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106: Meet the ‘Muscle Maven’ Who Thinks You Should Eat Organ Meat – with Ashleigh Van Houten

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Functional Strength and Nutrient-Rich Diets are Her Passion

Ashleigh Van Houten grew up as the only girl in a household of brothers, which lead her to watch a lot of wrestling and Arnold Schwartzenegger movies as a kid. She also liked watching the world’s strongest man competitions. From an early age, Ashleigh found herself intrigued by displays of strength and seeing what the human body can do. 

She is also a natural communicator, so her decision to major in communications and public relations seemed like a good fit. However, soon after college, Ashleigh knew that working long hours in a stuffy office wearing a business suit was not what she wanted to do with her life. 

She feels fortunate to have turned her passions into a fitness career that focuses on strength training, nutrient-dense diets (including organ meats), and helping fitness companies with their branding.  

Along the way, Ashleigh became an author, speaker, podcast host, and self-proclaimed muscle nerd. She wrote a cookbook called It Takes Guts and is the host of the Muscle Maven Radio podcast

She is a longtime contributor to Paleo Magazine. Ashleigh is also a consultant in the fitness industry, helping others build their brand and communicate their messages to the world. She has also worked with notable figures like legendary Canadian bodybuilder and life optimization guru Ben Pakulski and thyroid health expert Elle Russ.

In her downtime, Ashleigh is a nationally ranked natural figure competitor and dabbles in powerlifting, arm wrestling, and BJJ. However, her biggest hobby is trying to convince people to eat organ meat. 

In this podcast, we cover: 

  • Why you should eat organ meats, including animal hearts, livers, and other organs most people won’t touch
  • Her journey from a corporate cubicle to owning her own fitness business
  • What’s the difference between eating a kidney, a heart, or a liver?
  • The science behind eating organ meats
  • What her book “It Takes Guts” is all about
  • Why you should do pull-ups

“What is the weirdest thing you have ever eaten?”

The consumption of organ meat may still be a “niche conversation,” but Ashleigh is determined to open people’s minds to the topic so more people can experience health benefits. She truly believes that if you give organ meats a try, you will see positive results. 

Ashleigh endured her share of “barf emojis” in the comments of her social media posts touting organ meats at first…but those reactions are declining as more studies and testimonies show how nutrient-rich these organ meats are for humans. 

So much potential nutrition is lost when we focus on only the “choicest cuts” of meat…liver, heart, tongue. Ashleigh recommends keeping an open mind (and open appetite) toward sustainably raised, ethically treated livestock. 

Her willingness to consume practically any organ meat was confirmed when Wade asked Ashleigh to share the weirdest thing she has ever eaten: her answer was blood. 

Animal blood is rich in protein, iron, and tons of additional vitamins. Blood can also serve as a thickener or flavor enricher. Ashleigh uses blood with an Italian recipe for a chocolate pudding that she says is delicious. 

Ashleigh’s Pull-Ups Program Promotes a Positive Self-Image (Particularly for Women) 

When it comes to strength training, Ashleigh is a pull-up promoter. She loves pull-ups and is on a mission to help more women discover that they can do pull-ups through her Jacked Back Pull-Up Program.

“When I learned how to do pull-ups and then progressed to weighted pull-ups, I felt so good about myself,” says Ashleigh. She explains how her experience with pull-ups how the path to real confidence isn’t so much in how you look–confidence comes through competency or mastering skills.  

Ashleigh then talks about how women have been taught not to consider the pull-up to be a good exercise option for them. Although women start with much less upper body muscle strength, they need someone to show them what’s possible. Ashleigh teaches her Jacked Back students the proper form for the pull-up, which opens up a whole new fitness adventure. Even men benefit from her Jacked Back pull-up program, as most guys have terrible form doing pull-ups. “

You cannot do exercises at the gym that are any more beneficial to your strength training than a nice, smooth pull-up. Ashleigh is ready to show how pull-ups can lead to a more muscular body and more self-confidence. 

You will enjoy the enthusiasm Ashleigh shares for organ meats and pull-ups. Women listeners will be inspired, and men can learn a lot as well. Be sure to listen to the podcast, where you will pick up tips on nutrient-dense diets, “less but better” meat-eating, bodybuilding, and muscle-building for women.  

Episode Resources: 
Ashleigh Van Houten | Primal Health Coaching
Book – It Takes Guts
Ashleigh on Instagram

Read The Episode Transcript:

Wade Lightheart: Good morning. Good evening. And good afternoon. It's Wade T Lightheart from BiOptimizers with another edition of the awesome health podcast. And I'm excited to record this one because I've just got back from the Christmas holidays and we have an extraordinary guest to join us today. None other than Ashleigh Vanhouten. And she has done a lot of different things. She's an author speaker podcast host and self-proclaimed muscle nerd. I love that. I think you claim a space. I like to be a muscle nerd is really cool. In fact, she wrote a cookbook called it takes guts, and we're going to talk about that and is the host of the muscle Maven radio podcast. She has a long time contributor to paleo magazine, and Ashley is also a consultant in the fitness industry, helping others build their brand and communicate their messages to the world. Working with notable figures like legendary Canadian bodybuilder and life optimization guru Ben Pakulski great guy he's been associated with biopterin for a long time.

 Wade Lightheart: I love his work, fantastic guy and thyroid health expert, Elle Russ, who has been a guest of the podcast, not once, but twice in her downtime. Ashley is a nationally ranked natural figure competitor, and also dabbles in powerlifting arm wrestling and B JJ. Although her biggest hobby is trying to convince people to eat organ meat. So we're going to talk about that today. Ashley, welcome to the show. Thank you so much. This was a very positive and upbeat intro I feel like I'm ready to go. I'm ready to take on the world now. I appreciate it. So let's start at the beginning for people who haven't heard of your podcast, or maybe your book we'll get into some of that stuff later, but so we're both Canucks that's that's Canadian speak for Canadians and she is in the freezing cold of Ottawa here in the middle of the winter. I've escaped recently to the warm tropical shores of Southern California. But tell me about your journey to kind of become the person that you are. So how did you get into this whole industry, the fitness industry? How did you become a muscle Maven? How did you get into all these different things and, and what made you become a muscle nerd?

