Vitamin B12 and Methyl Folate

Brilliant Friends,

I dug deeper into the hair color recovery phenom. Turns out there is more research behind vitamin B12 affecting my hair color. But it also involves Methyl Folate, which I’ve been using as well! Also, links to the two supplements I use below.

The functional info:

Vitamin B12 activates Methyl Folate to make Methionine. Methionine is an essential amino acid. You use methionine for:

  • Blood cell formation
  • White blood cell formation, for your immune system
  • Hair melanocyte preservation, which keeps hair color. Lack of methionine leads to oxidation and malfunction of the color-producing melanocytes. So there it is!
  • Vitamin B12 is also needed for the brain and nervous system. Methyl Folate is needed for RNA and DNA building.

Your body does not make Vitamin B12 nor Methyl Folate. You must get them from food. Supplementation is good because it’s hard to get enough of these micronutrients from food.

Important: a lack of one leads to a lack of the other. It’s a chain reaction. If you supplement with one, take the other as well.

Vitamin B12

Food

B12 is found in eggs, meat, fish, nuts. From Wikipedia:

“Vitamin B12 is found in most animal derived foods, including fish and shellfish, meat (especially liver), poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products. However, the binding capacity of egg yolks and egg whites is markedly diminished after heat treatment.”

Let me add some adjectives to that list: Grass fed or pastured meats, wild fish, and eggs soft boiled or over easy. Keeping the yolks moist or runny preserves the fat and nutrients!

Supplement

B12 supplement as Methylcobalamin or Cyanocobalamin. From Wikipedia:

“Cyanocobalamin is converted to its active forms, first hydroxocobalamin and then methylcobalamin andadenosylcobalamin in the liver.”

“The metabolic fate and biological distribution of methylcobalamin are expected to be similar to that of other sources of vitamin B12 in the diet.”

“No cyanide is released with methylcobalamin, although the amount of cyanide (2% of the weight, or 20micrograms cyanide in a 1 mg cyanocobalamin tab) is far less than ingested in many natural foods. Although the safety of cyanocobalamin has long been proven, the safety of the other types is also well established.”

I use:

Jarrow Formulas Methylcobalamin (Methyl B12), 5000mcg, 60 Lozenge

But I will soon use:

BulkSupplements Pure Vitamin B12 1% (Cyanocobalamin) Powder (100 grams)

I’ll explain the switch in a moment.

Dosage:

5000mcg every morning.

Methyl Folate

Food

Methyl Folate is found in green leafy vegetables, butter and seafood. Go for real food. From Wikipedia:

“Folate naturally occurs in a wide variety of foods, including vegetables (particularly dark green leafy vegetables), fruits and fruit juices, nuts, beans, peas, dairy products, poultry and meat, eggs, seafood, grains, and some beers. Avocado, spinach, liver, yeast, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts are among the foods with the highest levels of folate.”

Supplement

Use Methyl Folate supplement, not folic acid. Manufactured foods like bread and cereal have the synthetic, inactive form, folic acid. You can see it on food labels, but is not effectively converted by your body. From Wikipedia:

“Folic acid is synthetically produced, and used in fortified foods and supplements on the theory that it is converted into folate. However, folic acid is a synthetic oxidized form, not significantly found in fresh natural foods. To be used it must be converted to tetrahydrofolate (tetrahydrofolic acid) by dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR). Increasing evidence suggests that this process may be slow in humans”

I use:

Jarrow Formulas Methyl Folate 5-MTHF Nutritional Supplement, 400 Mcg, 60 Count

Dosage:

800mcg or two pills every morning.

Other stuff to know

B12 sublingual lozenge:

Easier if you tuck it in after taking the other vitamins. Tastes fruity, which I had to get used to with chocolate butter coffee. With work in the morning, I had to take my vits and drink coffee on the drive. You might want to somehow separate the two. I now drink my coffee first, then take the vits after. This is good because some are fat soluble!

B12 Supplement switch:

I was looking into why I get a sore feeling in my stomach after taking supplements. It’s like a dull, sour tummy. I found that stearic acid or magnesium stearate from vegetable sources can cause this. It’s used commonly in pills as a lubricant for powder, to stick together better. The culprit, I believe, is the larger Jarrow milk thistle pill that contains vegetable stearates. Omitting only this, I noticed a direct absence of the sore feeling.

The supplements listed above also have this ingredient. They’re both made by Jarrow. I’m switching to B12 made by BulkSupplements because they just have it in pure powder form. No other ingredients. Going to try, even though my symptom is gone and I’ve still been using the above pills for the past one week.

Sometimes what works is good enough, and there are times when I want to up the quality. I never paid attention to this particular symptom until recently, so it’s time for me to try something else. I’ll keep you updated!

To powerful living!

Steve

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Review of the dirty science:

[Bracketed inserts] and Bolding of text mine.

1. Senile hair graying: H2O2-mediated oxidative stress affects human hair color by blunting methionine sulfoxide repair. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19237503

FASEB J. 2009 Jul;23(7):2065-75. doi: 10.1096/fj.08-125435. Epub 2009 Feb 23.

Wood JM1, Decker H, Hartmann H, Chavan B, Rokos H, Spencer JD, Hasse S, Thornton MJ, Shalbaf M, Paus R,Schallreuter KU.

Abstract
Senile graying of human hair has been the subject of intense research since ancient times. Reactive oxygen species have been implicated in hair follicle melanocyte apoptosis and DNA damage. Here we show for the first time by FT-Raman spectroscopy in vivo that human gray/white scalp hair shafts accumulate hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)) in millimolar concentrations. Moreover, we demonstrate almost absent catalase and methionine sulfoxide reductase A and B protein expression via immunofluorescence and Western blot in association with a functional loss of methionine sulfoxide (Met-S=O) repair in the entire gray hair follicle. Accordingly, Met-S=O formation of Met residues, including Met 374 in the active site of tyrosinase, the key enzyme in melanogenesis, limits enzyme functionality, as evidenced by FT-Raman spectroscopy, computer simulation, and enzyme kinetics, which leads to gradual loss of hair color. Notably, under in vitro conditions, Met oxidation can be prevented by L-methionine. In summary, our data feed the long-voiced, but insufficiently proven, concept of H(2)O(2)-induced oxidative damage in the entire human hair follicle, inclusive of the hair shaft, as a key element in senile hair graying, which does not exclusively affect follicle melanocytes. This new insight could open new strategies for intervention and reversal of the hair graying process.

2. Cobalamin dependent methionine synthesis and methyl-folate-trap in human vitamin B12 deficiency. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/871432

Br J Haematol. 1977 Jun;36(2):189-98.

Sauer H, Wilmanns W.

Abstract

The activity of methionine synthetase (MS) is important for the rapid growth of human haematopoietic cells [blood cell components] and cultured lymphoblastoid cells [form of lymphocytes that become B cells and T cells]. The MS reaction is the only known metabolic step in which both vitamin B12 and folate are essential in a single enzyme reaction. In vitamin B12 deficiency the MS activity in bone marrow cells is significantly lower than that in normal bone marrow. Free tetrahydrofolic acid (H4PteGlu) is normally liberated from its metabolically inactive storage form, 5-methyl-H4PteGlu (CH3H4PteGlu), in the cobalamin-dependent MS reaction. Thus, in vitamin B12 deficiency H4PteGlu is not available in sufficient concentration to maintain the de novo synthesis of thymidylate and purines, and accords with the methyl-folate-trap hypothesis. After treatment with amethopterin (Methotrexate), the incorporation of 3H-deoxyuridine into cellular DNA is reduced. In proliferating normal cells this effect of methotrexate can be prevented (and the cells rescued) with CH3-H4PteGlu or with CHO-H4PteGlu (5-formyl-H4PteGlu; Leucovorin). On the other hand, in vitamin B12 deficient bone marrow cells this so-called rescue-effect could only be achieved with CHO-H4PteGlu and not with CH3-H4PteGlu. These observations also support the hypothesis of the methyl-folate-trap in vitamin B12 deficiency. Decreased MS activity in vitamin B12 deficiency seems to be the essential metabolic fault, which is responsible for secondary alterations of folate metabolims. Thus, measurement of MS activity may allow direct functional assessment of vitamin B12 deficiency, at least with regard to DNA metabolism.

