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Is protein powder paleo friendly?

March 30, 2017

When you made the decision about going on the paleo diet, you didn’t all of a sudden transport yourself 11,000 years ago to the wild lands of what is now the Middle East, unsure of where you would be sleeping, and if you would even be waking up the next day, and not transformed into a buffet for the local hyena cackle. Instead of hopping in your Prius to go to your steam room yoga, you would go for a nice jog down to the water hole in 90 degree heat, making sure not to misstep and roll your ankle, as a sprained ankle surely spells an immanent death at your inability to fend for yourself in these pre-historic times.

The paleo diet is designed as a way where modern day humans can reconnect with their genetic roots. Eating foods that have co-evolved with our digestive system is an obvious way to improve our health. However, just because something is a modern invention, does not mean that it needs to be shunned like processed enriched flour. For example, even if you are unwilling to put penicillin on a wound, you probably wouldn’t be here without it, and countless other advances in modern medicine that have allowed the human population to grow exponentially.

While inventions like the internet, soap and hydropower certainly are beneficial for society, a great debate in the paleo community revolves around the importance or necessity in the diet for supplements, most specifically, is protein powder paleo friendly?

Is protein powder paleo friendly?

Based on the (my) definition of paleo, any protein powder is clearly not paleo. My definition of paleo certainly excludes any foods that could not be hunted or gathered, thus eliminating protein powder, no matter if it is grass-fed, natural or minimally processed. However, that does not mean that it can be included in a paleo diet to improve certain aspects of performance or even health. How so?

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We know that whey protein powder can help us reach our performance and vanity goals. But is it worth it?

Do you need protein powder to get strong? No. Do you need protein powder to recover? No

However, protein powder can aid in making you even stronger, and helping you recover even better. There are clear benefits to using paleo friendly protein powder for both men and women.

But are there side effects from not being strictly paleo?

The way to answer this question is through example. Let us use the example of coconut oil. We recently reported on this blog that while high-heat, highly processed coconut oil potentially had a negative impact on cholesterol levels, cold-pressed extra virgin coconut oil was able improve the body’s ability to metabolize fat cells. Even “paleo foods” are greatly impacted by the type of processing. Therefore, if you are looking for the most paleo friendly protein powder, you would look for one that used grass-fed, undenatured whey protein that has not been exposed to high heat.

Is whey protein allowed on strictly paleo?

This depends on your definition and adherence to your definition of paleo (see mine above). My definition also would eliminate coconut oil or olive oil – both completely natural products that needed to go through a modern technological process. But just because something does not fit or is an exception to a definition, does not mean that you cannot include it in a healthy, paleo-based diet.

What makes a supplement paleo friendly?

Just like olive oil and coconut oil, there are protein powders that are more paleo friendly than others. Due to a lack of government over site, there are a variety of supplements that have been found to contain arsenic and other toxic compounds. So while we are familiar with the terms “cold-pressed,” with protein powders, we are looking for terms like grass-fed, hormone free, undenatured, and GMP facilities. Just like with coconut oil, there are non-paleo friendly and paleo friendly protein powders. Use your discretion, but protein powder can easily be paleo friendly, helping you reach your health and fitness goals. 

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Is Grass-fed worth it?

March 15, 2017

Why do we go grass-fed? Is it because Gwyneth Paltrow told us to? Is it that pesky omega ratio? Or because someone told us it was good for the environment? What truly are the benefits of going “grass-fed?” While a quick web search will reveal a majority of blogs describing the specific benefits of grass-fed beef, the purpose of this post is to provide more practical discussion on the positives of choosing happy, free-roaming cows.

But first, let’s look at the negative: Grass-fed beef is so damn expensive!

True, and that is the major road block for many people – especially families – on buying the product. If Mercedes Benz all of a sudden priced their AMG series under $20,000, we would all buy them, but that does not mean we don’t have a viable alternative. If not able to afford grass-fed beef, go for the leaner cuts of meat, as pesticides and hormones are more likely to bioaccumulate in fatty tissue.

So when standing in-front of the meat counter, and given the choice between $4 a pound or $8 a pound chuck, what should be weighing on your mind…

When comparing food products for nutritional value, a new term is coming to light that constantly adds talking points to the discussion – bioavailability. With supplements such as multi-vitamins, even though they provide consumers with 100% of almost every vitamin and mineral, many people will not be able to absorb the nutrients stuffed into the pill. The common term is “very expensive urine.” However, when compared to eating real food, we see that individuals are able to assimilate a much larger percentage of nutrients.

We talked about this same relationship with coconut oil in a prior post – comparing high-heat vs. cold-pressed EV coconut oil on cholesterol and blood pressure levels, with the latter dominating the health debate. While both where natural products, the one that underwent less manipulation at the hands of Homo sapiens proved to be most beneficial for health.