 Ashleigh Van Houten: All right. Well first of all, I'm jealous that you are in Southern California. And I also think it's really kind of cool how like this industry, the fitness wellness world is, is still a relatively small one. But I just keep running into Austin, Canadians everywhere I go, which makes me really happy. So it's always kind of fun to connect with other Canucks. So anyway, I appreciate that. I don't, I don't really have like kind of a cool elevator speech, light bulb moment about how I got into this industry. It's really I growing up, I guess I had older brothers and so I watched a lot of like wrestling and Arnold Schwartzenegger movies and stuff. And I just, I kind of always liked muscle and strength and displays of strength. I liked watching like world's strongest man. And, you know, I just liked seeing what the human body was capable of.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: I was always fascinated with that from a young age. And while I was never, I never really considered myself much of an athlete growing up. I did do things like gymnastics and swimming, and I always was kind of involved in sports that required body awareness and things like that. But I wasn't really like a team sport person so much, not as good with a ball as I was kind of doing things on my own. So I didn't really consider myself an athlete until I really got out of university and found at the time it was sort of early days of CrossFit. And I found that because I was always sort of a gym rat, like I always was in the gym working out because of the whole, I love muscles' thing. But I wanted something that was a little bit more like a sport and a little bit more like a community thing.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: And so I got into that and I kind of started realizing like, Hey, just cause I, I didn't play like, you know, I don't know, volleyball or whatever. Maybe I am an athlete. Maybe I can be an athlete. And so I started really kind of diving into a lot of the stuff that makes CrossFit so great, which is sort of powerlifting and weightlifting and just the concepts of hypertrophy and things like that. So I really started educating myself on these things. Personally, while I was going to school and working and doing what, what people do. And I went to school for communications and PR and I was working in a corporate environment at the time and starting to realize I was living in New York and starting to realize that maybe I didn't want to work in that kind of environment. You know, I didn't really want to put a suit on every day and, and work crazy long hours in an industry that I didn't love.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: And so I had started the kind of painstaking process of trying to, and I realized this doesn't work for everybody. I'm fortunate that it worked for me, but kind of connect the things that I was passionate about. And I loved with the things I was good at doing, which is, you know, researching and interviewing and, and learning from people and, and gathering information and giving it to others and just communication. Right. And so I started, again, it was painstaking, it was like a long process, but I started doing things like writing for the CrossFit games and connecting with paleo magazine and writing for them. And that was like this huge cascade effect where I got to connect and meet with so many people in the nutrition space and the wellness space and just learning from all of these people. And then I started getting well, I had the opportunity to host paleo magazine's podcast at the time, which I didn't know anything about how to do that, but of course I said, yes, cause I'm like, Hey, I like to talk.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: And you know, I get to learn from people for a living now. So, you know, this was taking sort of years and years and I was taking all kinds of courses and educating myself, but really a lot of it was just diving into this world that again, I would have been doing it for free, but I was slowly painstakingly making it a living. And so that's really kind of just continued to steamroll and evolve and, you know, with the work with some of these folks that you mentioned earlier and and it's just now, actually in the past, like couple of years that I've started to continue to branch off and create my own stuff. Because for a long time it was about how much can I learn from other people? How much can I help other people kind of expand their brand and, and do the work that they do.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: And now I've kind of made the switch with my book and some of the work that I'm doing, trying to really create my own, my own brand and my own products, my own services, and, and really help people in the areas that I'm particularly passionate about, which is things like functional strength nutrient dense diets that make people feel good. And things like that. So, yeah, I mean, it was, it was a, a million little things and I'm, I'm so fortunate and grateful that I get to do it because I just get to learn about stuff that I love and, and talk to smart, awesome people who want to help others all the time. It's just such a great environment to be in. So I feel very lucky.

 Wade Lightheart: Yeah. I agree with all that. So a couple of interesting components and I want to get to let's dive right into it. Cause I think a lot of people you've written a book it's called it takes guts, and you're a big advocate of leveraging eating nutrient dense foods, such as organ meats. My business partner is a big advocate of that. And of course it has a long history petition, particularly in Chinese medicine and the bodybuilding industry. You can go back to you can go back to the wild physique in Vince, Gironda, one of the defacto Hollywood kind of trainers of trainers back in the forties and fifties and early sixties, who was a big advocate of organ meats and clan derailers, and nutritionists was way, way ahead of his time. And there is a, what I would say, a resurgence of that philosophy here in the West and in certain pockets of the fitness and performance industry. Can you share with our listeners why or how consuming organ meats has been a, a big thing for you? What, what led you to come to that conclusion? Cause it's like not everybody wakes up one day and says, you know what, I need to eat a kidney today. Or, you know, like, or what's the difference between eating a heart versus a kidney versus a liver? Like, what is this whole thing? Can you explain that? Or what attracted to, and maybe explain some of the nuances about organ meat consumption?

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Yeah. I mean, I could go all day. So you stop me when, when you want to. Cause it is a very

 Wade Lightheart: Aa I'll interject if I have a question. So how about we'll go we'll we'll we'll I'll I'll I'll I'll do that.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: That would be great. That would be great because yeah, I mean, this is still definitely like sort of a niche conversation, but when you think about, you know, keto 10 years ago was super niche. Paleo 15 years ago was super niche. Everyone thought it was just a weird trend clickbait and now there's, you know, 400 cookbooks in Barnes and noble on each of those topics. And so I still hold out hope that there is going to be, like you said, a continuing resurgence. And I think it is almost like a, like a response to in the fitness world over the past number of years, there's been sort of this biohacking concept, which that can be a whole different rabbit hole. We can go down and the pros and cons of that, but there is always, whenever we go in one direction, there's always sort of a backlash in the other. And with the idea of biohacking being like fringe experimental stuff, there, there is now sort of maybe a, I don't want to use the word backlash necessarily, but just sort of like a different way of looking at let's actually go back to basic principles. Let's go back to really simple, natural methods of being as healthy as we possibly can. And for me, my background nutritionally, whenever I started caring about nutrition, which was again, probably in my mid twenties, when I realized I had to start caring about nutrition, you know, everybody hits that point