3. Wikipedia on Methyl Folate

4. Wikipedia on Vitamin B12

5. Vitamin B12-folate interrelationships.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3927946

Annu Rev Nutr. 1985;5:115-41.

Shane B, Stokstad EL.

Abstract

The studies discussed in this review support the view that biochemical and clinical symptoms common to both folate and vitamin B12 deficiency are due to the induction of a functional folate deficiency, which in turn is induced by cobalamin deprivation. The interrelationship between these two vitamins is best explained by the methyl trap hypothesis stating that vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to lowered levels of methionine synthetase, which results in a functional folate deficiency by trapping an increased proportion of folate as the 5-methyl derivative. In addition, as 5-methyl-H4PteGlu is a poor substrate for folylpolyglutamate synthetase, there is a decreased synthesis of folylpolyglutamates and consequently a decreased retention of folates by tissues. The real folate deficiency that ensues because of decreased tissue folate levels is probably as important physiologically as the functional deficiency caused by the methyl trap. The sparing effect of methionine can be explained by adenosylmethionine inhibition of methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, which would prevent the buildup of 5-methyl-H4PteGlun. A deficiency in vitamin B12 would not, in itself, be sufficient to cause a disturbance in folate metabolism. The deficiency would have to result in lowered methyltransferase levels before any such disturbance would be manifest.


 

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Gray goes black

Brilliant Friends,

As dusk settled on my twenties, darkness spread across the top of my head. Literally. Gray and white strands gave way to luscious onyx. My wife and I were mystified, but we rejoiced.

I’ve had gray hairs speckling my head since eighth grade. I was fighting to find meaning in the midst of family tension, the pressure to get A’s, and depression. My teenage follicles perished in the struggle.

I begrudgingly sported the salt and pepper ‘do through high school and college. But then, like Lazarus and The Arrow, my follicles were resurrected.

Processed with VSCOcam with s6 preset

NL 27 Arrow The Brilliant Beast Blog.jpg

We pondered over the exact root of the change (wink). It wasn’t because there was a lack of possibilities, but rather a plethora. The preceeding months happened to have been a sort of wellness expedition. I was experimenting with butter coffee and feasting on fats. I convinced my then girlfriend to do away with wheat products and sweep sugar aside. I delved into meditation. Progression strength training replaced “workouts”.

It was a renaissance, to be sure. I was stronger, brighter, and apparently richer in color than ever. The need to explain the little details became immaterial. For years since, I considered my repigmentation a fortuitous boon from the Universe. It was a small bit of reward for all the good I was doing for myself. I mean, who cared? It was just cool to have fully black hair again.

Like many wonders of the actual Renaissance, though, the world had already seen the magical recoloring of graying heads. Three years after my epic makeover, I ran into an enlightening article. Research had already demonstrated that premature hair graying was one symptom of vitamin B-12 deficiency. It was listed as a bullet point among other maladies like anemia. It made so much sense! I had been regularly taking methylcobalamin (B-12) supplements in the interim.

NL 27 Davinci The Brilliant Beast Blog.jpg
This was it. I had B-12 on a pedestal as the holy hair supplement.

My belief was stoked by a number of other bullet-pointed articles and blogs that hailed vitamin B-12 as the cure for early hair discoloration. But when I started looking for the research, there was only one hit in Pubmed that made a reference to this phenomenon. I refer to a 1986 experiment on a man with gray hair, in which he was given a Vitamin B-12 injection that restored his natural color. He had been suffering from anemia caused by B-12 deficiency.

Awesome. I scoured Pubmed for more cases like this. Something substantial.

And found none.

The only other relevant study I could find involved teens in southern India. Prematurely graying hair correlated with low levels of vitamin D, serum calcium, and serum ferritin – but not vitamin B-12. This got me flustered. The articles claiming the connection refer to “studies” or “research” or “proof”. Even other Pubmed articles on the matter mention this “evidence”.

I finally came to a conclusion. They’re probably all pointing, whether or not they know it, to that one case in 1986. So it was a single gray head.

But really, I’m okay with that. Make me case number two. Whether or not a sole vitamin got me back in black, what does it matter? Intermittent gifts from the Universe make for a delightful adventure toward the spring of wellness. So onward I trek with you.

To powerful living,

Steve

 

Continue reading “Gray goes black”

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

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Butter Coffee Gear

Essential butter coffee brewing tools

Grind.

Bodum BISTRO Burr Grinder

Duration of use: 4 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 and tap the entire machine to make grounds empty out completely into beaker. When new, the plastic bean container on top shifted out of the largest ground setting during grinding – to the release position – and stopped the grinding. Better to keep it at the second to last setting for coarser grounds. This didn’t happen again since.

Application: Sits on the counter top for daily morning brew at home. Pour beans in top, push grind button, shake and tap.

Hario Mini Mill Slim Hand Coffee Grinder
SAMSUNG CSC

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: Requires time and effort for finer grounds. Removable handle needs to be secured to body with a rubber band when not standing upright.

Application: I took it backpacking through Bali, Singapore, Thailand and Korea. Stored butter coffee ingredients like vanilla beans in the clear bottom part. Pour in beans and close top, fix handle on and grind. Unscrew bottom to pour out grinds.

Brew.

French press

Duration of use: 4 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 fits pretty deep below the rim of the jug, lessening spills. There’s a little arrow embossed on the top for easy reference to the pour opening. The press itself is wonderful. There’s a silicone rim around the filter that cleanly keeps the grounds down as it slides against the jug. The shaft is solid steel, and screws into the filter via a sturdy attachment. The metal filter screen is fine enough to make a clean, crunch-free brew, but somehow can be pressed with very little effort.

Downside: Some coffee gets trapped under press screen when fully depressed, but tilting all the way gets it out. The brew is harsher than pour over, so if you like a strong coffee, this is way to go. Cleaning out coffee grounds is quite inconvenient. There’s no easy way around it. Let it cool down first, pulling up the lid just enough to be able to hang over the edge and expose the used grounds to the air. This makes it easier to scoop out the grounds later. I use a soft spatula.

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
SAMSUNG CSC

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. Placing the blender in the kitchen sink allows for easier brewing.

Application: Hario is the authority brand on pour over coffee brewing. I used this every morning for three years to make my butter coffee. The ceramic dripper cup, featured below, can be placed on top of a 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)

Duration of Use: 3 years

Features: Heavy ceramic cup has spiraling on the inside to direct flow of water through coffee grounds. Lip on the bottom fits most mugs securlely. Very easy to clean.

Downside: Ceramic breaks easily relative to plastic or metal. I had to glue the bottom of mine back together and it works fine. Paper trash. For mugs that don’t fit, you may need to carefully balance while pouring.

Application: Open and insert a paper filter into the dripper cup. Pour coffee grounds into paper filter. Pour hot water over grounds, spiraling out from the center. Size 01 fits enough grounds for about two mugs of coffee. 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. Rinse after use and sit upright to dry.

Measure.

Duration of use: 1 year

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

Downside: Ring holding them together was flimsy and came apart. Spoons constantly fell out of ring. This was fine for me because separate spoons make measuring easier.

Application: Measure and dump dry powders, like creatine, vanilla, and cacao, first, then the stickier powders and liquids last. Collagen powder is better measured with a separate scoop altogether, as it sticks and can transfer over to other ingredient packages. Save the MCT oil for last. If you accidentally dip a spoon wet with MCT into your chocolate powder bag, you won’t be the first or the last person to have done that.

Blend.

Duration of use: 3 years

Features: Cheaper than other brands, this blender has a light-weight plastic jar that makes it easy to handle while adding ingredients and to pour. The flexible lid fits well and is easy to clean. The whole thing is simple in design and has no cavities where mold can collect.

