Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Post 11: Taking a Holiday to Obese-City

Hi Guys,

This week I am on holiday, so see y’all next week… just kidding, the hustle never stops, full stop.

Today we’re talking about an important tool: how to navigate holidays (of the vacation and religious kind), but with a twist: this stuff actually works.

I know you want to enjoy your holiday. You want to let loose. You want to have fun.

It's holiday time #ladsontour

That’s why you’re not going to hear me saying “eat less and exercise more!” or “don’t overdo it!”. That advice is so aged and frankly, dull, that we should not be heeding it anymore. In particular, I don’t see this line of advice being effective when people want to let loose, especially considering that they didn’t heed it during the other weeks of the year! It’s going to be near impossible for you to “work off” the extra food you eat while on holiday but you can manipulate what you have.

I also acknowledge that a lot of people try and slim down for their holidays, but wouldn’t you rather be in that “slimmed down” state all year round? Today we’re going to be learning how you transform your holidays from evil-knievel ramps into speed bumps.

As always, I’ll be practicing what I preach. Starting on 27/06/2016, I weighed-in at 195lbs. This was actually a new low weigh-in for me, so staying around or below this weight was going to be relatively difficult. I’m going to follow up this post with another on Saturday to review my own advice, how it went, and most importantly (for most people out there): how much I weighed.

Save your future self some hassle

We begin with the unfortunate fact that this is going to be an exercise in damage limitation. You can hit all the new low weigh-ins you can in the regular season, but this is the off-season son, the rules are reversed, and greed is good (read step 1).

Take a look at the first episode of the 70lb Down Series (here). It took me 9 weeks (9 freakin’ weeks!) to get back to where I started after the Christmas break, and I lost weight at a very good pace. What about the people out there who could only hope for a 1/2lb loss a week? They’re going to be re-losing that week for a quarter of a year! If Christmas was more like a speed bump, rather than re-eliminating 17lbs, I could have been losing it for the first time!

Let’s unpack that further: that’s an average of 2.4lbs gained a day. That weight was re-lost at a rate of 1.9lbs a week.

This implies that “one day’s worth” of Cowlean-style eating would have saved me a week’s hassle.

That’s an impactful statement.

This is why some pre-commitment goes a long way. Here’s an excellent article from Mark Sisson on pre-commitment, what it is, and why it is effective (link). If we pre-commit to certain behaviours before we go on holiday we might save ourselves weeks of effort in the future. This is an effective tactic to use before going out to eat: look at the menu ahead of time and pick out what you’re going to have.

Step 1: greed is good; become a glutton

This is one of those backward tactics that actually works. Given the chance to eat (a buffet, for example) or you have the money to spend, gorge on the high fat and high protein options. I am literally telling you to overeat.

I dare you to say no to this opportunity.

This is your chance...

The reason I say this is threefold. One, I love stuffing my face until I can’t eat anymore so I understand the impulse. Why not do this when you have the opportunity to have unlimited meat or other protein sources and unlimited vegetables (perhaps with a creamy sauce to pour over as well)? You couldn’t live your whole life this way (at least not for long), but you will certainly get that feeling of indulgence which you might have gone on holiday for while doing relatively little damage.

The second reason is that most people eat way, way, too many carbs. Save the starchy carb sources for the athletes, and instead go nuts on a huge stack of steak and vegetables. You’re going to be eating a more appropriate meal than what you were used to and again, it scratches that indulgent itch!

The third reason is because it helps segue into step 2…

Step 2: skip breakfast if it’s not paid for already

The reason why I give the qualifier is because I know you guys. I know people aren’t going to pay for breakfast and then not eat it; I know I wouldn’t. If it is paid for then practice step 1 at breakfast time, then question whether you need lunch or just a snack. Otherwise, make sure you have an enormous meal the night before then you won’t feel hungry until lunch time.