 Wade Lightheart: But you look like For those who are watching you look like you're in your mid twenties now. So what you're doing (Ashleigh, I'm pretty close) is working,

 Ashleigh Van Houten: We'll say that, thank you. But you know, you, you know, like you hit that age where like your metabolism starts like telling you it's there or not, and you start, you know, just feeling like you need to take better care of yourself, cause you're not a teenager anymore. So when that happened to me and I was learning about, you know, weightlifting and stuff like that. And so I started caring about nutrition and food is fuel around that time. I was learning about this paleo diet or this ancestral health diet. And it always made sense to me just because it seemed so practical. Like I was, it was like the anti biohacking. It was like, this is boils down to physiology. This is how our actual bodies work and what they respond to. And so it just made sense. Right. and I still believe, you know, at a very basic level that the concept of eating whole unprocessed foods, ideally that are local to where you live, that are fresh that don't have an ingredients list.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: I still believe that makes the most sense for most people. And that can look very different too, you know, across the board, like my paleo meal can be a massive steak with some like chives on it. Yours could be a huge salad with maybe a little smattering of, of animal protein, you know, so they can look very different, but I think those basic concepts make sense, right? So that's kind of always the way I've thought of nutrition for myself. And as I was continuing to learn about these things and learn about the sustainability and, and you know, just kind of doing it in the best way possible in a way that promotes our own personal individual health, but also supports sustainable agriculture and you know, supports local firms and supports a humane way of doing this. Because again, I mean, it's another rabbit hole.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: We could go down plant-based versus animal based. But for the vast majority of us who do eat animal products, I think we can all agree that we want to do it in a way that is as, as humane as healthy as we can possibly do it. Right? So along that trajectory, I'm thinking the best way to do this is to support local farmers who are doing this in the best way possible that are giving animals the healthiest best lives possible. We want to do it in a way that is wasting as little as possible. And so then we're thinking what true nose to tail means. Of course, that's going to include organ meats. And the more I delved into that, the more I realized that organ meats, which were, are more recently, something that we throw away or think of as extreme are the most nutrient dense parts of an animal.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: So if we are going to accept that, that an animal is going to lose its life to nourish us, why wouldn't we then take advantage as much as we possibly can by making use of the entire animal, respecting it in that way, eating the parts that are the most healthy and nourishing for us. Instead, what we're doing is we're eating, you know, the choice cuts and in many cases, throwing, throwing the nutrient dense parts away or giving it to other people or other places, which just didn't make a lot of sense to me. So I started exploring this more personally for myself. And I started just kind of dipping my toe in and like trying some different things and cooking some different things. And as I was doing this, I was like sharing it with my followers or my social media. And I was getting a lot of responses. People like a lot of barf emojis. But also a lot of people saying, what are you like, what, what are you doing?

 Wade Lightheart: What, what, what caused the barf for emojis? I'm curious, like,

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Liver usually , liver usually yeah often times it's, it's just

 Wade Lightheart: What constitutes an organ meat per say, like is cow's tongue considered an organ or is that considered just another muscle in the body? Like how would that, like, what's an organ versus regular meat for our listeners who might not be versed in those concepts?

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Technically it's anything that isn't, well, there is sort of a gray area because if anything, that's kind of not muscle meat. But as you just alluded to, a lot of organs are also muscle meats. So things like heart and tongue are muscles, but they're also considered organs. So from a very basic description, like an organ is any collective of tissues that serves a specific purpose. So that can be skin is considered an organ. But of course everything from, you know, brain down to, you know, your guts, like tripe, things like that to sex organs, everything, that's just sort of a specific set of tissues that do a job is an organ.

 Wade Lightheart: Okay. Okay. So, so w we, we just, we went from the brain to sex organs. So now we just went down (Head to tail ) a hole sideways. So what's, what's, what's the, what's the most what's, what's the weirdest thing that you've eaten

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Oh it's so Funny because I, it's hard for me to answer questions like that now, because my perspective is so different because that,

 Wade Lightheart: Right But no, no, I know, but, ( I think it's weird right like I'm saying) well, there, must've been a point where you're like, all right, I got Beaver balls. Yeah! Here we go. What's the word, come on. Like selling, you know what I mean? Come on, like... I will, I will i will tell you. Like I've got monkey brains or something, you know what I mean? Cause these are things that are served around the world.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Absolutely. And I mean, I haven't, I haven't tried a whole lot of super exotic animal parts just because they're hard to source. Of course I would. And when I travel, I'll eat, whatever is the thing that people eat there. But I will say like in the process of, of recipe development and testing and making some recipes for the book, I did have a couple of days and moments where I was like purchasing things. And I was like, how did I get to this moment? This is weird, you know, but you get over it. So like for example, I have a couple of recipes that involve blood and blood is traditionally been used because it's very protein, rich, it's very iron rich, tons of vitamins and minerals. It's used as like a thickener. It's also used to rich enrich flavors that are already there. So, you know, like in the way that people will often put espresso in chocolate desserts because it makes the flavor richer blood does that as well.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: So I've, you know, made traditional kind of black pudding, blood sausage, which is very good. And I even made a a chocolate pudding with blood that's based on a very well-known Italian recipe. That was delicious. But I remember having to go to the butcher and ask for blood. And the butcher kind of knew me at this point. They were used to the girl coming in, asking for weird stuff, but they were like, man, I mean, okay, I guess I can get you some blood, but it's going to be a lot of it because we don't buy, like we don't, we don't have like little pre-portioned things of blood for people cause no one wants it. So I remember like walking home with like a few liters of, like frozen blood and thinking like, okay, how am I going to explain this to my friends and family?

