees pulled outward maintains torque and a stable transfer of power from the ground through your body.

You absolutely must not allow your knees to buckle in. This is the most important rule for the knees in the squat and all other strength building exercises. The structure of your ligaments keeping your knee together can be replicated by crossing your middle finger over your index finger. Do this with your right hand. Now grab this structure with your left hand, and twist your right hand out, or to the right. This is similar to your right knee pulling out to the right during the squatting motion.

You’ll notice that your twisted fingers, representing the ACL and PCL in your knee, tighten up and become stronger when rotated out to the side. Now, as you maintain your hold with your left hand, twist your right hand the other way, inwards to the left. You’ll notice that your fingers untwist from each other, much in the same way that your knee ligaments become unstable and lose torque.

When you’re squatting, with or without weight, getting up from the ground or the chair or out of the car, you’re using torque to do so. Depending on how your knee is positioned, you are either creating stability in the knee or you are exposing it to an unstable position. Under weight, it is crucial that you maintain “knees out” for the most stable mechanics.

Pulling Down, and Butt Back vs. Hamstrings Back: Getting Deeper on the Squat

“Pulling down” is the best way to think of the descent on the squat. Rather than letting yourself down, or dropping as free weight, thinking of “pulling down” on yourself helps to keep yourself in a stable, torque-locked state.

If you are finding it hard to pull down near the top or the beginning of the squat motion, think of “sitting back into a low chair” or “bending down to pick up a corgi running towards you”. The backwards pull from this imagery may allow for release downwards.

Do you find it hard to pull down near the bottom or the hole, or notice from video of yourself that you are “butt winking”? By butt wink I mean that right at the bottom of the squat, your lower back curves and your butt tucks in. This is a very unstable position of the spine and breaks the solid pillar that you are trying to maintain.

Remedy by thinking of “hamstrings back” rather than butt back. Shoving your butt back too far at the beginning of the squat can tilt your hips too far forward, and prevent your femurs from fully rotating out towards the bottom of the squat. That forces your pelvis to tilt back down, to allow your femurs to rotate out and your body to lower into the hole. Thus, your pillar is broken.

You need your hips at a constant angle, keeping that pocket of motion open for your thighs. This also may require some mobility work. For now, practice the squat as far down as you can go, without compromising your pillar. Think “hamstrings back” and “pull down”.

Practice the Bar Position

At this point, if you feel comfortable with the mechanics of the squat, you can practice gripping and holding the bar during the squat with a light wooden pole or broomstick (remove the broom part if you can).

Even if you are intermediate or advanced on the squat, it is always good to know your mechanics at body weight. Can you get down to the correct position? Are you able to create torque without weight on your back?

Grip the pole at just outside shoulder width. Pull the pole up above your head, arms straight. Get into the stable starting stance, and once you’ve created the pillar, bring the pole down behind your head.

Let the pole rest just below your cervical vertebrae, the pointy neck bone at the top of your spine. With your arms flexed in a bent position, you will create a muscular “shelf” between the rear shoulder muscles and the trapezius muscles just above them. Keep the pole snug in this groove.

Flex your shoulder blades tight, back and down. Grip hard on the pole. Tighten your Pillar, feel the torque as your feet spread the floor. You are in the ready stance with a bar, now.

Establish the bar position. Your wrists may not be mobile enough today to get into a full gripped, just outside shoulder width, bar position. If so, move your hands out a little further, and try bringing the pole down into position. Hold it there, allow your joints to loosen up and adjust, and progressively work on moving your hands to just outside shoulder width.

None of the three-finger grip nonsense that is going around, or the gripping the ends of the bar, or the plates. Having correct bar grip and position is critical to stability and joint health down the road.

I’m open to your thoughts.

To powerful living,

Steve