Who knew getting #wrecked could work in your favour
This is an excellent way to get into intermittent fasting (or Bulletproof IF if you were able to bring/buy butter and have access to a full or hand blender, however unlikely. Full information on using butter and coffee to lose weight here). Even if you’re not used to IF it should be easier due to the mass of food you ate the day before. It should also be noted that if you partied late into the night and woke up around midday, you’ve been on a sort of intermittent fast...

Remember what I said at the beginning of the post? I’m not here to give you dull and useless advice that you’ve heard before; I’m here to give effective and understanding advice! On holiday you want to indulge and I’m providing the crack team who will operate the controlled explosion!

Step 3: exercise for 1 minute a day

That’s right, exercise for 1 minute each day.

Sounds too good to be true? That you could exercise for just one minute and not put on any weight? That’s because it is too good to be true, but this strategy works for other reasons. That’s because the aim of the game is damage limitation.

Remember this is high intensity exercise, but only for 1 minute. Also: this is exercise, not movement. Walking around beautiful cities is excellent for your health but in this case it doesn’t count.

One reason is the hormonal and metabolic benefits that you’ll get from the one minute of high intensity exercise each day. Maybe sprint down the beach, do some burpees in your hotel room, or swim lengths of the pool like a madman. For comic effect, go to your hotel gym and swing a kettlebell for a minute and then leave straight away, all the while making a big show of how hard you just worked.

Those old biddies won't know hit them!
Disclaimer: Cowlean does not endorse violence

The second reason is that one minute can often become more than one minute; just don’t feel like you’re tied to anything more than those 60 seconds. You might go to the gym and swing that kettlebell for a minute, but while you’re there you also spot a bench press and decide to knock out a few easy sets (I prefer to find some dumbbells and perform some curls for the gurlzzz…). You could set out to do that minute of burpees but you decide to do a few sets of crunches as well (just to make your abs pop!...).


Let’s revisit those takeaways and give some parting advice:
  1. Become a glutton
  2. Skip breakfast where appropriate
  3. Perform 1 minute of high intensity exercise a day

Sounds quite easy right? Yep.

Reasonable? Yep.

Quick? Yep.

This post was written with a beach or poolside holiday in mind, but it could easily be applied to a holiday like Christmas. In fact it might even be easier. Food is available and plentiful (especially turkey!), meaning you can eat tonnes in the evening then fast in the morning. Plus, you’ll be near to your local gym so you can carry on your regular workout routine, with any extra carbs you’re shovelling down your gullet being put to good use!

I’m not telling you not to enjoy yourself. In fact I imagine that would lead to reverse psychology and the complete opposite outcome. I’m well aware that holidays are a chance to relax, however, sometimes people come back with more stress than they left with. Not having to lose an additional 5lbs will save you time and stress in the future.

Save yourself some hassle in the future. Go on a Cowlean holiday. Don’t find yourself on a one-way flight to obese-city.


Saturday, 25 June 2016

Post 10: Sexy Strategies to Snooze Soundly (plus why your mum was right all along)

Update! Biphasic sleep primer added to the end of the post.

“We need to discuss sleep. On Friday. It’s very important”
- Victor

Hi Guys,

This was a message I received from a friend of mine recently; with his consent I’ve decided to bring to you a blog post based on the advice I gave him.

As you may have heard, sleep is actually one of the most important weapons in your fat-burning arsenal. Today you’re going to learn not only why, but also how to improve the quality of your sleep and become better at it. You’ll see me reference “optimum sleep” throughout this post. This is because getting more, while beneficial to most, is only one side to the coin.

Quality of sleep is just as important as quantity. Nailing both is essential.

Why your mum was right the whole time…

There was something else that came out of my conversation with Victor which related back to my post on cravings (found here). He said that the advice was good and all, but it was the sort of advice which mothers up and down the country are telling their children every day.

This exposes a concept which I think we’ve all been victim to in the past: that there is a secret to achieving our goals and that it is possible to change nothing but this magic key and still go where you want to go.

I’m not here to sell you a secret, all you have to do is eat real food and listen to your body’s reactions. Combine that with effective exercise and other activities beneficial to your health, and you can look and feel a heck of a lot better than you do now!