 Ashleigh Van Houten: You know? Right. Right. But every time I do this, every time I tried something new, that was a little bit intimidating to me because it still is anything that's unfamiliar is going to be a little bit intimidating. But I would do it and it would be successful eventually. And it was something that I enjoyed and I just felt empowered the same way. I think many people who try new things in the kitchen, when you do it, you learn something and you feel good. You feel like you're empowered. Like you learn something about how to cook and take care of yourself. And you've tried something new and that's fun. So, I mean, I'm pretty much willing to try anything. I will admit there are some organs and some, some dishes that I don't like, I think I have a pretty extensive palette and I'll eat a lot and I'll enjoy a lot.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: There are some that I don't and that's okay. Like that's another thing I want people to know about this book is I'm not telling everybody they have to eat kidney all day every day. And like it, I'm just saying, if you are somebody who eats meat, but you think that, you know, this part of the animal is okay because you're used to it. And this part over here is extreme and weird and gross just because you're not used to it. I just want people to open their minds and kind of question their preconceived notions about things that are different, right. Like just because it's different doesn't mean it's bad. And that goes for everything in life, not just food. That's what I want people to kind of think about.

 Wade Lightheart: So bags of blood aside, what is let's get into maybe some of the, the, the scientific aspects about why someone might select choosing a particular organ or from a different animal. Is it just because it's calories and we don't wanna waste it or is there some specific nutritive of benefits for people and what might be some of the common ones, I guess?

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Yeah. So in my research, what I have found to be, and I'm sure again, you, you know, a lot of this stuff too, like anybody who does a lot of research in the nutrition world, there's, there's talk of super foods. And again, if you kind of take the click baity terms away, we're talking about like ounce for ounce, nutrient dense foods. And those include things like oysters and things like blueberries, maybe. And, and the big one that comes up over and over again is beef liver. And the reason for that is because again, it just ounce for ounce has the highest numbers of an array. Like I can list them. I have them written down here in my notebook, cause I don't want to memorize everything. Every vitamin and mineral you can think of. It just has it in such high numbers that we're talking about, bang for your buck here.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Like if you, if you're somebody who maybe recognizes the importance of your health, of eating animal products, but you want to reduce it because you don't want to contribute too much to, to, you know, eating a ton of animal products all the time. So you, you want to eat animal products for your health. You don't want to eat a lot of it. You do not need to eat a 12 ounce beef steak every other day to maintain sort of the benefits. People are eating a couple ounces of liver maybe once a week. And you are reaping really impressive benefits, like everything from antioxidants like CoQ 10 and things like that to all the B vitamins, iron, every, everything you can imagine is in beef liver. So in talking about animals, right liver is going to be the most nutrient dense part of much any animal.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: I often recommend people start with chicken liver just because the smaller, the animal, the milder, the flavor of any thing tends to be. So if you're kind of like, again, dipping your toe in the water, and you're a little bit nervous about flavor or texture, you start with smaller animals and you can work your way up. And oftentimes different cuts tend to taste of the animal. So for example, I really like a lamb personally. I think that it has a nice flavor and a lot of people like the taste of lamb. And if you, for example, were to purchase a lamb heart, it's going to have a Lammy flavor. So lamb heart tastes different than beef heart tastes different than chicken heart and so on. But I do think that, and you know, so again, it, depending on your unique challenge or your requirements, or if you're you find yourself kind of deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, you might want to go for different things.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Like, again, heart is super high in a lot of these minerals, but it's really high in CoQ 10, which is a anti-inflammatory antioxidant. So that's maybe a great option for people. I also recommend heart for people because as we mentioned before, it's a muscle meat. So if you're worried about texture, which a lot of people are with things like liver and kidney and stuff like that, it has a very beefy texture that is familiar and more appealing to meat eaters than maybe other things. So, and you know, again, there's all this information is in the book. And I don't, I don't think that people need to necessarily obsess over, you know, I have to eat cooked beef liver because that's the most nutrient dense. I think that if, again, we're just talking about trying to have generally speaking, a nutrient dense diet that involves plants and animals and fruits and things like that, that thinking about using the whole animal, it just makes sense.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Like if you're, you know, muscle meat is just an inferior product, honestly, if we're talking about nutrient density. So why not kind of look at ways you can explore that and enjoy it. It doesn't have to be something you choked down. I know lots of people who take, you know, they freeze beef liver and kind of swallow it like a pill. And look, if you want to do that, and that works for you. Great. But there's plenty of ways to enjoy it. And I think that it just involves a little bit of work and experimentation and some adventurousness in the kitchen. And I always kind of liken it to things like we always, we all grew up and our parents maybe made us sit at the table for a while because we didn't want eat our vegetables. Right. Everybody has like a boiled brussel sprouts story, right. To sit at the table

 Speaker 1: Squash for me. Oh Like, why wasthat

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Boiled, growing up? I don't know. Anyway, so, but we didn't grow up thinking I'm never going to eat a vegetable again, because I had gross boiled vegetables when I was young. And they're gross. We're taught that these are healthy and good for us. And so you figure out a way to enjoy them. You make it worth it. Or at some point you grow up and realize you're an adult and not everything needs to taste like a big Mac or a pop tart. Right? Like some things are our fuel and they, aren't not, not everything you eat should be hyper palatable anyway. But yeah, I just tell people, I'm like, look, everybody has a boil brussel sprouts story. And everybody has a liver and onions, nightmare story from their childhood. There are better ways to do it. You just have to get in the kitchen and experiment and try some things.

 Wade Lightheart: Yeah. Really great points. When you talk about your book, it takes guts. What's the book about, and who is the book for?

