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Cool Tools for Practicing CR

Dean Pomerleau

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I'm starting this thread as a permanent place to post about tools, gadgets or equipment you've purchased and found useful for your practice of CR. I hope it will become a resource of veterans and for people new to CR. I'm posting a new tool myself, a stainless steel travel tumbler, see below. And I'm copying a couple posts by me and others from elsewhere to this thread to seed it with content and so the cool tools are all in one place for future reference.


Please feel free to post tools you've found most helpful for your practice of CR!



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Stainless Steel Travel Tumbler w/ Stainless Steel Straw


A couple days ago I realized I've been drinking my water, and even my hot tea/coffee out of a hard plastic tumbler with a plastic straw! How dumb is that? I'm distilling my water using an all-stainless steel and glass water distiller (see next cool tool), to minimize contaminants, and then I've been putting it in a plastic drinking bottle.  Duh...


So I purchased this 16oz stainless steel tumbler with stainless steel straw. It is $19.99 on Amazon, although I got it for $14.50 from Amazon Warehouse (on sale because of damaged packaging). Here is a picture:





You might ask, why buy this product and not just get a cheaper, normal stainless steel travel mug - i.e. without a straw?  The reason I favor a straw is that I want to minimize the amount of contact between my teeth and the coffee/tea and the acidic water w/ a squirt of lemon juice that I drink, to avoid eroding my teeth enamel. The straw allows me to get the liquid to the back of my mouth directly, bypassing my teeth.


I've had it for a few days and it is one of those rare products that feels like the perfect solution for what it does. It feels very solid, and the double wall construction keeps water cold and tea/coffee hot. The lid is very secure. It feels like the kind of product I'll be using for years to come.



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Stainless Steel Water Distiller


[Note: This is a post copied from this thread, so you should go there to read more discussion about it].



After purchasing distilled water in 1-gallon jugs for a few years now for preparing tea/coffee, and for drinking plain, I finally broke down and bought a Megahome countertop water distiller ($219 from Amazon). I've had it about a week and so far I'm quite pleased. It boils and then condenses a gallon of water in about 5 hours, at an electricity cost of about $0.30. This is about $0.60 cheaper than the gallon jugs I've been buying, plus there is no lugging of jugs home from the store, and no plastic involved (either to contaminate the water, or that is harmful to the environment and needs to be recycled).




Why do I drink distilled water? Its not so much that I'm worried about unintended contaminants; my municipality has good quality water, and they provide a seasonally updated report that shows levels of contaminants are quite low, at least in line with the EPA guidelines, although I'm no expert on water quality. What I (mostly) seek to avoid by drinking distilled water are the intentional additives to tap water, particularly fluoride and chlorine. I have nothing against topical fluoride for teeth health, but I think there is reason to suspect that fluoride can be detrimental to bone health, although I have to admit that this recent meta-analysis [1] (which I just found composing this post), seems to suggest otherwise:


 Fourteen observational studies involving thirteen cohort studies and one
case-control study were included in the meta-analysis. Exposure to fluoride in
drinking water does not significantly increase the incidence of hip fracture
(RRs, 1.05; 95% CIs, 0.96-1.15). 


So maybe I'm tilting at windmills...


Nevertheless, I continue to think it prudent to drink water that is as close to pure H20 as possible, and avoid other junk and get ones minerals from food. I've never been a fan of spring water, which seems like a scam (i.e. often simply repackaged municipal water from some other location).


I'm wondering what types of water / water filtration other people drink, and why? I seem to recall (*) Michael Rae once reporting he uses a reverse osmosis water filter, presumably something like this one. Is this (still) true Michael? All the cartridges, not to mention the undersink installation, seem like a pain. Is RO worth the hassle relative to distilled? And are either worth it if someone already has pretty good tap water, perhaps improved with a carbon filter** ?


Anyone else have any thoughts?




* Unfortunately, the old CR list archives seem to be perpetually off-line, so I can't verify this.   :(xyz


**  For years I've actually been using one of these carbon filters attached to my faucet via an adapter to water my plants/sprouts, and now to pre-filter the water for my distiller.


Update: I've been distilling a gallon a day for the last 7 months and this distiller is still working perfectly. I continue to highly recommend it.



[1] PLoS One. 2015 May 28;10(5):e0126488. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0126488.

eCollection 2015.

Exposure to fluoride in drinking water and hip fracture risk: a meta-analysis of
observational studies.

Yin XH(1), Huang GL(1), Lin DR(1), Wan CC(1), Wang YD(1), Song JK(1), Xu P(1).

Author information:
(1)Department of Oral and Maxillary Surgery, Gui Zhou provincial people's
hospital, Guiyang, Gui Zhou, PR China.

BACKGROUND: Many observational studies have shown that exposure to fluoride in
drinking water is associated with hip fracture risk. However, the findings are
varied or even contradictory. In this work, we performed a meta-analysis to
assess the relationship between fluoride exposure and hip fracture risk.

METHODS: PubMed and EMBASE databases were searched to identify relevant
observational studies from the time of inception until March 2014 without
restrictions. Data from the included studies were extracted and analyzed by two
authors. Summary relative risks (RRs) with corresponding 95% confidence intervals
(CIs) were pooled using random- or fixed-effects models as appropriate.
Sensitivity analyses and meta-regression were conducted to explore possible
explanations for heterogeneity. Finally, publication bias was assessed.

