Flax – Episode 158

Performance Menu: Journal of Health & Athletic Excellence

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  1. [3:03] Once Overweight, Always Overweight?
  2. [9:18] Flax Consumption
  3. [14:34] Colonoscopies
  4. [20:24] Optimal Strength Building Periodization
  5. [27:30] Dead Lift Frequency
  6. [33:02] Does Ketosis Always Work?
  7. [41:54] Sources Of Paleo Carbs
  8. [45:33] Brain Fog After Reintroducing Safe Carbs
  9. [50:41] Stuttering



1. Once a fatty, always a fatty?

Callum says:
Hi Robb and Greg.

I was reading an article on Cracked — a humour website, but still — which posited that it’s impossible for a fat person to lose weight and keep it off permanently. The article emphatically begins with: “The number of people who go from fat to thin, and stay there, statistically rounds down to zero.”

Their reasoning is thus: “As that article explains, the person who is at 175 pounds after a huge weight loss now has a completely different physical makeup from the person who is naturally 175 — exercise benefits them less, calories are more readily stored as fat, the impulse to eat occurs far, far more often. The formerly fat person can exercise ten times the willpower of the never-fat guy, and still wind up fat again. The impulses are simply more frequent, and stronger, and the physical consequences of giving in are more severe. The people who successfully do it are the ones who become psychologically obsessive about it, like that weird guy who built an Eiffel Tower out of toothpicks.”

As a former fatty myself who lost 40 kilos after a lifetime of obesity, and who has had minor weight fluctuations ever since (I’ve hover between 89 and 94kg for 3 years), I must ask your opinion on this matter. In your experience, is it possible for a fat person to completely overhaul their life, and become fit and ripped permanently?

If it helps, I eat Paleo, but when I cheat…it’s a binge to end all binges. At least I manage to realign myself and go back to strict Paleo during the guilt-ridden aftermath.

So yeah… Opinions? Cracked does cite some sources, so feel free to peruse through.




2. The facts on flax… What’s deal on flax seed consumption?

Jeff says:
Allow me to start with the obligatory ego stroking of the two fine individuals that have helped out countless individuals in their quests to navigate the world of bad and disinformation.  Honestly though, the information that you guys provide really has changed my life immensely and I am certain I am not the only one…  Now, on to the topic!:

I have always felt sub-par when it comes to digestive health; I just have never found it easy (to put it lightly) to maintain regularity and it has been a long fought battle… this is the story of my life.

In this long fought battle, I have tried it all: probiotics (supplements and fermented foods), prebiotics, digestive enzymes, natural fiber, processed fiber, short term use of herbal laxatives, “hydro-colonic therapy”, etc.  Some of these “solutions” have worked better than others, but in the end, they all seem to be a short term fix at best.

I have been working with a nutritionist on this issue; she suggested I try out flax-seed tea.  The recipe she provided required a tbsp of organic flax seeds steeped in hot (boiling) water and covered for 6-8 hours, moved to the fridge for an additional 6-8 hours, and then consumed.  I was doing this twice a day and it appears to have had some benefit.  However, being the all-or-nothing type personality I am, I strive to optimize my diet as much as possible.

Being a loyal listener/reader I already had some reservations on flax but after doing some research, flax seems to be one of those items that sits in the gray zone.  I have heard you voice your concern about the associated levels of linolenic acid which as we know is fragile and is prone to oxidization.  On the other hand, Charles Poliquin has spoken positively about the lignans contained in flax which can bind to estrogen in the digestive tract so that it will be moved through and excreted from the body (which is another goal for me – but that is another show).

So here come the question/s:

1.) Does this preparation of flax tea negate or exasperate the ill effects of ALA?

2.) How does this preparation affect the potential beneficial properties of lignans?

3.) Do you have other suggestions to get the both worlds?

Thanks again for all that you guys do.



