Faux Health Foods and Why I Stay Away

I saw something the other day that bugged me. Like really bugged me. So much so that I decided to write on it.

My very first post on this blog which you can access here:


I talked about so called super foods and if they really are that super. I’m not against eating so called super foods. Blueberries as I stated in that post are wonderful and very healthy and I eat them whenever I can get them. I just think labeling them super foods in misleading. After all liver and a chunk of red meat is loaded with tons of nutrients and I don’t hear anyone calling a rib-eye super food, although maybe they should….

My point is that while I don’t call any foods super I still eat foods called by that name. (Cherry pie is an entirely different topic and most definitely super).

Then there are the faux health foods, foods that appear to be healthy but in reality are just as junky as any other junk food as well as some others that aren’t so bad but you still have to be careful.


I like a good chip with the appropriate dip. It’s not typically on my menu but is enjoyed every once in a while. Why? Well it’s no secret that chips aren’t exactly healthy. Want proof?

Potato chips are made with potatoes (not bad) and sunflower, corn or canola oil (bad). 15 chips of one brand can have 160 calories with 10 grams of fat. No I’m not against consuming fat, I am however against consuming a whole bunch of omega-6 fatty acids which is pretty much what these are slathered in. I also don’t think eating most of your calories from fat is generally a good idea.

Put a little dip on those and now your in no man’s land regarding the amount of calories you can consume with ease. Not to mention that many of those dips are made with omega-6 fats and partially hydrogenated fats, the latter being something no person should consume.

So what faux food am I talking about? Chips that are baked or that are made with olive oil or avocado oil. Let me be clear. I’m not saying don’t every have some chips now and again. But lets look at a couple of things.

Healthier? Probably. Just as likely to cause overabundance of calories? YUP

Healthier? Probably. Just as likely to cause overabundance of calories? YUP

Avocado oil is definitely better than omega-6 laden corn or sunflower oil and I do use it in my own home for cooking purposes as it makes a nice salad dressing and has a high smoke point if I’m cooking something on the stove. BUT eating a bunch of extra avocado oil isn’t something that should be done regularly. Why? Because it’s a lot of extra fat.

This is akin to my favorite of all deserts, cherry pie. Yeah I eat cherry pie cuz it’s  CHERRYFREAKINGPIE! But I only get it maybe 4 times a year. Ok , maybe 5. Why would I limit myself to only a few times a year? Because cherry pie is one of those foods where I can’t eat just one piece.

If Superman has kryptonite, the PharmacyBrute has cherry pie.

If Superman has kryptonite, the PharmacyBrute has cherry pie.

Could I eat a little more pie throughout the year and be fine? Absolutely. Could I eat chips a bit more throughout the year and be fine? Absolutely. But it has to be intentional and so often things like chips and for me pie becomes unintentional. What does that mean?

It’s time to digress quite a bit.


Unintentionality is the characteristic of being unintentional, meaning no thought is put into it. I believe this is why many people struggle with lifestyle. They are intentional for a time with their new “lifestyle” but since it isn’t easy or it’s too restricting or results aren’t what they want, they ditch their intentional lifestyle and let unintentionality run its course.

It’s so easy not to think about what your eating. Heck I even see people at the pharmacy who have no idea what medications they are taking or even what they are for. One lady even called and asked if she had medication ready. I told her she had a couple and asked which one she was looking for. She wasn’t sure. I asked what the medication was for. She didn’t know. I asked what she saw the doctor for. She didn’t know. Really? Sigh.


The feeling I get when someone tells me they don’t know why they’ve seen the doctor. I can’t make this up.

Chips and pie make it easy to become unintentional with your food. BBQ’s can have that effect too. I’ve seen whole packages of Oreos devoured with little thought to what was going on. That’s around 2500 calories.

These foods make it easy to not think about what you are doing. You unintentionally eat much more than you normally would. Don’t be unintentional about your eating.

Back to the matter at hand, faux health foods. Chips are one food you have to be careful with. Another are powerbars or protein bars. I think these are definitely less likely to cause problems, especially since many people use them as a meal replacement rather than addition to their meal. It’s the latter scenario that causes concern.

Dried Fruits and Trail Mixes also present problems. Used in the situation of carrying something lightweight while actually hiking on a trail and expending calories, these can be useful. Having around as a snack while sitting all day at a desk or on the couch not so much. Try hydrated fruit. It’s super tasty and has the added benefit of water.

SunChips aren’t really that much better than avocado oil chips and should be treated accordingly.