RESULTS: Fourteen observational studies involving thirteen cohort studies and one
case-control study were included in the meta-analysis. Exposure to fluoride in
drinking water does not significantly increase the incidence of hip fracture
(RRs, 1.05; 95% CIs, 0.96-1.15). Sensitivity analyses based on adjustment for
covariates, effect measure, country, sex, sample size, quality of
Newcastle-Ottawa Scale scores, and follow-up period validated the strength of the
results. Meta-regression showed that country, gender, quality of Newcastle-Ottawa
Scale scores, adjustment for covariates and sample size were not sources of
heterogeneity. Little evidence of publication bias was observed.

CONCLUSION: The present meta-analysis suggests that chronic fluoride exposure
from drinking water does not significantly increase the risk of hip fracture.
Given the potential confounding factors and exposure misclassification, further
large-scale, high-quality studies are needed to evaluate the association between
exposure to fluoride in drinking water and hip fracture risk.

PMCID: PMC4447426
PMID: 26020536 

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Recumbent Stationary Bicycle Makes Perfect Stationary Bike Desk


[Note: this post was buried in a thread about my bloodwork, so I'm copying it here for future reference. I've now logged over 3000 miles on in exactly two months since I purchased it and I continue to love it. I'm composing this message right now while pedaling away on it.]


The $150 recumbent bike that I ordered from Amazon arrived a day early. Here is my initial report. 

Assembly was quite straightforward - it took about 40 minutes.

It is very solidly made, and the seat is wide, well padded, very comfortable so far. It is incredibly quiet - virtually silent. You could easily put this under you desk in a shared office and pedal to your heart's content without disturbing your officemate.


The (magnetic) resistance is very smooth and consistent around the entire pedal stroke - not jerky at all. It is nicely adjustable from very easy to VERY difficult. You could get a very good workout with this thing, or just pedal gently while working on your computer.


Speaking of working, I set up a simple folding student desk ($25 this week from Aldi's) over the bike. I had to raise the desk on cinder blocks (see below) to get it high enough for my knees to clear, and to be at a comfortable height for typing. It provides plenty of room for my laptop, tablet and tea. Here is a picture.





It works great! Its SO much more comfortable than my regular road bike that I've got mounted on a trainer and have been using previously. Plus both hands are free for working. As a matter of fact I'm composing this message on my laptop while pedaling at a comfortable pace right now - something I could never do on my stationary road bike. Because I'm more stable in a seated position, it is also much more amenable to getting work done than the treadmill desk I've been using for the last two days. Side note - notice the box fan on the far side of the bike to keep me cool while pedaling.  


Overall, while I've only had it for a couple hours, I can't recommend it highly enough. For anyone who wants to casually exercise while getting work done, combining this recumbent bike with an adjustable desk (or a fixed one raised on blocks like mine) is just the ticket. 



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Great, Cheap 0.1g Scale


[Note: This is a post/review from this thread by Brian Delaney with the same title, copied here for future refererence. Go there for additional discussions. I too own this scale and highly recommend it. - Dean]


American Weigh Scales AWS-600-BLK Digital Personal Nutrition Scale, Pocket Size, Black.

$7.69 plus shipping at Amazon.




The capacity is only 600 g, but it's still really, really useful for measuring things like powdered glycine and spices (big difference between 1 and 1.9 or so of some spices when it comes to minerals, like Mn..., one might want to avoid, or at least keep track of).


Where my EatSmart reads, say, 30 g (for a bit of carrot), but keeps "bouncing" up to 31, then down to 30, the AWS will always say 30.X, where X will usually be between 5 and 7.


- Brian

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Non-contact Temperature Probe


[Note: This is a post originally by me in this thread, copied here for future reference. See that thread for further discussions]


[W]hile I'm endorsing useful inexpensive gadgets, I really like this Etekcity non-contact temperature probe, aka thermometer, available for $9.95 on Amazon. Here is a representative image of it. It is about the size of a fat permanent marker.




You point it at the object you want to measure for a couple seconds while holding down the "Meas" button and it gives you a continually updated temperature readout. I use it to measure the water temperature when brewing tea or coffee. 


[Update: See this post for discussion of experiments that show shortcomings of this thermal probe for measuring the temperature of hot water. It seems it may routinely underestimate how hot the water is. - Dean]



Edited by Dean Pomerleau
Added note about reservations about high temperature liquid accuracy
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Dentek Easy Brush Interdental Brushes

I just got back from my biannual dental check up today and my dentist was very impressed with my teeth and gums, saying they looked significantly better than last time. I attribute the improvement to this "cool tool", which she recommended to me at my previous appointment - the Dentek Easy Brush. Here is a closeup picture (although this is a larger diameter brush than the "extra tight space" size I use which is a green brush):


I've always found that despite flossing and brushing after every meal, I still have trouble getting all the vegetable fiber out from between my teeth. I'm amazed how much extra comes out with these little brushes, even after I've flossed as thoroughly as I can.

They come in many different brush diameters. I buy the green kind for "extra tight spaces". I highly recommend them.

Update: Here is a much better deal via Michael Rae for the same extra tight spaces brushes.


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VacuVin Wine Saver Vacuum Pump Sealer & 6 Stoppers


Note: The eBay seller 3rd venue is one of the few sources for the old-style stoppers, which, I gather, work better than the new ones.