But people still search for that magic key. The truth is they had it in their pocket their whole time! While the answer does require hard work, it is simple to apply. Consider that if there was an effortless way to reach any goal then loads more people would have got there before you, which would lessen the value of the goal anyway!

You might hate to admit it, but she was right the whole time...
Most of the strategies in this post are very simple and can be executed immediately. Perhaps your own mother has imparted this wisdom to you already! (although I can only think of one mother who would specifically prescribe strategies to her son...ahem!...). Why does this make them any less effective?

Why being in sleep-debt sucks

Right, let’s get this show on the road!

Most of you want to be getting 7-8 hours of high quality sleep a night. Some of you need 8-9, but it’s not many (ask yourself: are you really that special?...). Sleeping under what’s required for a few days, or under 6 hours for two days, will put you in sleep-debt, and here’s the kicker: you can’t make up for it.

Follow the link here to discover what type of sleep chronotype you are with a little help from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

Here are the negative side-effects of being in sleep-debt:

Impairs prefrontal cortex activity (i.e. makes you stupid)

Inflammation and oxidative stress (i.e. makes you fat)

Disrupts the endocrine system (i.e. hormones, particularly ghrelin and leptin, more on those here)

Heart and kidney damage

Higher cortisol levels leading to more insulin released, hence insulin resistance, and diabetes. Higher cortisol levels will also impair your immune function leading you to get sick more easily and will impair your ability to resist cravings. You will also feel higher stress levels.

Impaired short-term memory

Mood swings and poor emotional wellbeing

Increased risk of depression and other psychological illnesses

Not optimising your sleep patterns are going to make you fat, sick, and stupid, fast!

If that wasn’t enough here’s a useful flowchart from Paleo Leap (link), which relates sleep to the playbook of negative side effects:

Optimum sleep speaks volumes

I hope I scared you with the above. I mean it. Our culture likes to venerate the sleepless zombies of our society, who bleed coffee and red bull. It’s almost a badge of honour to say you only slept 4 hours last night. This couldn’t be more stupid, not to mention inefficient. Why work for 14 hours when you could dominate your workload in 10? All the while feeling and looking better?

Sleep makes you more efficient at life.  

Here are some more reasons why getting optimum sleep is awesome:

The opposites to the negatives! I.e. better regulation of internal systems leading to you being smarter and better looking. I encourage you to go back and read the negatives again!

Get to a point where you don't need an alarm to wake up refreshed!
Muscle growth and repair. This happens mostly in the deepest parts of your sleep cycle. If you don’t reach that stage, say goodbye to potential gains. Sleep also spurs the release of human growth hormone.

Improved memory, improved ability to creatively problem-solve, better speed, better accuracy, better mood, and higher energy.

Your immune system is at its most active while you sleep, so you’ll get sick less often.

How to achieve optimum sleep

By using any number of these simple strategies below, you are going to be walking the path to optimum sleep. They’re not in any particular order. Some will require more effort, some are incredibly easy to put in place. Some are more effective than others. Begin to experiment with a few of them then expand into the entire list.

1. Stop looking at screens an hour before bed: the blue light emitted by screens mimics daylight and causes your body to think it should be awake and alert.

2. Stop drinking caffeine after 2pm: caffeine has a half life of 6 hours.

3. Eliminate bright lights, blinking lights, and overhead lights, an hour before bed: for reasons similar to point 1. Also cover blinking lights such as those from laptops and TVs in your bedroom using duck tape.

4. Get to bed before 22:45: your body experiences a “second wind” at 11pm through a cortisol release unless you’re already asleep.

5. Incorporate some sort of morning physical activity which will make you feel more tired the night after.

6. If you’re not going out on a Friday or Saturday night, maintain a similar sleep pattern. Otherwise once you readjust for Monday you’ll incur sleep-debt.

7. Lower your body temperature before bed and do not work out less than 2 hours before going to sleep. We tend to feel relaxed when we cool down.

