Pack Your Meals! Tips On How To Succeed

containers-stacked-for-storageAnyone who knows me well is aware of the fact that I am consistent about packing clean meals and toting them around with me throughout the day. It can be cumbersome to pack food, especially when I know I will be out of the house for most of the day, but by doing so I have peace of mind knowing that I will be able to stay on track with my meal plan no matter what. Competitors and fitness professionals practice this habit and can attest to the power of clean eating in maintaining a sculpted, muscular physique.

However, I realize that many of you who do not compete or have an involvement in fitness may be wondering if there is any point to packing meals if you are an average person. There are a multitude of benefits to be gained from packing meals for the day:

• Portion Control – If you measure and weigh your portions before placing them into containers, you will have full control over your intake.

• Cooking Method – Steaming, baking, boiling, grilling and poaching are easy cooking methods which also enable you to prepare food without adding unnecessary fat.

• Save Money – By purchasing food at the grocery store and preparing it yourself, you will save a significant amount of money.

• Maintain A Low Sodium Diet – Restaurants often add significant amounts of sodium to enhance the flavor of their dishes. If you are trying to keep your sodium intake low, you are better off preparing your own food.

• Accommodate Medical Dietary Restrictions And Food Allergies – Restaurant meals may add ingredients which are forbidden from your meal plan due to medical conditions or food allergies. Instead of taking a risk, you are better off preparing your meals and packing them with you.

When I worked the Arnold Sports Festival Expo in Columbus, Ohio earlier this month, I made sure to drink plenty of water, filling up my one liter container 3 to 4 times each day. I also brought my Hot Logic Mini with me ( and had meals from Icon Meals ( with me, and I made sure to consume a meal every 3 hours to keep my energy levels up. If you are committed to living a healthy lifestyle, you will find ways to stay in line!

I always recommend tempered glass storage containers over plastic, since heating up ingredients in most plastic containers carries a risk of deranging the plastic and releasing harmful chemicals into the food. I make an exception with BPA-free containers, and recommend the types which have locking lids to prevent leakage of food.
The BEST meal packing system out there is made by Six Pack Bags:

By adopting the habit of packing your meals, you will be on the road to better health!

The Importance Of Iodine


There is a rather insidious mineral deficiency which happens to run rampant in our society, and which negatively impacts the function of an endocrine gland which gets a lot of attention: the thyroid. The mineral I am talking about is iodine, and chances are that you are deficient in it.

The thyroid gland cannot synthesize thyroid hormones without iodine, so if your iodine stores are negligible, you have been doing your thyroid gland a major disservice. Add a stressful lifestyle to the mix, and you pretty much have locked in significant issues with thyroid function.

You might argue that you use sea salt, and since the sea contains most of the earth’s iodine, doesn’t that count? The problem is that most of the iodine is lost during the crystallization process. And forget about Morton’s Iodized Salt. The amount of iodine in that product is so small that it wouldn’t even begin to address a deficiency.

If you’re a health “nut” and have banned gluten-containing foods from your diet, that means that breads which may offer a decent source of iodine are no longer options for you. Those of you who are exercise fanatics (and yes, I am one of those people for sure) excrete quite a bit of iodine through your sweat, and if that iodine isn’t somehow replaced, you are going through each day in a state of severe iodine depletion. Another significant factor in the development of iodine deficiency (which, by the way, affects about 75% of the population) is the fact that people with cardiovascular issues are advised to limit their intake of salt. If you are a fitness person, especially if you compete, you probably avoid salt like the plague, which is not a good thing for your iodine stores or your thyroid function.

Dr. David Brownstein, who wrote a brilliant study called Iodine – Why You Need It And Why You Can’t Live Without It, claims that optimal health is not possible if someone has an iodine deficiency. Over time, the suffering thyroid gland can impact heart health, and can be implicated in the progression of certain types of cancer.

Symptoms of iodine deficiency include fatigue, dry skin, brittle hair, constipation, or depression. If you have a few stubborn pounds that you can never lose despite every intervention, or if you have water retention issues, low iodine levels may be the culprit.

Whatever you do, though, don’t pay attention to the RDA guidelines, because they are too tiny to make any difference in your iodine stores. The best dosage I recommend is 6.25 milligrams daily for several weeks, then taper off gradually (every other day for a week or two, then every two days, then stop). Beware of any bowel overactivity or acne breakouts, as those can be indicative of iodine intolerance. If you have any major medical issues, seek the advice of your physician before embarking on an iodine replacement regimen.

If you don’t want to take supplements, you can eat kelp snacks or seafood. Another important thing you can do to maximize the availability of iodine stores in your body is to avoid consumption of soy products, which block iodine absorption.

