Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Cream of Fake Health Foods
getting heavy about cream
If we see something that says we can have all the flavours of something supposedly sinful like heavy (or in the EU double) cream but with an Nth of the calories - and in fact that that product will BURN fat and suppress appetite, what wouldn’t we pay for it?

How about 20bucks for 280g (about a pint)? 

Recently i saw this post on a fitness challenge site by one of the participants:
For all multiple cups a day coffee drinkers like me, I have your morning joe's new best mate!
Supresses appetite, taste delicious, and a healthier alternative to pounds of creame in your coffee!My favorite product of the week, Leaner Creamer!
"Leaner Creamer is the realization that a healthy alternative to fatty coffee creamers can exist. Leaner Creamer revolutionizes the cherished ritual of coffee drinking by adding the benefits of appetite suppression and weight-loss while you enjoy your java!"
Made with Hoodia extract, a plant native to the Kalahari Desert that tricks your brain into thinking it's full. Coconut oil easy to digest and it helps in healthy functioning of the thyroid and endocrine system. Further, it increases the body’s metabolic rate by removing stress on the pancreas, thereby burning more energy and helping obese and overweight people lose the weight. Green tea extract to increase metabolism and fat oxidation, inhibit fat cell development, and increase fat excretion!I love it, use it every day, taste great, stops me from snacking! Check it out!
Wow! and i thought a pint of whole organic cream in the US at 5.60 was expensive. THis is 19.95

"Leaner Creamer is the realization that a healthy alternative to fatty coffee creamers can exist"
Healthy? Healthier? Time for the Claims Check, Please.

First troubling bit: you won’t find the nutrient breakdown on the product site, but you can find it.
Creamer ingredients (14)Coconut Oil, Maltodextrin, Natural Flavors, Sodium Caseinate(A Milk Derivative), Mono, and, Diglycerides, Dextrose, Dipotassium Phosphate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Soy Lecithin, Silicone Dioxide.17% Proprietary Blend:Citrus Aurantium, Hoodia Gordonii Extract, Green Tea Extract.- See more at food facts:

You know, this does look remarkably like the ingredient list for flamable coffee mate or similar. IN fact about the only differences are the added supplements at the end, and the presence of some coconut oil.

Which on the health side, raises the question:

IF this is the same as regular (flammable)highly processed coffee creamer, how is it "healthier" than cream? Coconut oil (first ingredient) needs to be processed to become a powder that will dissolve like a fat when put in hot water: that's in part the role of the maltodextrin (type of sugar) and the fifth and sixth ingredients: mono and di glyserides as emulsifiers - these also make up some of the fat content. 
In other words fat from the coconut oil is extracted, and some of these other fats are put in. How much coconut oil is really left?
Note also that after the little bits of fat and sugar, there's flavourings. The third ingredient is flavouring - unnamed - who knows derived from what.

Then i looked to find the nutrient calorie info. Amazing reading

First off, the serving size is 1teaspon (5g of a 280g bottle) like a packet of "powdered creamer" for coffee. For 1 teaspoon it's listed as 10kcal. There are 17.5kcal in that amount of heavy cream. Half and half has 7.5! interesting, eh? 

Basic Real Ingredient Comparison

Of the total calories per serving (1 teaspoon or 5g) only .5g is fat. 5 fat calories. the other 5kcal are from carbs. That's the second, third and sixth ingredients: Maltodextrin (sugar) Sodium Caseinate (trace amounts of protein from milk but mostly a flavouring/texture "food additive") and more sugar.
 As said, basic coffee creamer. Free when you get a black coffee at a store.

SO, what are you paying for at 20 bucks a pop? Analysis of basics:

There is Less than half a teaspoon of "coconut oil" and less than half a teaspoon of "sugar. “ in this stuff

on amazon for non-organic sugar and coconut oil, it works out to about just under 2c for real coconut oil and just over 2c for maltodextrin - or 2.5c if using table sugar - per serving. Times 112 per container that's less than three bucks - retail.

Where's the other 17 dollars worth of retail product coming from?

The rest are little bits of stuff to give it the colour/flavour of cream and then there's the "17% proprietary blend" that includes "Citrus Aurantium, Hoodia Gordonii Extract, Green Tea Extract" 

So, LESS than 1/5 of this 5g serving (less than 1g) has these special bits in it. Let's round up and call it 1g to see what 1g of Citrus Auratium, Hoodia and Green Tea are supposed to do there. 

