5 Round Friday

5 Round Friday


It’s been quiet on The Black Toenail lately as other things have been needing my attention lately: new job, military duty, and household needs. It has kept me from the discipline of writing regularly, but sometimes that’s how it goes. Right? Seriously. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t found five things that might add to your disciplines. Check these out.

Chow  Organic PBFit Peanut Butter
This powder is crazy good and adds a quick 6 grams of protein and peanut butter flavor to… anything. Or add water to make peanut butter with 1/10th of the fat and calories. It’s a staple in our house.

Perspective  Disengaging the Lizard Brain, Common Sense with Dan Carlin
The focus of The Black Toenail is people, not politics. But there are times when they overlap enough that I need to comment on it. Dan Carlin offers a long history view while discussing history, foreign policy, and the current political climate. Open your mind.

Navigate  Theodolite
Back in the early days of surveying, circa 1571, there was a piece of gear that measured various axes using telescopes, seconds of arc, and lots of mathiness. In the 21st Century, you can now have this capability on your phone. As a navigation and documentation tool it’s a land nav dream. In a click you can capture info, plot a course, or triangulate your position. And it connects to your maps! It’s a bit of a learning curve, but worth every penny in the iPhone App Store (sorry Android users – not yet).

Medical  Duck Industries Duct Tape
Over Memorial Day we were in San Diego for the GORUCK HTL as Holly was pushing to complete it. Due to a series of unfortunate events, her feet blistered up like chicken skin over a campfire. By the time we were getting prepped for the 12 hour Challenge, her feet truly hurt. Medical tape wasn’t going to offer enough protection. But as any groundpounder knows, duct tape works great! Duck Industries has lots of patterns and prints to satisfy your girlish or badass sensibilities. Just beware once it’s time to recover.

Recovery  Body Health Perfect Aminos
Supplements. Most of us take something to augment our diets. Sometimes making us feel better. Sometimes making our pee expensive. Personally, I don’t like taking anything unless I know why I’m taking it and I can see or feel a difference. Essential amino acids have made a considerable difference in my recovery. Unlike Branched Chain Amino Acids (which only offer a select few amino acids), Body Health Perfect Aminos offer eight of the nine amino acids the body uses to rebuild… well, everything. Muscle, hormones, toenails, everything. Check out Ben Greenfield’s interview with Dr. David Minkoff for the science and backstory for more info.

Let me know your requests and suggestions. Which round is your favorite? What do you want to see more or less of? Let me know! Send a tweet to @getblacktoenail using #5roundfriday so I can find it.

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!



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5 Round… Saturday

5 Round… Saturday

This week I traveled up to Portland to attend a class, so I’m a little late in getting my weekly list of stuff that’s been working for me lately. Better late than never – for the most part. I’m blaming the Oregon rain. It’s just not supposed to be raining this time of year.

Drinking  Bulletproof Instamix
Okay, I’ll admit. The thought of butter in my coffee seemed silly at first. But after trying it for a while, I found it really left me feeling satisfied in the mornings and staved off the hunger until lunch. The Instamix eliminates the need to blend it before tossing it into your to-go cup. Just mix it straight in!

Studying  About Face, COL David Hackworth
This 700-page epic memoir is a beast to take on. I have slowly been digesting it this year, even loading it into a Ziploc and packing it to the field while training. But it’s a beast of lessons learned, incredible military history, and a different perspective on Korea and Vietnam. Hackworth was a Soldier’s Soldier, and his lessons translate into any organization.

Tracking  Robb Wolf, Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast
Ben Greenfield interviewing the legendary Paleo author, Robb Wolf, and the result is filled with great info. From farming to binaural beats to nicotine gum to glucose monitoring – lots to learn here.

Supplementing  Reserveage, Grass Fed Whey Protein
Protein powder. We all take it, though usually it leaves me feeling empty. Moving to grass-fed whey has made quite a difference. I feel fuller, more satiated, and less foggy afterwards due to the low carb/sugar content. I really like this stuff.

Pondering  This is Now, Hatebreed
Cause this is now
If I can I change tomorrow if I can’t change today
This is now
If I control myself I control my destiny

Let me know your requests and suggestions. Which round is your favorite? What do you want to see more or less of? Let me know! Send a tweet to @getblacktoenail using #5roundfriday so I can find it.