8. Put your phone on airplane mode or do not disturb. I leave my phone on DNS at all times now, including during the day, and it is incredibly freeing. At one point I put the notifications back on and it just bugged me too much.

9. Purchase a dawn simulating alarm clock (one that lights up slowly in the morning).

Many of these strategies get you to replicate dawn and dusk

10. Get fuel for your brain while you sleep. The brain consumes roughly 25% of our daily caloric burn, and it is most active while you are asleep. Make sure your dinner consists of healthy fats to provide ketones for your brain. Also consume your daily portion of fruit or some raw honey late in the day so that your liver fills with sugar. Why? Your brain still needs some amount of glucose to function, and so if it can’t turn to your liver glycogen (i.e. sugar) stores then it will need to start a process called gluconeogenesis: the process of converting proteins into sugars. This process starts digestion, which wakes you up!

11. Since protein digestion wakes you up, eat easily digestible proteins earlier in the day.

12. Take a number of supplements or drink chamomile tea. Dave Asprey provides an excellent list here. Note I didn’t say take sleeping meds!

13. Eat your foods high in vitamin D early in the day. Vitamin D can be consumed but most of our uptake is from the sun. Consuming larger quantities late in the day will confuse your body into thinking it should be awake.

14. Try biphasic sleep. Most advice out there is for people to get 8 hours of monophasic sleep (i.e. 1 long stretch of sleep). But have you ever woken up at 3-4am feeling quite awake? You then toss and turn for another hour trying to sleep but the most you can do is doze? I’ve experienced this before and it doesn’t feel good. It makes you stressed out that you weren’t able to sleep like a log for 7-8 straight hours. Biphasic sleep is a strategy I’m implementing right now. The key is in the name: biphasic, i.e. two phases of sleep. The first is the deeper part between 11pm and 3am, you then awake and potter around for a bit, then return to bed for the rest of your sleep. Remember to not expose yourself to bright lights (in particular any screens) during your wakeful period. Give it a try.

15. Expose yourself to bright, preferably natural, lights in the morning. This can be done by simply drinking your morning coffee outside.


Here are the condensed takeaways of today:

  1. Not getting enough sleep makes you fat, sick, and stupid
  2. Getting optimum sleep makes you sexy, healthy, and smart
  3. Follow the strategies above to induce optimum sleep patterns

Something you might have noticed about the above strategies is that they aim to put you in a natural state of being. This is because you need to give your body what it expects! It expects to see bright lights in the morning and darkness in the evening. You may have heard of your circadian rhythm? This is the rhythm which governs the cortisol release in the morning, making you feel awake and alert, and the melatonin release in the evening, making your feel relaxed and sleepy. Mess with this rhythm and you’ve just bought yourself a one-way ticket to obese-city.

Before we part ways again, consider this quote from Lao Tzu about time: “Time is a created thing. To say, I don’t have time, is like saying, I don’t want to”.

Do you have the time to sleep?


Update! Biphasic Sleep

Hi Guys,

Back again with an update, this time on biphasic sleep. I mentioned it above but I thought it deserved more attention. These are the sort of ideas which remind of me of when I found the paleo way of thinking to begin with. I’ve moved on in my ideas, now it’s more of The Cowlean Diet, but the concept remains the same: question what you know. Maybe in two years time there’ll be Cowlean Sleep...

What are we told currently? Sleep for 8 unbroken hours a night.

Why does this need to be true? I would guess that its logic is based on going into a long, long, period of deep sleep, which would be broken by a wakeful period. It appears this way of thinking was introduced around the time of the industrial revolution, which makes sense: get your workers to sleep between 11pm and 7am at which point they can attend work at factories. Random aside: have you ever considered that the 11pm-7am sleep pattern combined with the 9am-5pm work pattern is a perfect combination to cage your ambition?

The reason why I am trying biphasic sleep is that even though I had my diet down, and I was completing my sleep strategies, I was still naturally waking at 3am or 4am feeling quite awake. Then I would try to return to sleep and couldn’t for a while, leading me to beat myself up for not being able to sleep those 8 uninterrupted hours. Eventually I did go back to sleep, but I was putting myself under unnecessary stress.