Bovines thrived off grass for hundreds of thousands of years. Their guts evolved to deal with the fibrous shoots, prompting large, muscular cows (with multiple stomachs). We hunted them, but didn’t feed them. Roughly 11,000 years ago in the fertile crescent, bovines came under our control in the form of domestication, but only recently did we over populate the Earth with cattle to feed our desire for rib eye, shoving corn down their throats, deforesting most of South America in the process.

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What changes elicited from domestication and then over-population of cattle?

To observe what happens when one changes your natural diet and replaces traditional foods with newer creations, one simply has to look at the modern American diet consisting of almost 25% sugar per day – roughly 200lbs a year for the typical American.

The major side affect of adjusting bovine feed from grass to corn is in the composition of the lipid tissues (fat). Just like with coconut oil, there is a good and bad way to “create” the saturated fat found on beef. While most traditional research has favored a diet low in saturated fat, new research indicates that QUALITY of saturated fat is incredibly important.

The way the research is heading, it appears that diets with moderate to high levels of saturated fat, albeit from QUALITY sources, will not have such a negative  impact on the diet, and most likely provide positive benefits.

(On a side note, new research out of University College London has found that certain populations, namely the Inuits, have genetic modifications allowing their bodies to adapt to a high saturated fat diet, while most Europeans and Chinese do not have these modifications, requiring further research to determine what “ideal” is for certain genetically diverse cultures.)

From a truly “economics of health” perspective, look at this concept:

1lbs of non-grass fed 99% lean beef at $4 = 440 calories (1.1 calories per cent)

1lbs of grass-fed beef 85% lean at $8 = 972 calories (1.215 calories per cent) BETTER VALUE

From a dollar to calorie conversion, grass-fed beef does not appear to be that bad of a decision after all.

From a truly putting-something-healthier-in-your-body perspective, grass-fed beef is the clear winner. From a sustainability statement, things appear obvious, but have some complications.

When it comes to a single cow, the impact a conventionally farmed cow has on the environment is greater than that of a grass-fed cow. However, what is the impact of a conventionally raised cow from a food-lot in Georgia that will be sold across Atlanta compared to a grass-fed cow grown in Uruguay, that was then shipped to New York City?

Furthermore, how much of the World will have to become pasture to raise the number of cows that are currently in demand? Going exclusively grass-fed will drive the prices of beef up incredibly high due to a feasible limit on supply unless we all go back to a pastoral community – not likely if Silicon Valley has anything to say about it.

From a Malthusian background with some pragmatic optimism, we are at a bit of a precipice. On one hand, consuming locally raised grass-fed beef will aid with cutting down carbon emissions, but it is not a feasible alternative for the World (is healthy beef a luxury item?).

Given the known health benefits and looking at the dollar for healthy calorie ratio above, as an individual in a global community, grass-fed beef is the best approach. In order to sustain our growing demand for beef while cutting emissions and reliance on fossil fuels, there will need to be some serious changes in our food supply chain. In light of Hollywood’s latest creation – let us only hope that Matt Damon can grow grass and raise cows on Mars.

Any advice, comments, products, and other information provided on this website is not intended to be a substitute for, and does not constitute, medical care, advice, or treatment. The information contained herein may be an opinion based on personal experience or otherwise and, unless expressly stated otherwise, all advice, comments, opinions, and other information contained on this website are provided by individuals who are not licensed physicians or licensed dietitians or nutritionists. A licensed physician should therefore be consulted regarding all desired or necessary medical care, advice, and treatment, and any and all information provided on this website is expressly made subject to any licensed physician’s medical care, advice, and treatment. Likewise, a licensed nutritionist and/or licensed dietitian should be consulted regarding all desired or necessary nutrition and dietary advice, care, and treatment, and any and all information provided on this website is expressly made subject to any licensed nutritionist’s or dietitian’s care, advice, and treatment. Nothing on this website is intended to guarantee or promise any individual success, applicability, or level of performance with respect to any of the matters contained on this website.

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Women and Whey Protein

September 15, 2015
Women and Whey Protein

As a coach/trainer, I’m always bombarded with questions on how whey protein supplements play a role for women. Here I want to discuss why women don’t get fat on whey protein plus 3 other myths I’d like to dispel. Let’s jump into it!

MYTH #1 – Whey is going to make me fat!

A recent study found that whey protein supplementation can aid in weight DECREASES in men and women, whereas soy protein sources and carbohydrate-dense supplements did not lead to any significant weight loss. Specifically, waist circumference (WC) was smaller in the Whey Protein consuming individuals. Waist circumference is a major risk factor for cardio vascular disease and diabetes.

