Saturday, December 31, 2011

Low and Slow Cooking

The term “Advanced Glycation End product” or AGE isn’t exactly well known. Researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine aim to change that and with good reason. To the uninitiated, AGEs are toxic byproducts that are linked to numerous health threats ranging from cardiovascular disease to diabetes. They’re formed during the cooking and processing of various foods using high heat. Within the body, AGEs can also be produced – especially in the context of diets rich in carbohydrates. The latest evidence suggests that this prevalent risk factor affects everyone from infants to seniors. Why infants? A report in the December 2010 issue of Diabetes Care explains that infants receiving baby formula had twice the level of AGEs typically found in adult diabetics. The authors go on to reveal that baby formula can contain 100 times the AGE content of breast milk. In seniors, elevated AGEs are an emerging risk factor for “accelerated cognitive aging” and Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, there are simple ways to mitigate the effects of dietary AGEs and to discourage their manufacture internally. For instance, according to a study published in July 2011, switching to an AGE-restricted diet for as little as 4 months can lower inflammation and insulin levels by 35% in type 2 diabetics.

Here are several specific ways to decrease your own intake of dietary Advanced Glycation End products: 1) Cook foods, especially those rich in fat and protein, using low heat and moisture when possible by poaching and steaming. 2) Marinate foods that require higher heat preparation with acid and/or antioxidant ingredients such as aromatic herbs and spices, citrus juice, soy sauce and vinegar. 3) Eat a low-glycemic diet that is nutrient dense. Dietary models including the Mediterranean and Okinawan diets provide viable examples. 4) If overweight, reducing your body mass index via caloric restriction has been shown to lower AGE concentrations by roughly 7%. In closing, I want to mention that Mrs. Healthy Fellow and I have found Crock-Pots or slow cookers to be invaluable in our quest to cook “low and slow”. They’re an inexpensive and practical tool for anyone striving to reduce dietary AGE exposure.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Fat-Burning Myth

by Joe Friel

It’s that time of year when athletes have gained a couple of excess pounds of flab and are starting to think about taking it off. The traditional method for doing this is by doing lots of long, slow miles. The slower you go, the better, according to this age-old way of exercising to reduce body weight. Zone 1 is perfect, right? But is that the most effective way?

In a classic study (Tremblay 1994) on this topic researchers at Laval University in Quebec, Canada had one group of subjects exercise at a low intensity (low heart rate zone 1) for 20 weeks. Another group did high-intensity intervals (15-90-second sprints at 60-70% of max power) for 15 weeks. The low-intensity group burned 28,757 Calories while the high-intensity group burned 13,829.

Guess what happened. The high-intensity group had much greater reductions in skin-fold measurements when expressed in relation to energy expended. This was the result of increased fat metabolism during periods of rest between training sessions. The high-intensity group also had significant increases in the enzymes that burn fat for fuel. The low-intensity group had no changes in these enzymes.

Note that the intensity of these two groups was extremely different. Low heart rate zone 1 is so easy you’d wonder if you were doing anything of value for your fitness. The high intensity was very high. It would be a mental challenge to do this workout several times a week for 15 weeks.

Realize that I’m not suggesting how you should train at this time of year. There’s a big difference between exercising for fat loss and for race performance. I typically see any extra weight my athletes have gained over the holidays gradually come off in the following weeks as training intensity increases gradually without going to extremes in training

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Men’s marathon: how much faster is it getting, and why?

Marathoners are getting faster — that’s no secret. Here’s the progression of the fastest men’s marathon in each year between 1969 and 2010.

The average data also shows a few inflection points where the rate of improvement has changed. There was rapid improvement until 1983, then a leveling off until about 1997; decrease again until 2003, then a little hitch for a few years, and now steady decrease again.

So what explains the changes? We can speculate about the role of money, science, and training… But as Amby Burfoot pointed out in his take on this study, it’s hard to get away from this stat:

In 1997, East Africans nabbed just 29 percent of the top 200 times. For 2010, the corresponding figure was 84 percent.

One other interesting nugget: during this time period, the top time improved by about 5 seconds per year, while the average of the top 200 improved by about 10 seconds per year. So this means that (a) competitive depth is improving, and (b) in another 50 years or so, the 100th ranked marathoner in the world will be faster than the top-ranked marathoner of that year.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Cold and Flu

ScienceDaily — With cold and flu season almost here, the next time you're sick, you may want to thank your fever for helping fight off infection. That's because scientists have found more evidence that elevated body temperature helps certain types of immune cells to work better. This research is reported in the November 2011 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.