What do I use them for? I keep bottles (making sure they're really dry - I've not been careful in the past with making sure the insides of the bottles dry fully) on hand for small things - many nuts (walnuts and a couple other nuts are too big), most seeds, coffee beans - and use the vacuumed bottled as a daily use container (large quantities of these items, on the other hand, are kept in the freezer).


Update: I find it easy to use for everything that fits through the (standard size) neck of a bottle. In addition to liquids, all seeds I eat or might soon eat (chia, flax, hemp, sesame, sunflower), and some nuts (shelled pistachios, hazelnuts, at least one common variety of almond, and [later edit] even cashews - though they take a bit more time), and coffee beans can be stored with the VacuVin sealer with ease, I finally discovered, once I created a funnel from a plastic soda pop bottle. Normal kitchen funnels are too narrow. But with the soda pop bottle funnel (just cut off the top of the bottle), it's quick and easy to pour seeds, small nuts, etc., into the jar, then seal with the pump. The funnel of course doesn't fit inside the neck of the bottle, as a normal kitchen funnel would, because its opening is exactly as wide as the bottle opening (that's what makes it useful!), so you have to hold it in place. Actually, it occurs to me it could be clipped in place with one of those huge bag closers. Either way, not a big deal.


Update 2: James Cain has the following insights to add to the Vacuvin. Those vacuum pump bottle stoppers don't create a full vacuum so only slow, but don't stop, oxidation of the product. It generally pushes the lifespan about 2-3 times more than normal. You may prefer to use a heavier-than-oxygen inert gas like Private Preserve http://www.amazon.com/Private-Preserve-Wine-Preservation-System/dp/B001AS4NCM which lays a blanket of gas (Ar, CO2, and N2) between the product and the oxygen in air. It seems to indefinitely preserve the product against oxidation, and I've noticed wine and olive oils maintain their flavor (and the associated non-oxidized phytochemicals) for months.


Dean, you have a different vacuum storage device as I recall -- a vacuum sealer with bags?


[To which Dean responds - see the recommendation for Foodsaver vacuum sealer below]



Edited by Dean Pomerleau
Edited to include Update by Zeta on how to use and what to store. And to include James Cain's comments
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FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer w/ Wide Mouth Vacuum Jar Attachment


[Note: This product also has its own separate thread for comments, questions and discussions of experiences with vacuum sealing. Please go there to comment.]


I've got the VacuVin wine saver vacuum pump Zeta recommends, and it works fine for sealing bottles, but I find the narrow spouts on bottles to be a pain for storing anything but liquids - like when I used to consume olive oil (replaced with nuts these days).


But a better solution for me has been a FoodSaver vacuum sealer with wide mouth mason jar attachment and accessory hose (not shown below). 




I use the sealer with bags to seal lots of different things like frozen fruits and fresh frozen corn (still on cob) harvested in the summer / fall and frozen so I can consume them throughout the winter. I've got about 50 lbs of wild blackberries  in my freezer now that I harvested at the end of summer from bushes near my house. I expect them to last me until next summer's crop! I also seal frozen fruit I buy at Costco in bulk since everything keeps much better and never get freezer burn when sealed in vacuum bags then it does in the bags the frozen fruit comes in.


I don't eat bread myself, but I buy it for my family and when it is on sale I buy several loaves, freeze all but one, and then vacuum seal the loaves in bags and pop them in the freezer. Once frozen they can be sealed without getting crushed. Then I never have to worry about my family running out of bread before the next shopping trip.


As a consumable, the vacuum bags are a bit of a pain, but they aren't expensive if you buy them by the 50' x 11.5" wide roll rather than individually, and I often rinse them out and reuse them (stingy curmudgeon that I am  :)xyz ).


The mason jar attachment (with hose adapter - which should be included but they sell separately...) is key for me to get the full value from the sealer. I only buy the wide mouth jars (which are the most common canning jars you see). You can buy large, wide mouth mason jars on Amazon (here is the link), but you may be able to get them for less locally.


What do I seal in the jars? Lots of things. Coffee beans, all kinds of teas, nuts (although I keep most of them in freezer), dried herbs (homegrown and store bought). One interesting thing to seal in mason jars is peeled garlic. You can buy peeled garlic cloves quite cheaply at the grocery store, often for less than the cost per lb of unpeeled garlic, which is crazy. The problem is that it is only sold in large amounts (e.g. 8oz), and since it is peeled, it doesn't normally stay fresh very long, so you end up throwing a lot of it out. But sealed in a mason jar and stored in the fridge, peeled garlic lasts a month or two without noticeable loss of freshness, and I always have it on hand, without the hassle of having to peel it.


So for CR practitioners who are keen on freshness and saving money by buying in bulk, I highly recommend a vacuum sealing system. I've been happy with FoodSaver, but there are several other brands as well. Nesco makes one that is highly rated, and perhaps a little less expensive, but I haven't been able to find a mason jar attachment for it. The adapter hose from the FoodSaver doesn't fit the Nesco sealer.


P.S. Zeta, I agree that sometimes these tools deserve a thread of their own. In fact, I think I'll fork this post to its own thread, and keep this post here on "Cool Tools" as well, with a link. Also note that I removed the back-and-forth posts between me and Michael about the interdental brushes, and added the better deal Michael found as an "Update:" to the original post, for compactness of this thread.



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Aeropress Manual (Plunger-Style) Coffee and Espresso Maker


In this thread on the increased risk of throat cancer from drinking beverages that are too hot, Michael Rae reminds us in this post of how it is important to use a paper filter to get rid of the harmful components of coffee before drinking it.