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Yes. So the book is about the book is for anyone who I'm not trying to convince anybody who, who doesn't want to eat animal products, especially for ethical reasons to do that. I think that the book is really for anyone who does or is interested in eating animal products and wants to do it

 Wade Lightheart: Well, warning, this is not a book on ethics folks. It's just about, Hey, this is what I'm doing. This is my choice. And we're going, we're going down the road. So we're not making, and we don't make moral and ethical judgements here on the podcast. We're here to share and inform people about possibilities in your journey to biological optimization.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Yeah, I appreciate that. Cause it is, it is a, it's an intense topic for a lot of people and that's that's for every individuals to make their own decision. Right. I think that this is just, I want it to be encouraging and positive and informative and entertaining for those of us who are willing to, to enter into this area of eating nose, to tail by explaining to people that this has actually been a very common way of human eating for pretty much all of human history across every culture until very recently and even most cultures, except for maybe Western North American culture. It's still a very common practice. I get for every person who sends me a barf emoji. I get somebody who's like, Hey, I'm from Mexico or I'm from Japan or I'm from somewhere. And this is totally I'm into this.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: I eat this all the time. So I wanted to kind of give people a little bit of history, talk a little bit about culture and and and different ways to enjoy this kind of food. I give like full breakdowns of every kind of ingredient that I use in the book and how it can be prepared and why it's beneficial and healthy and all the kind of breakdown there. And most of the recipes have a story, like a personal story. I have a couple friends who are chefs and recipe developers who submitted some recipes. And I also kind of have like a personal story to go along with each one because I recognize that these are atypical ingredients and I just really want people to feel like just sort of encouraged and positive. Like this isn't a scary thing. It doesn't have to be scary.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: This can just be fun. And I've had people who had the book tell me, like, I just read it like it was a book. And that's really, that makes me really happy because I want this to be a lot more than just, Hey, here's a kidney recipe, go to town, good luck. You know, I want people to just be educated and entertained and you know, have fun with it. And so it's for everybody, who's, who's willing to just kind of learn something new about nutrition, I suppose, and try something maybe in the kitchen. Yeah.

 Wade Lightheart: What are some of the benefits that you've experienced or your clients have experienced from, you know, taking an organ meats? What what's kind of maybe the, if you have some supporting data or even some anecdotal stories, cause I think both are relevant. And just as I go on a tangent here for our listeners, I am a big advocate of clinical experience experiments as opposed to double blind studies. And here's why in a double blind study, very seldom do you get complete complaints and adherence to the protocols? The protocols are often very difficult to replicate in real life. And the variance within the subjects is not factored into most of the research based on genetics and history and deficiencies and things like that, where we break away from that is with people who have clinical experience such as yourself, which that is you're dealing with real people in the real world with real problems who have tried umpteen different things. And then they say, Hey, I added organ meats to my diet and bingo, this happened. So I'd be curious as to what you noticed and maybe some, some stories about some other people that this was life-changing for them.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Yeah. I completely agree with everything you said. I think that if, if folks are looking for more science backed research backed information, there are better people to talk to you than me like Dr. Cate Shanahan is a great example. And even if you research people like Diana Rogers who are really doing a lot more sort of work in this field, I'm not a registered dietician. I'm not a functional nutritionist. I'm I I've done some courses in that area, but I'm really much more of a, like a journalist honestly than a, than a clinician. And I am a health coach too, but again, most of what I can speak to is anecdotal and for myself personally, it's again, it's one of those things where it's hard to say, like, I'm not, I'm never going to go out there and say, because I eat with her all the time, I'm the healthiest person in the world and I'm healthier than you.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: And I'm healthier than I was even five years ago. I can't say that for sure. What I can say is that I know that since I have incorporated high quality organ meats in my diet, I have not been sick. I have enjoyed really robust health. And I can tell you also that personally, when I eat liver specifically, when I eat liver, I feel nourished and energized in a way that I, it sounds almost corny for me to say it out loud in a way that I have never felt eating or doing anything else. It's like, you take a shot of, I don't know, like an energy drink, except without the grossness of an energy drink. Like it just it's, it it is so nourishing. And I think that a lot of people have that experience maybe when they switched from a standard American diet to a more nutrient dense diet, to organic vegetables or organic. Like I remember having a similar transformative experience when I had organic free range chicken for the first time, instead of like your normal grocery store, rotisserie chicken and being like, this is a different animal, you know?

 Wade Lightheart: And it, it, and it is. And I think a lot of people don't recognize that just like a Twinkie eating city dweller is very different than someone who was grown up their entire life on the African Savannah or, you know, in a, in a, in an Arctic fishing village who were very different humans in their physiology, their what's inside them and all that sort of stuff. So of course it makes sense. I think a lot of people don't recognize how much our food has changed with industrialization. I was called the unintended consequences of technological innovation.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Absolutely. I mean, that's what I was going to say too, is I think so many people, again, in the, in the nutrition world, we focus so much on macro nutrients and calories. We are not thinking about possibly the bigger issue for like longevity and real sustainable health, which is micro nutrients and the deficiency that we have and gut health, which is another thing you can of course speak to really well. But we, all of us, even the healthiest among us in this modern world, struggle with nutrient deficiencies because of our lifestyle, because of chronic stress. Maybe we live in a place where there's no sun, hello, Ontario in the winter. You know, so we're all struggling with this. It's incredibly difficult at this point. It's not just eat healthy, eat your fruits and vegetables, and you'll be fine. That's often not the case.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: It's a great start. But I think that, again, a lot of my maybe clients that I've worked with who are so focused on maybe body composition or hitting your macros, you look a certain way. And they're, they're not thinking about again, nutrient density and the fact that maybe they're stalling, or maybe they're having health issues, even when they look good, because the food that they're eating is not actually nourishing their body. And I just think that it's, it has such an impact because of the the, I keep saying these words, nutrient density, but you're eating a small amount of this food that is incredibly bioavailable that your body is able to absorb if you've got good gut health and people just notice such a significant difference so quickly that it's just, to me, it seems like a very low risk, high reward proposition for most people. It's like, look, just try it. If you're already eating steak and ground beef and chicken thighs, put some chicken liver in there, like try some heart, try some, you know, whatever sweet bread spleen, like just try it and see what happens. And I haven't had anybody tell me this was a bad decision.

 Wade Lightheart: I know we're BiOptimizers, we're coming out with a, we have an author that's coming out with the carnivore cookbook. And I was shocked when I saw that he's making bread with meat and I'm like, okay, that's (I saw, I saw meat bread recipe. It was like meat bread. Okay. Who knew? And you know, one of the beauties of doing this podcast and talking to so many people like yourself is that we have such a vast array of perspectives and you come up and expose oneself to all of the biases and a bias for people to understand is kind of the accepted norms based on your exposure to your social environment. And so, for example, I remember when I first went to China and I'm seeing dead dogs in, in the hanging in the meat shops right. And things I would never consider eating. And I'm like, wow. And then you go to another culture in, you know, like you go to Japan and there's all this raw fish that people are wiggling and is eating it.

