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.

NL 160 Pouring Butter Coffee Into Mug The Brilliant Beast Blog.jpeg

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

NL 160 The Thinker The Brilliant Beast Blog.jpeg

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.

NL 160 Steve Getty Downtown View The Brilliant Beast Blog.jpeg

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

NL 160 Barbell Singlet The Brilliant Beast Blog.jpg

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.

Squat Rock Steve Ko The Brilliant Beast Blog.JPG

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.

NL 160 Cut Butter The Brilliant Beast Blog.jpeg

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

Why Your Back Is Hunched

NL 128 Beach Squat The Brilliant Beast Blog.jpg

Do this quick test: stand with feet pointing forward, at shoulder width or less, and get down in a full squat. All the way down, until your knees can’t bend anymore.

Have someone take a side angle photo of you or be next to a full length mirror. Is your back pretty straight? Or is it hunched over your knees? What about your head? Is it in line with your spine, or bent forward or backward?

Make sure your feet are planted from heel to blade to toes. Use your feet’s grip on the ground to support yourself, and try to straighten out your torso. You want your shoulders back and head in line with your spine. Possible? Or not even a bit?

Okay. If you had a lot of trouble lifting up your torso, you probably have stiff chest, shoulder, and bicep muscles. I get this after bench press sessions, lots of sitting, and lots of walking with a heavy pack when traveling. In all these scenarios, I’m straining forward or in a position that gets the front muscles short and tight.

The result is forward hunching. My favorite remedy is shoulder dislocations. Do three sets of ten of these, and feel the crazy tightness loosen up. It will open up your squat, but it will also help with long hours sitting at work and in traffic, standing taller, and easing upper back and neck aches.

When you think of squatting, the upper body doesn’t seem to be involved. But the mobility of your torso actually affects your ability to squat.

It’s not always necessary that you are in the full squat with a straight spine. Lifting something heavy is a different story, but when you’re just getting into a squat, you can have a rounded back without harm to yourself.

The extent to which your back is straight or curved is, though, an indicator of your mobility. If your back is very hunched, it could mean that the tissues of your abdomen, ribs, chest, and shoulders are tight.

If the front of your body is tight, it’s going to pull you forward and make it hard to straighten up. Work on your normal sitting and standing positions. If you’re slouching, get yourself upright. Open up the chest and shoulders, and stretch out your biceps. And squat every day to test yourself.

It’s a constant work in progress for me. The more I’m able to keep my torso aligned, the better time I have living each day free of aches, kinks, and pain.

Live powerfully,

Steve

The Brilliant Beast Blog Daily

Descend Like A Panther

A very random, but hopefully useful, bit on movement. Stairs.

I take the subway everyday in Seoul. Train boarding platforms are two or three, sometimes up to six floors underground. So there’s a lot of staircases.

Most of them are automated, AKA the escalator. Some of them are not. So everyone who takes the rail here has lots of time on stairs.

Going up the stairs is obviously the dreaded part for many people. It’s hard, it’s hot in the summer, and there’s hundreds of people crowded against each other. But in a physiological sense, going up is usually the same every time. It’s like doing a bunch of one-legged squats. Going down is the tricky part.

I noticed that sometimes going down stairs is easy and effortless. It feels like I’m gliding down. I’m quick and quiet and smooth, like Bagheera. And then other times, it’s choppy. My feet are stomping, my body is jarring, and I can’t seem to get in a good rhythm. I’m the Tin Man before Dorothy pumps oil into his joints. So what’s the deal?

It’s all about centering. I wrote you about staying close to the center, in a meta sense. This is the physical counterpart to that. Whether we stand, squat, or deadlift, we’ve got to stay close to our center of gravity and balance for optimal movement. When we’re walking, running, or going down stairs, though, we have to keep that center just ahead of us.

Take walking, for example. Try to walk slowly with a perfectly upright posture. Head above shoulders above hips above feet. Try to speed up the walk a bit. You’ll start to feel awkward. If you’ve ever dreamed of running through invisible molasses, it’s kind of like that. Hard to propel yourself forward.

Lean slightly forward, and you feel the balance shift forward. It’s a natural thing we do. When we run it’s more extreme. And when we go down stairs, it’s also the same. But I seem to have trouble with this every once in a while. And when I look around, I see a lot of people with the same issue: stompy, jarring, awkward movement down the stairs.

It’s probably because we don’t have much practice on stairs. I started to pay attention to my body as I descended into the stations. If I leaned forward with my upper body and kept my head in line with my spine, I noticed things got more natural. My steps were timed better, I was landing with the ball of my foot rather than the heel, and I was able to engage into the next step down more easily. The panther was back.

When I forgot this, if I was tired, or distracted, I would find myself sloppily crashing down again. Feet slapping against the steps, hips jarring, and timing all off. If I examined myself, I would find my head and shoulders too far back, as if I were still walking on flat ground. Readjusting to lean slightly forward not only fixed my mechanics, it also caused me to be mentally engaged with the task of going downstairs. Being present to our movement is just as important as being physically strong or nimble.

And this last part is important to the long game. We know about the geriatric population being prone to falls. Well, guess what. We are all part of the geriatric population, now or later. I think younger people are just lucky that they are slightly more nimble, slightly quicker and avoid disasters when they aren’t paying attention. We all have the opportunity to develop better movement skills.

