Monday, April 7, 2008

My Take on Diet

One of the questions I'm most frequently asked is, "What do you eat?" People wonder how I manage to keep my body fat at about 6% year round. Further, I've remained youthful in appearance (and behavior) which I attribute to my daily regimen.

There are dozens of theories about the best way to eat. One thing that everyone agrees upon is we all need a certain amount of calories, water, protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Then the lines rapidly delineate when it comes to proportions of macro-nutrients and meal frequency. Food quality is a whole other issue... Let me preface the following by saying that this is only an accounting of what I do--and I'm not saying what I do is for everyone! The topic of food consumption and nutrition is a very emotional subject for some people. Some of the most vicious arguments I've ever witnessed were nutrition-based. Much like politics or religion, it's a loaded, fully-charged gun waiting to go off. You must be careful with these things, treading between people's confusion and emotions. Once someone "settles" in with a dietary program, they want to believe in it. They begin to self-identify with it. If another diet is touted as good/better/best, their belief system is challenged. Either they are wrong or the other guy must be wrong. Most people won't allow themselves to be wrong and this is the basis of the nutrition wars.

My own diet has evolved over decades. I'm an experimenter, willing to use my body as a laboratory to test any intriguing theories I might encounter. I was raised on a mixed, American diet, typical of the 1950's and 60's. I went lacto-ovo vegetarian; vegan; raw-food vegan and macrobiotic. I followed Arnold Erhet's Mucusless Diet System; Herbert Sheldon's Food Combining system; the Hunza diet; Paavo Airola's diet system; The Gracie family diet; Ori Hoffmeklar's Warrior Diet; the Atkins diet and Dr. Ellis' Diet Solution. I've run the gamut of high-carb/low-fat to high-protein/high-fat; I suspect I've tried about every combination. I've read a lot on the subject and further had the opportunity to observe my clients' responses as they've followed me on my diet journeys. I've been on the same diet now (and still evolving) for 15 years. I finally settled on a low-carb diet, with about 20% of calories coming from carbohydrate. When I need to lean out (from over-indulgence) I go ketogenic (very few carbs) for a few days to a week. I feel my very best on this diet, compared to all of the other diet strategies I've tried. Once I went low-carb, I stopped searching elsewhere because I began feeling and performing better than ever. With lower carb and higher fat, my satiety level went up, inflammation went down, mood improved and I became noticeably leaner and more muscular. I eat the following foods in various proportions throughout the week: jerky from grass-finished beef; pemmican (beef jerky and rendered tallow 1:4); cheese (raw milk Swiss); chicken; hard-boiled eggs; cottage cheese; 25 Greek yogurt; whey concentrate powder; rice bran; unpasteurized pickled vegetables and a variety of cooked green vegetables, like spinach, broccoli, kale and collards. I eat when I'm hungry, drink when I'm thirsty and eat little, unless my appetite is especially voracious. I play a game with myself to see how little I can eat and still perform at a high level in my chosen activities. I space meals out over the day with at least three--usually four--hours between feedings. I prefer to fast during the morning hours, though lately I've begun taking a spoonful BCAAs when I wake up. Here's a typical menu:

05:30 -- supplements: aminos; BCAAs; glutamine; tyrosine and creatine

09:30 -- pemmican bar (

10:00 -- coffee with cream or half & half

14:00 -- yogurt/whey shake (double serving Fage yogurt with 2 T. whey concentrate, sweetener and mineral water 1:1)

17:00 -- 8 oz. package of beef jerky (; 1/4 lb. cheese; 2 hard-boiled eggs

21:00 -- supplements: nighttime sleep stack

If I'm still hungry, I'll have a light snack in the evening. I like low-fat cottage cheese right now with a teaspoon of some super food fruity/greens powder. Sometimes a bag of pork rinds is a nice treat and for franken-food, I like Metabolic Drive chocolate chunk bars as a light meal replacement. Occasionally I eat movie popcorn with butter and here in San Francisco they provide nutritional yeast flakes to sprinkle on top. That's pretty much it. When I eat out, I like soups. i enjoy fried calamari as a special treat from time-to-time. It pretty much comes down to that. I eat to live, not live to eat. I enjoy my food, but it's no big thing. I feel good, appear young and stay lean and muscular. I'm never sick, have no health problems and am happy 90% of the time. This works for me.


