The top five questions I use to check my health:

1) How’s my hunger? What am I craving?

  • My health and performance are determined by a combination of sleep, stress level and food quality.  Hunger and food cravings are the first indicator my chemistry is out of whack.  “Out of whack” is almost always caused by some combination of too much stress (mental or physical), too many carbs and not enough nutrients.

2) How’s my mood? How clear is my head?

  • Along with hunger & cravings, mood and mental clarity are early warning signals that I need to take better care of myself.  Sleep and stress play huge roles in how I feel and how well I’m making decisions.  If my food, stress levels, and the quantity and quality of my sleep aren’t supporting clear thinking, I know I’m negatively impact my health.

3) How’s my skin? Do I have any aches & pains?

  • Skin quality, aches and pains are indicators I use to track systemic inflammation.  The frequency and size of any rashes or skin issues and the intensity and longevity of any aches and pains provide indicators of my inflammation levels. I track systemic inflammation because elevated inflammation levels lead to longer recovery time from workouts, injuries, and illness and a higher probability of developing chronic health issues.

4) How’s my digestion?

  • Right now our son is a year and a half.  My wife and I talk about our son’s poop everyday. Size, frequency, color, the works. I don’t talk about my poop but I pay attention to it.  The consistency and frequency of poop and the absence or presence of indigestion are all indicators of how healthy my gut is. I know that a healthy gut is critical for adequate nutrient absorption.  I know the body is a tube, skin controls what gets into the body from the outside of the “tube”, the gut controls what gets into the body from the inside of the “tube”.

5) How much fat am I carrying? Where am I carrying it?

  • Fat is a lagging indicator – there’s a delay between when I eat pizza and when it shows up as a load of laundry on my washboard abs or bagels on the waist band. There is a direct correlation between how much fat I’m carrying and how many carbs I’ve been eating. There’s a direct correlation between my hormone levels and where I’m carrying the fat.  Excess pounds and/or uneven distribution are indicators that I’ve been running with excess blood sugar and/or excess stress for a prolonged period of time.

Actions Steps

Regardless of the symptoms, if my health and performance are not 100% there are five items that I always start with to make things better (I’m always trying to be better, so I’m always tweaking one or all five of these).

1) Lowering stress.

  • Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) are the fancy terms. I know some stress is good – stress keeps the pipes clear and promotes adaptation. Too much stress and cortisol levels remain high, the maintenance system (i.e. the PNS) never kicks in and the body doesn’t do maintenance and healing. Stress can be driven by thoughts, not enough sleep, too much exercise or not enough food. I know that eating less and exercising more is a “double whammy” for driving up stress levels and elevating blood sugar.

2) Improving sleep quality and quantity.

  • My wife and I have a toddler. He eats well and has a ton of energy – so my wife and I rarely get the sleep quantity we need.  I know we can’t “bank” sleep, so we catch up where we can and I try to improve the quality of sleep as much as I can with cool, dark rooms and clearing my brain before hitting the pillow. Quantity and quality of sleep indicators I track are: (1) how hard is it to fall asleep at night? (2) how easy is it to wake up in the morning? (3) how often do I wake up in the middle of the night? (4) If I do wake up in the middle of the night, how hard is it for me to get back to sleep?

3) Improving food quality and drinking more water.

  • My meal planning is: (1) choose a vegetable. (2) choose a meat. If my chemistry is out of whack it’s usually due to laziness. If I’m “hangry” (hungry + angry), it’s usually because I’m eating too many carbs (i.e. pizza) and not enough nutrients (eggs, soup, green leafy vegetables). To fix the situation I make sure and get green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, etc) and nutrient dense foods (eggs, butter, soup) back in my meals ASAP.  It’s possible to drink too much water, but I usually run at the “too little” end of the spectrum. More water is an easy first step for headaches and fuzzy thinking.

4) Getting 15 minutes of focused movement a day.

  • I’ve found that the greatest return on investment for exercise is 15 minutes of mobility work per day.  I know my over all physical fitness (the measure of my physical capacity to do work) is a combination of mobility, coordination, strength and endurance. Without a strong base consistency of mobility (range of motion for the work) and coordination (movement efficiency) strength and endurance will suffer and injuries are guaranteed.  I know my lymph system (waste management system) relies on muscle contractions and gravity to do it’s job. My goal is 10 to 15 minutes of focused movement a day, no gym, no equipment required. More workout time yields bigger gains in capacity, but the first 15 minutes provide the largest return on investment.