It seems to me to be a more natural pattern of sleep. Studies of modern day hunter gatherers have evidenced this as a common pattern of sleep.

I’ve only got a few data points right now, so I can’t comment on how effective it is (yet), but it couldn’t hurt to try it? Something I have noticed so far, though, is that I am remembering more of my dreams because I am having an introspective moment each morning. In future I’m going to use the wakeful period to complete my daily meditation practice.

Going to keep you guys updated on how it goes, so until next time.


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Post 9: What Do I Eat? (full day of eating, plus: my macros, my calories, my fibre, my workout, and my weight)

Update: How to master your daily weigh-in, can be found at the end of the post

Hi Guys,

...Phew, what a long title...Welcome to my a full day of eating, where I am going to be showing you… wait for it… exactly what I ate yesterday! The date was Tuesday 21st June 2016, the second day of a bright British summer (maybe). To be fair, it’s going to be more than just food. We’re also going to be having a look at my workout (chest and arms day of course! Who needs legs when you work a desk job...), and taking an indepth look at my macronutrient split, my fibre intake, and my calories. To top that off I’ll compare my weight from the morning of and the morning after, just for good measure!

I personally find it really interesting to see what other people are eating, so I hope you find this post insightful and beneficial in your own journey. From today’s post you’re going to be able to get some useful tips and also get a very specific breakdown of my meals.

Before we begin I want to note that I don’t count my calories usually, they were only measured today for informational purposes and I didn’t walk in thinking that I wanted to get X calories and Y grams of protein. That’s not the Cowlean way!

We’re going to work through each of my meals, the macro breakdown, and my workout, then bring it all together at the end with my totals. Before we get started, let’s have a look at my weight on Tuesday morning:

The famous Cowlean morning weigh-in

Breakfast: Bulletproof Intermittent Coffee

I decided that today, I was going to use Bulletproof Intermittent Fasting, which meant rising to a steaming mug of coffee blended with grass-fed butter. For a full run-down of why I would do this, read my previous post on BIF, found here.

Here were my macros so far:
Carbs: 0g
Fat: 24g
Protein: 0g
Fibre: 0g

With my belly full, and my brain active, I was ready to hit the day! I love how this breakfast keeps me full for hours while providing ketones for my body and brain. I also make sure to buy organic and fairtrade coffee, to reduce mycotoxins, and remain energised.

Lunch: Chicken Salad

I prepared lunch the night before and ate at around 12:45 (pictured below). It consisted of chicken breast, lettuce, a load of broccoli, and avocado. I set this meal up similarly to my breakfasts (link): 2 portions of veg, a portion of protein, and healthy fats. The chicken breast was cooked in butter and I drizzled organic extra virgin olive oil all over. YUM!

I really like setting up each meal this way. The layout is formulaic and easy to follow, and it never leaves you scratching your head thinking “what should I eat?”. Here’s the macros for lunch:

Carbs: 12.05g
Fat: 62.69g
Protein: 72.42g
Fibre: 12.2g

Dat meal prep doe

Snack: 85% Dark Chocolate

For a snack, I think healthy fats are the best way forward. They are great for satiety and if you’re fat adapted they’re the best way to stay focused and energised. I opted for Green and Black’s Organic 85%, available widely in supermarkets. The macros were:

Carbs: 9g
Fat: 21g
Protein: 2.8g
Fibre: 4.6g

Workout: Chest and Arms

Next up we have my workout. Who’d have thunk it? It was a chest and arms day! (i.e. the most cliche workout ever), set up as follows:

  • Decline bench (5x5)
  • Incline bench (3x10)
  • Chest flyes (3x15)
  • Tricep pushdowns (5x10, dropsets)
  • Bicep curls (3x10 with a fixed bar, supersetted with dumbbell curls)
  • Rear delt flyes (3x10, supersetted with a rear delt machine)

In my workouts, I like to mix things up a little, hence the different set and rep ranges. I like to start off heavy, then move into something more akin to cardio. During these moments, I like to get my hoodie on, stay warm, and sweat it out a little. The workout lasted roughly 1.5 hours.