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!


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5 Round Friday

5 Round Friday

Last weekend we were in new Orleans for the GORUCK GRT Reunion. 225+ of us weirdos were in town for a Tough + Party. We overindulged. I hurt myself. So this week has been about recovery. Here are five things I’ve been pampering myself with in order to come back to reality, push off alcohol once again, and get back to training…

Cooking  Almost 5 Ingredient Pizza Spaghetti Pie
Juli over at paleomg.com has been making food magic happen for many years now. This recipe was originally published in 2014, but it’s new to our kitchen. And I think it’s going to be a weekly thing. Once you make it, you’ll see why.

Eyeballing  Tribe, Sebastian Junger
I just stumbled across this yesterday, but I am really curious to see what Junger has to say in it. I rather enjoyed his book War, and it seems this one is the next step in defining – from a civilian point of view – what it means for a Servicemember to come home. More to come as I get to read it over the next few weeks.

Headbanging  The Concrete Confessional, Hatebreed
Hitting us up with brutally honest lyrics about life, Hatebreed continues to motivate us with their latest record. It just came out today. I’m going back for a second helping – alongside leftover Pizza Spaghetti Pie.

Rolling  Lacrosse Ball
I have plantar fascia issues. If I don’t take time with it, rolling out my glutes, hamstrings, and everything upstream from my feet, they begin to hurt. This simple lacrosse ball is the best, cheapest mobility tool out there. Lots of ways to apply it to every muscle group. Painfully delicious.

Meditating  Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World, Kelly Starrett
“What’s even more disturbing, and what virtually no one realizes, is that inactivity is killing our brains—physically shriveling them.”

Let me know your requests and suggestions. Which round is your favorite? What do you want to see more or less of? Let me know! Send a tweet to @getblacktoenail using #5roundfriday so I can find it.

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!


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The Day I Felt Like Wolverine

The Day I Felt Like Wolverine


Science says I can have the body of Hugh Jackman in 6 months – safely and without gimmicks. As a recovering fat kid, I’m ready to cut that ad from the back of the comic book and mail in my $9.95 with self-addressed stamped envelope. Or, just buy the eBook. Anything to help with this ongoing, lifelong battle with my body. Anything.

I decided to cut through the bullshit when it came to my arch enemy – body fat. How? Hydro-static testing. Reasonably priced, fast, and accurate. We found a guy who has a truck that roams Northern California like a fitness minstrel luring athletes in with a website, appointment book, and the promise of answers. So we booked the appointment and drove to his location to see what we could see.

Once inside the truck, I filled out the necessary Death Waiver, stripped down to my shorts, and got into the shallow tank. Lying face down, I was instructed to put a dainty weight belt on my lower back to keep me from floating up. Then, after a deep breath in, I blew all the air out of my lungs and put my face into the water. Once all of the bubbles were forced out of my body, I waited – for the longest ten seconds ever – to hear three bangs on the side of the tank telling me I was done. That was round one. Two more to go Deep breath, exhale, force out bubbles, nearly drown – deep breath, exhale, force out bubbles, nearly drown – and the test was complete. While I wasn’t getting shot up with Adamantium in a Top Secret Stan Lee experiment, flashes of Wolverine Origins came to mind.


Then we got to see how fat I really was. This part is most difficult, embarrassing… and avoided by most people. It’s so much easier to stay on the couch eating Cheetos while watching the Giants beat the Dodgers. But I have been in this fight for so long, seen the needle move on these numbers move so little, that I wanted to know more about myself than watch Buster Posey up his average, yet again, covered in cheese dust. I needed this information to cut through the guessing, know for certain what my body was composed of, and hopefully gain some insights as to why I’m not losing weight.

Here is where fat Wolverine is currently.
Height: 72″
Weight: 248
Body Fat: 65.2 lbs.; 26.3%
Lean Muscle Mass: 182.6 lbs.; 73.7%

The reality is while I have been able to perform better because of the training schedule over the last three months, I was still at 26% body fat. Success in changing my body composition was pretty minor compared to my overall goals: cut fat and improve my performance at GORUCK Toughs.