Be mindful of your body mechanics the next time you approach a staircase. No matter how big or small it is, make each step smooth and quiet. Take each step down with intention. This counts for sidewalk curbs as well. When crossing the street, make that first step off the curb with focus. Our attention to the smallest things scales to the biggest things in life.

Live powerfully,

Steve

The Brilliant Beast Blog Daily

Keep On Going

Why is it that making a change for ourselves has to involve everyone else we know and love?

Because what you do, I care about because it affects you. What I do, you care about because it affects me. And we all have ideas about what is good and what is bad for us. And we don’t want each other to be hurt.

So when we try to do something new for ourselves, especially in terms of health or wellness, we get a lot of resistance. It hasn’t been tried much. Media hasn’t caught on fire with it. Doctors wouldn’t approve of it. Or just don’t know about it. So naturally, our loved ones are going to question, bug, and all out resist what we try.

Sometimes, the clash ends well. We reach agreements, understanding, and most importantly, we see positive results. And the new stuff becomes commonplace, and we all return to eating egg yolks.

Sometimes, it’s not going to end well. We are just too deeply rooted in something. We’ve been told for so long one way, and we can’t begin to accept the other way. And we end up divided, some eating breakfast as the most important meal of the day, and others skipping it. Hopefully, everyone still sits together at the table to talk.

I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum. And sometimes, I make compromises. One of the most effective diet changes I’ve made was to eliminate wheat for six months. Depression, mood swings, and joint aches all just vanished. I treated bread and pasta like rat poison. This caused surprise, anger, arguments, silent treatments, awkward situations, and all sorts of emotional turmoil for me, my family, my friends, and even my coworkers.

I spent hours thinking of what to cook, how to cook it, and how to pack food for lunch at work. Lunch with my boss and coworkers became less frequent, and lunchtime became a solitary ordeal. Visiting family often involved heated talks about food. It took a lot of work, a lot of effort, some pain, and tons of thinking to make a wheat-free diet happen. And the results were priceless. Just from that strict period of avoiding wheat, my mind, my body, my life changed for the better.

I still eat bread and desserts once in a while, knowing it’s gonna hurt. And it does. I know my limits. In the long game, I know where I’m headed. And I have to avoid wheat for my wellness. But it’s my decision moment by moment, even after the struggles I overcame. So I move forward.

Here’s the thing. Change comes when you try something new. Or when someone else does. And then, a dialogue opens. One person expresses interest, disgust, excitement about what the other is doing. And from there, it can be a long road to mutual understanding. For that to happen, you’ve got to be willing to share. What are you doing, why, and how.

Sharing means to open yourself up to critique. People get the chance to say things about what you’re doing. And you might feel vulnerable. But it’s the catalyst for change. And if you really believe in what you’re doing, because it’s changed your life, or it’s brought real benefits, or it’s made you a better person, remember the utmost important thing.

To keep on going.

Live powerfully,

Steve

Don’t Ice Injuries or Swelling

Compress, rest, move as much as possible without agitating, and let the healing happen on its own instead.

Brilliant Friends,

I picked up a lot of good input during my friend’s bachelor trip last weekend. We dudes spent some time in our packed little hotel room doing MWOD’s and various torture techniques to get ourselves more mobile.

An unintended result of this was the surfacing of common problems we all experience. Particularly, I think many guys and gals suffer from pain of old injuries, bad habits of the postmodern life including diet and physical restrictions, and just bad information.

Chronic pain is something we sort of push down into our subconscious, not talking about it or directly trying to get rid of it, once we’ve determined that it’s pointless.

We all know that when you get a sprain, bruise, or other injury, the best treatment is RICE: rest, ice, compress, elevate. Right?
No! As Kelly Starrett points out here (http://www.mobilitywod.com/2012/08/people-weve-got-to-stop-icing-we-were-wrong-sooo-wrong/), the component of icing an injury or swelling is faulty. To make a long story short, here are the basic points to note:
  • Ice delays healing
  • Inflammation of injuries occurs to speed up delivery of healing blood and lymph components to the site – this is one type of inflammation that you actually want to have
  • Icing swollen tissue can cause tissue death if prolonged
  • Use ice sparingly for injuries only for pain management
  • Same goes for pills used to treat pain by minimizing inflammation – corticosteroids, ibuprofen, etc. do more harm that healing.
What to do instead?
Methods:
  • Stop the training if you’re injured. Get out of the gym.
  • Wrap up the injured location with a bandage or long sock or stocking
  • Or use compression pants or socks (I have not tried this but have heard multiple people say it works, including Kelly Starrett)
  • Without agitating the injury, keep blood flowing and stay mobile with as much movement as possible.

Nutrition:

  • Collagen (building blocks of tendons and ligaments, which make up your joints)
  • Vitamin C (allows you to utilize collagen in tissue formation)
  • Vitamin D3 (moderates inflammation)
  • Cinnamon for reducing inflammation (if it gets really bad)

I realize not icing may be hard to swallow. It was a horse pill for me, at first. It works, though.

If you want more reason to throw icing out of your toolkit, read this one-pager (http://drmirkin.com/fitness/why-ice-delays-recovery.html) from the very man himself, Gabe Mirkin. He is the author of the 1978 book titled Sportsmedicine Book, the classic that dictated icing for injuries. He humbly acknowledges that newer research shows that icing to reduce injury delays healing, and suggests not to ice. Instead, do the things mentioned above.

To powerful living!
Steve