Cold Showers for the 40 plus

Cold showers. Brrrrr… cold. Seems like something that can’t be good for us right? But, if recent studies can be …

Granted the science is all pretty new but there are seemingly many benefits from punctuated exposure to cold water – the shower being the easiest way for most of us to do this.

It’s important to realise that these improvements are always incremental – they won’t fix a bad diet and lifestyle but if the science and chatter is to be believed cold showers can help with:

  • Fat loss
  • strengthening of the immune system
  • improvements in cardiovascular health
  • improved sleep quality
  • improved mood and alertness
  • depression (possibly better than any of the drugs!)
  • improves emotional resilience
  • Improved exercise recovery *
  • improved insulin sensitivity
  • raises testosterone levels
  • improvements in blood sugar
  • decrease inflammation in the body
  • increased pain tolerance
  • great for your skin and hair

That’s quite the list there. Just fat loss and an improved mood should be good enough for most folks. If this whole laundry list of benefits can be gleaned by this one simple life hack then is that not worth a shot?

* note – it may be worth waiting a few hours if you are looking to build muscle 

Stress – good and bad

To get your head around this we have to understand stress. Good and bad. Stress is generally only thought of as a negative thing. However, short, punctuated stress like we see after lifting weights, going for a jog or better still, sprint or HIIT training can be positive.

Our body adapts to this stress and improves. We get stronger, fitter, faster, leaner, can run further and can get more air into our blood more quickly. Positive adaptions to short bursts of physical stress.

Punctuated exposure to cold water is likely much the same – it’s brief and our body adapts. We have a hormonal response that benefits our health and mood in many ways.


I have been taking cold showers now for around six months. Daily. Pretty much. Few blips over holidays or Christmas etc but generally if I shower I do the necessary and then turn the tap to cold for the last few minutes.

During this time period, I have been under immense stress at work and with a house renovation so it is hard to say if I have seen all of these benefits. Certainly, I still have weight to lose but any diet hack is only a hack and booze + food will undo the benefits there (guilty).

I have not had any colds during this time, though. We have lived with relatives for a month who were just hacking and spewing out cold and flu germs. I have three kids who all bring home and kindly share germs they are exposed to at school. Usually, in the good old UK we can expect a couple of colds, possibly a flu and sickness bug if you have kids who kindly share their ills.

With all the general stress (business + house renovation) I would have been a candidate for one of these colds or flu bugs but… I have been rock solid. Few times I have felt a tickle in the back of my throat, others around me (wife, kids, family, staff) have got ill but I have always shook it off.

From what I understand the science seems to indicate that daily cold showers do indeed improve your immunity to viruses. The cold water shocks the body into warming itself up and raising the core temperature – this then destroys cold and flu viruses before they take hold. Given that most cold and flu’s take three days to incubate it seems to make sense (but what do I know other than I have had no colds). The same study also indicated that cold showers can shorten the effects of a cold if you do get stung so… I will keep turning the tap to cold.

Hardly science or a huge study but my experience over the last six months or so has been a positive one.

The real reason I take cold showers

I take cold showers to boost my productivity and to improve my mental toughness. We are all just so damn comfortable.

It is hard to turn the shower to cold. It is harder still to get into the cold water. It is tough to stay under that freezing water. To do this you have to be tough. You have to be prepared to be uncomfortable. You have to maintain the willpower to do this daily and quiten the voices that suggest otherwise.

A successful life needs a degree of discomfort. You have to do the things that are outside your comfort zone. Cold water is outside of most people’s comfort zone. So I take a cold shower every day knowing I come out of stronger and more prepared on the other side. Ready to face the day ahead and the myriad things I need to do to succeed (but probably would rather not if I took the easy route).

You come out of that shower and you are breathing hard, awake, alert and ready for the day. You are certainly no longer tired! You are ready to face the challenges and myriad other discomforts of a productive day.

And, hopefully, I benefit from all the other health and fitness benefits. But, if not, I would still take cold showers as they kick start my day and keep my willpower strong.

Cold showers – how to get started

There are a couple of approaches here:

  • 8 x 20 seconds cold & 10 seconds warm (4 mins total)
  • 2 minutes cold after a warm shower
  • 5 minute cold shower

The general thinking is the punctuated 20 cold / 10 warm is best for fat burning. Also, that 5 minutes is the max you should do. Personally, I sit in the middle and just do a two-minute blast of cold at the end of my normal shower.