Dinner: Fish and Veg

I was back home quite late, and didn’t even finish dinner until 10pm, which bugged me. Dinner was: a tin of tuna, a tin of sardines, sweet potatoes, carrots, and courgettes. The courgettes were cooked in coconut oil and I put a big dollop of butter on the carrots and potatoes when I served it up. I finished this all off with a pack of raspberries (my one a day!), which aids with sleep (look out for a post on sleep this Saturday!), and provides a nice little fibre kick as well as being a delicious desert.

Carbs: 55.35g
Fat: 58.7g
Protein: 64.65g
Fibre: 17.85g

One thing I love about eating this way is the mass of food you can have!


Let’s start by taking a detailed look at a detailed breakdown of total macros, fibre, and calories:



Chicken Breast






Dark Chocolate



Sweet Potato



Coconut Oil




Kcals from:



This was my weight the next morning:

So, you can actually see that I put on 0.6lbs. There are two things I want you to take away from this: 1) I’m not trying to mislead you guys! Otherwise, I could have simply excluded my weight from this post. Yes, I put on 0.6lbs, but I also ate late and worked out (when I workout I eat more carbs so my body will store more water weight; I also drink more water during my workout). I am not taking this gain (loss) personally, and neither should you, ever! I was really happy with my workout and I just completed each of my sets. Point 2), it’s more information to add to my ever growing database. This makes me think: was it too many calories I ate? I don’t think the carb load was high by anyone’s reckoning. Was it the timing of the last meal, maybe. Next time I do a full day of eating, I can have the same food, but remove one of the factors and see how I do. This is one of the keys to achieving fat loss: treat yourself as a human guinea pig! I want to test against a controlled environment with the same calories before I lay the majority of the blame at their doorstep.

Looking at my macro breakdown, I was quite happy. I aim for 50-70% of my calories from healthy fats, with the 70% range being used when I need results fast, and the 50% range being used on my protein fast days where I take in a lot more carbs. Carbs were low and should ensure that I remained in ketosis. Protein was at a solid level as well. Where I would like to improve, however, is fibre. I’d like to get in around 40g a day, which I could easily achieve by upping one of meals to three portions of veg rather than two.

Building on this, here are today’s takeaways:
  • Start the day with a fresh coffee using the best beans available to you. The right coffee will keep you satisfied and energised until past midday
  • Save your carbohydrates until post workout. This will keep you in fat burning mode and prohibit blood sugar rise and falls.
  • Enjoy a portion of fruit after dinner to aid with sleep (Saturday will explain everything!).

I really hope you enjoyed today’s post. Leave a comment below so we can get a discussion started. I’d love to answer any of your questions and help you all with your fat loss experience.


Update! Reverse Thinking...

Hi Guys,

I was sitting here thinking, one day of insight wasn’t enough for y’all, you deserve even more. It got me thinking about writing an update, two days on from the day of eating. Here goes!

Thursday Weight: 197.6 lbs

Now even though I was a bit bugged by the higher weigh-in on Wednesday, I knew the future held more gains! As you can see, I actually woke up on Wednesday a full 1.2lbs lighter than on Tuesday. Remember when I was telling you guys in the BIF post (link) that the key is in the trend?!

Reverse thinking

I actually weigh myself every day, but I never, ever, let it get me down. This is because I practice something called reverse thinking (not backwards thinking!). I don’t look at my current weight and say: “that’s not what I want it to be”. Instead I compare myself to a couple of days or a week previous, and look at how far I’ve come. That way you can enjoy the scientific feedback from continuously monitoring yourself while simultaneously staying psychologically on the ball.

Practice reverse thinking to make your weigh-ins positive, no matter what!

Consider this Steve Jobs quote: “you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future”.

Until next time.