Hoodia extract has just about nill evidence that it "tricks the body into feeling full" and if you were going to use it, coffee may be the last place you'd pay to have it. Why? Because caffeine IS a certified, verified by a ton of studies, appetite suppresant all on its own. Also - the fat in cream cues the body towards satiety (here's a post about fat tea using some cream and some coconut oil), so no need to play around with hoodia there. But how much is needed to have any effect? well, again: no science means who knows? Guesses anecdotally go from 1500-3000mg a day. A 60 cap bottle of 250mg pills can go for 20bucks - for unknown value. Just saying. 

Green Tea extract (some more info here) - for it to have any sort of real fat burning effect, we're talking about isolating ECGC - the catachins in the green tea. And by the way, as with caffeine, some folks get heart palpatations from this stuff so approach with caution. What we do not know from this company is what the purity of the extract is. You may be paying for the sweepings of the tea house floor as 1/3 or less of that 1g of stuff in your creamer. In research studies, doses to have an effect OVER TIME included green tea with 690mg of Catechins total, of which 136mg were EGCG - but here, we don't know what makes up this extract.

One look at supplement shelves will show you how varied the amounts can be.
Fortunately there have been studies using just green tea, too, where the amounts of catechins are known - and that seems to work too - when calculating your costs). 

Then there's Bitter Orange. another debatable component for fat burning. I love how WebMD describes its use: this stuff, and caffeine and st john's wort and "low calorie diet and exercise" may help with weight loss. That's like saying an iron nail and 3.50 will get you an americano at starbucks. Mind you other studies did not even find that. 
So of all this what do we have where we really can make any claims?

Prices for the rest of the 1g for those 112 servings

If we just divided these supplements into common ways they're bottled
  • 400 mg of GTE by now is 14 bucks for 250 caps or 6.272 for 112
  • 400 mg hoodia is 18.99 for 180 caps or 11.82 for 112
  • and
  • 170 mg is 9.49 for 60 - so need to double this - say 20 for 120 18.66
wow that's 36.75 retail for these extra bits if you were to role your own - that's more than 1.5 times the price of this concoction. That's amazing. That must be quite a deal.
OF course the only way this really works is if the main ingredient of this 17% proporietary thing is green tea extract being close to a gram and then only the tiniest bits of hoodia and bitter orange.
That way the manufacturers can say they have these three ingredients, without saying amounts.
And then again, it's not likely they're using FDA approved labs (like the supplements i was quoting) to add their inredients either.

Metabolism claims??
"Further, it increases the body’s metabolic rate by removing stress on the pancreas,"
I have no idea what that means. Stress on the pancrease? that doesn't quite make sense.
It might be more sensible to say that coconut oil’s particular kinds of fats are used more readily for fuel almost like carbs rather than being stored (citric acid cycle and all that), but even saying that, metabolism is more complicated than that, but heck, the simple truth is, eating too much is eating too much - pretty much no matter what that source is.


From the ingredients we see that this is pretty much coffee creamer powder that costs 8 bucks for 340g or, 6.22 - less than a third of what this stuff costs. Even the dairy derivative sodium casinate is present.

You are in other words PAYING THROUGH THE NOSE - for those UNKNOWN amounts of UNKNOWN quality supplements that are but for the green tea of dubious benefit for weight loss or satiety.


If the concern is to be “healthy” - decrease ingestion of chemicals and increase ingestion of whole foods. Like real cream or real coconut oil.
Or if you’re trying to get leaner quicker, try a no-cal beverage like black coffee or green tea you can enjoy at near zero kcal’s and get the benefits of these real deals.

As for better fat burning and satiety?

Well, the types of fats that lead to fat burnding from coconut oil will also be found - pending the season - in organic milk/cream - along with other types of fat burning fats like CLT. So if you like dairy, organic cream is not unhealthy. 

The fat in cream also has a satiety effect and a great mouth feel without additives. If you like dairy.

If you want the benefits of green tea extract, try exploring japanese green tea.

You can get some of the best in the world at teevana for the same amount as a pint of this stuff and you can reuse the tea leaves - from 20g of genmaicha i can get about five to seven liters (or seven big pots) - that's tea for about a week.

Or 20bucks can get two big jars of organic coconut oil - if you don't like the taste - don't get the extra virgin: it's pretty taste-neutral.

And sugar -well - if desperate you can get that for free where you buy your coffee. 

And skip the hoodia/bitter orange.