When not to take cold showers

There is a study that shows cold water exposure after weight lifting can impact hypertrophy. So, if you are looking to put on size in your weight lifting routine then… don’t jump directly in the cold shower. I am no expert here but do your showers in the mornings before you train or leave it a few hours so you don’t blunt the effects of your workout. I would not throw the baby out with the (cold) bath water here though as cold water exposure improves testosterone so there are positives to be had if gaining muscle mass is your goal.

We cool?

Hopefully, I have got you interested here. Ultimately with anything health and fitness related I always suggest you give it a shot. Try it for a month. Keep notes. See how you feel. You can spend months going down the internet research rabbit hole so just give it a shot and see if it works for you.

Don’t expect miracles after a few cold showers. Determine some sensible measurements (cold, weight, body fat, sleep quality, skin and hair – whatever matters most to you) and review at the begining and end of the process. Take photos if needs be.

Drop a comment with any questions or to let me know how you get on.

Designing an Exercise Plan

I have two very specific goals for this coming year with regards to my exercise:

  1. Lose weight (and maintain it)
  2. Improve overall fitness (strength & endurance)

There is a third element here that is really a subset of #2 in that I want to improve on my mountain bike. This is the benchmark by which all of this will be measured.

To do this I want to really prioritise my exercise and design a plan that covers all of these bases. This, of course, has to build upon my ideas around creating a regular schedule and routine and ultimately cutting out all the sugar, alcohol and processed crap that has crept in to my diet.

Lose Weight

Assuming everything else is dialled in this one should be easy enough.

  • Drop all alcohol, sugar and processed carbs
  • Stick to my exercise schedule
  • Utilise a reduced eating window (8 hour on, 16 hours off IF style)
  • Eat a high nutrient density diet
  • Keep all carbs in the post workout window (evening)


I need to do a couple of things here:

  1. Lose weight – so burn some calories
  2. Get stronger – so lift some weights
  3. Improve my endurance – do some cardio
  4. Improve my anaerobic (high intensity) fitness – do some high intensity interval training

With the weights I want to improve raw strength and strength endurance so I need two different workouts in there. My high end cardio (anaerobic) is merged with my strength workouts + one short but high intensity dedicated session. My endurance is tackled by a ride to work and back on Tuesday + my Saturday bike ride.

As I am 41 I also need to allow for some recovery in there somewhere so there are two days when I only walk the dog!

Weekly Plan

My goal here is to improve on the mountain biking I do on a Saturday morning so I top load the week and reduce volume and training frequency to recover for the ride.

Version 1.0 of my plan looks like this:

  • Monday – high volume strength & HITT training at the gym (90 mins)
  • Tuesday – bike to work (1 hour each way)
  • Wednesday – pure strength workout (5 x 5 style) + bike tabata
  • Thursday – 12 minute metcon + stretches and recovery work
  • Friday – rest: 60 minute dog walk
  • Saturday – big bike ride at trail centre (measure results)
  • Sunday – rest: 60 minute dog walk

Getting started

I am starting this program on the 9th January 2017 so will keep you posted on my progress and tweak the program as needed.

Designing my daily schedule for 2017

2016 has been quite the challenge.

We achieved a personal goal to buy (what will hopefully become) our dream house but we have spent six months renovating it (and are nowhere near done yet).

I also run a digital marketing agency in the UK called Bowler Hat. The business is evolving from offering just search engine optimisation to offering a range of services: Strategy, SEO, PPC, Content, Social and Web. Gobbledygook to most I guess but a necessary and difficult change for the business and industry as a whole. Managing this change is fun and rewarding but a challenge at the same time.

Then I have three children of 12, 11 and 5 and a wife – all of whom I want to see more of. Twelve hour work days leaves little time for family in the week. Factor in popping to the shops, walking the dog, exercise, cooking dinner and trying to wind down… there just is not enough hours in the day when you work 12 of them.

Time flys by so fast

This previous year (2016) I became more aware of how this stage of life parenting young children will soon be over. That makes me sad. But I can use that energy to focus my time better so I can enjoy all the time we have left with the children. In a blink of an eye, I will be 50 and I don’t want to look back and think “well Marcus, would have been good to get home a bit earlier and do a bit more with the kids”. Prioritise and change now. Don’t have regrets.

The overarching purpose of this blog is how to be happy, healthy, productive and successful for those of us 40 and above. How to navigate the modern world where we are all just so damn busy.