Worth Your Weight In Salt: Why Some Dietary Salt Is Good

Originally published on on Wednesday, 28 May 2014
Salt has gotten a bad rap due to its rampant overuse in the food and restaurant industries and its potential to elevate blood pressure in susceptible individuals. However, it is responsible for the generation of nerve impulses, electrical conduction of the heart, and the contraction of all other muscles in the body.

The human body contains 4 to 8 ounces of salt and requires this to regulate body water, proper blood volume and normal blood pressure. It’s quite remarkable how the body can rid itself of excess sodium via the production of sweat and urine. Perhaps you have noticed instances in which you have retained water after a brief spike in dietary sodium intake, but this is rather short-lived in healthy individuals. What happens is that the high concentration of sodium causes fluid to travel from body tissues into the bloodstream to dilute the sodium influx. Blood volume increases, then blood pressure also increases, triggering the kidneys to increase urine output in order to excrete the excess sodium and water.

I’m not suggesting that you consume massive amounts of sodium in your daily meal plan, but I have met many competitors and athletes who are so terrified of the idea of consuming any sodium that they do themselves a disservice by pulling their daily sodium intake down significantly. When you keep sodium intake at very low levels for the long term, the kidneys will conserve serum sodium as a safeguard. When contest day approaches, no amount of water manipulation will work to give you that dry and peeled look if sodium was not on board in the weeks preceding the event. It is a far better strategy to maintain a sodium intake of approximately 2 to 3 grams per day, so that when you drop sodium and water intake right before a contest, it will be much easier to shed that subcutaneous fluid.

If you still aren’t convinced of the importance of sodium in your daily diet, remember that your body needs sodium to function properly in general. You also lose a considerable amount of sodium through the profuse sweating that most, if not all, of you fellas experience during your intense lifting sessions. If you consume very little sodium, and also lose a great deal of sodium through sweat, muscle contractility will become impaired and cramping will often develop. That’s reason enough to grab a little sea salt and add it to a few meals each day.

You might want to experiment a bit to see when it is best for you to cut sodium for a contest. For most competitors, cutting sodium intake in half for four to seven days before the event, then cutting water the day before showtime seems to work well.

The Iodine Deficiency Epidemic

This is a GREAT article on iodine deficiency. I did NOT write this, but thought it was so well-written that I am displaying the entire article as it is found on Original post can be found here:


Few organs have been so misunderstood and mistreated as the human thyroid gland. Why, if it had any self-respect, it’d seek asylum in Russia along with Gerard Depardieu.

Unfortunately, the thyroid has chosen a more vengeful tactic – it’s wreaking havoc by playing a part in a silent epidemic that may be affecting the overall health of as much as 74% of U.S. adults.

When the thyroid is happy and functioning normally, it determines how your body uses energy (i.e., controls your metabolism), makes proteins affecting growth and development, plays a part in glucose consumption, helps regulate levels of blood lipids, and it even controls body temperature.

When you’re not giving it what it needs – when it’s not happy and functioning normally – it can cause fatigue and rampant weight gain, along with a host of problems including cancer.

It’s highly likely that you might have an unhappy thyroid, and if you do, it’s pathetic because the problem is oh-so-easy to remedy.

Before we get to the specific problem and the cure, though, let’s look at one of the fascinating stories that make up the medical history of this oft-ignored endocrine gland, one that shows that medicine is often myopic and causes other problems as bad or worse than the ones it was attempting to cure.

Shrink That Sucker With Radiation

In the 1920’s, doctors started focusing on the problem of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. This is the phenomenon whereby infants suddenly die in their cribs for no readily apparent reason.

Doctors began doing autopsies on babies that had died of SIDS and compared the findings with anatomy-book drawings to see if there were any physiological discrepancies.

Lo and behold, the babies who’d died of SIDS had grossly enlarged thyroid glands. Doctors theorized that these humungous glands put pressure on the infants’ tracheas during sleep, resulting in suffocation.

Now it was known that radiation could shrink the thyroid gland, so doctors around the country leapt into action and began irradiating the thyroids of every infant that they could lure through their clinic door. It was easy because they employed the old guilt game – parents who ignored the warning were deemed irresponsible.

Enlarged thyroids were a thing of the past! Chalk one up for medical research! SIDS was conquered! No longer would parents lie awake at night fearing the worst. They could rest ea…huh? What’s that you say? They were wrong???

You bet.

To find out how they screwed up, we have to take the Hot Tub Time Machine back to Revolutionary War times, which was when doctors and scientists were starting to establish medical schools. Then, as is the case now, medical schools needed bodies for dissection, and there were plenty of bodies almost literally lying around for the picking, especially since poor people were buried close to the surface of the ground. (Rich people had nice waterproof, Tupperware-esque caskets that were buried six feet under.)