Downside: Having a towel held firmly down on the lid is a must, to prevent hot coffee from shooting out through the center cap. The blender is not meant for a large volume of liquid, so the hard plastic cap in the middle of the lid doesn’t seal tight. This is also not a very powerful blender. Foam will be fluffier and not as thick as with a Vitamix.

Application: This blender is on the tall side. Use a low counter or table, or a clean sink, if using a pour over kettle. Remember to hold that dish towel down hard on the lid and blend at the highest speed for a full 30 seconds. You’ll have very good butter coffee.

 

Keep.


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Make Real Food the Easiest Option This Week

You can keep telling yourself, your partner, your friends, that you will eat well and diet and get healthier, but you’re only as good as your most tired, stressed out day.

What I mean is on that one day that things were especially rough at work, someone was rude to you, or you had to get things done and got home late, how prepared are you to create a wholesome meal?

Do you have fresh ingredients in the fridge? Do you know what you will cook? Is it easy enough for you to do in your frazzled state?

Not sure what you would do, but given the option, I would pop off the cork of my wine bottle and bust out the chips and guac. Or the dessert from the night before, if say there had been a birthday or a night out with friends. And then wake up three hours later in a dazed brain fog.

We’re creatures of habit. We do the easiest thing when we’re tired. And it’s often the most comfortable or habitual thing.

But if I’m prepared for my weakest moments, and have the fresh veggies in the fridge, and the meat defrosted, and the herbs and spices available, I can utilize a go-to recipe and just fall into the rhythmic therapy of cooking.

Here are things to consider to make excellent nutrition the (eventual) easiest option:

Determine your sources and do not waver from them.
  1. Pick one place you want to get your fresh produce.
  2. Pick one place you want to get your meat.
  3. Pick one place you get dry goods. Rice, noodles, salts, etc.
  4. Pick one place you get your water. If you don’t agree with tap, that is.
When is the best time for you to get your groceries?
  1. Pick one day and time of the week.
  2. When you have just eaten or are not hungry.
  3. Earlier in the day rather than later (decision fatigue will kick in and you will be more likely to opt for habitual choices when tired).
What are your basic meal components?
  1. Pick two to three meals that are reasonably easy for you to create using set combinations of the below items. I sometimes actually bag all ingredients for one recipe together, minus the meat, to make it simple.
    1. Veggies
    2. Starch
    3. Meat
    4. Fat for cooking
    5. Herbs and Spices
  2. Examples of my go-to meals and cooking hacks.
  3. Plan for leftovers. This eliminates a couple of nights of cooking, and you can heat up leftovers on the stove in a pot with a little water. If you’re a freak about not using microwaves, like me.

    Vintage 20th century "microwave" serving as a stand for ice cream maker and cold brew bottle.
    Vintage 20th century “microwave” serving as a stand for ice cream maker and cold brew bottle.

Look, you will fail at this here and there. I think that much is obvious, from what we’ve seen of ourselves thus far in life. So if you go out to get a burger, get the cheeseburger and the fries. If it’s not going to be the highest quality in terms of nutrition, it might as well taste damned good.

The key is to minimize failure by maximizing preparation. If it’s the only thing you do on a Sunday, get to that farmer’s market. Get your veggies for the week, write out two meal plans, and execute when the time comes.

To powerful living,

Steve

 

 

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Recover from Food Poisoning in a Day

Brilliant Friends,

I got sick last night. Super sick.

After dinner, I grabbed some oranges to slice up and found one of them covered in mold. It was sitting on the edge of the fruit basket and didn’t seem to affect the other ones, so I tossed it, cleaned a couple other good-looking oranges, and didn’t think much of it.

At about 5 a.m., I woke up from an unbearable leg ache. I had a training session with squats yesterday, so I thought that was the cause. After about ten to fifteen minutes of squirming around, though, I knew something was wrong. This wasn’t normal aching from lifting. It was really pronounced, and I thought maybe I had gotten a poisonous spider bite or something. A few minutes later, I started getting the chills and shakes. Damn. I was dealing with a full on infection.

The shakes quickly became shudders and uncontrollable, and I was whimpering like a baby. What the hell? Was it really that orange mold that was killing me right now? I finally got the courage to get out of bed, stumble through the dark, and grab my bottle of vitamin C. I took 4g with some water, and crawled shivering back into bed.

The shaking wouldn’t stop, and after a few more minutes I started to feel gas. I thought maybe I would stool and all this craziness would end. Long story short, nothing got better, I ended up puking up dinner and all my vitamin C. I had a fever at this point. I downed four more grams of vitamin C, some coconut charcoal pills, and sea salt, and thankfully got to sleep after a while.

Waking up at about 8:30 a.m., I felt much better. I had a throbbing headache, but the chills and fever were gone. The beauty of vitamin C and charcoal. Ear plugs helped with the headache, and I resorted to taking two small ibuprofen pills. These are a last resort for me, since I rarely get headaches, but today was pretty intense. I got out of bed, made some butter coffee for my sweetie and stored some away for myself for later, and went back to sleep.

At 1:30 p.m. I got out of bed, a little shaky, but okay. The headache was still there, but aside from weakness, the other symptoms had gone. I busted out my thermos full of butter coffee, sat down to read a book, and started feeling better and better. The headache was subsiding as I nourished my swollen brain with gracious amounts of ketones.

By 3p.m. I felt like 75% of my best self, and I had some food to replenish my stolen dinner. This week I’ve been enjoying sweet potato with salted butter, just laying the butter on top cold. I had that with some olives and eggs, and of course a few more grams of vitamin C. All told, I took 10g vitamin C, 6g of which I held down. I’ll probably take about 8g more by the end of the night.

At 5:30p.m. as I write this I am at about 90%. Might even be able to hit a PR later tonight if I had to. Just kidding. But damn it feels good to be back from that hell hole.

I navigated past a similar episode of infection last year, where I caught a pretty bad flu from work and fought it off by the next day. Random infections like food poisoning or the flu don’t have to last longer than a day. Do the effective things, pound the vitamin C, charcoal, and whatever else can counteract the source, and get good fats as quickly as you can keep them down. Salvation is often in your trembling hands.

All told, from 5a.m. to 4p.m.:

  • 10 g vitamin C
  • 2g coconut charcoal
  • 400mg ibuprofen
  • 24oz butter coffee
    • 4tbsp grassfed butter
    • 1tbsp C-8 MCT oil
    • 1tsp cacao butter
    • 1tbsp grassfed collagen powder
    • 1tsp creatine
    • 1/2 stick vanilla beans
    • 2 cups single origin coffee
  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 2 tbsp grassfed butter
  • 3 olives
  • 1/2 cup scrambled eggs (totally random, didn’t have any soft-boiled eggs left but found fiancee’s leftovers)

To powerful living,

Steve

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No More Protein Shakes: How to  Eat Like a Human and Still Be Strong

My Brilliant Friends,

Last March I hit a squat of 370 lb. and a deadlift of 391 lb. without protein shakes. That’s a squat of 2.2x my body weight of 168 lb. That may seem like a lot, but I’m a normal guy and I just learned to do a few things right.

My strength results came after a year of effective eating paired with progression strength training. I was able to take the 5×5 powerlifting system much further than most people, because I adopted an unusual nutritional philosophy. If your primary focus is getting strong and lean, you don’t have to go the route of whey protein and chicken breast. Also, the prescription of six meals a day is overkill.

In fact, I ate less food and skipped the protein shakes for a 65 lb. increase in my squat. I did two things with food that changed everything: I started the day with healthy fats, and ate carbs at night. These simple adjustments took my strength to a new level. It wasn’t easy to change my habits, but the results came fast.

Effective Eating

By changing when I ate certain foods, I effected greater focus and strength output during training sessions and physical activities. My energy level multiplied, and my strength surpassed my expectations.

Carbohydrates at Night

This sounds crazy to some of you, because most people say that carbs at night make you fat. That’s conventional wisdom. Here’s my secret: I usually only eat carbs at night, and never in the morning. Why?