Bottom Bottom Line: we’re suckers for a quick fix,eh?

We are trusting creatures, especially when folks are selling things that sound great. If we're affluent enough, we'll buy it and try it.

I'm just testing the claims. and sadly, Coffee Creamer even with a literal pinch of hoodia added is still coffee creamer.

As per usual: whole real food is better and (unless super subsidized like sugar in the US and EU) cheaper than supplements.

Eat less; mostly plants, as Michael Pollan says. and Save your money - for more whole food?
just food for thought

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Loving and Leaving the Scale- managing weight by feel

How I’m leaving the Scale and Daily Weigh-In’s behind.

I am an inveterate weigher

I have a wifi enabled scale, and have been using it - near religiously - since i got it several years ago. Data, do i have data. And guilt.

Every morning. And fear to start the day.

First thing in the morning it’s been how i either feel good about myself (lost weight; didn’t gain weight) or use it as a Judgement of Failure (gained weight), and sets me on a path for how to change my food practices that day.

And that, my friends, is crazy. I’m a frickin’ certified strength and conditioning coach, nutrition coach, performance researcher. I publish research on just this stuff (eg no such thing as gaining a pound). I've participated in being coached around these principles. I KNOW that daily weigh ins cannot be used in this way. And yet, and yet.

Finally, last week when i was on the road and away from the scale for a week - and i confess, i was in france eating the best sourdough bread in the world after six months of zero bread. It was AMAZING. and i sorta finally had a break - a break through; a break down.

French pain au levain - or sourdough bread. mmm. opiods
I don’t know. But i thought: i’m eating all these processed carbs; my workouts this week are less intense; i must be putting on weight. I should be freaking out. I will freak out as soon as i go home and step on the scale. I really will. and then i’ll feel horrible. Like what i’m doing right now will fill me with shame. Bad bad person.

And so i thought: what if i don’t step on the scale?

Which thought lead to:

Why am i stepping on this scale?

I write and talk alot about how we should use any of these measurement tools to help us listen to our own body signals better.

We are WAY more sensitive systems than any trackers we can build and use, so why not use these measures to help us recover our senses?

So i thought: how do i take my own medicine here? how do i apply learning about listening to my body signals better by using the scale to support that sensitizing rather than as a rod to beat myself up with first thing in the morning?

Let’s do an experiment, me thinks. An experiment has an hypothesis, methods, presents data from these methods, then carries out analysis of the data, to see if the hypothesis has been disproven or proven.

Quick Overview of Approach. For a couple weeks or so, maybe longer, i’m thinking, how about trying to go by feel, and see what happens in terms of outcomes for which i care - getting stronger, leaner faster.

By feel, i mean, putting together feeling hungry vs too full; having a good sleep, a good workout and how this translates to adapting practices on the one hand and results like body fat% on the other at the end of the period. Can going by feel - really focussing on feel - let me learn how to do a better job of tuning my performance to feel better.

The hypothesis i’d like to test is that: by focussing on how i feel, and using measures in the background to assess how “feel” lines up with “measures”
  1. i’ll actually be able to get fat down
  2. i’ll feel better
  3. i may find an optimal way to conenct feeling with “reality” and that feeling to tuning, that will all be both more “tracker free” and better than “measure first” approach - in other words i’ll have evidence that i’ve been able to dial in “how i need to feel” against food/rest/movement etc to perform better - including being leaner, stronger, faster.
The null hypothesis would be: fat gain will only go up; i will fail in your leanness and strength progress aspirations without constant numerical monitoring.

The Method for This Experience

- every experiment needs a plan. Here’s how i’m measuring what i’m doing.

The Un-Scale: since the real push here is to get off the scale and its daily guilt trip, i’ve done this: i’ve put a hunk of gorilla tape over the number part of the scale window. I can see that a measurement is being taken, but i don’t see the measure. THis way, post experiment, i can look back on the “feeling” log and map what happens against that.

Other physical body measures: my main reality check will be a saturday tape measure up and skinfold caliper check in. By using 7 point caliper method against girth i’ll be able to see what my body seems to be doing. If lean mass goes up, and fat doesn’t move, weight will go up, girth will go up a bit - likely. If lean mass goes up as strength improves and fat burns up a bit, girth should go down a bit.

Girth measurements use weight so i won’t be doing the calculations at this point to give me a specific Body Fat Percentage measure, but i’ll have the data to put back in at the end of the study for that calculation. This is really good: data is there, but i won’t have to focus on it while going by feel.