5) Thinking and sorting it out.

  • The goal is to be present – to be aware of what is going on around me and enjoy the little things.  For me, being present requires preparation. A few minutes everyday thinking about what my priorities are and sorting out what gives me energy and what sucks the life out of me helps make decisions easier and reduces stress. I know the brain has a remarkable ability to adapt to anything. I know all my emotions are driven by triggers. I know the triggers aren’t always obvious or conscious.


  • Primary Protein Concerns: Quality & nutrient density of the source.
  • Protein deficiencies are rare in developed countries.  Consuming adequate micro-nutrients (vitamins & minerals) is the challenge. Fish, eggs, beef, lamb, pork and chicken provide protein along with other essential vitamins & minerals.  Most people consume too much protein and not enough micro-nutrients.
  • Beans are a neutral food at best (neither good, nor bad). Beans provide a cheap source of protein but lack many of the other nutrients in meat, fish and eggs and may have a negative impact on digestion.
  • Quality is important when consuming animals.  Healthy animals eating a natural diet are higher quality.  Grains are not a natural diet for grass eaters. Chickens are not vegetarians.  Lean cuts are recommended to reduce toxin levels – animals store toxins in fat.
  • Appetite provides a very good guide for protein intake. Inadequate protein generates hunger, excessive protein intake reduces the appetite for protein. Force feeding yourself protein is rarely a good idea.
  • Nuts, especially pre-packaged nuts (salted, honey-roasted, kona coffee glazed…mmm) are easy to over-eat. Salt & sugar will over-ride the body’s natural “off” switch for eating.
  • When building muscle, adequate total food intake is more important than increasing the amount of protein in the diet. Building muscle is a slow process that an excessive amount of protein consumption will not speed up. Inadequate carbohydrate intake will result in muscles being broken down and burned for fuel.
  • Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet recommends 8 – 16 oz of meat, fish or eggs per day (24 oz for a competitive athlete). A day’s meals consisting of 2 eggs and a 3.5 oz piece of sausage for breakfast, 3.5 oz of chicken on a salad for lunch, and 3.5 oz of steak with vegetables for dinner would contain ~78 grams of protein (from ~14 oz of meat & eggs).
  • The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010) recommends 5.5 “oz equivalents” of protein a day. An “oz equivalent” = 1 oz of meat, 1 egg, 1/2 oz of nuts, or 1/4 oz of cooked beans. A 5.5 oz day consisting of 3.5 oz of fish and 2 eggs would provide ~ 40 grams of protein.
  • Everyone’s protein requirements will be different and an individuals protein requirements will vary based on illness, diet and activity level. From Perfect Health Diet “Protein needs are increased during infection, wound healing, carbohydrate restriction (since protein is converted to glucose to avert a glucose deficiency), and endurance exercise (one reason long distance runners have trouble maintaining muscle mass).” Appetite for protein and changes in body composition (fat gain/loss and muscle gain/loss) are important indicators for adequate protein intake.
  • Rough estimates of protein content:
    • 1 oz of beef, lamb, chicken or fish = ~ 7 g of protein
    • 1 egg (50g) = ~ 3.5 g of protein.
  • Excessive protein intake will stress the kidneys and may cause digestive issues.
    • As the amount of protein consumed exceeds the digestive capacity of the small intestine, undigested protein is passed to the large intestine where it can ferment and increase the amount of bacteria in the large intestine – leading to gas, bloating, cramps and/or stomach pain.
    • As dietary protein levels continue to increase, the result is excess ammonia which will cause nausea & diarrhea and can lead to death (protein processing produces nitrogen, nitrogen processing produces ammonia, ammonia is converted to urea and excreted in urine. Exceeding the body’s ability to process the ammonia will stress the kidneys and generate toxicity.  It is estimated that 230 g of protein per day or protein consumption that exceeds 45% of calories comsumed will lead to toxicity in most people).
  • There is some evidence that protein fasts can be beneficial.  With a reduction of available dietary protein, the body will scavenge protein, typically taking damaged protein first and resulting in beneficial cell maintenance. Estimates on the duration of fasts vary widely – anywhere between 16 hours a day to a 7 day fast once per year.
  • (Protein quantities & daily protein intake recommendations are provided for awareness only. Few people will need to monitor protein intake).


Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet, provides the most comprehensive discussion on protein I have found. The book provides an excellent overview of protein undereating and overeating along with recommendations on quantities and timing of protein consumption.