Here is a "cool tool" that can help make this easier, whether you brew your coffee cold or hot. And it makes brewing great coffee trivially easy as a fortuitous side effect.


It is the Aeropress Coffee and Espresso Maker, available for $26 on Amazon:




Coffee snobs and geeks everywhere rave about this little gadget, saying it makes coffee that rivals very expensive machines, although they (endlessly) debate whether it should be considered espresso or just really good coffee.


For me, I don't care. In fact, I value it for its simplicity, portability and the ease of use it affords - the great quality coffee it produces is a bonus.


Rather than explain how it works, I'll simply point to a short (1:40min) YouTube instructional video on its operation. For anyone who wants to obsess over their coffee, here is another, longer (6min) video (one of many on YouTube) of a hardcore coffee geek using the Aeropress in unusual ways to make really great coffee.


You can spend hours reading all about the many advantages of the Aeropress online, but the two key features relative to Michael's post about harmful coffee chemicals, and Brian's post about waiting hours for cold brew coffee to drip through a paper filter, are:

  • It uses paper filters to get rid of the harmful junk in coffee that Michael talks about.
  • It can be used to filter cold- or hot-brewed coffee (or loose leaf tea*) in seconds, rather than having to wait minutes (for drip coffee makers) or hours (in the case of cold brewing), to passively let the coffee drip through a paper filter, by forcing the liquid through the paper filter using a plunger instead.
Plus, for cheap curmudgeons like me, the disposable paper filters can be rinsed and reused several times, so the 700 filters this Amazon deal comes with is basically a lifetime supply**. :)xyz


Coffee and possibly* loose tea drinkers, especially cold brewers, should buy the Aeropress. For $26 you won't regret it.




*The 'fines' in good quality loose tea, like sencha or matcha green tea, may be beneficial so filtering them out may be disadvantageous for health.


**Update: For those who prefer a durable filter rather than using paper, Michael Rae points to two favorably-reviewed metal filters for the Aeropress in this post on the other thread: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00A1GVVMY and http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JVTQHVC/. But do read the other thread because there is uncertainty about whether the metal filters will do as good a job as paper filters at removing some of the harmful compounds in coffee.

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Amazon Prime Membership


[Note: OK, Amazon Prime membership isn't a Cool Tool itself, but more of a meta-tool - a tool for acquiring other Cool Tools. Can't get much cooler than that! I can't recommend it highly enough. Here is a post from this thread about its benefits for CR Practitioners (and anyone else!).]




I used to order all kinds of things (including foods & supplements) from a host of different websites. Now I purchase just about everything online from Amazon, which the exception of nuts, which I get from Nuts.com. Amazon has an amazing variety of items, including most non-perishable foods (e.g. teas) & supplements, not to mention just about any durable good you could ever think of (oh yeah - and books too).


Amazon Prime is well worth the cost ($99 in the US) for the free 2-day shipping alone if you order a lot like me and live in one of the eligible countries - US, Canada, France, Germany, UK, Italy, Spain, & Japan. You can even share your Amazon Prime membership with other people in your "household" (loosely defined, different shipping addresses allowed), if you trust each other with your credit cards...


Here is a good website describing all the other benefits of Amazon Prime besides free shipping.  Amazon Prime makes it trivial and cost-effective to buy even mundane items like batteries and light bulbs, rather than trekking to a brick-and-mortar store. Not every item Amazon sells is eligible for Amazon Prime shipping, but the latest number I've seen is it is available for 20 million items. Between Prime free two-day shipping and free (slower) shipping on other items not eligible for Prime, I can't recall the last time I paid for shipping when purchasing from Amazon. For a cheap curmudgeon like me, that is a big draw! 


I used to feel badly about the environmental impact of all those UPS deliveries, and all the extra cardboard boxes. But I religiously recycles the boxes, and in the last year or so Amazon has switched from UPS so that now most of Amazon's deliveries (at least in my area) are handled by the US Post Office, during their regular daily visit to my home, and they even come on Sundays now if I've got a 2-day package to be delivered!


I've read several studies, including one from my alma mater Carnegie Mellon University, that have found ordering online is more environmentally friendly than driving to the store (35% more friendly in the CMU study). Another study found you'd have to buy 24 items on a trip to the store in order to match the per item carbon footprint of ordering one item online. I find that one a bit hard to believe, but with my mail-person delivering my packages, I definitely think the footprint is lower ordering on-line. And it is SO much more convenient.


For really heavy Amazon purchasers, I highly recommend the Amazon Prime Store Card. Its a credit card that only works for Amazon purchase, but saves you 5% off every order - which adds up when you buy hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of stuff per year. On top of the already-low Amazon prices and free shipping via Prime, it is really a slam dunk to buy from Amazon for just about anything they carry.


The coolest thing is the Amazon Android (or iPhone I presume) app. With it, when I run out of something (e.g. like a supplement), I just scan the barcode on the bottle, or even just take a picture of the label, and it automatically brings me to the corresponding product page, even telling me when I last purchased the item. I can then buy it with one click, and it shows up on my doorstep 2 days later. Easy peasy.


You can try Amazon Prime for 30 days for free at this link.



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CRONometer Diet / Nutrition Planning and Tracking Software


[Note:This is a recommendation for CRONometer.com as a "Cool Tool" to help CR practitioners track their nutrition. Please see and post to this thread on CRONometer for additional discussions about this wonderful tool].