Think of your energy on a scale of zero to five, five being razor-focused and kicking ass, zero being non-functional and getting your ass kicked. Then think of your hunger on a scale of zero to five, zero being starved and five being completely satiated. My perceived energy and hunger levels after eating carbs for breakfast:

Energy Vs Hunger Graph

With the effects shown above, it didn’t make sense for me to eat carbs first thing in the morning. I may have felt lively as I was eating, but by the time I was ready to get work done my focus was crashing. Soon after that my stomach would grumble, and then I would get moody and just want people out of my way so I could hurry up and eat again. It didn’t work for me.

The same was true for strength training. I would get an energy crash just as I got to the gym, and it sucked. Suddenly the motivation I was feeling an hour before disappeared, and I would have a sober time getting warmed up and lifting. I would be tired during my training session and unfocused, and this often led to small injuries from bad form and overworking myself.

So if I didn’t eat carbs in the morning, what did I eat?

Fat in the Morning

Two years ago, my gym buddy introduced me to BULLETPROOF® Coffee. It’s a strange recipe consisting of grass fed butter, MCT oil, and coffee, from the Silicon Valley biohacker named Dave Asprey, at The Bulletproof Executive. From the first time I drank this butter coffee concoction in the mornings, I met incredible results: my energy level shot through the roof, it was sustained throughout the day without any other food, and I was rock-steady focused.

Using the same scale of zero to five from our carb-heavy breakfast graph, here are my perceived energy and hunger levels on nothing but good fats in the morning:

Energy Vs Hunger Fat Graph

I found that I could go eight to twelve hour days without lunch. And I was not crawling, either. I managed staff of a busy call center, I was reading, writing, and meditating, and I took pride in doing these things with focus and attention.

So I flipped my eating. I had carbs only toward the end of the day, and only good fats in the morning. This gave me access to unparalleled energy from morning to night, and allowed me to restore my need for energy without interfering with activities during the day. For dinner, I went all out. I ate multiple servings of rice if I felt the hunger, and I had fruits and desserts. Then, I would relax and go to bed feeling good. The best part was, in the morning, I was not fat.

Sure, this is my own perception of energy and hunger. There are obviously a lot of complex things going on with hormones, catabolism and anabolism, and I’m not going to say that I have measured or understand all of those mechanisms. I do know that fat works better for me than carbs by orders of magnitude in the morning.

That’s it. These are my two most effective principles of food timing, around which all other eating falls into place. Carbs at night, fats in the morning.

Starting with Fat for Strength Training

The most amazing thing was that starting with fat was optimal for strength training too. I was scared at first that I would faint during my training because I wasn’t eating any carbohydrates. When you have 200 lb. on your back you don’t want to lose consciousness. But guess what? Not only did I stay conscious, I was more focused and had more power output than if I had eaten carbs. A quick list of benefits of training with fat as fuel:

  • No heavy “digestion” slump that is typical after eating carbs, so I’m able to start my first exercise as quickly as 15 to 30 minutes after having butter coffee.
  • Absolutely razor focused during sessions. Able to control every minutiae of form at the bottom of the heaviest squats.
  • More presence and control during exercises means less fear with peak weights on my back.
  • Far less of crazy “beast mode” and just blindly tearing through exercises.
  • No injuries from squatting 3x per week for 30+ weeks on the 5×5 progression strength training program.

Here’s what a training day looks like for me:

  • Normally I have two cups of butter coffee first thing in the morning.
  • Before training sessions, I add a tablespoon of collagen powder to my coffee along with the butter and MCT oil. This gives my body the building blocks for joint and connective tissue repair.
  • When I don’t train, I omit the collagen, since it makes me hungry within about four hours. On training days, since I was going to eat after my session anyway, hunger was okay.
  • I usually read, write, meditate, stool, and then hit the gym about an hour or two after finishing my coffee.
  • After training, I usually eat white rice mixed with grass fed butter, meat, and dark green veggies like kale, broccoli, or spinach. This is usually leftovers from the night before. If I don’t have any leftovers I make eggs and bacon.

Observe your energy and focus levels in the morning. Do you eat breakfast, and if so, what does that look like? Note how long it takes for you to start to feel hungry. Pay attention to these two factors at lunch time. Did you train or exercise one or two days before? Take note of these baseline factors and your levels of energy and hunger. Then try adding good fats to your morning, and take note of any differences.

Brilliantly Effective Foods

Now for the actual foods that worked the greatest wonders for me: meat and fats from grass fed or wild animals, leafy veggies, rice, and more. Let’s start with the healthy fats.

Butter Coffee

I discovered the power of fat in my diet soon after that fateful day that my training buddy suggested I try Bulletproof Coffee. This drink serves as an amazing energy source from fats, and is unparalleled as fuel for a strength training session. See my butter coffee recipe for amazing taste and texture tips. From the Bulletproof Executive website I started my journey of learning that fats give me more energy for longer periods of time than carbs. I started by having a small cup of butter coffee with my breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, and avocado, and eventually found that the beverage alone gave me  enough energy for my training sessions.

Quick breakdown of butter coffee as the ultimate natural fuel:

  • The grass fed butter provides vitamins, saturated fats, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats, and Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). It is very filling too.
  • Medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil consists of C-8 and C-10 fatty acids that pass easily from the gut to the brain and rest of the body for quickly usable energy in the form of ketones.
  • The coffee, of course, has flavonoids and antioxidants that enhance focus and drive during training and intense mental activities.

This drink is clean-burning rocket fuel that gives me maximal focus, endurance, and strength output. For my recipe and links to get ingredients for yourself, see my post on how to Hack Your Butter Coffee.

Save Money on Ineffective Lunches

Having my coffee blended with grass fed butter every morning makes sense micro-economically.  I eat no breakfast other than butter coffee. This saves me time on food prep and cleaning (blender, table knife, and measuring spoons). Because it’s so filling, I don’t eat lunch, unless I trained the day before.

Looking at a very low end of $10 per restaurant lunch in Los Angeles, that is saving me more than $40 per week. This alone makes up for the weekly cost of my butter coffee, which for me includes 1.5 cups of grass fed butter per week (less than $5), 10 tbps. of Brain Octane oil ($5.49), and 30 g of coffee ($0.54) as a baseline. I do add other elements to enhance flavor and performance, so I’m spending about $11 a week. Not taking dinner into account, and excluding the cost of breakfast that I no longer eat, I am 3-4 times more food-cost-efficient from morning to evening than I used to be. Take my previous cost of breakfast, which usually consisted of two to three eggs, bacon, and toast, I am at least 5x more food cost-efficient than I was three years ago.

This isn’t to say you’ll be able to go a whole day with just butter coffee from day one, two, three, or even day seven. It took a few weeks for me to get to a state of metabolism where I could effectively use fat alone for energy. You may need to try it a few times and see how it works for you, in addition to your regular meals. I eventually got more accustomed to the calorie profile of fats and need less food for the same amount of energy. I suggest adding it to what you already do, and adjust as you go.

The usual exception to no lunches is after strength training sessions or some physical activity the day before. For the next day, and sometimes two days later, I feel hungry midday. If I want to make time for lunch on these days I might have a salad with some wild salmon and sweet potatoes, with dressing made from MCT oil and vinegar. If I don’t eat lunch, it takes about a day longer for me to recover from training. However, my focus isn’t affected during the day.

Kill 1 p.m. Meetings and End the Day on Fire

Not only am I more efficient, I am more effective. Having butter coffee in the morning without carbs gives me razor focus that is sustained for hours and hours. I can focus on tasks and interact effectively with people as late as 10 or 11 p.m. I’m definitely not 100% at the end of the day, but I’m rarely “hangry”, moody, or in any sort of an energy crisis.

I feel great from the start of my morning through lunch hour, when most people need to go get something to eat. It saves me time, energy, and attention when I can continue on with a task and not have to stand in line for a $15 sandwich and soda. I also don’t have a post-lunch crash, because I just don’t have lunch. While others are nodding off during one o’clock meetings, I’m driven and focused.

