Vitamin D Optimization: Sunlight or Supplements?

A view from my front porch on this sunny Oregon day

Summer is coming, and even in the rainy northwest that means a lot more sun. With sun comes awesome opportunities to get Vitamin D! We hear so much now about people with Vitamin D deficiencies and that leading to a whole host of problems both in terms of mood and long term health. I've been taking 6-8,000 IU's of supplemental Vitamin D every day for 8 months now, and my levels have gone from low 20's to the mid 50's ppm. Now, this was during the winter, so I know I wasn't getting a lot of sun. That shows me that supplementation is effective at raising my standing Vitamin D levels. Great! However, Chris Kresser has begun recommending a range of 30-50 ppm because the research which supported levels of 60-75 ppm has been shown to have serious flaws, and hence those claims are unsubstantiated at this time.

Chris talks about this in the latest episode of his Revolution Health Radio podcast, where he breaks down the problems with the high Vitamin D research, and explains the issues with how we measure Vitamin D because there are both active and inactive forms. It gets pretty technical, which was part of the reason I wanted to summarize that here, and give an idea of my plans going forward after hearing this information.

With my current levels I'm on the high end, so I'm going to try and bring it down a bit. I'm going to drop it to just 5,000 IU's and see how that goes.  However, I'm looking into supplementing with natural sunlight as an alternative to capsules. Just 10-15 minutes of moderate sun exposure a day can give 10,000 IU's of Vitamin D to a light-skinned person, and if you do it in the right way you'll avoid cancer risk and sunburn. Check out these articles for some awesome tips on how to optimize your sun exposure and your diet to prevent burns, and let you soak up that Vitamin D naturally.

The thing about this is that humans evolved to get our Vitamin D this way, not to take it in through our digestive system in huge 5000 IU bursts, so it makes some sense to me that it would be preferable. As long as you do it for short periods of time at first to build up your tolerance, and eat skin-protecting foods (a la Mark Sisson's article) that should be all the D you need. My current plan is to start skipping my capsule on sunny days, and instead just go outside with the direct purpose of Vitamin D absorption. I'll combine this with some grounding, barefoot stretching/yoga in the grass to get centered, relaxed, and get all that awesome Vitamin D!


A note on Bulletproof travel

Hello! I've been working on an annual volleyball tournament in Oakland, CA, and am currently making the long drive home to PDX.

I did my best to eat a Bulletproof Diet on my trip, and I feel pretty good about how I did! I kept up my intermittent fasting with Bulletproof Coffee the whole time, which always helps with clearing toxins from the system and maintaining a nice, stable energy throughout the day. When you sit in a car for 10 hours, stay in air-conditioned hotels on unfamiliar beds, get up and go to sleep at weird times, and are sometimes forced to eat less healthy than your normal standard, you can feel pretty gross and out of sorts. But maintaining my morning coffee routine and Bulletproof Intermittent Fasting from 8pm-2pm went a long way to balance me out and keep my energy and mental performance at their best. I feel so much more resilient when I'm doing intermittent fasting with Bulletproof Coffee so I'm better equipped to handle all those weird changes that come with travel.

My Instagram

Luckily my wife and I figured out our Bulletproof travel routine earlier this month on a trip down to New Mexico to visit family. I'll never travel without a couple sticks of Kerrygold unsalted butter, some 85% dark chocolate Lindt bars, and some raw cashews and coconut flakes again! We brought everything with us so we didn't have to worry about finding a place to buy it down there, and could snack while traveling. It's not so bad when you're nourished and stick to low-toxin foods, but I'm glad to be back this week!


Sleep Optimization and Mindfulness

I've been having a hard time with sleep the last few weeks. It seems like even though I get 8 hours most of the time, I'm feeling groggy and tired in the mornings. This has led to a bunch of issues because not only do I feel less productive and alert, but I've also felt more worried and stressed because I haven't known how to solve this issue. It's even affected my mindfulness meditation because I've been feeling sleepy and drifting off while meditating! So my mindfulness practice, the thing I do to center myself in the present moment and help relieve stress, has become an added stressor! No good!