No list of useful tools for people practicing CR would be complete without CRONometer, arguably the premier online tool for planning and tracking diet, nutrition and exercise:



Here is a description and list of features for this great tool, taken from their website:


Calorie reduced diets require a lot of information to perform optimally. In order to restrict caloric intake, but remain healthy, users of the diet must track their vitamin, mineral, and protein intakes with great care. We aim to provide a complete solution for the smart dieter.
  • Easy to use, streamlined data entry
  • Track 60+ Nutrients for 20000+ foods
  • Log your Diet, Exercise, Biometrics, and Notes
  • Make custom foods and recipes
  • Mobile Apps for logging on-the-go
  • Automatically connects with several fitness trackers and services, including FitBit

A little known fact about CRONometer is that (as the name implies to those in-the-know), it started out as a tool for CR practitioners to track their nutrition - CRON stands for "Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition", although that term has fallen out of favor. More history - CRONometer was developed by Aaron Davidson, a CR practitioner himself.


Now CRONometer is used by thousands of dieters and health conscious individuals who have probably never heard of CR. In fact, I think it could be argued (perhaps sadly) that CRONometer has had the biggest positive impact on health of anything associated with human CR to date.


Here is a review of CRONometer and 4 other diet tracking packages from LifeHacker, although it is a bit out of date (e.g. it says CRONometer doesn't have fitness tracker integration, which it does).


CRONometer has both a web interface and mobile apps for both Android and iPhone. All three are free, but you are encouraged to upgrade to the Gold version (for $34/yr) to support development. 


The Gold version includes the following additional features:

  • No Advertisement - Gold customers will not see advertisements when using the site or mobile apps.
  • Share Foods & Recipes with Friends - Great for couples. Link your accounts and automatically share all your foods and recipes with each other.
  • Priority Support - A priority support queue for prompt answers to all your technical questions.
  • Ask The Oracle - Recommends best foods for each nutrient. Low in Zinc today? Ask the Oracle to recommend foods that will boost any nutrient.
  • Advanced Trends & Analysis - View trends over your entire history. Access to several charting options not available in the free version.
  • Sort diary into custom groups - Sort your diary items into custom groups like Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, or use whatever custom labels you'd like.

Overall, CRONometer is an incredibly useful tool for anyone practicing CR. It is especially critical for people just starting out to help you maximize nutrient density and avoid deficits.



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Fitnesss Tracker: Fitbit Charge HR


[Note: This is a slightly edited copy of this post from a thread on how best to weigh oneself in which I share my experience with the FitBit Charge HR and recommend it highly. If you'd like to discuss the FitBit, other fitness tracking technology, or biometrics monitoring in general, please go to that thread.]


[Note 2: Unlike most of the other products and services recommended in this thread which are timeless, fitness tracking technology is constantly improving. As you can see below, as of late October 2015, I consider the Fitbit Charge HR a very good (although not perfect) solution for CR practitioners who want a simple and convenient way to monitor many of their exercise and fitness-related health parameters.


From my experience and the reviews I've read, of all the fitness trackers on the market, the Fitbit Charge HR is probably the best compromise between cost and functionality. But this will certainly change in the future as new models come out from Fitbit and other companies. I'll try to update / replace this post when that becomes the case.]



In addition to tracking calories and nutrition, it is important for CR practitioners to keep awareness of their calorie expenditures and exercise, since maintaining muscle mass and cardiovascular health are critical for successful CR.


For the fitness tracking part of CR practice, I highly recommend the Fitbit Charge HR, which is $142 from Amazon.




It provides lots of data in addition to heart rate, including 24 hour tracking of heart rate and sleep time (not sleep stage, but amount of time spent asleep, restless and awake at night). It has a really nice web-based and app-based dashboard for visualizing the data. Here are a few examples from the web-based dashboard.


First, here is my 5-min by 5-min heart rate throughout the day yesterday:




The peaks above 150 BPM aren't accurate. The reason they are so high is that during those times I was on my stationary bike(s) wearing my Fitbit around my calf to count steps. Its only accurate for HR when worn on the wrist, and tends to grossly overestimate HR when worn on my leg. My HR during those bouts of cycling ranges between 90 and 110, and the Fitbit is quite accurate about tracking those readings if I wear it on my wrist rather than my calf, but then it doesn't count steps (= pedal revolutions).


The other interesting thing to note above is that you can hover your mouse over any point to see the exact value, e.g. the 41 BPM shown above for 2:40-2:50am. That is quite accurate.


The Fitbit also uses a algorithm to estimate your resting heart rate, which they consider to be your heart rate when you are inactive but not sleeping. You can see resting HR in the form of a long-term graph, which I find very informative. Here is an example:




You can see today my resting heart rate is 50 BMP, and has varied from 46 to 53 BPM over the last month. It definitely correlates with calorie intake.


Sleep is another thing the Fitbit tracks, which I find very useful. Here is a graphic of my sleep pattern over the last 7 days:




As you can see it tracks sleep time, restless time/count and awake time/count during the night. It automatically detects when you go to bed and get up using its motion sensors. Last night I was asleep for 6hr:26min, awake for 11min, and restless for 27min. As you can see I'm a morning person (8am bedtime, 3am rise time). It quite accurately counts the number of times I get up in the night, usually to go to the bathroom.


You can also see sleep over the last 30 days:




By hovering over a bar you can see its details. As you can see, Aug 19th was a day when I woke up early, and only got 5.28 hours of sleep, but most days I get around 6.5 hours.