These dissections and the resultant descriptions and drawings, along with body parts stored in pickle jars, formed a huge database that served as the basis of medical knowledge for the next couple of hundred years.

Now there’s a particular thing you need to know about the thyroid before we can tie all these links together. Since it’s part of the body’s immune system, the thyroid is especially prone to stress, regardless of whether that stress be caused by financial problems or poor nutrition, both of which are things that pretty much define being poor.

As a result, these cadavers – these cadavers that served as the reference point for doctors in the early 20th century – had small, shrunken, stressed-out thyroids.

Are you starting to figure it out yet? When the doctors from the 1920’s were looking at the thyroid glands of the autopsied SIDS babies, they weren’t looking at enlarged glands at all! It was the opposite! For the first time, they were looking at normal, healthy thyroid glands! It’s only when they compared them to the Revolutionary War-era cadavers that they looked enlarged.

The atrophied glands of the long-dead cadavers were an anomaly, a direct result of stress and poor nutrition. As a result, doctors made the wrong assumption and began needlessly irradiating healthy thyroid glands in children to shrink them.

So what happened to the children who received radiation treatments?

Years later many of them developed thyroid cancer, most likely as a direct result of being irradiated by uranium ions during childhood. Over 30,000 of them died in young adulthood. Meanwhile, SIDS continues to be the major cause of death in infants between one month and one year old.

So it goes.

Right around the same time that docs began irradiating healthy thyroid glands, they began successfully treating another thyroid problem: goiters.

When it Rains it Pours

The thyroid does its magic through the production of thyroid hormones, the main ones being triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones are synthesized from the amino acid tyrosine and iodine.

Without iodine, which needs to be provided through the diet, the thyroid freaks out. It cries for help by signaling the pituitary to release Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), which tells the thyroid gland to get busy making more hormones.

However, if there’s no iodine in the diet, the thyroid gland either forms nodules or it just gets bigger and bigger, forming what’s known as a goiter. These growths ranged from barely visible to huge bulges that made victims look like some of those bullfrogs that are part of the background on TV’s Swamp People.

Unfortunately, iodine isn’t as ubiquitous as other minerals. The farther away you get from the sea (the source of most earthly iodine) and its bounty, the harder it is to get iodine. Soil contains some, but amounts vary hugely, so vegetables grown in that soil provide an iffy source of iodine.

Luckily for goiter-necked people everywhere, the Morton Salt Company, in 1924, got the brilliant idea of adding iodine to its salt. With the birth of iodized table salt, the age of the goiter disappeared almost overnight.

Zip forward to modern times, though, and we’re in the midst of another thyroid crisis, again, at least partially, brought about by myopic doctors who’d no doubt do poorly in games of 3D chess.

Enter the Damned Doctors… Again

Despite its importance, dietary intake of iodine has decreased by about 50% from 1971 to 2001, the latest dates for which I could find research.

Why did that happen?

Several reasons. For one, the other main source of dietary iodine (other than iodized salt) used to be wheat flour, as iodine was used in its processing. However, much of wheat is now processed with bromide, a chemical cousin of iodine.

However, bromide doesn’t function like iodine in the thyroid. What’s more, it actually block iodine’s activity. (Add to that the trend of food-phobics fearing all things gluten and you can pretty much scratch bread off as a source of iodine.)

Other chemicals block iodine, too, among them chlorine and fluoride, found in drinking water. Another chemical, perchlorate, which is found in ground water and food supplies (it’s even used as a flavor enhancer in certain foods), also interferes with iodine absorption.

Then there’s the lack of consistency in the iodized table salt industry itself. A 2008 study found that of 88 samples of iodized table salt, less than half contained sufficient amounts to thwart off iodine deficiencies.

And then came the doctors. They first advised heart patients to restrict their salt intake, and then in a classic case of what must be good for the goose with congestive heart failure must be good for the gander with a healthy ticker, they told everyone to cut down on salt.

People took heed of their warnings and the saltshaker and its iodine stayed in cupboards and gradually turned into crystallized blocks that could have been mistaken for Lot’s wife.

Then there’s the exercise factor – men and women who exercise a lot excrete precious iodine through their sweat.

What you’re left with is a society where, by some estimates, 74% of its adults are deficient in this vital mineral. You’re also seeing a concomitant rise in benign (and malignant) thyroid growths and nodules, just like in the old days.

(Paradoxically, these low-iodine manufactured nodules can actually give someone hyperthyroidism, as the nodules that grow overproduce thyroid hormones.)