Granola is a long time honored breakfast, snack and otherwise well written about food. We all know granola isn’t as low in calories as we wished it was. If you eat it be sure to actually measure out how much is going into your mouth. Get a scale because a volume measure isn’t as accurate.

Most sports drinks fall into this category as well. Most energy drinks are beneficial only after some intense working out. Intervals training would be an example and even then some dextrose in water will work great and is so much cheaper. I’ve found that they can also be beneficial to newbies at the gym when they go a little too hard and drop their blood sugar a little too low, but even then they don’t need a bottle. A few swigs and a few minutes rest and most people are able to bounce back.

Yogurts can be a problem too, mostly when you get them from restaurants or fast food joints. And yes Starbucks qualifies as fast food. While yogurt typically isn’t a problem, many come with granola and added sugar. These can easily top 600 calories in one go. Again for someone that is eating or trying to eat a 1500 calorie/day diet this might get your there a little too quickly.

In short it pays to pay attention to what you’re eating and to have some intent with what and how much you’re eating. In the next post I will talk about how to be intentional with your food.



Disclaimer: All info on this website is for education purposes only. Any dietary or lifestyle changes that readers want to make should be done with the guidance of a competent medical practitioner. The author assumes no responsibility nor liability  for the use or dissemination of this information. Anyone who chooses to apply this information for their own personal use does so at their own risk.





Cardio and Metabolism Part Deux

In part one we discussed a little about thyroid and cardio. You can access it here if you missed it:


The skinny of it was that people who perform chronic cardio are at risk of causing problems with their thyroid function, especially if calorie intake drops too drastically. In one study we reviewed women who were eating 8kcal/kg/day (or 454 kcal for 125lbs women) and performing exercise had a decrease in T3, your primary thyroid hormone.

Lowering T3 is like taking your foot off the gas pedal and expecting your car to speed up, it just ain’t gonna happen no matter how frustrated you get or how much you scream.

Thyroid 102

Since we discussed about thyroid hormone itself today we’re going to discuss a little about thyroid testing.Welcome to thyroid 102.

Thyroid testing by many doctors usually consists of testing TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone. This is the hormone shot out by the pituitary in response to TRH or thyrotropin releasing hormone. When TSH is released it binds to the thyroid gland to produce T3 and T4. As T3 and T4 are released they tell the pituitary to slow production of TSH since the thyroid hormones are in place. When the thyroid hormones are used up the cycle repeats.

Testing TSH is important but doesn’t tell you everything. In fact, TSH can be “normal” and your thyroid status might still be messed up. Some people have a hard time converting T4 to T3. Too little carb intake may be one reason. But if all the doctor looks at is TSH and doesn’t pay attention to T4 and T3 and some others like reverse T3 the full picture of what might going on won’t be seen and thyroid according to TSH alone will appear normal.

In short talk to your doctor about doing a full thyroid panel which includes these other measures because many doctors will consider a full thyroid panel as TSH not all of them, but many of them.


Now that we’ve discussed thyroid a little more in detail, I think it behooves the conversation to discuss glycogen. Glycogen is a substance that is concentrated in the muscles and liver for use as energy. In fact muscle glycogen is the first thing that skeletal muscle will turn to for energy. And if you haven’t figured out from the name, glycogen is made from glucose.

Weight lifting and sprinting and running will use glycogen but at different levels. A bout of lifting can decrease glycogen by ~25-40% depending on duration and intensity where one 30 second sprint can deplete stores by 33% and 2 sprints by 47%. [1-3]

Glycogen needs to be repleted. Enter in carbs. People that are very active and using their glycogen without eating carbs to replenish them will have to use ketones for energy and/or breakdown protein to create glucose to then be stored as glycogen. For people who have lower activity levels this may be ok, key word being may. For individuals who are very active the level of glucose needed is going to increase to keep things even keel.

Gluconeogenesis in the liver can supply about 100g glucose/day at the most (it is likely to be less) in most people. [4] It is controlled hormonally by insulin and glucagon. Insulin stops the process and contrary to popular belief protein stimulates insulin production. There’s a great article on it here:


So when you aren’t getting enough glucose your body will turn on gluconeogenesis for blood glucose to be utilized throughout the body. This is all fine and dandy unless you are working really hard day in and day out and burning calories like a furnace. It’s going to be difficult to replace glycogen without glucose and glucose primarily comes from carbs.

People who are glucose deficient, or are expending lots of energy doing things like cardio and weights regularly will need a shift in metabolism to compensate. That’s when the body starts reducing T3. It needs to conserve somewhere so T3 goes down.