The other thing I track is step count, which includes running, walking and cycling (one step per revolution of the pedals when I wear the Fitbit around my calf - see this video for how I attach it). Here is a graph of daily step total for the last week (Saturday is partial):




I spend a lot of time on my stationary bike(s), so the steps are pretty high. I've verified the counts are quite accurate for me (within a few percent).


Anyway, I've found the data from my Fitbit to be quite useful, particularly for tracking resting HR, sleep and steps.


One other thing I discovered since originally writing this review. Data from any of the Fitbit products (including smart scales) seamlessly integrates with the CRONometer nutrition tracking software. All you have to do is give CRONometer permission to access your online Fitbit account to which you sync your data (from which the above graphs were generated), and it does all the rest. CRONometer will then import at least the following measures: # of active minutes, calories burned in exercise, sleep duration, along with weight and body fat (if available).




5/5/2016 Update: We recently discussed two other fitness trackers on the Cold Exposure thread. Michael and I discuss the Basis Peak in these posts, and Kenton and I talk about the Microsoft Band 2 in these posts and the Hesvit S3 in these posts.


8/3/2016 Update: Michael's favorite smartwatch, the Basis Peak, has been recalled due to overheating problems, and all support and online services will be discontinued later this year.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Moisturizer: O'Keeffe's Working Hands Cream


[Note: There is a thread about causes and treatment for dry skin that people might be interested in, that was spun off from this post on this hand cream. - Dean]

I know I'm not the only CR Practitioners to suffer on occasion from dry, cracked skin, particularly on the fingers. It seems to happen in the drier months of fall and winter. About a year ago I found a solution that works better than any I've ever tried, and that isO'Keeffe's Working Hands Cream (or in larger size for less per oz). This stuff is amazing, and the 3500+ 5-star reviews on Amazon show that other people feel the same way. Painful hand cracks that I thought I'd be stuck with for a week or more quickly went away after applying this stuff.


Fortunately I haven't suffered from finger cracks lately, possibly because of regular application of this cream, or possibly because of sufficient healthy fats in my diet. But here is a before/after picture of the kind of cracking I'm talking about (ouch!) that this product can take care of (this is an example after 1-week of use by someone who purchased the cream).


Here is a description of the product:

O'Keeffe's Working Hands is an odorless unique skin therapy lotion to improve the health of your skin.

A water based product that contains no oil -- No Greasy Feel -- the lotion for dry skin, skin repair, cracked skin, skin relief, skin care, and skin moisturizing.

  • Absolutely odorless
  • No greasy feel
  • Hypo-allergenic
  • Not tested on animals
  • 100% recyclable packaging
  • Created by a pharmacist
  • 2.7 oz. Jar


The first effective treatment specifically for people who suffer from cracked and split skin. The highly concentrated proprietary formulation stimulates the skin's natural repair process by hydrating the skin, altering pH balance and retaining moisture. Safe and effective on all skin types.

But I have to admit, I haven't researched the ingredients, which are:



Water, Glycerin, Stearic Acid, Ammonium Stearate, Ammonium Borate, Dimethicone, Paraffin, Hydropropylmethylcellulose, Allantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea, Octyldodecyl Stearate, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate

If anyone sees anything they consider toxic (for topical application), please let me know. Otherwise, this hand cream really does the trick and I highly recommend it.



[Update: Based on discussions in the dry skin treatment thread, and uncertainty over the ingredients in this hand cream, I now reserve it to treat cracked skin, rather than as a general moisturizer. For general moisturizing purposes, I've switched to using coconut oil.]

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  • 4 weeks later...

H-B Instrument 2/0150 Durac General Purpose Partial Immersion Thermometer


(Cheap, reliable thermometer for liquids.)


I've found the H-B Instrument 2/0150 Durac General Purpose Partial Immersion Thermometer to be very precise, and fairly accurate, and quick to register temperature. I put it in boiling water, and the reading goes right up to 97° C. Not 100? No, but it's precise: it's always 97° C in boiling water at sea level, so that's fine (for $7 or whatever it costs now).


You'll see other, more expensive thermometers at Amazon. If anyone has experience with those, please let us know.




[Update: A note about precision - Cloud pointed out that the boiling point of water varies as a result of various factors, including atmospheric pressure, particulates in the water, interactions with the container, etc. so its not surprising to see a reading not exactly at 100° C for boiling water.]

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  • 3 weeks later...

Viter Energy Caffeine + B12 Mints


[Note: Here is the original post  on another thread about these mints, of which this post is an excerpt. Please go there for further discussion. - Dean]


My wife is pretty much addicted to coffee, and gets headaches when she doesn't get her daily fix - usually from Starbucks. So as a gag xmas gift, I bought these caffeine mints for her from Amazon. I didn't notice when I bought them, but they are also fortified with several B-complex vitamins, including 21 mcg of B12 - which is very close to the daily (single serving) dose I target with 1/6th of the Solgar B12 tablet that I currently take!


Here is the nutrition and ingredient labels from the mints:



The caffeine amount is modest at 40mg/mint - equivalent to about 1/2 cup of regular (non-Starbucks!) coffee. I consider caffeine to have short-term beneficial effects for energy and cognition, and at worst neutral effects in the long-term, but probably beneficial effects, at least for overall brain health [0], including staving off generalized dementia [1][2], depression [3] and neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's disease [2][4] and Parkinson's disease [4][5] (although its probably best to avoid creatinine and caffeine together [6]). These positive effects on brain health are one of the main reasons I drink caffeinated coffee, so no problem with taking one of these mints per day from that perspective.