3. Colonoscopies

Stuart says:
Hi Robb and Greg –

I was wondering what your thoughts were on colonoscopies and, in particular, the effect of the cleansing prep on the gut flora? Does the prep leave enough flora in place to repopulate after the procedure? I have a family history of colon cancer. I’m in my mid-40s and have been getting colonoscopies every couple of years as recommend by my GI doc, but now that I’ve made the switch to paleo and am aware of the importance of a healthy gut, I’m hesitant to go through this again (and the procedure is so unpleasant, that it wouldn’t be bad to pass on it).


4. Optimal Strength Building Periodization

Heidi says:
Hey Robb and Greg.

Thank you for all the time and effort you put in to helping the uninformed public get healthy.

I recently graduated from Queen’s University in Kingston with a Bachelor in Physical and Health Education.  During my time there, I was educated in proper strength program periodization for athletes playing specific sports and this is how I have designed my own strength training programs.

I am now looking to get stronger and build muscle mass and am not sure how to properly periodize my program considering I do not play any sports anymore and basically just want to gain muscle mass and get some definition.  My ultimate goal is to eventually train for power lifting competitions… if I can get over my past overtraining and associated injuries.

I have been looking around online..T-Nation mostly and have some strength training books…. Ian King’s Book of Muscle and Yuri’s Supertraining… and have found some good programs that are helping me get stronger, but I was wondering if there are any books or publications that you could direct me towards that will help me understand the periodization for strength programs for bodybuilding or power lifting programs.

Thanks in advance for the advice.



5. Dead Lift or not to Dead Lift that is the question

Ian says:

Question is about deadlifts. I have heard a number of folks say not to dead lift more than once a week. Martin Berkhan seems to point out that they are a great exercise. In your opinions what is a reasonable amount of time to do the movement and recover? Is it a movement you would recommend for a good strength and conditioning program? I would say my strength is about intermediate right now can squat 1.6 times body weight, dead lift almost twice body weight, about 15 dead hang pull ups without stopping, et cetera. At this point I work out in my own home garage gym. I did o lifting with a coach for about 6 months and now do a mix of o lifting and crossfit type of workouts. Goals are to get stronger and stay fit. 39 years old, 5 ft 8 160 lbs about 11 percent body fat. Sleep 8-9 hours a night. Thanks for all your great work. P.S. Rob I hope to see you at the next ancestoral health symposium in Austin next year.



6. ketosis–does it always work??

Steph says:
Hi!  Please answer this question on the podcast!  :)  You guys are awesome and I would really appreciate your help…
My husband has been experimenting with a ketogenic diet for the past three weeks and he is not seeing the expected/ desired results.
A bit of background: he has been fit and active all his life.  He is in the military, and in addition to the regimented PT (physical training), he has always worked out on his own and been very strong and aerobically fit.  He is 5’11”, and his ideal weight for his build (extremely muscular) is somewhere around 200lbs.

A few years ago, he suffered a broken ankle while on deployment, and that, combined with some unfortunate family troubles etc lead to about a 40lb weight gain for him.  At his heaviest he weighed about 241…
Then, a little under 3 years ago, we discovered Paleo/ Crossfit, and we both jumped in with both feet.  He took a little longer than I did to come around to the diet part, but we have been very strict paleo (with only the occasional divergence) for about the past 2 years.

He lost quite a bit of weight initially, but he can’t seem to get rid of the last stubborn 20lbs or so. Right now he’s around 217.

3 weeks ago, he began what I would call a strict ketogenic diet.  His carb intake has been well under 50g per day, fat intake is high (mostly coconut oil and heavy cream), and protein intake (for his size) is pretty low (under 100g/ day).  He’s been very diligent with this diet, and monitoring when he’s in ketosis, but the expected weight loss has not occurred.  In fact, he’s gained 3 pounds and an inch on his waist.

Not surprisingly, he’s getting frustrated and feels at his wits’ end.

He seems to come out of ketosis during the night; when he tests in the morning (urine strips) he’s not in ketosis.  But then in the afternoon and evening he is in ketosis.  Also, he is very low energy and feels as if he is losing strength.  When he tries to work out, he feels exhausted immediately, and his heart rate gets very high very fast.  This is decidedly unusual for him.