This brought me to review my key strategies for the last few months. Perhaps this is where I was going wrong and needed to make some adjustments before going in for another dose of submersion theater. Over the past three months I had focused on three objectives:

  1. Training Schedule: Following the protocol from Military Athlete, I had worked through Humility, Big24, and Fortitude programs, training 4-6 days a week. While life got in the way a few times, my training stayed on course for the most part.
  2. Macro mix + MFP: Taking from Ben Greenfield’s discussions of a fat-adapted diet, I moved my macronutrient mix to 50% fat, 25% carb, and 25% protein. All intake was logged into MyFitnessPal app (MFP). Many days I was well under my RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate – the number of calories my engine needs to function properly while at rest). I maintained the thought that I was better off with less calories than more and that I didn’t want to break that ceiling, so remained under my RMR regularly.
  3. Cheat Days: I also took the advice from Military Athlete and others that one day out of the week you should “cheat like a mother.” The idea being this will resolve the cravings you have for what you’ve been missing all week as well as keep the body from adapting hormonally to the clean eating style you keep most days. The logic of it seemed sound, and my inner fat kid was happy to play along with that.

While I cut out a lot of trouble foods most days – anything with wheat flour or added sugar, and most grains, dairy, and legumes – I did not cut back much in alcohol. Study after study talk about the health benefits of 1-2 drinks on a daily basis, so I felt justified in my alcohol intake. Plus, Cheat Days are okay, right?


Back to the science. With my body fat test I got a realistic RMR. Now I needed to revise my goals, review my strategies, and plot my new course for diet and training.

My new body composition goals? 13% Body Fat at 215 pounds. How to get there? More math: at 1.5 lbs./week lost and 33 pounds of fat to be lost. At that pace, I’ll have my Hugh Jackman body in about six months!

Now I needed to figure out what changes I need to make and why.

First came the math to figure out my caloric sweet spot. One pound of fat equals 3500 calories. That means eating 750 kcals less than I burn each day, while not eating below my RMR. My equation came out like this:

RMR + Workday burn – Weight Loss Deficit = Max Calories/per day
Or 2259 + 968 -750 = 2477 Max kcals/day

When balanced against my RMR, this sets my Caloric Range between 2259-2477 kcals per day. Plus, calories burned during exercise allow more calories for intake if needed. Bonus!

Next came the strategies needed to use this knowledge and meet these goals:

  1. Eat more calories: I wasn’t getting enough calories to tell my body I’m not in fear of starvation, so it was holding onto what I have just in case. Instead of operating like a Depression-era Grandmother, I need my body to spend calories like a Baby Boomer Grandfather, which it will only do when it’s safe. That means my body needs to know it’s safe from war and famine – which it will with enough calories taken onboard.
  2. No booze: It’s time to kick it – at least until I reach my goals later this year. Besides, there are so many downsides to alcohol I have a hard time justifying continuing its role in my life. Does that mean you won’t see me enjoying a cocktail in the future? No, but for now I need to put it down.
  3. Tweaking the Macronutrient mix: As good as I felt with the higher fat intake, I feel even better with a bit more carbohydrate in my diet to fuel recovery and performance. I’m moving it to a 40% fat, 30% protein, and 30% carb mix to see how that effects things. I’m still avoiding processed wheat flour, added sugars, and most grains, I think the slightly added carbohydrate will be better for me.
  4. No more Cheat Days: While there may be the occasional Cheat Meal, dedicating a whole day to it was too much. Recovery from it, both mentally and physically, only made it tougher through the week. I’d rather enjoy feeling better every day, with every bite, and not give in to the mental/emotional crutch of pastries or beer. Besides, Life presents enough opportunity where I’m so limited on options that I have to go nutritional off-roading.

In all the years I’ve been wrestling with these issues, I have learned that everyone has different genetic, hormonal, and body type makeups, never mind one’s health and performance goals. Some people want to go to Ranger School, while others want to run 10Ks. Or maybe they’re fighting cancer or coping with a death in the family. There are so many factors that one size – or diet – does not fit all. We simply must experiment in order to figure out what works best for us.

A lot of times we all joke about how stupid our hobby is. But it’s all with the target of being a better human being at the end of it. And thanks to math, science, and a mobile test lab, I can have a day where I feel like Wolverine and comeback from years of stress and chaos. Lookout Hugh Jackman. This recovering fat kid is a’coming!