I've been doing a bunch of reading and I've narrowed down a list of possible causes for my fatigue:
  • I've built up a sleep debt, and haven't gotten the extra sleep I need to make up that debt.
  • I've been exercising more recently (Jiu Jitsu, running, and interval training) and my body may need more rest to recuperate from that activity.
  • My blood sugar could be low from my overnight fast.
  • I could be drinking caffeine too close to bed leading me to not get as restful sleep.
  • My exposure to artificial lights and screens within 2 hours of sleep could be affecting my body's natural sleep signals.
  • I recently changed pillows, and have been trying to get used to sleeping on my back.

...now that I look at this list, it seems like all of these things are playing some role. Now I can address them head on and see what things may be actually causing the problem. One of the issues here is that normally you would just say, "You're tired? Well then get more sleep!" but it's not quite as simple as that. It's clearly been shown that you can get more or less efficient sleep based on a number of factors and that the difference has to do with your brain wave patterns. You need to be getting the right amount of REM and the deep sleep brain wave patterns that are associated with real rest. Some good sources to look at for this kind of info are:

Dave Asprey's articles with awesome sources cited:

Chris Kresser's articles and podcast on improving sleep and the health effects of sleep deprivation:

Source: My Instagram, a Bulletproof Coffee mocha I made

The caffeine cycle:

One of the most troubling things about this I've been pushing my caffeine intake all the way out to 4 or 5 PM sometimes because I'm feeling so tired! This then becomes a negative cycle where that late afternoon caffeine makes my sleep that night less efficient and restful. I've been drinking Bulletproof Coffee for months, and haven't had any problems because I just had one cup in the morning. Now that I've gotten behind on sleep and started to have caffeine later in the day it's created this negative cycle. To me this shows that it's not the caffeine that's the problem, it's the way I use it. 

Goal: Get quality sleep

Quality sleep is a huge part of the health spectrum that needs equal attention with diet, exercise and stress management. If you aren't getting good, solid rest every night, you're not going to be performing your best, and I've really been noticing that in the last couple of weeks. Now that I've gotten some advice and seen some issues with my sleep habits I'm going to start making adjustments to optimize my sleep!

Have you found any habits that majorly improve your sleep?


Guest post: How to Source and Select Quality Grass Fed Beef for a Paleo or Real Food Diet

For today's post I'm going to direct you over to Grass Fed Girl to check out a guest post I did on sourcing and purchasing grassfed meats from local farms. I really put my fullest effort into this post because I want to get people excited about grassfed meat and supporting their local farmers! Check the post out and let me know what you think.


Upgrading Myself with Supplements

I've talked before about some of the supplements I take (for thyroid and brain function), but it's been a couple of months and I wanted to do an update! This is basically a journaling activity for me to see where I'm at and catalog any developments in my supplement routine, but I also wanted to put the information out there so that others can see what works for me.

The supplements I take every day, as of 5/15/13 are:


When necessary (every few weeks or especially if my immune system is weak, or I've had to take antibiotics), I take a 50 billion-count probiotic from Now Foods. You can also see from the picture above that I've been using some form of whey protein as an exercise aid, and have been transitioning into using it only grassfed sources.

I don't do any multivitamin because I want to get most of my vitamins and minerals from my food, and I can't ensure the quality of the ingredients I'm getting. I also want to take a targeted approach and only take supplements that I know are hard to get enough of in my diet, or having a surplus would be beneficial. These are some of the supplements I've been taking and continue to take while others have fallen by the wayside. I find them to be an important part of my overall health regimen.

Some supplements I'm looking to experiment with are:
  • Vitamin K2 (people are often deficient)
  • Vitamin A (recommended by my naturopath)
  • 5HTP (helps with the seratonin system)
  • Collagen (joints and ligaments, improved flexibility/mobility)
  • B12 (amino acids good for brain health)

I get most of my nutrients from food, but to optimize my body and brain to the highest degree possible I've added some of these supplements in a targeted way. I'll check back in on this topic in a couple months after further revisions and testing of new additions. 