Yes, I do have some crazy days when I am up early in the morning, skip lunch even though I trained the day before, and don’t eat dinner until 11 or 12 p.m. It doesn’t make me the happiest human on earth, but I can operate just fine. I can do this effectively because of the good fats that I eat to start my day, and butter coffee is the perfect vehicle for this nutrition.

Grass Fed Butter

I use Kerrygold grass fed butter in just about everything I eat. It makes up the bulk of my morning energy source in butter coffee. Butter is also great when melted into almost anything, especially rice. I like to do the classic slab of butter on top of steak, and it’s also great when melted onto steamed or sauteed veggies. Broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, bok choy, spinach, collard greens, you name it, I’ve tried grass fed butter with all of them and they pass my “Damn, that’s good” taste test.

Cooking with grass fed butter:

I use butter for cooking everything from eggs to beef stew to fish to chicken curry. It’s a little more delicate than regular grain fed butter, and smokes at a lower temperature.

  1. Melt it at a very low temperature, not enough to fizzle into a brown mess.
  2. If you need to cook at slightly higher temperatures for larger meat chunks or to get that grilled effect, first heat coconut oil, pork, or beef fat, then add the butter on top. This blends the smoking points of the two fats and you get a higher smoking point from the butter than you normally would by itself.
  3. When possible, it’s better to steam food like rice or veggies first, then add butter later to melt.
  4. Add spices like garlic, shallots, or jalapeno to the butter and let brown a bit before adding meat or veggies. Gives depth to your dish.

Grass Fed Ground Beef

Some of the long term benefits I am seeing from eating grass fed beef:

  • Fuller recovery after training
  • Better sleep
  • Improved mood
  • More flexible joints and muscles
  • Better skin, hair and nails
  • No smelly burps or room-filling gas that come with normal grain fed beef

Ground beef is the most practical form for cooking:

  • Break it up in butter in a large saucepan and add broccoli, kale, or other veggie
  • Form into meatballs with cumin, chipotle, minced onion.
  • Make into a sauce for rice pasta dishes

My trusted source of grass fed beef is Alderspring Ranch in Idaho.

Wild Caught Fish

Best alternative to grass fed beef, full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. My favorite fish:

  • Salmon
  • Cod
  • Red Snapper
  • Pike mackerel
  • Sardines (most are wild caught!)

Easy and fast to cook:

  • In a pan, low heat, with grass fed butter
  • In a spicy soup base
  • Baked, seasoned with plenty of sea salt, maybe some dill

I get Alaskan Wild By Nature Copper River sockeye salmon, who are partnered with Alderspring Ranch.

Dark Green Leafy Veggies

These are super healthy and make me feel great the next morning. My favorites:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Chinese Broccoli
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Bok Choi

I have found these to be simple to cook and the easiest to find at farmer markets. It’s hard to go wrong with them if you use a few simple rules:

  • Minimal cooking
  • Proper flavoring
  • Variation

Minimal Cooking

Most green leafy veggies don’t need much heat to be edible. You can sauté kale slightly in butter over low heat for just a couple of minutes, and cover to steam for another minute or two, and it’s done. You want it to still be green and fresh looking when you eat it. The trick with veggies that have thick stems and delicate leaves is to start cooking the stems and add the leafy parts later.

Flavoring Veggies

Super easy with combinations of herbs, spices, and acids. For European and American-style dishes try:

  • Lemon or apple cider vinegar
  • Black pepper
  • Cumin
  • Chipotle
  • Jalapeno

For Asian-style dishes try:

  • Soy sauce
  • Rice wine vinegar
  • Sake
  • Green onion
  • White pepper
  • Sesame oil
  • Shiitake

Most of these veggies go supremely well with ground beef. I usually start with the beef, adding the veggies while the beef is still a bit pink to avoid overcooking it. Salt it to taste, don’t be afraid of salt. Spinach can be blanched, rinsed, and mixed with soy sauce, sesame oil, and green onions for an amazing dish that is popular with Koreans. Try it with rice and fish.

Vary what you eat day to day

Of course, you will eventually find the few things that make the most sense to you and taste the best. This makes it easy to rotate recipes so you don’t get sick of any one food.

Soft-Boiled Eggs

Boiled eggs, what a lost art. Having a stock of soft-boiled eggs is great for quick meals. The secret is to use a steamer. If you do it in this order exactly, I promise you the eggs will be delicious.

  1. Set up a steamer in a large pot. Add water to just below the bottom of the steamer.
  2. Get the water boiling.
  3. Set a timer for 7 minutes for liquid yolk, 8 minutes for firm but golden yolk.
  4. Add as many eggs as reasonably fits without stacking (try stacking them, why not).
  5. Start timer.
  6. When timer goes off, turn off heat.
  7. Fill pot with cold water, drain. Don’t worry, the eggs won’t crack. The miracle of natural architecture.
  8. Repeat. The second time, leave the eggs for a few minutes to cool down.

Rice

White rice mixed with some brown and black rice cooked in a steamer is my main source of carbohydrates at night. I love melting in grass fed butter after cooking the rice and mixing it together. It’s a great way to get more healthy fat and it tastes amazing. Rice is clean-burning fuel for me, doesn’t have any gluten and other harmful proteins found in wheat, and is always my go to.

I usually cook a bunch, store what I don’t eat in tupperware, and reheat over the stove with a little water in the pot when I need it. Simple, delicious, and effective.

Japanese Sweet Potatoes

Second to rice, I’ve found that Japanese sweet potatoes are an awesome source of easily digestible carbs. I don’t get food coma after eating these, even if it’s midday. Steam a few for 20-30 minutes, until super soft, and eat them when they’re cooled to room temperature. I eat the peel and all. Store leftovers in the fridge after cooling.

Supplements

My supplementation is based on the BULLETPROOF DIET™ created by Dave Asprey and this supplements page. These are the things I take daily.

Vitamin D

1000 IU per 25 lb. body weight, which means 7000 IU for me in the morning. If I know I’m going to be outdoors I take less. Genetic function, calcium distribution, hormone formation.

Vitamin C

6000 mg daily. Antioxidant, supports immune function. I take more if I feel an infection coming on.

Vitamin K2

2,000 mcg daily for calcium distribution to bones and away from arteries.

Methyl B12

5000 mcg daily for brain cell and nerve tissue repair and support in conjunction with methyl folate.

Methyl Folate

800 mcg daily for cardiovascular function and neurological health in conjunction with B12.

Magnesium

600 mg nightly for relaxation, enzyme function, muscle function, and calcium balance.

Iodine (Kelp)

1000 mg nightly for thyroid function, immune function, brain protection.

Avoid Non-Effective Foods

Yes, we all have splurges every once in a while. But for a routine diet, when the aim is to focus, maintain good mood, create a healthy body, and gain strength, some foods are not effective for me. Here are the foods I avoid and why:

Wheat, bread and pasta

Joint pain, brain fog and headache, energy crash, lowered immune system function.

Sugar

Energy crash, cavities, feeds “bad” gut bacteria, organs don’t feel good.

Dairy

Acne, gas, brain fog.

Vegetable Oils

Oxidation, inflammation, and fat gain. Canola, seed oils, even olive oil can be harmful if cooked.

Damaged fats

From overcooking or reuse for deep-frying: Similar to vegetable oils.

A lot of these are my kryptonite. They are tempting and addictive, especially when I’m stressed and tired and don’t have good food prepared. I have “relapses”, when I splurge on bread or sweets or fried foods. The results are always the same, and I eat knowing the consequences.

The best way for me to avoid non-effective foods is to stock up on good foods, have a solid routine for meal prep, and embrace the benefits of effective eating. This only starts with one good food or eating habit at a time, so start with small, effective steps. Observe your results, and keep using the stuff that works.

To powerful living,

Steve

On Being Recovered

How do I know if I’m ready to train again? Recovery can be a difficult thing to measure. Rather than focus on the doing, I focus on the being. No matter how well I eat, how much sleep I get, and how hard my last training session was, I measure my recovery based on Symptoms. This is how I feel upon waking. After reading this you might think these are soft and subjective measures, and they totally are. But I trust these signs because my mind and body are connected, and I have noticed that I benefit most from training when I feel all these symptoms.