Clerly a big change I need to make here is to work fewer hours and spend more time with the family. This will require two major factors:

  1. Routine – less chaos to enable planning
  2. Productivity – removing all wasted time at work and home

My day

During the week most days I will be up at 6 am and in the office from 7 am. Often I will not be back home till 7 pm. Factor in some running around and various after school activities for the kids and it is pretty much a routine of wake, work, cook, eat, sleep & repeat.

This needs to change.

My priorities

This year my priorities are:


I want to spend more time with my family. More time helping my eldest kids with their homework. More time being around to spend quality time with my youngest and playing with him after school. More time to spend with my wife. Just more time at home and less time wrapped up in the stresses of work.


Health is a difficult one to pin down and is primarily about doing more of the good (food, exercise) and reducing the bad (inactivity, stress, alcohol, bad foods). My main focus here will be to improve our diet even further (which is already pretty damn solid) which really just comes down to cutting out alcohol & sugar and then having more time to shop, cook and prepare food for in the week.


I want to be as fit and strong as possible for as long as possible. This is primarily so I can continue to enjoy my life into my fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties even. I would also like to be lean and strong and look good (just being honest here). I have a desk job where I sit down most the day so it’s super important for me to exercise for my physical (and mental) health.

I also want to get better at mountain biking and a large component of this comes down to fitness. So, I want to exercise but tailor it towards my general goals and towards my chosen sport (which requires cardio and strength).


I want to have a less stressful year. I am developing a business and still renovating a house. This is alongside a fast-paced life at home with two near teen children, my youngest (5) and my wife (who has MS that we manage through diet). My life is a little stressful. So, this will be more about stress management than the removal of the things that apply stress.


I can tend to use alcohol to wind down after a fast paced day. It allows me to switch gears from work mode to chilled mode. Usually whilst cooking on the evening. Due to the hours, I work this tends to be unhelpful and just feeds into bad sleep, more stress and negatively impacts my fitness and health goals. I am going to revisit my thoughts about alcohol in a future post but for now, I will cut out all alcohol in January whilst I revisit that.

Time for myself

Whilst most of this involves improving the time I spend with my wife and children I also want to have some more time for myself. Maybe regular exercise and meditation go most the way for this but I may also want to spend an hour on the games console a couple of nights a week. Not too much to ask I hope.


Sleep. Often overlooked but so, so important. I want to allow for 8 hours sleep each night. I tend to need somewhere in the region of 7 to 8 hours. Closer to eight when I am exercising. So any schedule has to allow for a full eight hours with some time to wind down before that. Ideally three hours of time to just chill out and 15 mins to

My schedule

The below looks at my daily schedule – I will detail my work schedule in another post covering all the time management and productivity hacks I am working into my daily routine in 2017. The goal is work less hours but eliminate wasted efforts (80/20 rule) and push productivity up.

To summarise I am looking for:

  • More time with the family
  • Regular exercise
  • Less stress
  • More relaxation time
  • Improved health, fitness and lose a bit of weight

Monday to Friday

  • 5:30 am – get up: cold shower, coffee, some chess tactics for fun
  • 6:40 am – leave for work
  • 7:00 am – work: 8 hours 30 mins at work
  • 7:10 am – meditate for 10 mins
  • 3:30 pm – finish: drive home
  • 4:00 pm – home: see the kids
  • 4:15 pm – exercise, shower and get everything ready for tomorrow
  • 5:15 pm – cook
  • 6:00 pm – eat as a family
  • 6:30 pm – walk the dog (as a family)
  • 7:00 pm – two hours to relax or even catch up on work if needed 🙁
  • 9:00 pm – go to bed to read for 30 mins
  • 9:30 pm – sleep for eight hours

This allows me to get three hours of time each night to just chill out and get an eight hours sleep each night if I need it due to increased exercise. If not I can read more.


Saturday I tend to do my big bike ride for the week. This is the main goal of my exercise here and my benchmark. I don’t want this to eat into family time so up at 6.30am and meet my riding buddies at 7 am. I also need to sort out the meal plan and food shopping for the week.

  • 6:00 am – get up with my youngest (coffee etc)
  • 6:45 am – bike ride
  • 12:00 pm – home
  • 12:45 pm – meal plan for week
  • 1:00 pm – shopping
  • 3:00 pm – chill out


Sunday is just to chill out with the family so no schedule there. That said I do want to take the kids swimming every Sunday morning so I can teach the youngest to swim before our summer holiday.

  • 10 am – take kids swimming
  • 12 pm – sort out clothes and schedule for week
  • enjoy the rest of the day

Spend the rest of the day just hanging as a family. Walk the dog. Play some chess with my kids. Watch a movie together. Eat a nice dinner. Just fun.