As you can see, all of the B vitamins are reasonable doses (when eaten as single serving - i.e. one mint). The B12 is in the form of cyanocobalamin, the same form as the Solgar B12 supplement I've been taking for years. Each mint has less than 5 calories (labelled as 0, which really means less than 5. Actually each mint weighs 900mg, and the first two ingredients, sorbitol and xylitol, have 2.6kcal/g, so each mint is about 2.5 calories).


Looking at the other ingredients, I consider sorbitol in small quantities harmless, and xylitol (along with erythritol which these mints don't contain) likely to be helpful for preventing tooth decay. Regarding the final three ingredients, magnesium stearate appears harmless, as does silicon dioxide. I don't consider the small amount of sucralose in a single mint (or half a mint - see below) to likely be a problem for gut health [7], given my copious consumption of prebiotics, and my supplementation with a probiotic. The mints themselves are made in the US, which is nice from a safety / contamination perspective, they are vegan (NB Greg!), and they taste good to boot!


The only minor downside I can see is cost - $20 for 120 mints, which works out to $0.17/day. This is lot more than the cost of 1/6th of a Solgar B12 tablet (< $0.02/day). But $0.17 per day isn't out of line with what I spend on other supplements. In fact it is exactly the same amount I spend on strontium per day to protect my bone health. Plus, the mints are easy to cut (or bite!) in half, which will get you almost exactly the recommended single daily dose of 10mcg of B12, cutting the cost to less than $0.09 per day.


So this seems to me like a pleasant, viable alternative to standard B12 supplements that some CR folks take - particularly vegan (or near-vegan) CR practitioners like me. 





[0][1][2][3][4][5][6][7] See this post for complete references.

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  • 3 weeks later...

SCiO Consumer Spectrometer


I saw that recently during the coverage it got at CES. Its called SCiO, and its a near-IR spectroscope from a company called Consumer Physics. Here is a picture of it being used to scan an apple:




Its still under development, so right now you can only pre-order it ($249). Expected delivery is May 2016. But apparently they were showing off a prototype during CES last week.


It basically allows you to analyze, foods, as long as they are fairly homogenous, like cheese, oils, soft drinks, or you can analyze pills e.g. to tell if its really aspirin) or even scan fruit for ripeness.


Here is a TechCrunch interview with the company spokesperson.


It looks really cool! We'll see how well it works when it becomes available.




8/23/16 UPDATE: The SCiO Website is now saying they won't be shipping until October December 2016...

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  • 3 months later...

UV-Blocking Sunglasses


Now that summer is coming (in the northern hemisphere!), many of us will be spending more time outdoors. In this post over on the Sensible Diet and Lifestyle Advice thread, TomBAvoider spells out the importance of protecting against sun damage, both for the skin and especially the eyes. In this post a bit later in that thread, I share the two different pairs of sunglasses I use for eyewear whenever I am spending any time outdoors. It seems worthwhile to share them in this Cool Tools thread too, along with my reason for choosing them.


They are the Uvex S1933X Skyper ($8.99) and BluBlocker Viper ($49.95) - both available on Amazon. Here are photos of the two, with the Uvex on the left and BluBlocker on the right:


31NQRL2mxuL.jpg      Blublocker-Viper-Black.jpg

See this post in the "Sunglasses & Eye Protection" thread for a full review and discussion of the things I like about these particular sunglasses.




Update: For anyone who likes the price of the Uvex sunglasses I posted about above, but would like a darker lens, Uvex also makes the S1623 Bandit model, which is $10 on Amazon. I have a pair of these too, and they are very nice, a lot darker, and a bit more stylish than the lighter Uvex model above:




They feature the same adjustable arm length as the other Uvex pair, making it easy to make sure they fit snugly and stably.

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Xpand Lacing System - Never Tie Shoelaces Again


Every once in awhile I come across a product I'm really impressed with, and feel the urge to share with others who might appreciate it too, whether or not it has anything to do with CR or health (directly). Here is one of those.


Background - Call me strange, but there are several little things I dislike about shoelaces, including tying them (a waste of time),  their flopping around (annoying, especially when jogging), and their coming untied (especially annoying when jogging). 


The Xpand Lacing System solves all three of these annoyances. Here is what they look like:






They come in a bewildering array of colors. I bought 3 pairs for $20. I gave one to my wife for Mother's Day - romantic huh?!


Below is a video of them in action, from their (successful) Kickstarter campaign. The campaign is over and they now ship almost immediately. I got mine about a week after ordering them. I highly recommend them for anyone else who is annoyed by shoelaces. Watch the video and I think you too will be convinced. They work exactly as shown.


You can get them from the XPand Lacing System website, or on Amazon ($8.99). The laces are plenty long enough to do several pairs of shoes with one set of laces, although you may want to get additional locking hardware ($2/set), which I did by purchasing directly from the company.





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[Admin Note: This discussion of running footwear is continued on this thread called Best Running Footwear.]


Tesla BK-30 Minimalist Running Shoes


For anyone who'd love to buy a Tesla Model 3, but can't afford ~$35K and doesn't want to wait until 2018, you're in luck. You can pick up not one but two Teslas right now for only $29.98, and they are really fuel efficient - in fact they don't require any fuel at all, except fuel for your body!


