How Long Can You Go Without That Morning Cup? Here’s A Real Energy Packed Alternative (recipe follows)

Who doesn’t like that first cup of coffee in the morning? Even the act of stopping to get it before work everyday is just part of the routine for many. The smell, the conversations that take place around coffee, it is more than a drink but a pleasurable icon in socializing enjoyed worldwide.

Discovered in Ethiopa by a goat herder around 850 AD, coffee, aka the “American lubricant,” is the second most valuable commodity in the world next to oil and also one of the fastest acting drugs known to man absorbing into every cell in the body and brain within minutes. Since as far back as a 14 year old freshmen in high school I have been dependent on this liquid stimulant to function daily. 50% of Americans drink 3-4 cups a day (330 million total cups a day) and then you add in caffeinated tea and soft drinks and its 80% of the adult nation also depends on this caffeine fix everyday.

God willing, to this day I have overcome many devitalizing vices in my life. From cigarettes in 2009 after 14 years, alcohol and its accompaniments a couple years before that and of course indulged in healthy eating habits to replace the drug-like toxins found in the crap food I was eating for so long. Although there are studies showing coffee to have higher antioxidant properties than any other food or drink, the idea of needing it was starting to weigh on me as a crutch.

So for the past 28 days until today I have refrained from the fuel I drank straight up and all caffeine for the first time in my life. I was fortunate enough to have a friend on the same path at this time to lend me his vegan approach to combating what was to soon come mentally and physically. Some plant trace minerals, DHA, B complex and some purified water to help curb the initial withdrawals and attempt to keep my caffeine-dependent sluggish mind alert. I knew the feeling of letting go of other habitually damaging yet accepted foods like refined sugar and white flour. Luckily the symptoms were brief in my gradual shift of eliminating those things. But, letting go of caffeine was the unthinkable for me for a long time. I needed direction and am always open to organic solutions.

I did not ever plan on giving up coffee completely. I was looking to get some clarity on how “addicted” I was to caffeine and without it assess ten general physical skills, adopted from Crossfit; cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. All of these skills could be questionable without a stimulant at some point during the day right? Would I fall on my face while running or crumble and break my back trying to do power snatches without that false sense of energy I was used to from caffeine?

What is my conclusion at the end of 28 days?(FYI: I did get laid of from my job of 3 ½ years on the 8th day of no caffeine so my sleep schedule and effect of not working 50 hours a week may have contributed to my results.)

First of all, one of the things I started saying around day 5 was how delusional I was all this time about how I “needed” coffee to wake up, go to work, go to the gym, have the energy to step up my conditioning and exercise routine to train for Tough Mudder, etc. I continued to eat the superfoods I had regularly been eating like bee pollen, chia seeds, spirulina, raw plant proteins, raw chocolate, goji berries, nuts and seeds to maintain that energy I thought I might be lacking.

The Bad:

The free time I suddenly had off of my feet 5 days a week when losing my job, left way too much time for my heart rate to slow and to feel unmotivated during the day. I was now letting myself get 7-9 hours of sleep a night, which was more like 5-6 in the past, in hopes of enough sleep replacing the morning jump start. This wasn’t always in my favor. Whether I went to the gym or not, my mind would not fully wake up until later in the day. Unless I was doing something physical, my heedless mind would drift and I would find myself taking a nap instead of giving in to the temptation. Out of frustration I would lay down in hopes of it just passing only to wake up an hour later but feeling better. For me, without the coffee, a good 8-9 hours sleep is a must at this point in the game.

The Good:

I not only maintained my 4-5 day a week Crossfit regimen and running 15+ total miles a week but I actually increased it just to prove a point to myself; nine days straight of Crossfit at one point including yoga, Crossfit/5Krun/Crossfit within 24 hour period on a couple separate occasions. Not even in the beginning of no caffeine did I feel any less energized than before to do my workouts. My strict eating habits of mostly whole grains, eggs, fruits and vegetables with little animal protein stayed the same this whole time as well. I am sure I did not get any worse, nor did I improve in any of the physical skill areas I mentioned based only on the elimination of caffeine.

From here on out, I now know I don’t need caffeine as I thought and will never drink it on a daily basis again. No longer do I have to feel lost in my own brain without ingesting a certain liquid everyday. Like today, when I used it to get my day started after having a restless (but enjoyable) night, it will be playing second string to my Good Morning America smoothie.

Good Morning America

  • 1 Banana
  • ½ cup Blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 cups Almond Milk (any milk you want I guess)
  • 1 T Ground Flaxseed
  • 1T Bee Pollen
  • 1T Maca Powder
  • 1T Peanut Butter(all natural, no hydrogenated oil! Don’t cheat!)
  • 1/8th Raw chocolate bar (raw cacao, not hersheys)
  • Couple of ice cubes

  • Blend it all together until smooth and get the engine running in that big noggin of yours without caffeine.
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“Where has your Mouth been Anyway?”