To make this happen I also have to remove all the wasted time and inefficiencies in my day to day life. Time spent looking for my keys, time spent sat in traffic, time lost in my email inbox, doing our shopping day-to-day and any other wasted time but that’s a story for another day and a future post.

There you go

So there you go folks. I will be putting this into practice from the 3rd of January when I am back at work and will report back on the progress as I go. I will also follow this post up with a look at how I am going to strive to reduce time in my work and home life to give myself more time to relax.


Week 1 – went okay. Have made a few small revisions but in practice I am sticking to the schedule. Did not exercise as much as I intended but was tired post xmas and the shift from getting up at 8 am to 5.30am was not an easy one. First day of week 2 I am up and feeling good so exercise is starting in earnest today.

Parenting, change and appreciating what you have

It’s boxing day 2016. My children are 12 (nearly 13), 11 and 5. This is the first year that any of them did not believe in Santa. It’s a huge reminder that time just passes so, so fast and you have to work hard to appreciate every moment.


Christmas really is all about family. Even more so it is all about the children in your family. Particularly your own. And, I suspect, as time passes your grandchildren although I am not their yet.

The idea behind this blog was really just to document my own crusade to stay happy, healthy and productive as I tipped over the big 40 last year. A large part of that happiness is of course my own direct family.

Last year I was aware of two things that were having a negative impact on my life and happiness – work and alcohol. I am still somewhat conflicted regarding alcohol and I have ended up working harder than ever this year. Clearly, I did not learn my own lessons and as such I need to refocus.

This year and the unspoken but clearly apparent change in my eldest two children’s attitude to Christmas is yet another stark reminder that time is passing by and I really, really need to apply more focus on the positive areas of my life and less time stressing about work.

My relationship with my children will change. It is still highly positive. I have just finished a game of Super Mario Chess with my 11 year old. However I must embrace the further change that will come. I must make efforts to enjoy every single moment with my youngest who still believes in the magic of Christmas (well, Father Christmas at least).

Balance & Appreciation

There is no huge takeaway here folks – only that time moves fast, things change fast – appreciate what you have whilst you have it.

In 2017 my focus is going to be on balance. I want to achieve more at work yet I also want to allow more breathing room for my exercise and family. In my next post I will outline my plan for achieving a balance between work and play in 2017.

Happy Christmas to one and all. Here is to a happy, healthy and productive 2017 for all.

Squatting to Poop – a beginners guide

You have been pooping wrong for all of your life. Well, maybe not all of it. You likely squatted to poop when you were a baby. Be that a behind-the-sofa squat whilst you let it go into your nappy or a squat down to reach your potty. You likely pooped just as nature intended for a while. That is until you were told to do something different and you were trained to use the modern toilet.

As this blog is aimed at those of us 40 upwards this is the sort of time we start to see real problems from these small imperfections – fortunately, this one is easy remedied and you simply have to lift your feet and lean forwards to emulate a more natural squatting position when you do your business.

The Pooping Particulars

Modern science has shown us what mother nature knew all along and that we should squat down to poop. There are plenty of studies out there that discuss the why and for those of you interested in the dirty details then the book Gut by Julia Enders gives the most comprehensive overview I have seen to date.

Let me give you the skinny version: Your gut has a mechanism that is designed to open when you squat. The best analogy I have seen to date is that of a kinked garden hose. The hose may have a lot of pressure behind it but the ‘kink’ prevents the water (poo) getting out. This is by design and helps us keep our poo where it needs to be most of the time. The problem comes when we sit on a normal toilet we are not removing the kink and we are having to increase the pressure to get the water (poop) out.

Why this matters

Well, it’s nice to go and just go – if you know what I mean. None of us want to spend forever on the toilet (well, I hide from the kids in there sometimes). It’s also nice to get everything out and really do your business. But, there are also some health benefits beyond simply having a really satisfying poop.

  1. Constipation – fairly common issue where a lack of fibre and water combined with poor toilet posture leads to a build up that simply won’t go. Ensuring a good position and getting your diet dialled in keeps constipation at bay.
  2. Piles – piles or haemorrhoids are almost entirely the result of pushing too hard due to an incorrect seated position on the toilet. You are literally using your muscles to push your insides out. Over time you can likely look forward to incontinence as well.
  3. Cancer – there is lots of thinking that poor elimination leads to cancer of the bowel. The knock on this ranges from a problem absorbing nutrients to fatigue and all the way to the dreaded cancer.