 Wade Lightheart: Right. And then you, you see on, you know, tribesmen in Africa, digging up ants and just eating them or Beatles. And then you go to another place. And then you like, you know, India where there's a lot of people that are plant-based and are you know, don't adhere that. And so what you start to realize, the more that you expose yourself to is that, wow, there's a whole lot of things that I don't know. And the tendency is to be suspicious or to carry a bias or a judgment into something. And I think if you're going to really embrace super health, that one needs to expose yourself to these things and be curious and curiosity, as they said, killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back. And I think it's really important to be curious, and to maintain that curiosity, like a childlike and to recognize that when you come up against biases or aversions.

 Wade Lightheart: So one of my spiritual teachers talks about how you become consciously aware of attractions in aversions. What are you attracted to? What are you aversion to Tony Robbins talks about that you're moving towards values and you're moving away from values. And these are actually much more malleable than we think if we're willing to experiment and grow with it. So kudos to you for bringing that up and sharing that with people. Because I think oftentimes, and I've seen this, we just wrote, we were just talking about this today, my business partner, I, people always, you know, they're always shocked that Matt's a keto guy and I'm a plant-based guy and we go, well, how does that work? And I'm like, well, we're dietary agnostic. It's like, There you go.. Whatever works for you and experiment and optimize the diet that you're on. But I think it's really important to , to maintain this and and to get away from what I call dietary tribalism.

 Wade Lightheart: Right. And that is, these are the rules of my tribe. And if you break them, you're an infidel. And that's the kind of thing that just keeps firing up the diet circus all the time as the Marigold goes around around. And, and, and we're here to bust out all of those things, any other you mentioned just briefly in your testimonial there, that a lot of people found a difference. And I want to dive a little bit deeper. Like for example, you say that you're sustained by beef liver. You, you, you, there's a noticeable, palpable, physiological response when you eat that. What's some of the things that other people might find is that the same as it beef liver is the number one thing, or is there something else, is there like,

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Yeah. I mean, I think I just, I just want to like follow up on what you said. Cause I think it's so important what you just said. And I think it's a big, big kind of actually scary topic, not only in the, in the nutrition world, but in like the world in general, is this concept of sort of tribalism or I'm right versus you're wrong kind of thing. And I can understand why it can be complicated and scary right now, because of the way our global world works. We're so inundated with information and we're all, we're often so inundated with click baity stuff that is meant to provoke and divide and get people worked up. And, you know I've talked about this a lot that even people in my community or in like my, my sphere where I'm supposed to agree with everything they say I'm often turned off by a lot of the way that people communicate, which is like, meant to be divisive, which I really think, again, people are focusing more on who, how can we get more eyes on us versus how can we make a difference?

 Ashleigh Van Houten: And I've struggled with this too, because I'm like, Hey, I bet if I said more crazy clickbait stuff more people would pay attention to me, but that's not really the way I want to get my message out. I just feel like maybe because I have two psychologists parents, but I learned that's another topic we can go down.

 Wade Lightheart: You just need to walk down the street with a, with a leather underworld, a leather underworld kind of outfit with two bags of blood. And, and, and, and, and, and the question, you know, like find out You in? Why on the caption or right. Who's coming with me like who's coming with me for apocalypse? Yeah but I just? You know You only knew Of course the hate that comes is also the other part of it, but

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Sure. But I guess, yeah. I just feel like psychology, if we're being pragmatic again, we do not change. If you're out there to try to make people healthier or give people an option to be healthier and happier, you never change anyone's mind by making them feel stupid. Correct Right. And, and by being insensitive and mean, and rude to people, it just isn't how our brains work. So it doesn't make any sense. We still do it because I get, I get it. People are frustrated. People are like, I just want you to know this and why don't, you know, it, why won't you hear me and listen. And so I understand the frustration that we all feel. I think when we turn on the news, go on the internet, go on social media. But I just, I really appreciate what you said, because I do think that more conversations with people who can be, you know, again, kind of separate your emotions or separate your personality from the lessons you're trying to teach or learn this like nutrition agnostic thing.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: I just, I really appreciate that. And I really liked that. So but yeah, so going back to the, the health benefits thing, I think that the, the major part of it for the people that I work with, it tends to be pretty, again, pretty like vague markers, but important ones and things like improved immunity for people who have super, super high stress, hard charging lives increased energy and performance in the gym, which is, again, something that, you know, I can only say anecdotally, that they're telling me I feel better. I have better energy and things like that. And I also think it's, it's little tiny things where somebody who's generally pretty healthy, pretty sorted out, but maybe they're like severely B12 or vitamin D deficient. And they don't really know it. And they're kind of just hanging on cause the rest of their stuff's sort of okay. And when these sort of levels start to release these kind of things start to level out and everything's kind of coming more in balance, it's sort of just like a cascading effect for everything. Your sleep gets better, your digestion gets better. Your mood gets better. Your performance in the gym gets better. So it's, it's really like, I wouldn't say like, I'm not gonna Mark it, like eat, beef for better sex or like eat liver cause it'll help you sleep better. I really think it's one of those things that it's just a,

 Speaker 4:  Didn't you know what's avocados? Yeah avocados for, for better sex answering you yeah, yeah okay I'll go with that too I eat a lot of avocados too. I'll buy I'll buy you into that. What do I need to eat right now,

 Wade Lightheart: Switching gears. Thank you for that, by the way. I really appreciate that. And I think that if, as an overarching philosophy, if what you're currently doing or the philosophy that you currently are advocating in life, and then most Tom talking to you, the listener, if, if it's not leading you where you want to go, you need to experiment with some things that you may be averse to or not like or say no. And that oftentimes is the breakthrough that you have. And I've seen this so many times with people who are advocates of of a plant-based diets, switch to a meat diet for whatever reason and have remarkable results. I see the opposite way too, and there's advantages and disadvantages to every dietary philosophy. And there is a time period where a person will gain the benefits of it. And then they begin to diminish and some of the liabilities will show up. So being, being able to to, to, to cycle through variances and deuce testing and expertise, I think is the intelligence approach to