Other Input Measures: Workout, Food, HRV, Time

Workouts: what i’m also tracking: my daily practice. I’m currently in another experiment of doing nothing but bodyweight progressions right now - building a base for things like hand stands, levers and the such like. Here’s a shout out to the german lads of CalisthenicsMovement for fantastic beginner and intermediate programs -and awesomely useful vids on youtube.

So, i’m logging my workouts using these specific protocols to measure progress. What is fascinating to me already is that in the past week that was my fifth week i think into these new protocols, it became a back off week. This week there is a BIG boost in performance. Very cool.

Food: all i’m doing with food tracking is taking pictures using my fave ap for this, diet snap: take a photo, that’s it. There’s no calorie counting - it’s here’s a record of what and how much you’re eating. Great.

HRV for Recovery: For the past few months i’ve been using the best phone based recovery measurementapp, HRV4Training by medium author Marco Altini(Great story of PhD’er and App builder.)
HRV stands for heart rate variability. It is a very reliable measure by which to assess fatigue - or really - how well have you recovered from the stress of the day before. Let’s say this again: how well you’ve recovered. That is an incredibly valuable measure against which to assess feel: how do you feel; does it align with this score. I’m making progress in terms of predicting what my waking score is feeling roughly to be. While the actual scores in my head may be a bit out, i’m rarely surprised about the direction, up or down from the day before.

How i use HRV: I already have killed my alarm clock. That is i sleep as much as i need and get up when i’m ready, so measuring sleep is not really something that is a big value add for me. All i need to know is how well recovered i am so i can rebalance as needed for the day ahead: above baseline, go go go; below base line - pending how much - either back off a bit (lighter workout for instance) or just rest (go for a walk).
This data can also be exported to a spreadsheet for review at the different periods for review in the study.

Calendar: A biggie in any experiment is also to understand what the heck was going on when. For instance, if i was on the road, does that explain shifts that may show up in weight data on a given day, but no bump in trend of weight overall? How does daily load affect recovery and progress that week, etc?
Wy do i want to know this? to connect back to feeling feel. And from this, to connect with some knowledge, skills and practice to TUNE IN better performance, reliably.

HowDoYouFeel tracking. Each day i’ll be tracking on my own how i feel on a lickert scale - better or worse than the day before in terms of body feel, energy, and anything else i can think of as relevant.
Active Engagement with Feel Checking Another part of this process is what in learning is called Active Learning: we engage with a process deliberately - reading a text, practicing a movement, whatever, with a specific intent. In this case, my specific intent is to ask at various points during the day is HowDoIFeel - in terms of energy, body, attention etc. Make a note that i’ll be able to connect back to any of the data captured.

THe goal of that connection is not just to see if i was right or wrong, but to see if i am building skills to tune in feeling better - better.

Checking In or Analysis: at different check points - the first one i’m thinking will be a month - i’ll be able to see what’s happening with the hypotheses.
I’ll be able to put all the data together - including the scale - to get the trends over time - and to coorelate these against particular food/workout/recovery practices.

Hopes: impact from outcomes

Best case scenario, after a month, if nothing else, i’ll have broken the Morning Madness of beating myself up about a number that is meaningless when trends are where it’s at.
What i am hoping of course is that i’ll have data to support the hypotheses listed above. What i may find is that the first check in may show if i’m not on target to confirm the hypotheses i may need to tune in awareness of a particular feeling better - and i may need some more data to help that. But my guess is that, at the very least, i’ll see i get better at tuning in performance - without a scale - over time.
That is - i’ll be able to use measures for a period to learn how to take care of myself - have confidence in that - without the measures.

A challenge here: i *know* about what the right things to feel and to do are. That’s the whole trainer thing - so i have the professional knowledge - and have also gone through coaching around the skills and practices to get to my happy body place. Previously, I’ve used the scale as a stick to re-inforce this knowledge even when i haven’t practiced the Things i Know Work - or worse, have demanded compliance when too stressed to work at that level. I’m hoping that this path may let me just be in my bod and find out what a real, happy place might be - to start to feel ok in the ebb and flow of seasons of our bodies.

Something potentially scary - these past few days alone of stepping on an un-scale without seeing the data - has been such a huge relief i really believe i must be on the right track: like the hitting oneself on the head - it feels so good when it stops.
Here’s to us all learning about how to tune in feeling great.


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