Symptoms of being recovered:

1. Waking up fresh in the morning. You open your eyes and feel

  • Calm.
  • Positive energy.
  • Positive excitement.

2. Heart Rate Variability is high with minimal effort.

  • During breathing awareness practice, or meditation, you are able to focus quickly.
  • If you have the EmWave or other HRV measuring tool: You are able to get to Green or high HRV relatively quickly and you are able to stay there relatively easily. Compare this to any other day’s mental performance.
  • You have high control of your mind, and your mind is quiet. You are excited and thinking of what you can do or accomplish as you wake up and get your day started.
  • You have easy control of your breath, and breathing feels good and your lungs feel strong. You can breathe deep, both in and out.

    Taking a quiet moment in my car to breathe and get my HRV higher before my powerlifting meet. This helped me to stay focused throughout that tense, crazy day and hit two PR's.
    Taking a quiet moment in my car to breathe and get my HRV higher before my powerlifting meet. This helped me to stay focused throughout that tense, crazy day and hit two PR’s.

3. Joints and muscles are happy

  • You have good control of your body and legs feel strong under you as you get up and take your first steps.
  • They are willing to do the work you want them to do.
  • Your body may still feel a little tight or crusty from previous training, but it is quite responsive and good to go.

That’s it.

If I wake up and feel these symptoms, I train.

Symptoms of not being recovered:

1. Waking up stale in the morning. You open your eyes and feel

  • Tender
  • Low Energy
  • Negative

2. Heart Rate Variability is low and takes a lot of effort to raise.

  • Or just never gets to a high state, if you are using a device to measure it.
  • You have trouble taking deep breaths in and out.
  • You cannot get negative, repeating thoughts and emotions out of your head – even when you sit down to meditate.
  • You cannot focus.

3. Joints and muscles are like cement that hasn’t dried.

  • They feel like yesterday’s joints.
  • Rather than sore, you feel achy.
  • They don’t want to work for you.

If I wake up and have these symptoms, I know I’m not recovered. I refrain from training, even if it’s been two days, even if it’s been two weeks. I don’t care, I know that no good will come of it.

If you’re not recovered, don’t worry. Just realize that you are in a state of getting stronger or more resilient, and you just need to take more time to get there. Don’t push it. Look into meditating or deep breathing upon waking, journaling, getting some sun, and eating well. Supplements help too. Above all else, sleep until you awake fresh and feeling the positive symptoms described above.

I don’t have much time now to lift, and have been taking up to two weeks off between training sessions. That’s why I make the most of each session. I don’t go unless I know I am ready to take on the cost of growth. Nutrition helps to maintain muscle mass and strength, and allows me to go on these long stretches and still come back to train at where I left off. With late nights at work and then early mornings the following days, I refrain from training even if I had the two or three hours free. There is a biological cost to training that we must pay in order to benefit. Training while not fully recovered is like taking out a loan while already deep in debt. You just end up deeper in biological debt.

Stay wealthy. Cook while the frying pan is hot, let your body and mind tell you when that is, and do everything you can to recover.

To powerful recovery,

Steve

An Introduction

Deadlift391
Getting a down signal from the ref at the 2014 USPA National Championships in Irvine, California. I pulled a 391 lb. dead lift at 168 lb. body weight. Started the day with 2 cups of butter coffee.

Many have delved into the world of body building, and have experienced shortcomings from pain, exhaustion, and mental fatigue.

To the select few who realize this is not acceptable, I welcome you to join me in being strong, clear minded, and living a life of quality.

My story began with a change in the way I looked at training and exercise. I played football and rugby through high school and college, and was ripped, athletic, and fast most of my life. I had done the workouts for team sports, the men’s magazine lifting programs, and was a dedicated gym rat with a three day a week work out schedule. I looked good and was happy with that for a while, but later this didn’t satisfy me. I was tired of feeling sore, feeling aches from previous sports injuries, and not really knowing if I was any stronger than a week or month prior.  I also had a hard time keeping on muscle. If I didn’t go to the gym every other day, I would see pounds of weight drop and strength decline. I tried changing sets and reps and exercise programs to keep my body guessing, as this was supposed to encourage growth. This was a lot to maintain and I had a hard time doing so.

I started looking for a training program that focused on real strength. This led me to powerlifting and a progression philosophy. I adopted a 5×5 training method from Stronglifts.com that focused on incremental strength gains, not drastic program switches. The five powerlifting exercises remained exactly the same, and only the weight increased with each and every training session. I started from the very beginning, lifting only the bar on some exercises.

I not only felt better from the decreased stress on my body, but I also saw a steady increase in my strength. Lifting lighter weights gave me the luxury of refining my form in the squat, deadlift, and other exercises. I achieved a 370 lb. squat and 391 lb. dead lift after one year of training this way, at 168 lb. body weight. However, the training wasn’t the only factor to my increased potential. Food was the other part of it. In fact, without the changes in my diet that I had serendipitously come upon shortly after starting this training, I would not have progressed to this level so quickly if at all.

Three months into my training, I met a buddy at the gym who just so happened to have started the same training philosophy as I had, at almost the same time. We talked about our common satisfaction with the progression training, and about putting ego aside to learn proper form at lower weights. At the end of that training session, he mentioned, almost in passing, something called BULLETPROOF® Coffee. It was coffee with grass fed butter and MCT oil blended together. This sounded strange to me, and I was instantly fascinated by the way he described the high level of focus he got from it. I went home and tried it, and never turned back.

With the first few cups of the butter coffee that I tried, I was amazed by the mental clarity and brain energy that it gave me. Plus it was delicious. It changed the game for me at my job, as an overnight shift lead at a call center. I was sharper and more resilient to fatigue than my coworkers by multiple factors. I had always been an avid coffee drinker and used coffee as a key technology for enhancing my training sessions and overall performance as a human. Naturally, I wanted to know what it would be like to do strength training after drinking some of this power fluid.

I started to drink the concoction before strength training sessions, and again I never turned back. The energy it gave me was different from that of traditional nutrition like carbs. Unlike carbs, the good fats provided me with a sustained high level of energy and mental focus. It lasted through the entire training session without any sort of energy crash. I was so focused that I could control myself better, like not drinking water between sets, breathing calmly under the bar, and paying absolute attention to form during my heaviest lifts. I was regularly in a flow state, and I tapped into the predator mode of mind and body that was only attainable with such nutrition as quality fat.

This was my intro to the world of eating good fat. I slowly added grass fed butter and MCT oil into everything I ate. This pushed carbs to the back end of my days, as I did not need it for energy in the morning. Eating more fat and learning the potential negative effects of gluten significantly reduced the amount of bread and pasta that I ate. I started to experience better and more stable mood, and more consistent body fat levels. My joint pain from previous injuries faded. I no longer had to pace my kitchen ten minutes after waking to shake off the debilitating lower back pain.

Being satiated with true nutrition freed me from cravings, mood swings, and exhaustion. Before I discovered good fats and progression training, I would work, work out, crash into exhausted sleep, and awake demon-possessed with rage, pain, and frustration. These states of misery used to be normal life for me. The people I loved hated waking me up. I believe what is stated by the research that connects wheat to inflammation, and thus joint pain and brain impairment. When I started to avoid wheat, I noticed these incredible improvements in my body and my mind. This transformed the way I looked at eating and I started to learn what foods I really did and didn’t need. I tested my diet changes against my strength training, and was surprised that even without tons of bread, expensive and gas-producing protein shakes, and pounds of chicken breast every week, I was getting stronger and clearer than ever.

With changes like these I felt the best and strongest I have ever felt in my life, and I plan on being even more so. You want just as much as I do to be clear minded and strong. You want to be the best person you can be, making the sharpest decisions and acting in accordance with your values. Intelligent and resilient people like you and me can daily engage our potential to become the brilliant beasts that we are. I welcome you to join me on this path to discovering what it means to be more fully human. I am not perfect, but I am better.