The list does not stop there and good gut health requires thorough elimination. Given the recent science connecting gut health to autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disorders and even psychiatric disorders it certainly makes sense to look after your insides and proper pooping is a step in the right direction.

What to do about it

It’s fairly clear we should squat to plop but how do you go about that in the real world? A stack of books in the bathroom is not ideal but you will also need to poop-on-the-go so we need some strategies that work home and away.

  1. Squatty Potty – We simply have to start here with the premium solution. Developed due to a family members struggle with bowel related issues all the science and thinking was used to create the mighty squatty potty. Not everyone is going to want this in their bathroom and it is a premium price for what is essentially a small step but if you want the best then you can’t go far wrong.
  2. Ikea Childrens Stool – These simple stools from Ikea are what we use at home. They are around £3.00 each, they stack and you can use one or a couple if you prefer a wider leg stance (seems more natural from a squat perspective). They don’t look out of place in any bathroom either so you won’t get asked questions you may rather not answer in polite company.
  3. On the go – This is somewhat harder as you won’t have many options. I have found a solution though that seems to work well on the go. The general thinking here is that the knees need to be higher than the hips and you need to lean forwards. I am not a tall man by any means but by going on my tip toes and leaning forwards I can get my business done without any pushing (the gold standard). A few other tips are taking your shoes off and standing on them or sitting on the porcelain rather than the seat to win you an inch or so.

Once you get used to the improved mechanics you can to some extent feel your way around it. You will notice that you simply don’t need to push.

Happy pooping

This is one of those small changes or optimisations if you will that can really make a big difference. Certainly, if you suffer from constipation or some such it can help there but it also has merit as a preventative strategy. Try it for a few weeks and you will never go back.

Let me know how you get on in the comments – no need to go into too much detail! 🙂

The Farty Fourties

So, I have just returned from a trip with four old friends. We all turn forty this year and this was a chance for us all to get together, reflect, drink a bit too much, do some mountain biking and just generally have a bit of good, old fashioned bloke time.

The fart chorus

Night one was pretty much as expected. We were mountain biking on the following day so had promised to take it easy, yet, when old friends get together, well, we regress to what we did when we used to get together and it got a little raucous. It was a great night. We did call it a day at a reasonable time and went to bed at 12pm.

The following day the signs were starting to show. Farts, burps and acid indigestion. We are not the young men we once were it would seem!

A day of bike riding at Coed-y-Brenin followed which was a hoot and everyone was eating bacon sandwiches (I skipped the bread) then we had a selection of full english breakfasts and cornish pasties after the bike ride.

By the time we got back the fart chorus was in full effect. One of the group seemed to get away with it and he did not drink any beer and stuck with rum. Lots of rum mind – but no beer.

My farts were every 10 minutes – some real force behind them – but no real smell fortunately. One other member certainly had

My Pre Paleo Days

In my pre paleo style eating days I used to have bad guts. Smelly, frequent farting. Awful acid indigestion. Burps. Hiccups. Not nice for me or anyone else. It really used to do my head in with the acid being the worst offender in that respect. Any holiday where there would be good food and alcohol over a sustained two to three day period would set me off on the acid indigestion fart train. Not cool.

When I started to follow a Paleo style diet this largely went away. Stopping eating grains and dairy (and legumes but I never ate a great deal of them anyway) was seemingly enough despite the fact I carried on drinking to some degree.

Certainly now, lager and beer will set me off. Whether this is the gluten in the beer or something else to do with the grains it does not seem to happen with cider which is equally as fizzy. If I stick with clear spirits in moderation then alcohol does not cause me too many problems here. Lager causes problems, dark ales even more so making me believe it is something in beer itself and most likely the grains.

If I avoid the common foods excluded in a Paleo diet and beers of all sorts then my indigestion and flatulence goes away.

Why do we fart?

There are two key reasons why we end up passing wind known as exogenous gas and endogenous gas.

Exogenous gas loosely means gas (or air) that comes from outside. Common reasons for this are smoking, swallowing air, gasping, fizzy drinks, chewing gum and one I am guilty of, eating too fast. This is rarely a major issue and can be easily dealt with by some simple behaviour modification. It certainly makes sense to chew your food as much as possible to ensure proper digestion and extraction of nutrients. In fact, there are several well touted benefits of well chewed food with improved weight management and gut health leading the charge. This kind of gas is fairly normal and unlikely to get too much worse as we age.