So, our question…  What else can we do/ adjust/ try?  I have thought that perhaps there are other issues at play (namely, sleep and elevated cortisol levels due to stress/ anxiety/ overtraining etc…), but addressing those is somewhat difficult for him.

Are there other dietary strategies we could/ should be implementing?  We are reading as broadly and deeply as we can in hopes of increasing our knowledge base, but any help you could provide would be appreciated.
Thanks in advance, and keep up the stellar work!
p.s. I voted for you on the people’s choice thing…



7. Veggies

Edmund says:
Hey Robb and Greg,
I’m a fan of the show and appreciate you throwing your knowledge out there for us to learn from.  For the somebody who is not metabolically deranged your schpiel for how to eat post work-out almost always includes, “some safe starch like sweet potato”.  What is so friggin’ special about the sweet potato?  I know there is a book out there floating around the paleosphere called “Sweet Potato Power” but I haven’t read it.

I get that white potatoes have a high glycemic index and solanine, so they could be a problem for a significant number of people.  But what about carrots, parsnips, rutabegas, turnips, beets, and jerusalem artichokes?  I like sweet potatoes a lot, AND I like a little variety in my diet.  In my little bit of digging I did on this topic I found that Jerusalem artichokes’ primary storage molecule is inulin (a string of fructose molecules) as opposed to starch (a string of glucose molecules.)  I could see that being a problem when consumed in quantity.  Do you know of any other “problems” with the list of root veggies I just gave?  I have a crap load of them to eat from my garden and I like them a lot.

Last question – how “safe” is squash starch?  I am drowning in winter squash.  I won’t be able to eat all of it before it goes bad, and the things keep for months and months.


8. Safe carb brain fog

Kevin says:

I really enjoy your podcasts after finding them about 15 episodes ago.  Definitely an interesting mix of nutrition, fitness, and the oddball topic of the day – like consistency of baby poop.

Here’s my story / question:

I have been eating 95% paleo for about 2 years (although I do eat cheese / greek yogurt).  At one point, after reading Gary Taubes Good Calories Bad Calories, I shifted further away from any sort of carb.  I was actually feeling good, but then read Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet.  I also listen to Chris Kresser a lot, so I thought I’d add some “safe carbs” back to my diet.

Here is what I was eating, which was borderline ketogenic.


I added back the carbs, such as this dish


What happens to me now is that I get that tired feeling in mid afternoon, and, for lack of a better term, “brain fog”.  More or less a sleepy feeling.  I was concerned that I have been going too low carb, so have tried things like eating a banana when that feeling comes over me, but it really doesn’t help.   Eating a handful of nuts doesn’t either.   What does help is when I get home, I go on a fast paced walk with my dogs and then do my workout routine (which is too pathetic to describe but does seem to lift the fog).

What do you think about this effect of adding say one 2″ diameter potato to my lunch having such effect and creating the brain fog?  Any suggestions on what sorts of tests I might get?  Or, should I just drop the potatoes and go with that?

Thanks alot,


9. Stuttering

Todd says:
Hi, Just a quick one gentleman. What are you thought’s on stuttering i.e causes, fixes. Could food be related in anyway. It seems to be a bit of a mystery. When you search though Google all you get are peanuts. I got nothing against peanuts but I want answers. It’s hard to believe that no one has come close to working out what may cause people to stutter. Is it neurological, stress or a chemical imbalance. Cheers boys, keep chugging along. Your podcast is radical.(I’m bringing it back)


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Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation

Have you heard about the Paleo diet and were curious about how to get started? Or maybe you’ve been trying Paleo for a while but have questions or aren’t sure what the right exercise program is for you? Or maybe you just want a 30-day meal plan and shopping list to make things easier? Then Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation is for you.


  1. Martin says

    Re: 6. ketosis–does it always work??

    Please, read the latest by book by Phinney and Volek, ‘The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance’. They explain how to fine tune a ketogenic diet and a.o. explain why measuring ketosis with urine strips is not the best approach.