To powerful living,

Steve

Make Butter Coffee

My Brilliant Friends,

Have I told you about butter coffee? Creamy, smooth, and delicious, it gives me immense energy and focus. I first started having this concoction with breakfast, and found that it helped me in strength training. Eventually, I just had more butter with it and didn’t eat breakfast at all. I now go the entire day without any other meal, until dinner.

When I drink this concoction, I get mental clarity, sustained focus, and a predator state of mind and body that is unparalleled by energy from any other food. If I haven’t made it for you already, I’ll show you how so you can experience it for yourself.

At first, your body will need to learn to effectively absorb nutrition from fat. This takes several days to weeks for some people, especially if you are not in the habit of eating a lot of fat. Most self-described healthy eaters do not eat much fat. Keep your regular meals at first and just have this coffee with breakfast or an hour before training. You want to feel it out and do what works best for you.

Basic Butter Coffee Recipe

Ingredients

  • 30-35 grams of coffee beans for two cups of single source coffee
  • Two tablespoons grass fed butter
  • One teaspoon high quality MCT oil

Method

  1. Boil water (or start brewing if using the basic coffee machine)
  2. Throw the butter and MCT oil into a large blender
  3. Brew the coffee and add it to the blender
  4. Hold down the top of the blender lid with a dish towel and blend on high for 20 seconds

That’s it.

Of course to make it even better, here are things to consider:

Get The Best Ingredients

The quality of your ingredients lends to the flavor, level of energy, and creativity you will get from your cup.

Single Source Whole Bean Coffee

Single Source Coffee for Clarity

Single source coffee beans are grown, harvested, and processed on one estate or farm. All other beans, sometimes called blends, are mixtures of beans from two or more estates. Single source beans come without the added time of storage and transportation. Coffee is vulnerable to mycotoxins, which can cause headaches and jitters. Mycotoxins are inevitable, but through good practice and minimal exposure to the environment they can be suppressed. The less time from harvest to your cup the better. I didn’t know how much of a difference this would make until I gave single source coffee a try. I noticed significantly better results. Even when I was tired, I had calm mental clarity from it, not just a jittery buzz. No crash in energy, and no headache. Now I always look for coffee that lets me be even-keeled and fierce. There are two types I drink primarily, but you can find others if you look for them.

I found a great tasting single origin coffee in a local store. I really enjoyed the flavor of this light roast. It was from Alto Mayo Estate, a single coffee farm in a mountain region of Peru. The coffee smelled amazing, roasty and smooth. I had great results from this coffee every day, feeling clear minded, focused, and strong when I drank it. If you have a quality grocery store nearby, find a single source coffee with the roast intensity that you enjoy most.

The key to finding good coffee anywhere is to verify that it says “single origin”,”single source”, or”single estate”. I don’t pay attention to the phrases Fair Trade, Shade Grown, and Certified Organic. While they do hold social value, they also warrant a higher price tag. Whatever you choose to buy, drink it and test it yourself for absolutely positive symptoms. Do not assume it’s good based on the label or the price. The whole point is to find something that allows you to accomplish greatness.

With that being said, some blends may be okay if they are from the same roaster. If you know the beans are roasted at the same facility and are blended there, they may be as good as single source. But again, try the coffee and make sure it brings you mental clarity and sustained focus.

Grass Fed Butter: Nourish Your Soul, Body, and Mind

 Grass Fed Kerrygold Butter Cubes

Grass fed cow butter is the key to creating the smooth frothiness of your concoction. It’s important that the butter is from grass fed cows. Cows that are 100% or almost completely fed on grass are healthier and happier beasts. Butter from such beasts makes me a happier beast. The ultra nutritious elements like healthy saturated fat, CLA, omega-3 fat, butyric acid, vitamin K2, vitamin E, and beta carotene are elevated in cows that eat grass only. There are two types I tried, and both are excellent.

KerryGoldSilver
Get Kerrygold Unsalted Butter

The most reliable brand that I get from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods is Kerrygold Unsalted Butter. It’s an awesome Irish butter that comes in one-cup bars. If you don’t have a store nearby, you can get in online. It’s a little more than the store price, but it is worth it if you can’t get it anywhere else. I get a box of 20 at a time and stock them in my freezer.

AnchorUnsalted
Get Anchor Unsalted Butter

My other go-to butter is harder to find on the west coast of the U.S., but it can be found in some other countries more easily. I love Anchor Unsalted Butter from New Zealand grass fed cows.

On a recent trip to Asia I was stoked to find Anchor butter from a Jakarta store. I had never used it before, but it was surprisingly good in my coffee. The subtle flavor and smooth texture pair well with the cacao and vanilla I use.

The Best Quality MCT Oil

 Brain Octane MCT Oil Spoon

MCT turns the light switch on in my head. Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are fatty acid chains of 8 and 10 carbons in length. C-8 and C-10 fats absorb through the gut into the bloodstream to the brain fast, where they can be utilized as energy in the form of ketones.

Ketones have been found in research to be more efficient brain fuel than glucose, and I feel the difference. When my brain has this fuel source, I have more clarity, better mental function, longer sustained focus, and no crash. It also brings my body into a fat-burning mode. This has been shown to help regulate body weight, and it’s certainly proven true for me. MCT oil is usually derived from coconut and palm kernel oil, and there can be a very slight coconut scent to it.

There are several different brands out there, and the quality of the MCT oil is determined by purification and processing. Purification affects the concentration of C-8 and C-10 versus other types of fat that are not MCT. Processing includes how the coconuts are stored and pressed, and where they are from.

My go-to bottle is BULLETPROOF® Upgraded Brain Octane Oil. It is the most concentrated version of MCT oil out there. It consists only of C-8 fatty acids.

Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil
BULLETPROOF® Brain Octane Oil

NOTE: This fuel is intense! I recommend using the regular MCT oil first. It will help to make a smoother transition to this different energy source.

Bulletproof XCT Oil I used to have this regularly in my coffee before I tried Brain Octane oil. It has both C-8 and C-10 fatty acids. This is a good starting point if you haven’t tried MCT oil. It isn’t as intense as Brain Octane, and I think it would be the best choice for learning the effects of MCT oil on yourself before venturing into the more intense version. Flavor is slightly more coconuty than the following Viva Labs oil that I also have used. This is a very clean product that I can rely on for top performance.

Coconut Oil

I have used high quality coconut oil before in my coffee, when I ran out of MCT oil. Coconut oil will add a lot of flavor, but in my opinion it’s overbearing. Also, it is not a sufficient substitute for MCT oil. There is only a very small percentage of C-8 and C-10 fats in coconut oil, contrary to common belief. The majority of advertised “MCT” oil here is C-12, which actually does not act like the shorter chains in energy utilization.

With that being said, if this is your only source of MCT, it will still provide you with some benefits of fat-based brain energy. And I’ve talked to some friends who really love it. Plus it’s delicious for cooking chicken curry dishes. Maybe I’ll post on that later. If you’re getting all of your MCT from coconut oil, use four tbsp or more. As a flavor or C-12 supplement, use one or two tbsp.

Viva Labs Coconut Oil
Viva Labs Coconut Oil

Flavor and Creativity

These next few ingredients are what make my butter coffee taste so good, compared to ones you find here and there in shops and cafes. I add these elements every time I make my concoctions, and have had the most amazing conversations with friends, breakthroughs in strength training, and mental performance after having it.

Vanilla

Madagascar Vanilla Bean Powder

This is my favorite hack for butter coffee. Vanilla bean has amazing flavor and also has flavonoids that enhance creativity. I add this without fail to my coffee concoction every morning.

Check out the vanilla I use, which is from a Madagascar vanilla bean. It has an unforgettable fragrance and takes my mornings to the next level. I use about 1/4 of a teaspoon. Keep it sealed in the freezer for maximum flavor retention.
Kiva Vanilla Bean Powder, Gourmet Madagascar Bourbon (Pesticide-Free, RAW and Vegan), 3 Ounce

Cacao Butter

Cacao Butter

Second only to vanilla bean, cacao butter is another flavor and nutrient must-have for me. It’s the pure fat of cacao beans and this is what they use to make white chocolate. Cacao butter gives a rich, gourmet scent and flavor to the coffee. It has the concentrated elements of chocolate that enhance your creativity and brain power.