Anonymous said...

Oh yeah!
Been waiting so long for this one! Thank you Steve

and still so many questions to ask

1) could you estimate how much kcal per day do you eat (you don't eat much do you?)

2) how about alcohol - do you drink? what kind?

3) food enzyme researcher Dr. Edward Howell said: "If enzymes were in the food we eat, they would do some or even a considerable part of the work of digestion by themselves. However, when you eat cooked, enzyme-free food, this forces the body itself to make the enzymes needed for digestion. This depletes the body's limited enzyme capacity. (...) I believe it's one of the paramount causes of premature aging and early death. I also believe it's the underlying cause of almost all degenerative disease. (...) This "stealing" of enzymes from other parts of the body to service the digestive tract sets up a competition for enzymes among the various organ systems and tissues of the body.The resulting metabolic dislocations may be the direct cause of cancer, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and many other chronic incurable diseases.This state of enzyme deficiency stress exists in the majority of persons on the civilized, enzyme-free diet."

do you think he's right?

4) do you care of what kind of meat you eat - like beef, pork - or you just eat what you like. the same with fat

5) what do you think about Maca supplement for overall health?

ok, I've got much more but I don't want to be rude :)

thank you Steve once again!


Rob Pugh said...

Great article. Thanks. I'm just now starting to clean up my diet and work out again after a few years of injuries and laziness. Enjoying your writing... please keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Steve !
What kind of Problems do you see in the Gracie Diet ?


Steve Maxwell said...

Hi Rafal,

1) I don't count calories but a fitness evaluation last fall indicated my Total Daily Energy expenditure was 2500 kcal.

I used to eat full-fat Greek yogurt and a second pemmican bar every day but I cut back a little before I hit the upcoming seminar circuit. I'm still experimenting. It looks now like I need to add in some more calories.

2) I don't drink. It doesn't combine well with the inner warrior archetype. Beer, wine and fermented beverages of all kinds, do have an ancient history of consumption by traditional people everywhere and the unpasteurized versions contain useful nutrients. If someone is carrying too much fat and trying to improve body composition, they can't really afford the calories.

3) All of the traditional tribal people studied with superior health and physical form who consistently reproduced perfect offspring regularly consumed some of their proteins raw. This was noted by Weston A. Price on his travels around the world. Muscle meats weren't especially valued. Plant foods--not so much. Another factor the raw crowd forgets is the value of long and slow-cooked meats and broths, wherein the connective tissues are broken down into an easy-to-assimilate ionic suspension. This is another form of effectively pre-digesting foods and increasing assimilation. While it's extremely important to preserve the pancreatic enzymes, --pancreatin in particular--which are recycled for life, and exogenous enzymes can be helpful, especially proteases, I think the benefits of plant-based exogenous enzymes are overrated.

I also maximize my digestion using some basic food-combining principles I've found helpful. Not all of them, mind you, but what's worked for me.

I don't go for the all-raw diet. It doesn't have any lengthy tradition. Plant foods, especially, have traditionally been peeled and cooked. An all-raw diet, enzymes notwithstanding, is hard on the digestion, look at Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, the oldest surviving records of traditional medicine.

People with especially "hot" constitutions may find more benefit in eating a lot of raw foods, but it's not for everyone. Aajonus V. has a unique medical condition, including a severed vagus nerve, that convinced him of its usefulness in working with very ill people.

4) I just eat what I like. I eat seafood a couple times a month. With fat, I seek out the saturated kind and avoid canola oil in particular, which is more challenging than you might think.

5) I like Maca and I take it daily.