Endogenous gas is gas that is created inside of us usually by the digestion of carbohydrates. What is really happening here is that bacteria in your gut is digesting and fermenting carbohydrates that you have failed to digest properly.

Why do we fart more when we get older?

Unfortunately, like so much else, this is a by product of ageing. Things we could get away with eating and digesting are now passing through without proper digestion and our aged innards are no longer able to digest the food properly so our gut bacteria is having a feast and rewarding us with the farts!

There is a school of thought that are modern diet and lifestyle is damaging our gut flora and with the passing of time we have decreased digestive abilities and a number of nasty gut invaders surviving on all the food we fail to digest. This creates a perfect storm in our underpants.

The fart solution

Fortunately, this is pretty easy to reduce in most people and simply following a basic Paleo style diet and cutting out grains, dairy and legumes will be enough to reduce flatulence to normal levels. For those still struggling after implementing the basic changes there are additional foods that can be avoided and other tools you can use to help give your digestion a fighting chance.

General Tips

These general tips will help most folks and for many may actually be enough to help kick your digestion into gear.

Eat simple meals – easy enough and rather than going for wildly varied stir fries try eating meals that look at lot more like meat or fish and a given vegetable or two. A steak, sweet potato and some broccoli. A piece of fish, some white rice and some asparagus. These kind of simple meals can really help.

Chew food thoroughly – digestion is a multi stage process that should start in the mouth. This involves the chewing to break the food down and exposure of the broken down food to the enzymes in your saliva. Simply chewing your food well (20 times or so) will ensure your digestion starts as it should and will ensure the next stages of digestion can do their job as they should.

Level 1 – should be enough for most folks

To take this further I would suggest a basic paleo diet template which simply put is the avoidance of grains of all sorts, dairy and legumes (beans). I would also suggest removing any processed food and simple carbohydrates. This for me was enough even when I was still not chewing properly and eating too fast.

Avoid the following:

  • All forms of dairy (cheese, milk & yogurts)
  • All grains and grain products (bread, pasta, cereal etc)
  • All legumes (beans & peanuts)
  • White potatoes
  • Beer & Ale (I know, I know)

This may seem excessive or difficult but give it a shot for 40 days and see how you get on. If your life is compromised by digestive issues then making these changes is worth the effort! Often, people can bring back in a few meals with white potatoes and white rice once the diet is established (and if there are no other health issues).

On the alcohol front I know this is a tough call for many but it can be a major cause of gas and digestive issues. I tend to do okay with Cider so I don’t think it is the gas we are drinking here so much as what the beer, lager or ale is doing to us on the inside. The only way to know is to give it a go. If you must drink during this period try to stick to good wines, clear spirits or relatively clean drinks like whiskey.

Level 2 – for those still struggling 

The foods that cause the most issues for all kinds of gut related problems from IBS to simply having too much wind are known as FODMAPs. This stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are specific carbohydrates that can’t be well digested by some people and as such are digested by the bacteria in the small intestine. The offshoot of this is wind. Lots and lots of wind. Sometimes smelly. Always noisy. Never welcome.

If you have implemented the simple tips and tried a basic Paleo diet template for 40 days and are still struggling then the next step is to eliminate FODMAPs from your diet.

Foods high in FODMAPs include:

  • Oligosaccharides – Garlic, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes and all varieties of beans.
  • Disaccharides – the primary disaccharide to avoid is lactose from milk.
  • Monosaccharides – fructose from fruits like nectarines, plums and all stoned fruits.
  • Polyols – these are sugar alcohols used in a range of processed, sweetened foods.

Foods low in FODMAPs include:

  • Peppers, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, tomato and courgettes
  • Bananas, oranges, grapes, melon, pineapple, raspberry, strawberry
  • Meat, fish & chicken
  • Almonds & pumpkin seeds.

FODMAPs are a little beyond the scope of this post but if you have tried everything else and suspect this may be the issue then for more details take a look at this FODMAP guide from Stanford Health Care.

Next steps

This largely comes down to digestive issues so once you have found the level at which you are comfortable then you may be able to implement an 80/20 approach and have a few of the foods you have knocked out. Truly, this is very individual and you have to see what works for you. Keeping a food journal during the elimination and reintroduction process can be really useful and I like the online journal system Diaro which you can use on your PC or Phone.

Remember though, my digestion is fine but I go away and start to drink beer and maybe eat some less than perfect food the problems can come back in a transient way. Likewise, it is interesting to watch everyone’s problems pop up from indigestion to skin issues – eating clean will help you just feel better and get more from your day.

