Category Archives: Diet

Coconut Oil for Health

Coconut oil (and coconut milk) is becoming an increasing popular natural supplement among many fitness aficionados. I first read about the potential benefits of coconut products in an article by Mike Mahler, who wrote

With regard to fat intake, steroid hormones are derived from saturated fat, so vegans, myself included, need to ensure adequate consumption. I love coconut oil and coconut milk and both are concentrated sources of saturated fat. I use coconut oil for cooking and add coconut milk to protein shakes. Besides saturated fat, coconut contains medium chain triglycerides (MCT), which bypass the liver and are burned directly for energy, excellent for gall bladder issues. Try adding a tablespoon of coconut oil or a quarter cup of coconut milk to your next pre-workout meal (two hours before training) and get ready for an incredible workout.

More recently, Scott Sonnon tweeted, “Added 1 teaspoon of coconut oil to each meal for two weeks and my serratus make a surprise return.”

I’ve been using coconut milk in my pre- and post- workout smoothies for a while now, and recently have been adding coconut oil. While my serratus remains in hiding, I do notice a marked improvement in my performance and recovery.

Coconut oil appears to have benefits unrelated to athletic performs as well. Organic Facts published an interesting list of good things about coconut oil, including  “hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength.”

That’s a pretty impressive list, maybe too impressive. I’m a natural skeptic, so I have my doubts as to if coconut oil can really do all the things listed in this article. Still, I do think there is enough evidence to suggests coconut oil can be a healthful addition to one’s diet.

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How to Stay Lean and Healthy on the Fit Monkey Diet

A good friend of mine is training hard for some upcoming grappling tournaments. While in overall very good condition, he asked my advice for tweaking his diet. Below is my list of recommendations. You could call it the Fit Monkey Diet; this is pretty much what I live (and thrive) by:

ABSOLUTE MUSTS

  1. Keep a detailed food log. Write down everything you eat or drink that contains calories. It’s also a good idea to note how you feel after a meal, i.e. “ate a salad; feel energized” or “ate a pizza, feel sluggish.”
  2. Keep a training journal. This doesn’t have to be super specific. Just write something down to get an idea of what you did and how you felt. Examples: “Hindu stuff and KB Clean & Presses/Swings. Moderate intensity. Worked up a good sweat.” “Practiced BJJ. Worked lots of armbars and did some light rolling. Felt tired after but not too tired.”

DIET RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Cut back or eliminate simple carbs (pasta, white rice).
  2. Eat lots of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Be sure to get plenty of dark, leafy greens.
  3. Try to go as plant-based as possible. Avoid dairy. If eating meat, the best choice is seafood, followed by poultry. Stay away from pork and red meat.
  4. Give up sports and energy drinks; too much sugar and caffeine. Switch to water, coconut water, or green tea.
  5. Eliminate or reduce coffee consumption. Too much caffeine overtaxes the adrenal glands and boosts cortisol levels. Switch to tea, which has been shown to provide more sustained energy for athletes than coffee. Green tea has a proven fat-burning effect, and both black and green teas can boost the body’s immune system.
  6. Limit alcohol consumption to 1-2 servings a day. A serving is: 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of liquor.
  7. Supplement with smoothies when needed. I suggest the Fit Monkey Smoothie before and after hard training sessions.

How I Nearly Halved My Body Fat in 18 Months

For a couple of years I was a gym rat. I followed the training advice in magazines such as Muscle & Fitness. I followed the diet advice as well, eating more meat than I would have really liked to, downing whey protein, and so on.

My Meaty Gym Rat Days

My Lookalike

The result? I put on some muscle, but also quite a bit of fat. I always felt bloated and gassy. I got a bit stronger, but also slower. I got sick all the time from hanging out in germ-infested gyms. And I looked like Young Frankenstein.

Then, in late 2006, I decided to make some major changes in my life. A longtime animal-lover, I’d flirted with vegetarianism before, but always managed to trick myself back into eating meat. This time I decided to get serious. I read books I knew would turn me off meat (such as Dominion by Matt Scully and assorted stuff by Peter Singer). Come New Year’s Day, 2007, I had finally gone vegetarian for good.

Around this time I also cancelled my gym membership. The cost and the hassle just were not worth it. Instead I decided to do all my training outside at a local park. I jogged anywhere from three to eight miles, four or five times a week. I did yoga poses. For strength training, I concentrated on Chin-Ups, Push-Ups, and Dips.

Getting Leaner & Better!

I don’t know if it was giving up meat or giving up the gym, but the results were impressive. In about six months my waist dropped from 36″ to 34″. My endurance improved, and I found myself getting stronger and faster. This reflected in my martial arts training, as my skill level went up considerably. I no longer was feeling sick and bloated. In fact, I felt better than ever!

At 18 months my waist had dropped to 32″. My bodyfat percentage, which had been about 24 or 25 percent, was now under 15 percent. I’d gone from a flabby 215 lbs. to a lean 180 lbs.

While I’m very happy with my results, looking back, I could have done a few things differently and had even better results.

  • I was mostly jogging for cardio. I should have added sprints to the mix.
  • Kettlebell training would have greatly accelerated my results.
  • My vegetarian diet was good, but could have been better. Like many new vegetarians, I went a little overboard on pasta. I got away with it because, for some reason, my body can take a lot of simple carbs without putting on fat and I was running so much. Still, I should have limited pasta to once a week and consumed more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Between the two, I don’t know if it was the change in diet or the change in fitness strategy that contributed to my great 18 month results. My guess, it was probably a combination of both. Though the specifics of my workout and diet have changed, I am still a vegetarian, and I still do most of my training at the park.

Plant Powered Kettlebells!

Will my methods work for you? I think so. You don’t necessarily have to go to the extremes that I did, but embracing a mostly plant-based diet along with fun fitness outdoors is a proven way to get fit, lose weight, and feel great!

The Fit Monkey Smoothie

Smoothies are great. They can replace a meal if you’re trying to lose weight, or serve as a serious snack for those training hard or trying to put on muscle.

Depending on what I’ve got planned, I usually have one or two smoothies a day, in addition to my main meals and other snacks. I always have one before and after any serious strength training workout. I also make sure to have a smoothie about an hour or so before my martial arts training. It’s a great way to fuel up without feeling heavy or overly full.

Here’s my go-to smoothie recipe.

  • 8-10 oz. cold green tea or water
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen organic mixed berries
  • 1/2 cup frozen organic spinach
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed and/or chia seed
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons protein powder
  • 1 teaspoon powdered greens (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (optional)

A few quick points…

  • Add more green tea (or water) if the smoothie is too thick.
  • I use NutriBiotic rice protein powder. My smoothies tend to have 20-40 grams of protein.
  • Sometimes I substitute frozen tropical fruit (pinapple, papaya, mango, etc.) or acai in place of mixed berries.
  • You won’t taste the spinach.
  • I often add 5 grams of creatine to my post-workout smoothie.

One Athlete’s Vegetarian Journey

My friend and fellow martial artist, John Robinson of Lexington Jeet Kune Do, has launched a blog detailing his experiences with a plant-based diet. I wish him well, and look forward to following him on this exciting journey!