(recipe follows)

I can go on and on about my ideas on the evolution of nutrient dense ingredients to develop, what I feel should be where flavor profiles are headed these days. I didn’t plan on making my blog just about my awesome food, mouth watering pics and recipes. Although I have been getting requests for recipes, diet plans etc., I have held back from the food because I first wanted to give readers a look at what is driving my passion as a chef and bring their attention to a few important topics.
There are many issues in the world that I cannot single-handedly do much about, but as a chef, there are a few that I can put my efforts towards. Like eliminating and suggesting those I work with to be done with ingesting toxins. The majority of chefs are still buying and using them and the people being poisoned by them as a result of being misled by advertising and marketing. By “toxins” I mean refined sugar, white flour, iodized salt, hydrogenated oil, and MSG in its many disguises. To me these are the worst food products. They are the leading causes behind our deadliest health problems. This is not breaking news and you don’t have to wait to be told by a doctor to eliminate them and start eating the right foods.
I could contribute to slimming down that obesity epidemic I’m always writing about even by just using my creative talent with flavors. Making whole foods (not messed with by processing or refining) and lean proteins combined with nutrient dense superfoods taste good is something that an average person who has been taking the easy way out to get flavor won’t be able to do for long. Most will cringe at the idea of adding whole grains and the fiber that’s in the fruit and not just the sugary juice to their diet.
Leading by example as a chef that is not using my career as an excuse to let my health go, is bringing my “progressive modern” lifestyle of a chef into the kitchen. My latest venture is consulting with people one on one in their homes on how to simplify cooking for themselves and their families and soon to hold group demonstrations on “Eating to Live.” It will only be a matter of time before I am opening my own concept and spreading the knowledge of who benefits when we cook and live this way.
Before I can even start to introduce the food that will bring maximum benefit to your health along with great flavors, colors, textures and so on, I have to ask you, “Where has your mouth been?” Has your tongue been slathered with white flour, sugary drinks and sauces, MSG and other addicting flavor enhancers found in all grab and go food for most of your life? If so, let’s wean off of that crap and give your tongue a good scrapping to start fresh. Your mouth plays a small role in digestion and unfortunately most people rely on what goes on here, flavor, texture etc., to determine their diet. Becoming aware of what your body’s real needs are is part of enjoying nutrient dense foods.
For someone who is already eating a diet that is eliminating, refined sugar mostly, but all of the aforementioned will enjoy food that is, not lacking, but not based on rich flavors through fat, salt and other magical man-made fairy dust.
So it’s been long enough, here is one simple recipe that I have created using my favorite one pot mixing grains and starches technique. Full of protein, essential vitamins and minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. Add animal protein if you want but one serving of this dish will give you at least 15 grams of protein. The misconception of needing to eat meat to get protein is another blog. I am by no means a vegan, still consider myself a full on omnivore. When it comes to getting the most nutrient dense calories though, I do eat a ton of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Red Quinoa – sweet potato-figs-toasted pecans
2 cups red quinoa
1 1/2 cups sweet potato (not peeled, small dice, about ¼ in cubes)
1 cup dried figs (stem removed, cut in half)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (toasted is optional)
1 bunch baby arugula
31/2 cups vegetable stock (or just water with a little sea salt)
1/2 T maple syrup
Sea salt to taste

 

 

 

Rinse quinoa in a medium sized saucepan with vegetable stock over medium heat. Bring to a slow simmer. 4 minutes in add sweet potatoes and cover for the next 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take cover off, liquid should be almost gone. Add figs and take off of heat. Let stand for a few minutes and stir in maple syrup and pecans. You can serve it over the arugula or fold the arugula in.

This is a fine example of a nutrient dense side dish. Feel free to swap out the pecans for walnuts or whatever you like. The figs can be a different fruit like cherries also. Arugula can be spinach or watercress. Bringing sweet components into your savory dishes will fulfill the sugar craving we all have. Have fun with it.

The Diet of a Chef

     Has anyone ever muttered that phrase…ever?

     What would menus look like if the chefs writing them were practicing healthy eating habits in their own lives? By eliminating toxins such as white flour and refined sugar from their own meals wouldn’t they think twice before serving them to their guests? Could that simple shift in their own awareness impact those menus and therefore the health of every guest that came into their establishment?

     As chefs, indulging in everything edible in our own diets is culturally acceptable, yes.  I argue that this blind indulgence is also the easy way out. Developing flavor profiles purely based on taste and pairing them with the right wines is fun.  It’s also getting kinda old.

     What is all this attention aimed at the chef de cuisine while marketing a new restaurant? Is it just because he may or may not have a likable persona among the media and makes food that’s tasty and pretty in pictures?

     Some chefs, like anyone else I choose to spend time with and money on,  are inventive and witty, stand-up citizens of their communities.  They even do charitable work, and that’s all great. But the bottom line is, chefs feed people! At the end of the day, that is what we do. Nourishing or abusing the bodies of our guests with the dishes we create. Sometimes the same people two, three, four times a week. Some may have been eating under the same chef for 15 years and never once talked of or acknowledged the nutritional value of his or her dishes. Sad but true.

     It is like the chef has the guest mesmerized and under a trance as soon as they sit down across from a celeb and smell the aromas permeating through the dining room. As if their natural born human instinct to seek what will bring them optimum health vanishes and the dopamine rushes over them as they savor your succulent duck confit and waffles.

      I say it’s been long enough that chefs are using the excuse of longshifts and no time to neglect their diet. Unlike any other time consuming profession, we have all the God given nutrients we need at our fingertips. Regardless of your role in the kitchen, with a little planning and a routine, any chef, line cook or restaurant worker, could easily be maintaining a healthy diet. That concept should be a no-brainer but in the traditional lifestyle of a chef is nonexistent.

     To want to maximize your nutrient intake means to want to live. To consume toxins and eat empty calories is to invite that disease-riddled, very costly slow death. Chefs have a chance to impact all of those around them and collectively can make a change in how America eats. With just some discipline and a routine to maintain our diet and health, the effect can have a huge impact on what diners expect and how they eat.

     I am working on a book, The Progressive Modern Chef, and have gone in depth on this subject and how I make it possible in my own life. My intention for this blog is to build an audience and put this message in front of as many eyes as possible before the book hits the shelves.

Pictures above are from lunch at home the other day, my example of nutrient dense deliciousness: Pan roasted Salmon with Goji habanero coulis on Kale with toasted pecans and shallots and purple yams tossed with cheesy nutritional yeast. Kombucha Cocktail with Goji and orange puree, blueberries and chia seeds