Thanks for the note. I hope that answered your questions.

J Blamey said...

Absolutely awesome that you have a blog!!! Definately going to bookmark this. Thank you kindly for sharing your knowledge!

I was goint to read the Cholesterol Conspiracy but it looks like there are two books with the same title - who is the author?

Steve Maxwell said...

Hi J,

for books, I like The Cholseterol Myths by Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD, and The Great Cholesterol Con by Anthony Colpo. The latter is more easy reading, though not short on research.

I haven't read Cholesterol Conspiracies, so can't comment. Thanks for writing. Send any inquiries you'd like to see addressed on the blog to the contact form on the website and I'll do my best.

Anonymous said...

This is so cool :)
Thank you Steve

Would you be so kind and write something about your food-combining principles.
I am still waiting for Aajonus books to come I hope they are good. I don't belive all stories he says but he still looks kinda interesting.

"I play a game with myself to see how little I can eat and still perform at a high level in my chosen activities." This is so cool - great take on diet to make a game out of it. It takes so much pressure out.

So you think that raw animal protein plus some thick long and slow-cooked meats and broths are a good idea to go?

Steve, we know now your diet but could you write something about the way you cure your body - like detox methods. I know dr Ellis uses lots of homeopathy and herbs - do you use it too? If so - why?

Can't wait to read your answers. Thank you Steve


Steve Maxwell said...

Hi Rafal,

I wrote a reply before but it got lost as I tried to post it. So here, I'll start again.

I don't like to combine grains with meats, but then again, I don't care much for grains. I detest fruit with meat.

The thing about food combining is that tribal people all over the world have eaten all forms of combinations imaginable and managed to maintain superior health for thousands of years, so it's not the food combining that's the secret to good health. However, if someone has digestive problems, I think food combining can be a good place to look to get some relief.

If you have a strong digestive fire, you can digest anything, the goal is to maximize your digestive abilities.

Animal proteins are always superior to plant proteins. As far as raw foods, I regularly eat eggs cooked poached or boiled so that the yolks are still uncooked and entire, raw cheeses, raw (unpasteurized) sauerkrauts and other pickles, which are the true plant superfoods. The yogurt and cottage cheese I eat isn't raw, but cultured, so it's still a "dynamic" food. The thing about raw dairy is it must be absolutely fresh to be a superior food and that is difficult to acquire. That's something people tend to overlook in the raw movement. Another thing is broths and slow-cooked meat where the connective tissues are broken down and highly assimilable.

In tribal people studied, it was the coastal people whose diets were high in seafoods of all sorts, who possessed the best health and form.
Fish roe is another critical addition to an optimal diet.

At the end of the day, it's best to eat foods you enjoy, and not make a fetish out of it.

As far as detox, if you eat wholesome foods that don't tax the system, the body will do as it's designed and detox itself on a daily basis. I take some aminos that work to clear the liver detox pathways, but not any herbal detox products or special detox protocol.

I was mentored by Greg Ellis and I did follow his homeopathic protocols in the past and recommend him if you're seeking to learn more about that sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Steve

There's an article by Aajonus - A New Theory of Disease?

where he says: "All of the methods to eliminate bacteria and viruses in food rob us of nutrients and create more toxins. Consequently, we must measure which is the greater risk: the low-risk of developing bacterial food-contamination, or from developing diseases from processed-food deficiencies and toxicity.
The common assumption and false premise is that microbes labeled "pathogens" are harmful and must be eradicated. Compound this with the common assumption and false premise that if a substance is toxic at any level, it is toxic at all levels."

there is much more there

I like to eat raw meat and eggs. I makes me feel good - do you think Aajonus is right that this is low-risk activity?

thank you once again for answering my questions


Steve Maxwell said...

Hi Rafal,

I do think consuming raw eggs and meat are reasonable, low risk activities and the more particular you are about your food sources, the lower the risk becomes.

bender645 said...