The one I use every morning is Terrasoul Superfoods Organic Cacao Butter, 1 Lb – Raw. It is made from cold-pressed Peruvian cacao beans.

Chocolate Powder

Chocolate Cocoa Powder

I add chocolate powder to my butter coffee to make it rich and dark. Good chocolate, like good coffee, has flavonoids and antioxidants that enhance brain and performance. Gauge the flavor, it can be rich and quite bitter. Start with about a teaspoon or less.

Xylitol

Xyla North American Hardwood Birch Xylitol

My coffee has no sweetener, but my wife likes hers a bit sweet. This stuff of nature is the perfect solution if you want to be in ketosis yet want that rich sweetness in your coffee. This will not trigger your insulin response, unlike sugar. And it tastes naturally sweet, unlike stevia.

Xyla North American Hardwood Xylitol. The best type, pictured here, is made from North American birch trees. The cheaper brands are made from Chinese GMO corn. I recommend using one to two teaspoons per cup to start. It has about the same sweetness as regular cane sugar.

Building Blocks and Fuel

These ingredients can be added as needed for the different types of activities you do on any given day. Add these one at a time and observe whether you benefit from them.

Grass Fed Collagen

Grass Fed Hydrolyzed Collagen Protein Powder

Collagen is one of the building block of your tendons, skin, and hair. It is needed for repair of tissue after training, and makes your skin more vibrant when you provide yourself with enough. Unlike whey protein, which caused gas and bloating, collagen has been problem-free for my digestion. For these reasons it is great for strength training, tissue repair, and skin and hair boost.

BULLETPROOF® Upgraded Collagen Protein  Super fine-grade and from grass fed cows. It’s processed with enzymes rather than heat, which prevents damage of the proteins. I generally only add collagen on the day of, and up to three days after, a training session.

My wife, on the other hand, has it every morning in her butter coffee. She simply feels better and more energetic with some protein. Use at least one tablespoon.

Creatine

Creatine Monohydrate

I add a baseline dose of creatine every morning with my coffee. Without causing huge swelling of muscles, this simple nutrient has allowed me to maintain strength and muscle mass for longer periods of time between training sessions. It is one of the key supplements I use to increase longevity of strength. Creatine also boost brain function.

Now Foods creatine monohydrate  This brand has been my go to for years. No side effects, suggesting it is clean and pure. Use 1 teaspoon or 5 grams daily.

METHODS TO MAKE MAGIC

I’m laying this recipe out for first time dabblers in butter coffee. The way you make your coffee will affect how it feels, tastes, and energizes. Even for more veteran practitioners, small hacks can give you a better concoction. To have delicious butter coffee it must be three things: Hot, well-brewed, and well-blended. How you set up the ingredients and the order in which you prepare it can be the difference between a floating oil slick and a creamy concoction of joy.

Prepare Water First

Start a kettle on the stove before anything else, as you will need time to prepare the other ingredients and want the water hot when you’re ready to brew. If you’re using a normal coffee maker, get it all set up with beans and start brewing. Use spring or well water for the best flavor. Water has as much flavor and texture as any other ingredient that goes into coffee. Make your coffee with tap water and you’ll taste the tap.

For the Pour Over technique, prepare about a quarter cup more water than the amount of coffee you plan to make.

Prepare Blender

As the water heats, get all your ingredients into the blender. You will need one that holds at least four cups or one liter, because the liquid will expand like crazy when you blend it. I use the KitchenAid blender, which is not the highest-end thing out there, but works just fine for this purpose:

KitchenAid Blender Tangerine
My faithful blender

Note: The stronger the blender, the finer the foam. You can get an incredibly smooth concoction with the VitaMix Blender.

Brew the Coffee Into the Blender

You can brew your coffee however you choose. If all you have is the classic coffee maker, just use that for now. My all time favorite method of coffee brewing is the Pour Over technique. Coffee tastes the best when I make it this way, but a close second is the French press, and honestly after that it’s just the normal coffee maker. Hario Filter Cup Pour Over Brew Method

The Pour Over Technique

Hario v60 Dripper KettleHario Ceramic Filter Cup Paper FiltersHario Ceramic White Filter CupHario Hand Ceramic Coffee GrinderHamilton Beach Coffee Grinder

The pour over technique requires a kettle with a thin pouring spout, as well as a filter cup and filters. Here is how I brew pour over.

Gear:

 Method:

  1. Boil water in the dripper kettle and turn off heat.
  2. Grind coffee beans to slightly finer than medium granularity. Any finer and it will take forever to brew and you will get too much acid. This is how fine you want your grounds for pour over brewing:Single Source Ground Coffee Alto Mayo EstateYou can use an electric grinder like the one I have above or a hand grinder if you want to have more evenly ground beans. This takes a lot more time and effort though.
  3. Fold the crimped edge of a paper filter, open up the filter, and place into the ceramic cup.
  4. Wet the filter paper by pouring just enough hot water along the edges of the cup. This gets rid of the flavor of the paper.
  5. Dump the ground coffee into the filter paper.
  6. Starting from the center of the cup, slowly pour water in an outward spiral until you cover all the beans with water. The grounds will start to breathe and expand. Let the gas escape and as the grounds deflate, continue to pour in the same spiral manner until you have poured all the water. The pouring should take about 3-4 minutes total.

Brew directly into the blender to save time and keep your coffee hot. Here’s an honest picture of my set up, dirty dishes and all. I want to give you an idea of how you can brew directly into the blender. Note that with my blender in the dish rack, it allows me to brew at a more comfortable level than if the blender were up on the counter top:

CoffeeBrewingSetUp

Blend It

Once the coffee is brewed and in your blender with the other ingredients, place the lid on securely and cover the top with a dish towel. Hold down the towel over the lid tight while you blend it on the highest setting for 20 seconds.  Depending on the quality of your blender, the coffee may punish you if you don’t hold it down.

Blending Grass Fed Butter MCT Oil Coffee

Marvel at the creaminess.

Pouring Grass Fed Butter Coffee Into Mug

Store it

Keep the rest in a thermos and drink it through the morning.

Black Thermos Blue Zojirushi

These are my two favorite containers for coffee.

  • ThermosThe Thermos is larger and holds a full two cups of coffee, fairly hot through the day.
  • ZojirushiThe Zojirushi is smaller but keeps coffee radioactive hot the entire day.

Dosage

Up the dosage on the butter and MCT oil slightly after a week or two, if you can glean the benefits without having the runs. You can always lower amounts the next time if you don’t feel as good of an effect.

MCT

Don’t change the MCT dosage drastically. Try increasing by a teaspoon each week, making sure to observe the quality of focus. You don’t want to end up dizzy or give yourself digestive issues by taking too much in the beginning.

Butter

If you’re hungrier, add more butter. Try increments of one tablespoon. Use the minimum effective dose.

That is it. Try it in the morning, about an hour before a training session, or before any task that will take a lot of brain or body power. You’ll be restless the first few times if you don’t have a world or two to save.

I had butter coffee as fuel for a 370 lb. squat and 391 lb. deadlift at my first powerlifting meet, a 5k in under 23 minutes with no training, and the LA Downtown Ketchum Stair Climb, which was a stair climb to the top of a 76-story skyscraper, in 19 minutes. These are not Olympic numbers, but I did all this without needing tons of protein or carbs immediately before or after. I hope you find that reasonable amounts of healthy fat as a source of energy puts you on a different level from just pounding protein and carbs.

Let me know in the comments if you try this and how it goes for you! If I’ve made this concoction for you before, let others know how it tasted what it felt like to drink it. I think a lot of people are curious about what butter in coffee would be like, and they will be surprised by how good it can be if done right.

Live powerfully,

Steve

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Copyright © 2016 Steve Ko, All rights reserved. Photos and articles are created by me, unless otherwise stated and credited.