Once your digestion has settled down you can try adding in a few additional elements to help build up a strong digestive system and capable gut. Note that I do all these things and if I go off-road then I still get problems so these are tweaks rather than replacements!

  • Add some soil based probiotics like Primal Defence Ultra
  • Create some fermented foods like sauerkraut
  • add some prebiotic foods (garlic, onions, bananas)

Hopefully this is helpful and simply eliminating the big three (grains, legumes and dairy) whilst taking more care to eat simple meals, chew thoroughly and avoid stress is going to make a huge difference. You really have to try it out though, give it a shot for 40 days and journal your results as you go.

Carrot Cake Muffins

Following a Paleo style diet should not have to mean that you never have any treats – likewise, it should not mean you only eat Paleo style treats. A big part of this whole game is reducing processed foods, carbs and sugars. And, hopefully replacing all these modern nasties with real, unprocessed, seasonal food.

However, there are times when you will want something a bit sweet – whether that is a Sunday or as a bit of a carb hit after exercise I will leave that to you to sensibly include such things. Personally, I have found the ‘I have to earn my treat’ mentality a good one in that it means I keep more sugary foods in the post workout window where those carbs will be sucked up by my muscles and help me recover.

Carrot cake pretty much seems like some good middle ground here. We have some paleo flour alternatives with almond flour and desiccated coconut. These have no gluten, more protein, less carbs and far improved nutrient profiles to standard flours. Additionally half of the mixture is carrots – win win. We also have healthy fats from the coconut oil and eggs. It’s still a treat but it is certainly a better one than a Starbucks Muffin!

Paleo Carrot Cake Muffins

Right then, this takes about 15 mins to prepare and 35 mins to cook so it’s pretty simple. Hardest bit is grating the carrots but I use a magimix. You will want to mix the dry ingredients and wed ingredients together separately and then combine it all together to ensure the fat gets evenly distributed.

I use the american cup measurements as it just makes life nice and easy – you can grab a cheap set of these here or just eye it up with a small teacup.

Dry ingredients

  • 2 x cups of almond flour
  • 1 x cup of desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
  • 3 x cups of finely grated carrot
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch of salt

Wet ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of honey *
  • 1/2 cup of coconut oil
  • 5 x good eggs

* you can use less honey – all depends on how sweet your tooth is! 


Note: grate the carrot finely and don’t be tempted to use more than 3 cups or it does not quite work as well. 

  • Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3, 170 Celsius (UK), 325 Fahrenheit (US)
  • Mix dry ingredients together
  • Mix wet ingredients together
  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients
  • Add the ingredients to a muffin tray
  • Stick them in the oven for approx 30 to 35 mins depending on size of muffins


That’s pretty much it. Let them cool and they are great on their own, with a frosting of some kind for or even cut up and buttered with a good grass fed butter like Kerrygold. Just try not to eat the whole tray in one go and if you can keep them as a post exercise treat that you have to earn then all the better!

The Early Bird Doesn’t Drink the Worm


I don’t think it is any great surprise that it is easier to get up in the morning when you have not had a drink. What I am finding surprising is just how early I wake up and am ready to start they day when I have had a drink. In fact, this is something of a cumulative effect and it takes around three nights to really kick in and I am waking up about 5.30am.

90 Minutes for me

I am a happy and relatively healthy guy. I have a great wife and three wonderful kids. A job I mostly enjoy and a few hobbies like cycling, weightlifting, this blog etc. What I don’t have is any spare time.

What this means is things like this blog suffer. My exercise suffers. Doing things I enjoy like getting out on the bike suffers. If I cram these things into the weekend, which I often do that means my time with my family suffers.

I am time challenged. Work is largely to blame but I have to bring home the bacon. I can’t do a lot about that short term other than try to be more productive when I am at work.

So, with this 90 minutes there is just so much more I can do. I can go out on my bike, go for a run or an early morning walk, spend some time with my three year old if he gets up early, do my weights, write a blog post, meditate, read a book or just chill out and enjoy some good coffee. I could even get up early and play a video game on the consoles I get to watch the kids play on everyday.

For a man that does not feel that he has 9 minutes to win 90 minutes like this every day and so easily is just so much better than the time I would spend boozing.

You booze you lose

For various reasons I have come to the conclusion that alcohol is a largely negative factor in my life. I am 39 and think this has been bubbling up for a few years now. I don’t get smashed and argue with my wife and kids. I have not lost a job or anything like that. I score relatively low on the typical ‘are you a drunkard‘ questionnaires but they are largely ridiculous.