Also, whey protein supplementation led to dietary decreases in carbohydrate consumption due to increased satiation (you felt full longer!). This can be interpreted as consuming a whey protein, specifically post workout, will aid in improving your diet overall and help you lose weight and lean out. (Baer et al, 2011)

Another study analyzing the effects of low to high protein diets on weight storage found that individuals on a lower protein diet are more likely to store excess calories as fat instead of burning off the stored energy. (Bray et al, 2012)

MYTH #2 – Whey is going to make me bulky!

A common concern with women and whey protein is the fear of gaining muscle mass. Muscle mass increases are a direct result of training and calorie intake: training specific muscles for a large number of repetitions with a slow tempo and following it up with eating a substantial amount of food such as potatoes and milk will cause bulking up. However, training with heavier weights for less reps and finishing the workout with a whey protein made gaining muscle mass ‘bulkiness’ much less likely. Why?

High-intensity exercise (like CrossFit) allows for Increased Glucose Transport (INGT) into the muscle cells within a short period (30 minutes) post workout. In this time period, consuming a whey protein shake will help repair muscle damage more efficiently: therefore less of the caloric intake will go towards muscle bulking. This implies that a whey protein shake post workout will help muscles repair FASTER and BETTER and improve performance on the next workout as well as aid in leaning out and looking great.

MYTH #3 – I’ve heard Whey protein is not good for my long-term health!

I’ve heard this one too many times. It is becoming an old-wives tale that supplements are bad for the liver and kidneys when used for a long period. For some supplements, this is potentially true. However, for the essential supplements this is anything but true. There is evidence supporting that whey protein (not even considering a hormone free whey protein derived from a grass-fed source) can aid in organ function of the liver, brain and vascular system as well as help protect our bodies from cancer, stress and hepatitis. One study found that protein supplements increase bone density in the lumbar column, helping prevent osteoporosis, a major risk in women (Aoe et al, 2001).

I don’t really care about my muscles!

What?! As mentioned above, whey protein has many other benefits besides helping to repair damaged muscles. As a living organism, human bodies undergo oxidative stress at all hours of the day. Oxidative stress levels are increased during bouts of intense exercise and whey protein post workout will aid in minimizing oxidative stress. This allows all body tissues to avoid degradation and maintain optimum health for more years.
I should replace my meals with whey protein shakes?

Falling into this common trap of the modern day health food industry is easy and a sure way to impede weight loss results. Liquid food should never replace a solid food meal if the main goal is weight loss. The only time the body is best adapted to liquid food is post workout when INGT (Increased Glucose Transport) is at its highest (see above).

The way that the human digestive system has evolved, liquid foods get absorbed faster and causes an increased insulin spike regardless of the macronutrient breakdown and glycemic load compared to solid food. Therefore, if solid food meals start being replaced by liquid food whether it is a healthier smoothie or “lose-weight shakes,” the human body will interpret that as a signal to GAIN WEIGHT. Please avoid liquid food outside of your post-workout whey protein if your goal is to lose weight and lean out.

In a nutshell…

• Whey protein is the only protein supplement that has shown to aid in weight loss
• Whey protein post workout does not automatically increase muscle mass or weight gain due to INGT
• Whey protein helps protect the body from many other ailments like osteoporosis
• There are other benefits to whey protein such as minimizing oxidative stress
• Never replace a solid food meal with whey protein

References for further reading? Check ’em out below. Questions or comments? Post a comment and I’ll follow up!

  1. Aoe, S., Toba, Y., Yamamura, J., Kawakami, H., Yahiro, M., Kumegawa, M., Itabashi, A. & Takada, Y. (2001) Controlled trial of the effects of Milk Basic Protein (MBP) supplementation on bone metabolism in healthy adult women. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. 65. 913-918.
  2. Baer, D.J. (2011) Whey protein but not soy protein supplementation alters body weight and composition in free-living overweight and obese adults. The Journal of Nutrition. 141. 1489-1494.
  3. Bray, G.A., Smith, S.R., de Jonge, L., Xie, H., Rood, J., Martin, C.K., Most, M., Brock, C., Mancuso, S. & Redman, L.M. (2012) Effect of Dietary Protein Content of Weight Gain, Energy Expenditure, and Body Composition During Overeating. Journal of American Medical AssociationI. 307. 47-55.
  4. Lee, A.D., Hansen, P.A., Schluter, J., Gulve, E.A., Gao, J. & Holloszy, J.O. (1997) Effects of epinephrine on insulin-stimulated glucose uptake and GLUT-4 phosphorylation in muscle. Cell Physiology. 273.
  5. Perseghin, G., Price, T.B., Petersen, K.F., Roden, M.D., Cline, G.W., Gerow, K., Rothman, D.L., & Shulman, G.I. (1996) Increased Glucose Transport-phosphorylation and muscle glycogen synthesis after exercise training in insulin-resistant subjects. New England Journal of Medicine. 335. 1357-1362.
  6. Rivière, D, Crampes F, Beauville M, and Garrigues M. (1989) Lipolytic response of fat cells to catecholamines in sedentary and exercise-trained women. Journal of Applied Physiology. 66. 330- 335.
  7. Rose, A.J. & Richter, E.A. (2005) Skeletal muscle glucose uptake during exercise: how is it regulated? Physiological. 20. 260-270.
  8. Tipton, K.D. (2008) Protein for adaptations to exercise training. European Journal of Sport Science. 8. 107-118.
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Why We Love Coconut Oil (And You Should, Too!)