  2. Eric D says

    Great podcast!

    Quick question: The Dead Lift.

    I am a BJJ player and have extremely limited time for S&C otuside of the mats. I teach 3 beginner classes per week (1 hour each) and am working with the other instructors on more advanced stuff around 6- 10 hours per week depenings on the schedule that week (note that only like 3- 4 of those house are rolling); I am on the mats at least 6 days a week and 7 day is not uncommon. This leads to the question; should I be working in heavy deadlifting?

    Current S&C is 2 days in the gym a week for less than 1 hour. Every 3rd week is deload.
    Lower Body day is Dead Lifting Work: percentages leading to sets of 85%, 90%, and 95% (much like wendlers), follower by some squats (back and front) but not all that heavy, some box jumps, and prowler pushing and pulling.

    Upper Body day is Heavy med ball throws, Weighted pull up work, Push supersets (cycle through Dips, Bench, Press, Push Jerk, push Up, HSPU, etc), Rows (BW, DB, or Barbell) or Prowler pulls with rope, finished with some GHD sit ups and back extenstions.

    +1 day a week of sprint work (always under 40 minutes warm up through cool down)

    The ONLY exersizes I lift heavy are dead lifting and W. Pull ups.

    I am 28, male, 6 foot, 190ish with DL of 450, Squat 350, Press 190, W. Pull 120. Paleo + Kerrygold, Heavy Cream, Kefir. Good 8- 10 hours sleep per night.

    Greg quotes there are better things to be doing than DL heavy and it should more a test of strength than an actual strength activity. How would you tweek this? More cleans and Squats?

    BTW: Hows BJJ comming? You a purple yet? Hows your BJJ S&C look?

  3. Kevin says


    thanks for answering my question. I did download the Scotty Hagnas article and I think I’m going to try upping the carbs for a while and see how that goes. I am actually in a situation where I’d like to gain weight, but for whatever reason I can eat until I’m stuffed on my current diet and not gain anything. Maybe adding the carbs will shift the balance.

    thanks again,


  4. Cliff says


    Just do 5×5 Stonglifts. Most prob the best strength program out there especially for beginners.
    Once you have exhausted gains on that you can change to something like madcow, 5/3/1 or texus method.

    Just google those names for more info.

  5. Alan says

    Re: Colonoscopy.

    Context definitely matters, Robb. Stuart reports a family history of colon cancer, but gives no specifics. What if he has a history of Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) and he has a father that got colon cancer at age 38 and two siblings that got colon cancer in their early 30’s? That is a far cry from Aunt Mable getting colon cancer at 80. Both scenarios represent a family history of colon cancer, but with very different implications for Stuart. In the first situation, frequent colonoscopy is definitely indicated from the age matching the earliest age at diagnosis of his family members (or even earlier if FAP has been established). In the second, standard screening would be followed (starting ~50). There are other forms of familial colon cancer such as Lynch Syndrome (aka hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer or HNPCC) in which earlier screening may also be warrented.

    Followup colonoscopy depends also on what was found on previous exams. If clean, then about 10 years. If there were adenomatous polyps, then 2-3 year followup is common. Other polyps, maybe 5 years.

    Standard bowel prep does not include antibiotics and plenty of the existing flora would probably be left. Could the overall population demographics be changed… maybe.

  6. marti kehs says

    so, I just spent the last hr listening to your podcast…loving every minute of it…while broiling bacon for my Paleo kale salad tossed in my homemade green goddess dressing, using my home made mayo! going into year 3 of Paleo and have to say, there’s no going back. Thanks to Robb Wolf, Peter Attia, Gary Taubes, Lyle McDonald, the Eades, Sarah Fragoso, Julie and Charles Mayfield, Michele Tam, Melissa Joulwas, and a host of others….THANKS! thanks for helping in the continual process of learning the best way to live a healthy and productive life!