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Today. And one of the biggest parts of that, that I find when I work with clients is going back to, again, what you said, sort of taking the like tribalism or the connection with your identity out of it makes a big difference with this, because one of the biggest problems is that people give themselves such a hard time when something stops working that used to work for them because they personalize it and say, it's because I'm failing or because I didn't do it good enough, or I, I was wrong. Whereas I'm trying to coach people a lot of times that, for example, if someone was on a strict keto, ketogenic diet, maybe they were super overweight. Maybe they lost 75 pounds in a year. Incredible. And then it plateaued and maybe their libido went down and their energy went down and they're kind of having some craving issues and they're like, Oh, I just, I'm not good enough.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: I can't keep doing it. I, you know, I'm failing. It's like maybe the thing that served you before is not serving you anymore. And that's okay. But we get it in our head, this black and white I'm keto now carbs are bad. Now I can never do that again if I do that, I'm backsliding. So I like to encourage people to think of any of these methodologies, whether it's fasting or keto or plant-based, or just, you know, any kind of thing like that, that they're using and incorporating into their diet as a tool, instead of an identity or a lifestyle I don't consider. I'm not like paleo lifestyle or I'm current of, or adjacent lifestyle, or I'm a intermittent faster. I just have these tools in my toolbox that I use when I need to and put them away when they aren't working anymore.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: It has no bearing on my, you know, goodness as a person or my ability to kind of do the things I need to do in life. And I just, I, I feel for people because it's, it can be very emotional and it can be so tied into how you feel about yourself. And I just wish people would give themselves a little break. Just give yourself a little bit of grace. You're doing something good and now you're switching just like everybody else. We're all doing it. We're all constantly evolving. So, you know, give yourself a break.

 Wade Lightheart: One of the maxims, my spiritual teacher said be kind and loving to everyone in everything, no matter what, especially including yourself. Yes. So I think that's really important. Switching gears a little bit, because before we started the podcast, we talked something about youth say is really cool about strength and mobility, and particularly for females. And that is you are engaging in a pull-up program, which is a highly technical exercise that a lot of women feel that they can't do a pull-up, but with the right training and the right technique, they can. And oftentimes that is massively transformational for people's kind of self view, their ability to consider themselves as strong or fit or athletic. Can you talk about your pull-up program that you've been doing? Why did you get involved? How did that happen and what have you learnt?

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Yes, I am so excited about this. These are kind of my two babies this year, my pandemic babies, where the and this program, this program I've actually been working on for years. And I sort of kept starting and stopping because I was second guessing myself and saying like, this is so specific. And it's also really hard. Like, is this something I can actually put out that people are gonna want to use? But like you said, I had such a transformative experience when I started doing gymnastics and body weight, functional movements like this. And when I learned how to do pull-ups and then I was doing weighted pull-ups and then I was doing you know, muscle ups and things like that. I just felt so good about myself. And one of the things I've learned through my fitness journey is that while everyone wants to look good and everyone will always want to look good, the path to true confidence, I strongly believe is through competency at things.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: And it can be physical competency. It can be, you're really good at your job. You're a really good partner or parent you're, you know, I don't know a good friend, but learning skills and being good at things is going to give you way more confidence than a set of six packs, six back. And I know this cause I I've had a six pack. It was cool. Nobody really cared. You know, you take a picture with a six pack and then people move on, nobody cares about it. No, they don't. So, You think that's going to, you know, move the needle for you. Like, you know, you can go and try it. Everybody needs to make their own mistakes, but I know that it doesn't, you know, whatever. So anyway, I feel very, very strongly about functional fitness because I think it gives people real inherent confidence that they can take into other areas of life.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: And there is very few things you can do in the gym that are less functional than a strict, smooth, nice pull up. I just, I love them. I think they're so awesome. And it's so good. And women have been taught, you know, a lot that like upper body strength is not really our thing. And we start at a pretty big disadvantage, which is true. We do have a lot less upper body muscle and strength doesn't mean we can't learn it, but I mean, if you even look at things like, and it is changing with like sort of modern fitness industry and things like CrossFit showing people how strong women actually are, but you know, you look at like firefighter and military fitness qualifications. And I think some of this is changing, but it used to be like men had to do five pull-ups and women just kind of had to hang there because it was just assumed that we just couldn't do the same thing, which I call BS on that big time personally.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: But yeah, so I really just wanted to provide a program that was based on functional upper body strength. It's really core back arms shoulders, kind of the whole deal. Because as you know, a pull up is a lot more than just your arms, which is one of the big fallacies of trying to get a pull up it's for men and women. I've got men and women in the program because I see a lot of dudes doing bad ones too, to be honest with you, like of the like half range of motion ones. I want people getting like a real good pull-up. There's some mobility work in there too. And it's a lot of, obviously on the bar work, as well as accessory movements that are going to help people. Not only build the strength that you need to get a pull up, but also recruit the muscles properly. Because one of the one of the issues I think with people getting a proper pull-up is not being able to recruit the muscles that you need. A lot of people kind of try to go really arm heavy instead of recruiting these big strong muscles in your back. Cause we don't, we, a lot of these muscles are turned off, right?

 Wade Lightheart: Yeah. Ben, Ben, Ben Pakulski who you mentioned is probably one of the premier guys on muscle recruitment and activation. In regards to that, of course he was a former student of Scott Abel, who was my coach also really big on learning how to pull the shoulder blades back and activate these big muscle movers of your back and shoulders and maintaining your abs structure and all these sorts of things. And what's interesting when someone has actually shown you these components, it's like all of a sudden you get all your muscles working in with each other or, you know, protagonistically or instead of antagonistically and that is transformative in yourself in itself. Yeah. Yeah. That's really cool. That's really, really cool that you're doing. So when you're doing a pull-up program, can you say, what would a pull up program sort of look like someone saying, Hey, I want to do a pull-up I've been told I can't do a pull-up I want to do one. Yeah. Let me do your program. What does that look like?