June 4, 2015
Coconut Oil

It’s no secret coconut products are consistently gaining in popularity. A quick search of Google Trends shows that the words “coconut” and “coconut oil” have been increasing in popularity as search terms since 2011. This increase in popularity can be reflected in both standard grocery stores as well as health food store shelves. Health food stores are taking it to the next level and offer everything from coconut based coffee creamer to sugar-coated coconut bites.

While many of these products are a company’s attempt to profit on this hot commodity, coconuts are, at their core, a healthy food staple that’s been around for thousands of years.

Keep in mind that health benefits would come from fresh unprocessed coconut flesh which is full of fiber and improves satiation and gut health, or coconut oil a great source of medium chain fatty acids. Candied coconut on the other hand, as delicious as it sounds, probably doesn’t core very high on the nutritional scale.

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June 4, 2015

Two topics we discuss on this blog that are interrelated are gut health and gluten intolerance. Many individuals trying to improve their health are seeking to eliminate gluten and supplement with a potent probiotic in an attempt to eliminate gut inflammation and improve digestion. However, a recent study uncovered results that might have individuals upset about their chosen method of probiotic consumption.

A topic discussed at Digestive Disease Week 2015 in Washington D.C. and now starting to make headlines, an investigative report found that out of 22 popular probiotic supplements, 12 contained gluten of which 4 (18%) contained gluten in amounts far higher than the standards given by the FDA to qualify as a “gluten-free” product.

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Feel Nutrition


June 2, 2015
Up Late Eating

Have you ever wondered how many hours you should ideally sleep each night or researched how to time meals for optimal health and metabolism?

The initial response of active people and especially hard core athletes would probably be to sleep more and eat your carbohydrates after you workout. Beyond those basic tips, there’s not much more information available out there. While the true impact of nutrient timing and sleep can fill volumes of textbooks, a couple of recent publications on the subject have drawn some important conclusions we want to share with you.

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Lifestyle Nutrition


April 6, 2015
Farm to table

Often credited with a much stronger Farm-to-Table tradition than the United States, the European Union is undergoing similar problems with the food supply chain. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) stated on March 12, 2015 that nearly 50% of all food products in Europe contain pesticide residue. Further worryingly, pesticides were also found on a small percentage of organic foods.

In general, the health impact of these trace levels of pesticides is low, but with many of the present compounds being proven carcinogens, health conscious individuals are raising the alarm. Almost all products where under the legal limit for pesticide occurrence, but one of the most common violators of legal pesticide limits are strawberries.

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Feel Nutrition


March 25, 2015
Cheese Snack

Sometimes the news just makes you want to smack yourself in the forehead and give up hope for humanity. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (, recently announced that Kraft Singles received the “Kids Eat Right” label to help parents select better foods for their children is one such piece of news.

It should be noted that the academy and Kraft are in a three-year collaboration with each other to help promote healthy eating in kids, as reported by the NY Times. The executive director of the academy, Mary Beth Whalen, continued her support of the controversial label practices by stating that “the logo on Kraft Singles packaging identifies the brand as a proud supporter” of her organization, denying that it was not simply an endorsement.

However, a comment from a Kraft spokesperson said that this was the first endorsement from the academy.

The argument behind the academy, which represents 75,000 registered dietitians, is that putting the label on a popular food like Kraft Singles will draw attention to their cause. This isn’t the first time that this specific organization has landed itself in hot water in regards to sleeping with the big food industry. It has previously been reported that at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ annual meetings, education on salt intake has been provided by Frito-Lay, and that a company that makes high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was encouraging the attendees to question the reported relationship between HFCS and diabetes.

All these issues surrounding one of the biggest organizations that claims to represent a large number of health professionals in the United States displays the further need for forward thinking and critical thought. Label marketing is a powerful tool and the best marketed products often end up in your home, but if a little investigation reveals such corporate affairs like Kraft and the academy, it should seriously make you reconsider what a label actually means.

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Women and Whey Protein – Increased Satiation

March 19, 2015
Women and Whey Protein Increased Satiation

Women should not fear whey protein. Many women are afraid that resistance training and protein powders will result in bulking and increased muscle mass: the equation is not that simple. We have recently learned through research out of Massey University in New Zealand that women who consumed whey protein beverages actually had more hunger suppression, mediated by a natural hormonal response.

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