  7. kevin cann says

    In terms of the once overweight, always overweight question:

    In a lot of these cases, in my experience, the patient exhibits low thyroid issues. This is usually due to chronic dieting. In those cases I have them check off symptoms and take a rising body temp for 3 days. If it is lower then 97.8 degrees I have them order a full thyroid panel. Low thyroid is a bigger issue in our culture then western medicine thinks.

  8. kelsey says

    Hi Robb,

    In the colonoscopy question you mentioned a guy who PCR-ed his gut bacteria every day for a year; do you have a source for that? I’m interested in reading more about that project.


  9. says

    Hey, Robb,

    I was disappointed to hear you slam Jerusalem Artichokes, buddy. I’ve heard that all traditional cultures incorporate prebiotics in their diets, not because they taste good but because our ancestors knew that the gut microbiota has to be fed and does better on foods that are not necessarily culinary delights for humans.

    For American Indians, Jerusalem Artichokes (not the native name) and Yakon (the native name?) were prebiotics of choice. Inulin, I’ve always understood, is low on the glycemic index. In fact, it isn’t actually digested by humans, is it? But it’s loved by gut bacteria as a food.

    Here’s what WIKIPEDIA has to say:

    Food sources

    FOS is extracted from fruits and vegetables such as bananas, onions, chicory root, garlic, asparagus, barley, wheat, jícama, and leeks. Some grains and cereals, such as wheat, also contain FOS.[3] The Jerusalem artichoke and its relative yacón have been found to have the highest concentrations of FOS of cultured plants.[4]
    [edit]Health benefits

    FOS has been a popular dietary supplement in Japan for many years, even before 1990, when the Japanese government installed a “Functionalized Food Study Committee” of 22 experts to start to regulate “special nutrition foods or functional foods” that contain the categories of fortified foods (e.g., vitamin-fortified wheat flour),[5] and is now becoming increasingly popular in Western cultures for its prebiotic effects. FOS serves as a substrate for microflora in the large intestine, increasing the overall gastrointestinal tract (GI Tract) health. It has also been touted as a supplement for preventing yeast infections.
    Several studies have found that FOS and inulin promote calcium absorption in both the animal and the human gut.[6][7] The intestinal microflora in the lower gut can ferment FOS, which results in a reduced pH. Calcium is more soluble in acid, and, therefore, more of it comes out of food and is available to move from the gut into the bloodstream.
    FOS can be considered a small dietary fibre with (like all types of fibre) low caloric value. The fermentation of FOS results in the production of gases and acids. The latter provide some energy to the body.

    All inulin-type prebiotics, including FOS, are generally thought to stimulate the growth of Bifidobacteria species. Bifidobacteria are considered “friendly” bacteria. This effect has not been uniformly found in all studies, both for Bifidobacteria and for other gut organisms.[8][unreliable source?] FOS are also fermented by numerous bacterial species in the intestine, including Klebsiella, E. coli[9] and many Clostridium species, which are considered less-friendly bacteria in the gut. These species are responsible mainly for the gas formation (hydrogen and carbon dioxide), which results after ingestion of FOS. Studies have shown that up to 20 grams/day is well tolerated.[10]

    Here’s the truth: I grow Jerusalem Artichokes and, this time of the year, eat a lot of them (roasted). Contrary to what you may have heard (no pun here), Jerusalem Artichokes do NOT create gas in everyone. Just in some people. Probably in people who have low populations of Bifidobacteria, doncha think?

    Anyway, if Jerusalem Artichokes are one of the highest sources of natural FOS and FOS is something we pay extra for in probiotic products, Jerusalem Artichokes aren’t really that bad of a food in our diet, are they? (And inulin, the starch of Jerusalem Artichokes doesn’t tweak human blood sugar, does it?)

    Please set me straight here, Robb.


  10. Beverly says

    On stuttering: I used to have trouble with it at high stress times but since going paleo I have almost completely eliminated the problem. The exceptions have occurred when something sneaks in with dye in it. Granted, there is more at work here than just a stutter, it is the first symptom of an impending anxiety attack for me, but I would not be surprised if that was the case more often than people realize. Check ingredient labels meticulously, you might be surprised where the stuff hides.

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