Friday, 1 May 2009

Nuts - Best Friend or Worst Enemy? Body Composition Update

Last time I updated this chart was Feb 10th, when I was just coming out of the Christmas carb fests and gradually working my way back to leanness and health.
March Setback
As you can see from the chart, and will know if you are a regular reader, I had a setback at the start of March when I went on an alcohol-fuelled cake rampage through Birmingham city centre and packed on about 5 lbs of water retention, fat and intestinal baggage in a single night.
Keys to Success
However, since then, I have been pretty much on the straight and narrow. For me this means two things.

1. Almost no alcohol.
As I discussed in the post about the March setback, the only thing I can't resist after a glass of wine, is another. So if I am feeling weak, which after the Christmas binges I still was, it's a recipe for trouble.

2. No post-dinner nuts.
I love nuts. I am convinced I could live on them. I could eat them all day. The trouble is, they are so nice, I gorge; and despite research suggesting that they can actually help you lose weight, I am pretty sure that my post-dinner nut guzzling goes beyond the applicability of those findings.

As you can see from the chart, this policy has been successful. You can see the steady decline of my weight from February so that I am now almost back to my pre-Christmas composition. Although it's not clear from the chart whether I have gained or lost muscle, I know I am a little stronger in the gym, which is the important thing.

I still have the odd glass of wine when I am feeling strong, and still eat nuts with lunch or breakfast, but have avoided the scenarios that lead to gluttony.
Paleo/Primal Rationale
I feel as if the last 8 weeks have been a more model Paleo/Primal routine. My focus has been very much on eating lots of wild or grass-fed meat/fish. If I am greedy, it is with vegetables and meat, not nuts.

To me this makes sense as an extension to the rationale that we cannot regulate our consumption of sweet foods because they were scare when we were evolving so we didn't need to. How often would we have free access to handfuls of nuts?

When I restrict myself to foods we would have more ready access to like vegetables and meat (I am speculating a little here, I know) my appetite appears to regulate better and with twice-weekly fasting it leads to improving body composition.
Cordain on Nuts
I will now relax a little, but probably stick with the post-dinner nuts rule for a while. This excellent interview with Loren Cordain on Jimmy Moore's Podcast show does cast some doubt on the status of nuts, so whilst I do think they are a fantastic food, I should perhaps moderate my intake a little and continue to avoid throwing them back by the handful.

Previous body composition updates:
November 08
February 09


pnw fitness said...

I share your love for nuts. Even more so since I almost completely cut my love the protein shake :(

Unknown said...

I could have written this post. I too have had to abstain from nuts (mostly right after I get home from work, REALLY hungry but dinner is still 2 hrs away) & raisins. I could live on raisins, wine, coffee & chocolate (and did for a little while). I think you may be on to something with the good hunger control on meats & veg. In as little as 1 handful of raisins I'm thrown and have a hard time stopping. My wine control is *much* better if I'm eating clean for awhile, I find I can stop at 1 glass (rather than 1/2 bottle).

Methuselah said...

pnw - yeah, losing the shakes was a sad moment for me too.

shelby - lordy, nuts and raisins! In my pre-paleo days, when I had got as far as avoiding sugar and other junk, I used to eat dried fruit, nuts and unsweetened cocoa powder as a dessert substitute. I would mix cocoa powder with water to make a paste, then open up dried figs and fill them with the paste. Hey presto - a chocolate substitute! Then I would eat cashews and brazils with these. After half a bottle of wine, some of these binges were significant, and in hindsight probably only marginally less damaging that a binge on real sugar/chocolate.

Anonymous said...

I fully share these thoughts of yours, as many nuts I have (macadamia, brazil, etc.) are exotic and foreign where I live, and I love them. I eat nuts worth around 300-400 cals, so that is like an ounce or two.

Mark said...

Wow this post hits home. I have the same problem with nuts - I start eating them and I usually end up binging. I don't know why that is - maybe b/c they are so calorically dense it would be natural to binge on them.

I, too, have cut out the reckless snacking on nuts of late. I allow myself 3 brazil nuts for the selenium and nuts that are part of recipes (I don't binge in that case for some reason) but I am NOT having handfuls of those suckers. I am basically doing what you are doing - getting greedy with the meat and veggies and holding back on the fruit and nuts and it is working - waist is down about an inch and I am visibly leaner.

I am still having red wine fairly often but I cut back to 1/2 a glass. I thinks it's too benefical to kill it completely.

Methuselah said...

Mark - ironically I read your comment this morning after three glasses of wine, a curry and then the inevitable reckless nut snacking!

At least I didn't raid the supermarket for cakes.

I must admit that red wine is the only alcohol I feel comfortable drinking because of the apparent benefits, although I saw a documentary a while back indicating that some manufacturers dump all kind of crap in there. So I think drinking good quality stuff is the way forward.

Anonymous said...

guys, i read that there are numerous studies which show that the "benefits" of red over white wine are insignificant in the quantities we consume. i.e. you would need to be drinking gallons of the stuff to gain any benefit from the inherent qualities in the red over the white grape. the "benefits" are in the affect of small quantities of alcohol on your body and on the mental health engendered by relaxation. just a thought for you to check out.
nice blog by the way

Gazelle said...

I have to chime in here and say that I am a nut binger as well. They are a serious problem for me (especially after several glasses of wine). I don't allow myself peanuts at all, but regularly binge on macadamias, etc. I have to avoid all nuts completely to avoid binges.

I wonder if nut binges are sometimes caused by exorphins? Or the anti-nutrients that are present especially in raw nuts?

Methuselah said...

Anon - thanks for the tip. As it happens, I don't like the taste of white so much, but Mrs M prefers it - so she will no doubt be pleased that my smugness about drinking the healthier type may be misplaced.

Gazelle - thanks for your thoughts on this. Whilst I could not find much at all about exorphins in nuts on Google (do you have any links?) I certainly do remember Mark Sisson covering the toxins issue here so you may want to try the soaking procedure to see if that makes any difference. I may in fact do that myself, as I don't like the idea of doing damage to my gut even if I am not suffering any outward symptoms. Much the same logic as applies to not eating bread really.

Let me know if you try this, and likewise I will post or comment about any experience I have. I guess the effort involved is the main barrier...

Gazelle said...

I have actually tried soaking the nuts but am not convinced it makes a difference. I do believe it makes them easier to digest, but I can still binge-eat my way through 4-figure-calorie-counts worth in one sitting. Obviously, it might take some time for my insides to adjust and maybe over time this could be a solution, but my experience so far has been that I react the same to nuts whether they're soaked or raw.

Methuselah said...

Gazelle - of course it could just be that they taste so good ;-) As I mentioned in another comment, we would not necessarily have historically had access to enough nuts to have evolved the ability to resist their allure - unlike meat and vegetables, which I would never overeat to the same degree. Same kind of logic that applies to our inability to regulate our appetite for sweet food, perhaps, but less acute.

efugeni said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Methuselah said...

goodwinnihon - that sounds like a really good idea. I am definately going to try that. People seem to struggle most with breakfast ideas when on the Paleo diet, so that's a great opportunity for a bit of variety!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I was just wondering what your method is for recording all that information? Excel?

It's amazing that you've kept track of that data so consistently over all this time!

Methuselah said...

Hi Arlo - I record it in Excel 2007, then use the charting facility to create the graph. You can mess around with the properties of the chart to make it look quite cool. Then you can just right click and copy the chart then paste it into something like PhotoShop and add annotations etc. To create the links I used an HTML editor like Front Page to create hotspots that linked to other parts of the site...

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