Hi Steve,

Great blog and great info. Two questions:

1. Plant foods of every kind seem to be absent from your diet. Is this by design? Do you believe that you are missing any important nutrients as a result?

2. Completely different topic - I missed the announcement about your Philly workshops/certifications. Can you tell me when you will be returning to Philly?

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,
Great Blog! Just curious as to what you take in your sleep stack?

I'm currently looking into ways to improve sleep quality (wake up 5+ times each night).


p.s Loved your seminars on 'The Boys Are Back In Town' DVD collection!! Looking forward to many future products!

Steve Maxwell said...

Hi Dav,

Sorry for the delayed response, I just found some comments on the blog site for which I'd never received an email notification.

For a sleep stack, I currently take some ZMA, GABA and melatonin. I also like that Bach Flower sleep remedy. An effective stack I read about put together by Coach Christian Thibaudau is:

5-10 grams GABA
10-15 grams glycine
10-20 grams glutamine
15 mg b-3/niacinamide
100-200 mg 5-HTP
1 serving ZMA
if you can afford it, add 400 mg phosphatidyl serine

if you're feeling extra wakeful, add some melatonin.

Thanks for the kind words on the DVD. It's been great to get so much positive feedback and it's led to several upcoming video projects.

Steve Maxwell said...

Hi bender645,

1) I do eat plant foods. When I eat at restaurants or the Whole Foods buffet, I always have broccoli, greens, creamed spinach, some olives.

I eat unpasteurized sauerkraut and cucumber pickles, which are readily available around here, since it's a foodie town.

I don't eat much roughage; it doesn't agree with me and gives me digestive discomfort, though I will eat a salad from time to time if it looks appealing. I eat few raw vegetables of any kind. The sauerkrauts are pre-digested by bacteria.

I do think plant foods are vastly overrated. Animal food antioxidants are of higher values than any plant food antioxidants. And for every so-called anti-oxidant in these plant foods is an accompanying, potentially irritating compound. For every alleged benefit is an equal potential reactive response, a migraine, a rash, hives, and/or nervous system issues.

Food chemical sensitivities are suffered by many but understood by few in this country. there's some very interesting work being done in Australia at the Royal Prince Albert hospital.

2) I'd like to be back in Philly as soon as possible! I don't have a return date set yet, but I will be in Edison NJ, at Zach Even-Esh's gym 12 July. That's not a KB cert but it will be one of the most exciting and entertaining seminars of the year.
The kb certs will be announced as they come up. This first one at Maxercise is going to open the gates.

Sue said...

In regards to your amazing body - how much is it related to the foods you eat and how much to the supplements? Do we need supplements? The exercise probably play a major part in your body shpae.

Tom said...

Hi Steve

I'd like to see a blog post on the supplements you use. Which ones you think are worth taking and which aren't.

Thanks for sharing all the information you have on your blog.


Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

Is pemmican raw? I know its beef jerky, and jerky is typically a dehydrated raw beef, but does that mean that pemmican is considered a "raw" meat.
Warm Regards

Steve Maxwell said...

Pemmican isn't raw. The meat is dehydrated into jerky at a low temperature and the beef tallow is rendered. The meat (fresh, not dehydrated) is in a 1:1 ratio with the fat. I read in one of the Paleo nutrition books that pemmican is 95% assimilated by the body. - Steve

ramon25 said...

Hello Steve, I'm a big fan and follow your blog religiously. I have a few questions about your diet sorry for posting on such an old thread. First it doesn't seem like your diet has a lot of variety in it. I don't think you need a lot of variety if your eating so low carb like that but is my observation correct? Also do you think that eating meat from conventional feed lots is a bad idea? I am trying follow a diet as similar to yours as possible. So to me its looks like pemmican,beef,eggs, cheese, yogurt and protein powder? Is that right? So you have no idea how many calories you consume? It does not seem like much to me. Even less that 2000 a day. Also any pointer's so i can eat as much like you as possible. Oh your mobility dvd is awesome. Are you going to make the advanced joint mobility any time soon.