I am more of a few drinks every evening to wind down kind of guy. But, what this actually does is tend to keep me up. I am relaxed now so I will watch some crappy TV. Probably stay up that little bit later.

I will then have an less relaxing nights sleep. Maybe up a few times to go to the toilet. Maybe tossing and turning a bit. Waking up tired around 6.30am.

By the evening I get back home, tired, need to wind down and…. off we go again, few drinks, get relaxed and repeat the whole thing all over again. When the weekend rolls around the volume probably goes up a bit – start a bit earlier on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday and increase the volume.

Why is this happening?

Without booze though this is a different story. I will tend to go to sleep earlier. l will certainly wake up earlier, usually around 5.30am and when I wake up I am pretty much awake and ready for action.

There is nothing magical here really, sleep is super important and without booze I get better and more restful sleep. I think we have all collectively numbed ourselves to just how much even a couple of drinks takes our edge off. For years I wanted to do just that but now I seem to be enjoying feeling sharp the next day.  I want to get up and feel good and be productive.

Early bird activities

I figure this wins me about 90 minutes per day. From around 5.30am to 7am when everyone else is still asleep. I don’t get much any time to myself with three kids of 11, 9 and 3 with varying requirements in terms of running around, homework etc so this space to just do something for myself is really rewarding.

Certainly, this is far more rewarding than the couple of drinks I would have as my reward for my days toil.

What I get from alcohol

So, my somewhat wonky thinking that has been in place for 20 years or so is that a drink is my reward. Something good. Something that helps me relax. But, in fact, if I analyse how it impacts my life – which I can only do whilst trying to remove it – it is anything but.

My couple of drinks on the evening habit that is similar to so, so many other folks is actually something holding me back. Something keeping me mentally subdued and sucking the joy out of many basic moments as I am tired, cranky, craving a drink or really, just not 100%.

Booze also makes me and keeps me fat. No doubt about that. I exercise. I have ran a bloody marathon. But, those booze calories that are likely somewhere between 3500 and 7000 a week can’t be discounted. Liquid calories are the worst anyway but cider. Jesus. Lovely cider.

If my drinking ramps up say for instance when we are on holiday I notice much more severe effects in terms of my thinking. Booze makes me dark. Dark thoughts. Increased anxiety. Lack of coping with the day-to-day stresses of life. I think this is always there but to a level you begin to feel is normal – it is just adult life, not the booze – right? Remove booze though and I am calmer, I cope better, have less anxiety and am just generally more present.

I have goals for my business, goals for my health, goals for my physical appearance and ultimately booze is that old friend who is holding you back. So really, it is no friend at all.

Ultimately, booze makes me fat, grumpy, stressed and anxious  – looking at it like that it is really not quite the reward I have held it up as for so many years.

Putting this into practice

So, here is a simple way to put this into practice for yourself. I think you will really need a month but a week would likely give you an indication. If the thought of a month without booze is just too scary (I get it 100%) then aim for a week.

You have to be careful not to tip your weeks worth of booze down your neck over the weekend here so I would say have a drink if you must on Friday and Saturday but keep it super moderate like three drinks max each night. Then, absolutely don’t drink Sunday. Try to get an early night on the Sunday around 9pm and see how early you wake on Monday.

Make a list of things you want to do this week and pin it on your fridge or some such and then work away at that list. You have like ten extra hours here and there is just so much you can do with that.

So, in summary

  • Don’t drink heavily over the preceding weekend
  • Get to bed early as you likely have some catching up to do
  • Wake naturally and get up
  • Have a list of specific goal for the week that you are working towards
  • Review at the end of the week.

Just imagine what you could do with an extra 90 minutes each day? That’s ten hours a week. What is it you want to achieve? That is time to do it. Write a book. Start a blog. Run a marathon. Lift weights and get jacked. Take life by the scruff of the neck, ditch alcohol for a few weeks, even if only in the week and see how you can be happier and more productive – oh, and comment here to let me know how you get on and to help keep me motivated”

My morning

This morning, I got up at 5:15am. Just woke up. Felt rested and ready for the day. This is stark contrast to being jolted out of bed by my alarm or my youngest being up and not being terribly happy about it most mornings around 6.30am. I have got up and written this blog post and am now off out to the garage to do some weights. I will be showered by 7am and off to work for an early start, feeling good and ready for action.