Of course I'm talking about the Tesla BK-30 Minimalist Running Shoes


First - some background. I run quite a bit: ~3-4 miles per day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year.  And I swear by "barefoot" running with minimalist shoes for foot protection, not for support. I've been running this way for years, without injury. I've come to really dislike bulky, thick-soled running shoes. I a big believer in the Born to Run philosophy about running style and running footwear.  It takes some getting used to, and you definitely need to ease into it if you've been a heel-striking runner all your life (like I was), but once you get used to it you'll never go back.


 Up until last fall, I was running exclusively in these Vibram Fivefingers - you know, the weird-looking toe shoes. I still run on my treadmill with them, when the weather outside is really inclement. But the downside of the Vibrams is that since your individual toes are housed separately, they get really cold when running in snow and ice. Plus, I have to acknowledge they look pretty goofy, and the toe separation doesn't really offer any advantage, as far as I can tell.


So last winter I switched to the Tesla BK-30s, shown below (they also come in orange, purple and black). They are thin-soled, zero-drop, and extremely light - very much like the Vibrams but without the toe separation. They are almost equivalent to barefoot running but with enough protection to prevent injury if you step on something sharp - although it still hurts a bit if you step on a 1" diameter stone.






I really like them for running - both on pavement & grass. I have a blue pair like the one shown above - on which I've installed a pair of yellow Xpand Lacing System shoelaces. The combination is terrific, both functionally, and the yellow matches perfectly, so they are even pretty stylish (although I admit I'm a pretty poor judge of such things...).


I like these shoes so much that I just bought at second pair (in black) for wearing around everyday. For $29.98 you can't beat the price, and having run around 500 miles in them over the last six months, I can testify to their durability. I find they run true to size. I wear a size 8.5 in sneakers - that's the size I ordered and they fit perfectly.


With these Tesla shoes parked on your feet, you'll be the envy of everyone in your neighborhood.




Update: On the Best Running Footwear thread, Martin Knight recommends Nike Free shoes and Luna Sandals.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Whole Body Vibration Plate


Thanks to a recommendation to Kenton, I bought a whole body vibration (WBV) plate from Ebay. Here is a picture of it:




My goal is to use it to maintain bone health and potentially boost brown adipose tissue. I'm quite impressed with how rugged and well-built it is, and how vigorous the vibration it produces.


Here is a link to the thread where I discuss the evidence of benefits from WBV, as well as a more detailed review of this particular model of WBV plate.



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  • 3 months later...

Whole Body Vibration Plate


Thanks to a recommendation to Kenton, I bought a whole body vibration (WBV) plate from Ebay. Here is a picture of it:




My goal is to use it to maintain bone health and potentially boost brown adipose tissue. I'm quite impressed with how rugged and well-built it is, and how vigorous the vibration it produces.


Here is a link to the thread where I discuss the evidence of benefits from WBV, as well as a more detailed review of this particular model of WBV plate.



I'm atop this vibration machine now as I type this, machine under hips, lower back, the bend in my spine just under the lower ribs, chest lifted, legs up the wall, very sweet and comfy, feels like home. I do this a few times a week, twenty minutes at a time or so. And when I need more hip, groin, inner thigh release and extension, I sit on it in cobbler's pose (baddha konasana) and for me it relieves lower back tightness, pain, discomfort, and hips from overworking them.


Meanwhile, I'm sometimes surrounded by too loud hyper music, so when these hit the market These Titanium Ear Plugs Will Isolate You From Any Noise

http://futurism.com/?p=49899 I plan to buy some to help protect my ears also from stupid loud police sirens and helicopter noise and loud trucks and cross eyed idiots on Harley Davidsons.


Natural sound is an endangered species: http://www.onbeing.org/program/last-quiet-places/4557

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  • 1 year later...

Sunrise Alarm Clock


A few posts on the call of the wild thread mentioned how much easier it is to have good sleep when camping. I thought I'd post a couple cool tools I use to help my sleep.


I've had a lot of trouble sleeping and it seems to run in the family. I'm a night owl by nature and I often find it difficult to fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning. I find it is much easier with an alarm clock like this one. This isn't the exact model that I have, but it doesn't look like the kind I have is available anymore. There are several models that all appear to do roughly the same thing. Mine gradually brightens over the course of a half hour, and the alarm is a recording of birds chirping.


I find that it is a more gentle way to wake up vs. a screaming alarm clock. That my body seems to start the wake up process as soon as that light gradually turns on, so by the time the alarm goes off, I'm already half-awake. I feel less groggy in the morning and find it is easier to keep a consistent schedule. It was a big help during Alaskan winters when the darkness seemed to be willing my body into a long hibernation. In general I feel better rested and more awake during the day. I wouldn't trade this alarm in for a standard alarm ever again.



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A Contoured Sleep Mask


Around 2013 I started using a sleep mask. I started with this one, and now I'm using this one. The key thing is that it is cupped, so the mask never actually touches your eyes. I am especially impressed with the most recent one I got. It is so form fitting that not a pin prick of light gets in, not even around the nose, without touching my eyelids at all. You could wear it outside during a summer day and it would almost be like midnight on a moonless night.


You might think that the sleep mask would counteract the sunrise alarm clock. For me the mask is key in falling asleep. During the night it usually slips off my face without me noticing. Then in the morning I get can get the full force of the sunrise.


They gradually flatten and wear out. I have to replace it after about two years of consistent use.



Edited by Thomas G
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