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

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