"An increase in body temperature has been known since ancient times to be associated with infection and inflammation," said Elizabeth A. Repasky, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Immunology at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York. "Since a febrile response is highly conserved in nature (even so-called cold blooded animals move to warmer places when they become ill) it would seem important that we immunologists devote more attention to this interesting response."

Scientists found that the generation and differentiation of a particular kind of lymphocyte, known as a "CD8+ cytotoxic T-cell" (capable of destroying virus-infected cells and tumor cells) is enhanced by mild fever-range hyperthermia. Specifically, their research suggests that elevated body temperature changes the T-cells' membranes which may help mediate the effects of micro-environmental temperature on cell function. To test this, researchers injected two groups of mice with an antigen, and examined the activation of T-cells following the interaction with antigen presenting cells. Body temperature in half of the mice was raised by 2 degrees centigrade, while the other half maintained a normal core body temperature. In the warmed mice, results showed a greater number of the type of CD8 T-cells capable of destroying infected cells.

"Having a fever might be uncomfortable," said John Wherry, Ph.D., Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, "but this research report and several others are showing that having a fever is part of an effective immune response. We had previously thought that the microbes that infect us simply can't replicate as well when we have fevers, but this new work also suggests that the immune system might be temporarily enhanced functionally when our temperatures rise with fever. Although very high body temperatures are dangerous and should be controlled, this study shows that we may need to reconsider how and when we treat most mild fevers."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Who say you needs meds....

NSCF member

I thought you would like to hear this. It’s a testament to the positive impact eating well and exercising can have on your health.
Doug has to have a regular heart “stress test” because he has heart disease in his family. His dad has had TWO quadruple bypasses. I any case, the last time Doug had his stress test (2 years ago) the Doctor said he HAD to lose weight and had to lower his cholesterol or he would have to start taking medicine. Doug went to see his cardiologist today and the Dr’s exact words were…… “This is the greatest turn around I have ever seen with just changing diet and exercise”.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Flu Season

ScienceDaily — With cold and flu season almost here, the next time you're sick, you may want to thank your fever for helping fight off infection. That's because scientists have found more evidence that elevated body temperature helps certain types of immune cells to work better. This research is reported in the November 2011 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.

"An increase in body temperature has been known since ancient times to be associated with infection and inflammation," said Elizabeth A. Repasky, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Immunology at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York. "Since a febrile response is highly conserved in nature (even so-called cold blooded animals move to warmer places when they become ill) it would seem important that we immunologists devote more attention to this interesting response."

Scientists found that the generation and differentiation of a particular kind of lymphocyte, known as a "CD8+ cytotoxic T-cell" (capable of destroying virus-infected cells and tumor cells) is enhanced by mild fever-range hyperthermia. Specifically, their research suggests that elevated body temperature changes the T-cells' membranes which may help mediate the effects of micro-environmental temperature on cell function. To test this, researchers injected two groups of mice with an antigen, and examined the activation of T-cells following the interaction with antigen presenting cells. Body temperature in half of the mice was raised by 2 degrees centigrade, while the other half maintained a normal core body temperature. In the warmed mice, results showed a greater number of the type of CD8 T-cells capable of destroying infected cells.

"Having a fever might be uncomfortable," said John Wherry, Ph.D., Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, "but this research report and several others are showing that having a fever is part of an effective immune response. We had previously thought that the microbes that infect us simply can't replicate as well when we have fevers, but this new work also suggests that the immune system might be temporarily enhanced functionally when our temperatures rise with fever. Although very high body temperatures are dangerous and should be controlled, this study shows that we may need to reconsider how and when we treat most mild fevers."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chamomile helps with anxiety, sleeplessness and depression

(NaturalNews) Anxiety and insomnia are health concerns which may appear together and are often also linked to depression. These three health issues have a significant impact on people's lives and on our national health care economy. Within any 12 month period, 18% of adults suffer from anxiety, while nearly 29% will do so at some time during their life. Similarly, as much as 30% of the population may suffer from some form of insomnia, including a high percentage of those individuals diagnosed as depressed. Annual economic costs are significant and range from estimates of $15 billion for medical care to as much as $150 billion in lost productivity. While medical interventions are common, there are a variety of natural solutions including chamomile, a common herb which is inexpensive and readily available with minimal side effects.

