Is your coffee filtered? (and why it might matter)

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Today’s Health Upgrade

  • The filtered coffee question

  • How much rest do you need to maximize muscle?

  • Have your cake (and be healthy too)

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Does Your Choice in Coffee Matter?

We promote coffee a lot around here because it’s delicious, fuels workouts (caffeine is one of the few proven “supplements”), and a lot of research suggests it supports longevity and fights disease. But we also keep an open mind and consider emerging developments.

So when new research presented updated thoughts on coffee, we had to dig in.

The good news: filtered coffee still appears to be a bonus for your health and is linked to lower mortality and better lifespan.

But, if you like unfiltered coffee, it might not be as healthy as we once thought.

The researchers found that unfiltered coffee can increase your LDL cholesterol (not good) and might be linked to cardiovascular disease. The reason is that unfiltered coffee contains more diterpenes, which are a compound that might increase cholesterol (despite having other potential benefits). Some research suggests unfiltered coffee can have up to 30 times as many diterpenes as the filtered version.

This all probably leaves you wondering: is my preferred coffee unfiltered?

As the name suggested, it's all a matter of whether the coffee passes through a filter, so popular unfiltered options include French press and Turkish coffee. If you love cold brew, many versions tend not to be filtered.

We know how these findings tend to be interpreted, so it’s important not to panic. The research is inconclusive about unfiltered coffee, and you can’t assume cause and effect. And the overall takeaway from the study suggests that coffee has many benefits and is good for your health. So remember, the poison is always in the dose. If you have a couple of cups of coffee — even if unfiltered — you’re likely OK.

If you’re concerned, you can: A) check your bloodwork (it will show if you have any red flags, B) cut back on the amount of unfiltered coffee you have, or C) start enjoying more filtered coffee as a replacement. Those options are a practical way to enjoy the magic bean without concern.

Muscle Break

How many minutes do you rest between sets? The answer could determine how well you’re able to add muscle.

Research that will soon be published suggests resting for at least 2 minutes can help you maximize muscle growth.

The scientists — led by esteemed researcher Dr. Brad Schoenfeld — analyzed the performance of 4 sets of a 10-rep maximum lift (on back squats and leg extensions) with three different rest periods: 1-minute, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes. Those who rested just one minute performed significantly fewer total reps than those resting for two to three minutes. (There wasn’t much difference between 2 minutes and 3 minutes).

Because most research suggests that volume — the total number of reps you can perform with a given weight — plays a key part in muscle growth, anything that reduces volume will limit your gains.

Of course, if you have limited time to train, it might make sense to take shorter rest periods because — as Arnold reminded us yesterday — don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.

But, when you add this research to prior studies, it appears that longer rest periods — even if they don’t feel as exhausting — allow you to push intensity, perform as many reps as possible, and maximize your muscle growth. Based on all the literature, it appears that the best amount of rest for muscle growth is anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes, depending on your recovery. But remember, even though that might be "the best," you can still build muscle with shorter rest periods.

Have Your Cake (And Be Healthy Too)

We love making healthy living more doable. And one of the best ways to make that happen is to be a little less rigid.

According to psychology researchers, creating a plan where you don’t have to be perfect can make you more likely to succeed. Whether it’s with your diet or finances, “planned hedonic deviations” — or moments when you don’t do everything by the book — can help in three big ways:

1) It gives you more mental bandwidth to prevent unwanted behaviors and actions.

2) It increases motivation.

3) It makes the process more positive and enjoyable.

Add it all up, and each plays a role in habit formation. More importantly, by having more freedom, these mental shifts help support long-term adherence to a plan, which is the real secret to incredible success.

This is why including dessert can be effective for so many people or why many restrictive plans (such as forbidding carbs or sugar) only work in the short term. And it doesn’t have to be a single “cheat meal.”

We recommend building your diet around healthy foods but leaving a few meals per week for freedom. It doesn’t matter if it’s your favorite treat or enjoying takeout from your favorite restaurants (you can learn exactly what to order from the top 50 most popular restaurants in this book and guidelines for dessert and alcohol).

Eat, enjoy, and then get back on the plan. No punishment, fasting, or adjustments are necessary. If you make it part of the plan, you’ll find that you won’t burn out from your healthy eating and likely crave certain foods even less.