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Article: What Are The Best Biohacks?

To supplement or not to supplement? To go further with technology or not? From multivitamins to man-in-a-can to home blood test kits to blue light blocking screens, there are a host of things to experiment and train with today. What works for you?

What Are The Best Biohacks Of The World’s Top Biohackers? Find out from Ben Greenfield what Dan Pardi, Josh Whiton, Jolly, Abel James and Darryl Edwards best biohacks are.

Source: What Are The Best Biohacks?

001: A Different Kind of Superhero Story


“You’re probably thinking ‘This is a superhero movie, but that guy in the suit just turned that other guy into a fucking kebab.’ Surprise, this is a different kind of superhero story.” – Deadpool, 2016

The Black Toenail is all about facing adversity head on and coming back stronger. Better than yesterday. Adversity fuels our desire to be more than we have been to date. Life is all about taking what gets put before us, facing it with all the gusto we can muster, then spit the blood out of our mouths to face what’s coming next. And we come back stronger, faster, and smarter. It’s a trial by fire. A crucible.

Just like the hero stories told throughout humanity. Just like Achilles, King Arthur, and Popeye. Just like Deadpool.

The recent Marvel comic superhero-come-to-life-movie struck a chord with me – as he has with the legions of fans of the comic book itself. Deadpool is unlike most comic book superheroes. He kills. He swears. He’s damaged. He started off totally mortal. But then, however forcefully, went through a process (applying science and technology), and came out different. Once he added his past skills, knowledge, and abilities, Wade Wilson became the superhero known as Deadpool. He came back stronger, faster, and smarter.

That same capability lies in all of us. While I am not saying we can heal immediately, leap over buildings, and get away with killing people at will, I do believe we can apply what we know of science and technology, improve our skills, knowledge, and abilities, and, fueled by our adversities, come back a completely different person. If we take what we know about stress, training, nutrition, sleep, and biology, improve our current skills and/or learn new ones, expand and improve our mindset, we can smash boundaries we didn’t even know we had.

In order for Deadpool’s mutation to take place, his body and mind had to be heavily stressed. We are no different. Without the appropriate amount of stress we will not learn, adjust, or change. In his book On Combat, LTC Dave Grossman describes the Bathtub Model of Stress:

Think of your body as a bathtub and stress is the water that pours in. Now, the drain can only release so much, so if water comes in so fast that the drain cannot handle it, the water begins to rise. If it rises too high, it overflows and damages the floor. If five gallons are suddenly added to the tub, you have got to get out from under the faucet for a couple of days to let the water–the stress–subside.

Grossman goes on to say life is a marathon, and we need to be able to manage stress throughout our entire lives. Stress induces hormone releases in order for us to cope with the stress. Those hormones effect changes in our bodies and brains – both positive and negative. Eventually the stress hormones will fade off, but we can burn them off too. We can make the drain larger, allowing us to cope with more water–stress–and better handle what life throws at us. How? Back to Grossman…

“The best way you make your drain bigger, so that you process stress out faster, is to engage in appropriate management dynamics, specifically, daily vigorous exercise.”


When I was in Iraq in 2004, my team was working 16 hour days patrolling and meeting all day, then drafting and pushing out our reports until 9:00-10:00pm every day. Being the Team Leader, I was on the hook for much of the support, mission planning, and logistics as well. Couple that with IEDs, harassing fire, and mortar & rocket attacks, it made for a very stressful time. I was irritable, angry, felt trapped by my circumstances, and dearly missed home. It was getting pretty bad. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t sleep, and I was feeling worn out. I knew I had to do something. The Doc was always an option, but I didn’t want to go that route as medication doesn’t sit well with me. After a while I managed to carve out an hour each day to get to the gym and workout. Heavy weights became my Prozac. And all was better in the world.

Physical training. PT. Strength and conditioning. We have been using this as a means to control stress, perform better, and recover from injury throughout history. From sports to military to combat to rehab to lifestyle, the data is in and it’s pretty well accepted that PT will make us stronger, faster, and smarter. It is the one factor that will improve all aspects of one’s life. Business gets better when we’re fit. We are more motivated, we sleep better, sex is better, we are happier, our relationships are better, and we communicate more. While there are lots of camps people are fans of – Crossfit, GORUCK, Pilates, Yoga, Zumba, Prancercize, etc. – the point is to do something. Regularly. Vigorously.