Bulletproof Coffee ice cream tutorial

I got a wave of inspiration today, and decided to try something totally new. My wife and I recently made Dave Asprey's "Get Some" ice cream for the first time, and it was soooo good. It's totally Paleo/primal-friendly because it's made with grassfed butter, coconut oil, MCT oil, raw eggs, and xylitol, so it's a really great source for healthy fats, and you don't have to cook anything so you don't have to deal with any harmful oxidized oils. Dave told a story on a recent podcast where he said that he ate this ice cream every day for 6 months once, and lost weight during that time. So tasty and good for you!

I decided to put a spin on it and make a coffee version! This is really great because it brings together the principles behind Bulletproof Coffee and the "Get Some" ice cream recipe to create an amazing dessert. (To be truly bulletproof, eat it before 2pm so the caffeine doesn't affect your sleep.)

Here's how I made Bulletproof Coffee ice cream:

1. Check out Dave's recipe for "Get Some" ice cream to get the specific amounts and instructions, but instead of mixing it all in the blender, first put the butter, coconut oil and MCT oil in a small sauce pan on very low heat until liquid. Keep it very low so that none of the fat oxidizes. 

2. Get your freshly ground, low-toxin coffee, and add it to the liquid fat mixture. A fairly coarse grind works best. Remove it from the heat, and let steep for approximately 5 minutes. Add the other ingredients (eggs, vanilla, water, etc.) to the blender while the coffee/fat liquid is steeping.

3. Pour the coffee mixture through a cheese cloth to strain out the grounds. It takes some squeezing to get all the oil out, so it's a bit messy, but worth it to get all that delicious fat!  (Note above that I put mine directly over the blender and pushed the lid down on top to form a tight mesh for the coffee to strain through. It worked pretty well!)

4. Blend it up and then add it to your ice cream maker. It should be a thick yogurt-like consistency, but if you want it to be harder and more icy you can add more water. After 20 minutes your blended mixture will have turned into the creamiest, most delicious ice cream around. Thanks, Dave!

The final product: Bulletproof Coffee ice cream!


Bulletproof Diet travel tips

This last weekend my wife and I went to Las Cruces, New Mexico to visit my sister and see her new baby! We had a really great time just hanging out with them for a couple of days and even got to see White Sands National Monument which was insane. Giant sand dunes as far as you can see that are bright white! It was amazing.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about the trip here because sticking with your routines can be really hard when traveling, especially when you're eating no grains or sugar because restaurant food is full of that stuff. This was the first time we've flown anywhere since starting to eat Paleo/Bulletproof so it was really cool to experiment with how to stick to our goals, but still have fun and enjoy ourselves.

Basically we decided that we would need to bring a few things to help make the process easier. One  of the hardest things about traveling is not having anything to eat on hand, so you end up buying junk at the airport. To combat this we brought a sea salt grinder, Lindt 85% chocolate, a big container of coconut oil, 2 sticks of Kerrygold grassfed butter (wrapped but put in a plastic container), and a bunch of nuts and coconut flakes. When we got hungry along our travels we always had these things on hand! A handful of nuts and a tablespoon of coconut oil will go a long way to making you feel full and energized if you're in a pinch and don't have time for a real meal.

We were a little concerned about bringing the oil and butter on the plane, but we found out that as long as they're solid it's fine to bring them. On the way down we got an extra security check so they could look at the oil, but it all went through just fine.

We also brought some of our low-toxin coffee to make in the hotel so we could still drink our Bulletproof Coffee every day! Maintaining this as my morning routine was really beneficial and kept me feeling good during the trip.

When we were down there we tried to stick to Paleo principles as much as possible, and we didn't do too bad! One night we made grilled hamburgers and instead of eating buns I used lettuce and made a wrap. It was amazing! I did splurge a little bit and add some bleu cheese for a treat. Sooo good.

I try not to evangelize and talk too much about my health/nutrition views with people because I don't want to seem preachy or judgmental, but that's hard to do when you're staying with someone and eating with them a lot over the course of a few days. I tried to just say what I was doing, and the basic reasons why, but also tried to keep a balanced perspective about it and just have a conversation. My sister and her family just seemed interested to hear about what I was doing, and we had some good talks. My brother-in-law even tried butter in his coffee!
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