Homer's problem isn't glycogen....it's lack of burning glycogen.

Homer’s problem isn’t glycogen….it’s lack of burning glycogen. The opposite problem of having no or little glycogen and trying to run endlessly is also problematic.


Cortisol is the second part of this equation and is generally regarded by many anti-cardio folk as one major reason a person shouldn’t engage in regular cardio. When there is a deficiency of glucose cortisol will increase to help mobilize gluconeogenesis (glucose production from protein) and decrease glucose utilization.

As with everything else, certain amounts of cortisol are absolutely necessary for proper functioning. High cortisol is considered our stress hormone and too much can cause sleep problems, decrease in immune function, gaining weight while exercising and eating “right”, problems in the bedroom or lack of desire altogether, headaches and the list goes on.

Again cortisol, in the right amounts is super important. Too much for too long can eventually lead to adrenal fatigue and then more powerful hormones like epinephrine take over because your adrenals just can’t take it anymore. Then you’re really up the creek without a paddle.

So cortisol becomes chronically elevated and T3 becomes low….essentially a recipe for fat gain, lethargy, anxiety and sliding down a slope that if not corrected will cause chronic health problems.

What to Do?

Some people may be thinking to themselves, “I do heavy cardio routines and have been losing weight and feeling great”. Good for you. No really, I’m serious. I don’t deny there is bioindividuality that can be a boon for a select few. But for people that are going to engage in something that is stressful on the body they have to be willing to treat the body in the right way and not the “right” way.

If you are losing weight doing what you’re doing and feeling good, then keep it up. At some point though you will hit a plateau. It’s as that point that you have to be careful about doing endless hours of cardio and not feeding your body because the effects may be very detrimental including all those things just mentioned.

As noted in the study from part 1 [5] women who ate sufficient amounts of calories were able to maintain T3. But if they ate too little T3 dropped. Bad mojo that is. I don’t know that 30kcal/kg/day is required to keep that T3 up, maybe 25 instead. For 125lbs (56.8kg) woman that is about 1400 kcal/day of food intake.

Now this isn’t a set number if you are a female and weigh 125lbs. It might need to be a bit more or a bit less depending on your energy expenditure and what you’re trying to accomplish but you can use it as a guide. While this study wasn’t done in men, using similar numbers again gives us an estimate. For a 175lbs (79.5kg) the equation gives us just under 2000kcal/day.

Remember too that carbohydrates are not evil, just like cholesterol isn’t evil, just like insulin isn’t evil, just like cherry pie isn’t evil. In fact I think I could go for a piece right now. But too many carbs, above and beyond what you need isn’t so healthy if done regularly. Eating an entire cherry pie 1 time probably isn’t going to do a whole lot other than make you feel like a glutton and bloated. Doing it regularly is problematic.

Moral of the story, get enough to provide for what your body needs. There is no exact number. If you are feeling lethargic and are having problems with energy and weight gain and are working out like there is no tomorrow then check to see if your at a large calorie deficit. If you are already fairly lean then shoot for an isocaloric diet (a calorie amount to maintain bodyweight) and give your body a break.Look at getting around 3-4g of carbohydrate/kg/day for a couple of days and let your metabolism get what it needs to reset.

Summary and Conclusion

Cardio workouts are a good way to keep your heart and body healthy provided you’re smart about it. Going for long distances every single day and not supplying your body with the macronutrients it needs to sustain such activity is not the way to do it. Get Liftin!

Too little fuel will shut down thyroid and increase cortisol and make any attempts to maintain or achieve a desired look or feel nearly impossible.

People that perform moderate amounts of exercise and eat few carbohydrates and have no problems with thyroid or weight gain are probably right where they should be activity and calorie wise. But be careful. Remember that carbs aren’t evil.

People that are having problems with it need to give their bodies a break and recouperate. Remember that you really can’t fool your body. Treat it right and it will treat you right.


1.Haff, G. Gregory, et al. “Carbohydrate supplementation and resistance training.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 17.1 (2003): 187-196.

2.Haff, G. Gregory, et al. “Carbohydrate supplementation attenuates muscle glycogen loss during acute bouts of resistance exercise.” International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 10.3 (2000): 326-339.

3.Esbjörnsson-Liljedahl, Mona, et al. “Metabolic response in type I and type II muscle fibers during a 30-s cycle sprint in men and women.” Journal of Applied Physiology 87.4 (1999): 1326-1332.


5.Loucks AB, Callister R. Induction and prevention of low-T3 syndrome in exercising women. Am J Physiol. 1993 May;264(5 Pt 2):R924-30.