But in order to meet success in Grossman’s “daily vigorous exercise,” as well as better cope with our hormones, we must look at the rest of our lifestyle. Along with physical training and stress management, we must have solid diet, sleep, and blood chemistry in order to support it.


Food is the most powerful drug we take every day. It effects our hormone balance, feeds muscles, tweaks our bloodstream, and causes changes in our brain. If you’re reading this blog, you already know what I am talking about. As Melissa Hartwig says in her book It Starts with Food, “It starts with food.” Again, there are many schools of thought on diet. As a recovering fat kid, I have tried many styles of eating in an attempt to make a difference in my body composition. My only conclusion is this: one size most definitely does not fit all. Genes, goals, economics, and Life all have an impact on how and what we eat.

But there is one other conclusion I have come to – probably the most important. Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution, summed it up best:

“Everything you eat should make you look, feel, and perform better.”

Sleep. It is when we hit the reset button on our bodies. Like the Borg in their Regeneration Units, we need sleep to recover from all that Life throws at us and all that we throw back. As noted by Dr. Kirk Parsley, a former Navy SEAL and MD:

“I work with, and have worked with some of the most elite people on the planet. This list includes world-class athletes, professional sports teams, the world’s most powerful CEO’s, the most successful entrepreneurs across the globe and the Navy SEALs.

What do these elite performers all have in common? All of them perform better with sleep.

What’s the second thing? The second thing they have in common is that nearly all of them consider their routine lack of sleep not to be a problem. When we first meet, that is. After we’ve worked together for a while, 100% of them understand that lack of sleep WAS affecting their performance.”

Think about it. Sleep on it.

I was going to talk about supplements, too. But these days it has morphed into another topic entirely: Biohacking. What is that? The application of science to come back stronger, faster, and smarter, of course. Or as described by Mark Moschel on bulletproofexec.com:

“Biohacking is a crazy-sounding name for something not crazy at all—the desire to be the absolute best version of ourselves.

The main thing that separates a biohacker from the rest of the self-improvement world is a systems-thinking approach to our own biology.

You know how coffee feels like a shot of energy to your brain?

Pre-coffee you is sleepy….zzzzzz…

Post-coffee you is WIDE AWAKE!!

The only difference is the coffee in your stomach.

The lesson is this: What you put into your body has an ENORMOUS impact on how you feel.”

The key here is to know what you are taking and why. Too often I see people taking multi-vitamins because they are told it’s good for them. What are they taking? Is the dosage right? Why are you taking it? No clue. It just makes their pee more expensive. But, as we saw with Deadpool the right application of the right stuff can render amazing effects.

Okay. Lots of ground skimmed over, huh? Almost there…

The bottom line is this: We decide. We decide what we are going to stick in our faces. We decide what our goals are. We decide whether we are going to get up in the morning, make our bed, and get after it today. Or not.

And that’s the last bit I want to talk about. Mindset. Outlook. Perspective. Whatever. The mind is the primary weapon in this fight. If our mind is right, we can use any tool, any weapon, any bit of knowledge to our advantage and make a difference in our lives. And our children’s lives. And the lives of those around us. If Wade Wilson never decided to take life on his terms, he never would have become a superhero. But he did. He decided.

And so can you. Couple that mindset with  training, nutrition, biohacking, etc., and we can become superhuman. We can be our own superhero. Just without all the goody-two-shoes crap written into newsstand comic book heroes. We have shit. We kill. We swear. We’re damaged. But we’re working through it, and that process fuels our own, different kind of superhero story.

And every day is a new chapter.

“Time to make the chimi-fucking-changas!” – Deadpool, 2016




On Combat, Dave Grossman

The Paleo Solution, Robb Wolf

It Starts with Food, Melissa and Dallas Hartwig

LTC Dave Grossman (retired)

Melissa Hartwig

Robb Wolf

Dr. Kirk Parsley

Mark Moschel








Deadpool quotes:

“…a different kind of superhero story.”

“Time to make the chimi-fucking-changas!”