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Yeah. Well, I think one of the reasons this took so long is because originally I was kind of going to go the standard online fitness route and create a program, put it in a PDF and say, here you go, go for it. And then I soon realized that I think people needed a little bit more support and more resources than that. So I ended up putting this program on an online platform. It's not an app it's web based, cause I didn't want people to have to download an app. Cause I think that's annoying personally, but you know, whatever people can do, what they want anyway, it's a web-based program that people can go in that has a sort of a full video libraries so that you can see every single movement. I show you how to do it, right. How to do it wrong.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: It's just my face painstakingly showing you how to do scapular pushups and things like that. Love it. Um but it also, and so it like lists out the days you know, in a progressive way so that you know, what workouts you're supposed to be doing. And when one of the most important parts of the book about the program and one of the things I love the most that's so unique is through this program, this portal, you have access to me personally, to ask me questions, talk about the program. You can say, you know, I tried doing XYZ exercise and it kind of doesn't make sense. Can you help me? Or can you give me a different thing to try instead? Or, you know, I did this benchmark and I have questions and I'm going in there and personally, so it's like, I'm your kind of your personal pull-up coach through this program, which has been so rewarding for me because I get people to come in and give me feedback on what's working or what isn’t.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: But also people coming in and telling me like, these workouts are hard, but I feel like I'm getting stronger and it's making my tennis better and I'm better at this thing now. And like I'm starting to see some muscles back and it's so awesome and so rewarding. So the program is quite unique because it's about as interactive as I can get it in today's world where I can't be in the gym with you guys. Right. Um but, and I think it's really clear. It's like really kind of well laid out. And of course it exists there forever. So the program technically lasts a month, but it's meant to be repeated and the way that the workouts are done, it can be, you know, progressive and scaled and made more difficult or less depending on what you need. So yeah, I've had, I've had really great feedback. I've had some, some people making some pretty incredible progress and every time I see somebody post on social media and it's showing them hanging from a bar, do you want to pull up? It just makes me so happy. So yeah, it's been really fun.

 Wade Lightheart: And before we go look, can we talk about a little bit about the muscle Maven podcasts? So I love the word by the way, Maven for me and muscle put them together as two of my, like go-to words ever. So a great name on the podcast. Can you talk about the podcast and what's that all about for people who want to tune in?

 Ashleigh Van Houten: Yeah. And I've got to have you on it by the way, Wade. Cause we actually had a very successful IG live a while back. So I think that it just only makes sense to have you on to talk some more muscle Maven radio is my podcast. That the name really it's funny because the name actually came about like five or six years ago because I created an Instagram handle to document my bodybuilding competitions because this was back when like people, I mean, I was still using Facebook, which I don't really anymore. And I was like, ah, I wanna, I want to document this experience, but I don't want to like annoy my friends with like pictures of my sweet potato all the time. Like, should I, you know, go somewhere different so that if they're interested, they can come to me.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: And so I didn't, I didn't put my name on it. So I was just like, you know, look, I'm in marketing, I'm a writer. Like it was a stroke of genius. I was like muscle Maven that's me. And it just kind of stuck. It's it's, you know, it's my name now. People literally messaged me on Instagram and they're like, Hey, Maven. I'm like, that's, you know, that's not my name. Right. But it's cool if you like it, you can probably Maven all you want. But anyway, so muscle made them radio just sounds better than my name. My name's too hard to say. And it's really just, again, kind of a, an evolution of my work with paleo magazine radio, where I talked a lot about nutrition and ancestral health. This is sort of me kind of going in my own direction.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: And instead just talking about a wider range of topics around health and wellness. So anything from nutrition to I'm talking to professional athletes and their coaches and functional medicine for women and, and hormonal health and stuff like that, there is sort of a lean towards women's health just because I'm a woman. And I felt like there's like a little bit of that lacking in the meathead space. I'm a meathead, but I'm also a woman. And I feel like every podcast I listened to was just dudes talking about dude stuff, which is great. But you know, I want to hear some lady meat heads every once in a while too. So there's a little bit of that,

 Wade Lightheart: Lady meat heads, I loved that one.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: But there's, There's certainly stuff in there for everybody. You know, I think my audience is about 50 50, so I, you know, I don't want to exclude anybody. But again, it's like, we just were talking about, it's just an excuse for me to talk to people I think are interesting and learn and then other people get to listen and learn from it too. So it's like the best gig ever. Yeah, that's it.

 Wade Lightheart: I love it.. Yeah, I think this the three stages of life inclusion, exclusion, and then reclusion,uwhere can people reach you and get ahold of you? A web Facebook, social media, whatever I said, no, you're off that in your podcast. Where can people reach you and get connected with you to find out more about your book? It takes guts, your podcast, the muscle Maven, or to nerd out with a new pull-up program to get stronger and more confident in your capability to achieve physical excellence.

 Ashleigh Van Houten: I love it. Thank you. I think the easiest way to do it would probably be either my website, which is just And there's an sort of an email thing there. So you can reach out to me directly. Uyou can sign up for my newsletter there as well. Uor Instagram at the muscle Maven I'm on there frankly way too much, but I'm there and happy to answer people's questions. Uand you can find out more information like the book you can buy anywhere you buy books, Amazon Barnes and noble, whatever. And,uthe rest is yeah. On my website or,uon Instagram.

 Wade Lightheart: Well, there you have it folks. Ashleigh Vanhouten organ meats, pull ups and bottom line. It takes guts to be a muscle Maven in today's world. I hope you enjoyed this podcast and make sure you check out Ashley's site. She's a wealth of information and a lot of fun to hang out with as you can see, and for those who are joining us for the first time, welcome, we hope to see you again. And for those who have joined us many, many times we will be bringing you more guests over the coming year. We're doubled down on our podcast production. We're getting more and more subscribers. So Bluetooth hit the subscribe or like button and share this with someone who might need it because that doesn't take guts, but it does take a little effort. Thank you for joining us. I'm Wade T Lightheart from BiOptimizers and another addition to the awesome health podcast. See ya.
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