Many of you no doubt think that you’re not included in this dire statistic. You think you’re fine because you don’t restrict your salt intake at all; you eat out at restaurants, eat canned foods without so much as considering the salt content, and you even eat Cheetos.

Well guess again, my orange-fingered friend, processed foods don’t generally use iodized salt. Neither do restaurants. And that pinkish Himalayan salt that some Whole Foods employee in Birkenstocks told you to use? It’s piss-poor in iodine. So is sea salt because a lot of the iodine is lost during crystallization.

Testing is Simple

Chances are you have an iodine deficiency.

How do you know, and why should you care?

The effects are sometimes subtle or insidious, but consider this statement by Dr. David Brownstein, author of Iodine – Why You Need It And Why You Can’t Live Without It:

“Iodine is the most misunderstood nutrient. After 12 years of practicing medicine, I can say that it is impossible to achieve your optimal health if you do not have adequate iodine levels. I have yet to see any item that is more important for promoting health than iodine.”

On one dry-skinned hand, you might have overt symptoms. You may have trouble staying lean, which might be a direct result of thyroid inefficiency. You might have mysterious fatigue. You may suffer from unexplained autoimmune diseases, or have the aforementioned dry skin, be constipated, or suffer from depression.

A malfunctioning thyroid, courtesy of a lack of iodine, might also play a role in heart disease, psychiatric disorders, and various forms of cancer, including breast cancer.

(Consider that Japanese women, who have very high intakes of iodine, have 65% fewer cases of breast cancer. Consider also that there are more centegenarians on the Japanese island of Okinawa than anywhere else, and their daily iodine intake – mostly through kelp-derived products – is very high.)

Or it could be that you’re functioning reasonably well, at least for the time being, while still being deficient.

If you have one or more of the above symptoms or suspicions, blood tests for TSH, fT3 and fT4 (the “free,” or unbound versions of the hormones) might be in order. However, there’s a lot we don’t understand about the thyroid. “Normal” ranges, like “normal” Testosterone ranges, are way too broad for any kind of accurate assessment.

A much easier way to test for thyroid function – one that would be advisable for anyone to take, even if you’re without overt symptoms – would be to take your temperature first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. The normal temp is 98.6 degrees, but you probably won’t see that unless you’re sticking the thermometer someplace else other than your mouth, you sick puppy.

The perfect body temp taken by mouth is right around 98.2 degrees. Consider too, that body temp drops at night and starts to warm up as the day progresses, with the peak occurring between 4 and 6 PM. A variance of about .9 degrees throughout the day is perfectly normal.

That means that a morning body temp of about 97.6 or 97.7 or above is ideal, and anything substantially less is probably a strong indicator that you have hypothyroidism.

Just to give yourself more data, though, it’d probably be a good idea to add a second thermometer reading later on in the day during those peak hours of between 4 and 6 PM to see if you’re even close to 98.2 degrees.

What To Do About It

Luckily, iodine, in the form of supplements, is pretty inexpensive. However, dosages per pill vary widely between manufacturers. Some companies supply the mineral in tiny, RDA-sized dosages of 150 micrograms, whereas others supply it in milligram-sized capsules. (The largest I found was 12.5 mg. per capsule.)

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to say how much you’d need to remedy a deficiency. Simply taking the RDA would be like refilling a bucket with water by adding one drop a day.

A more functional approach would be to take between 6 mg. and 12 mg. for a period of weeks or months (up to three). If and when your body temp returns to its normal 98.6, you would transition to smaller doses closer to the RDA.

While some experts recommend much higher doses to alleviate deficiencies, there are some risks. On the minor side are problems such as acne, loose stools, or iodine allergies. On the severe side are worsening of thyroid problems or atrial fibrillation.

As always, play it smart if you try the supplement approach.

Other, more conservative approaches include simply eating more seafood or seaweed products, eliminating soy products from the diet (if you haven’t already) as they can block iodine absorption, and getting a water filter to take fluoride and chlorine from your drinking water.

Of course, these small-bore remedies, if they even work, would take much, much longer to show results.

At the very least, check your morning body temp to see if you’ve got anything to be concerned about, you goiter-neck, you.

Griffin, James, Ojeda, Sergio, Textbook of Endocrine Physiology, Oxford University Press, 3rd edition, 1996

Luoma, TC, “Luoma’s Big Damn Book of Knowledge,” Harper Collins, 12th edition, 2012.

Piccone, Nancy, “The Silent Epidemic of Iodine Deficiency,” Life Extension Magazine, October 2011

Tellebaum, Jacob, M.D., “Iodine Deficiency – An Old Epidemic is Back,” Psychology Today, August 17, 2011