Chamomile Tames Anxiety
While traditional healers have long recommended chamomile for anxiety, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania were some of the first to examine this relationship scientifically. In a 2009 study, the authors compared scores from standardized tests designed to measure generalized anxiety disorder or GAD. Over a period of eight weeks, one group received a placebo while the other took pharmaceutical grade chamomile capsules. Subjects were then tested to measure changes in symptoms of anxiety during this time. Those who took chamomile enjoyed a reduction in anxiety symptoms and the changes were termed "clinically meaningful and statistically significant."

Chamomile is a Great Sleep Remedy
Most of us are familiar with chamomile as a soothing tea that promotes relaxation and feelings of drowsiness at bedtime; its effectiveness is possibly due to its mild sedative action. While researchers have not confirmed a link between chamomile and sleep in humans, there are animal studies which do support a relationship. For example, a Japanese study using sleep-disturbed rats found chamomile worked as well as a tranquilizer in helping them fall asleep. Chamomile also has anti-inflammatory properties and may promote sleep by helping to reduce swelling caused by inflammation associated with allergies.

Chamomile May Indirectly Impact Depression
In an article about depression and insomnia which appeared in the Journal of Affective Disorders, the authors concluded that if you are diagnosed with insomnia your risk of also being diagnosed with depression in the next one to three years is very high. Of course anxiety is also strongly associated with depression. As many as 85% of depressed individuals were found to be anxious according to a study reported at the consumer mental health site, The frequency of anxiety and insomnia during depression suggests that chamomile may be helpful for alleviating some of its symptoms as well.

Chamomile's Long Lasting Effects
Unlike some supplements which are only effective for a few hours, chamomile seems to stay in your system for a relatively long time. A 2005 study reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry evaluated the urine of volunteers who drank chamomile tea daily for two weeks. They found elevated levels of hippurate, an anti-inflammatory, and glycine, which helps soothe muscle spasms. Two weeks after the volunteers stopped drinking chamomile, levels of these elements were still measurable.

Chamomile is readily available in capsule form and as a tea in most grocery and health food stores. However, proceed with caution if ragweed causes you to sniffle and sneeze. Chamomile is in the same family and could cause a similar allergic reaction.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Uses for Soda Other Than Quenching Your Thirst

Get Gum Out of a Kid's Hair. Want to score points with that single mom struggling to get gum out of her screaming kid's hair? Come to the rescue with your can of Coke. Soak the kid's hair for a few minutes, then rinse. The gum should come right out.

Strip Dye From Hair. If your girl comes over crying that her new dye job turned her hair green, wash her hair with Diet Coke. Apparently Diet Coke has the ability to strip and/or fade bad dye jobs.

Get Rid of Skunk Odor. Sponge down with some cola and hose yourself off. Again, those handy acids work to neutralize the stink.

Give Your Hair Shine. Pour a can of coke over your head, work it into your hair, then rinse. It's said your hair will be incredibly shiny. And impervious to slugs and snails.

Mousse Alternative. Mix equal parts coke and water in a spray bottle and mix well. After you shower, spray a light coat of the mixture into your hair, then style. (I'm sure having sugar in your hair all day won't attract flies or be uncomfortable at all.)

Prevent Flatulence. Adding a can of coke to a pot of pinto beans when cooking is supposed to neutralize the gas-causing compounds. (Belching? Another story.)

Get a Darker Tan. There are those who say rubbing plain coke all over your body gives you a deeper tan. (There's caramel coloring in there, but I question the evenness of the result, and how long it will last.)

Shell Hard Boiled Eggs. Apparently, if you soak hard boiled eggs in Coke the shells will dissolve, eliminating the need to actually have to peel them. See what you’re getting into…before you go there.

Remove Blood Stains From Clothes. Ruin your favorite shirt when you nicked yourself shaving? If you soak the stain with cola for five minutes then wash in your machine, the blood should come out. Even dried blood that's been there for a while.

Loosen Clogged Drains. If your sink is draining slowly and you don't have any drain cleaner in the house, pour a 2-liter bottle of cola down the drain and let the acids go to work on the clog.

Make Flowers Last Longer. Got your girl some flowers and you want them to survive through the week? Pour about 1/4 cup of clear soda, like Sprite or 7-Up into a vase full of water. Sugar helps them last longer.

Kill Slugs and Snails. If these pests are invading your lawn and garden, pour a little Coke into shallow dishes or jar lids and spread them throughout your yard. The sugar attracts them, and, just like you remember from when you were a kid, the acid kills them.

Greener Lawn. It's rumored that spraying Coke on your grass will keep your lawn greener into the fall months.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Antioxidants are more complicated than we thought

I wrote last month about emerging evidence that taking antioxidant supplements may actually be counterproductive, especially for athletes. There’s an interesting paper coming up in Cell Metabolism that casts further doubt on the whole basis of our belief that (a) oxidative stress is what causes aging and other cellular damage, and (b) antioxidants can counteract these effects (press release here; abstract here).

What’s new about the study is that they didn’t use the typical indirect methods to guess about levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS – the bad guys) and antioxidants, averaged over the entire body. Using transgenic fruit flies, they were able to measure ROS activity directly and in real time, in different parts of the body. There are a whole bunch of surprising results in this study that fly in the face of the conventional antioxidant theory. A few of the key ones:

If oxidation is linked to aging, we’d expect to see more ROS as the flies get older. In fact, ROS levels stay constant throughout the aging process except in the intestine. Only the intestine shows gradually increasing levels of oxidation.
Even in the intestine, the flies who lived longest had ROS levels that increased more quickly than the flies who died earliest — exactly the opposite of what we’d expect if oxidative stress is linked to aging and eventual death.
When the flies were fed an antioxidant, their production of ROS increased in response.

This last point, of course, is most interesting from the perspective of supplementation. It suggests that there’s a homeostatic response that attempts to preserve the balance between oxidants and antioxidants at a roughly constant level. So if you take a lot of antioxidants, your body simply ramps up its level of oxidants in response — with who knows what effect!

Let me emphasize: this is a study of fruit flies. Fruit flies are not humans. Still, the results suggest that our basic understanding of the real-time dynamics of oxidant-antioxidant interactions is far from complete. Now, I’d happily ignore all this cell biology stuff if there were lots of controlled trials showing increased health or performance from antioxidants. If it works, who cares about the mechanism? But since (a) we have no consistent evidence that antioxidants work, and (b) it’s increasingly clear that we don’t even understand how or why they should work, or what supposed problem they’re supposed to fix, I still think a balanced diet with lots of brightly coloured fruits and veggies in the way to go. Not powders, and not pills.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Short Walk Cuts Chocolate Consumption in Half

ScienceDaily — A 15-minute walk can cut snacking on chocolate at work by half, according to research by the University of Exeter. The study showed that, even in stressful situations, workers eat only half as much chocolate as they normally would after this short burst of physical activity.

Published in the journal Appetite, the research suggests that employees may find that short breaks away from their desks can help keep their minds off snacking.

In the study, 78 regular chocolate-eaters were invited to enter a simulated work environment, after two days abstinence from chocolate snacking. Two groups were asked to take a brisk 15-minute walk on a treadmill and were then given work to complete at a desk. One group was given an easy, low-stress task, while the other was asked to complete a more demanding job. The other two groups were asked to have a rest before completing the same tasks as the first two groups. Again, half were given an easier task and the remainder a more challenging one. Chocolate was available in a bowl on the desk for all participants as they carried out their work.

Those who had exercised before working consumed on average half the amount of chocolate as the others: around 15 grammes, compared with 28 grammes. 15 grammes is equivalent to a small 'treat size' or 'fun size' chocolate bar.

The difficulty of the task made no difference to the amount of chocolate they ate, which suggests that stress did not contribute to their cravings for sweet snacks.

Lead researcher Professor Adrian Taylor of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter said: "We know that snacking on high calorie foods, like chocolate, at work can become a mindless habit and can lead to weight gain over time. We often feel that these snacks give us an energy boost, or help us deal with the stress of our jobs, including boredom. People often find it difficult to cut down on their daily treats but this study shows that by taking a short walk, they are able to regulate their intake by half."

Exercise is known to have significant benefits for mood and energy levels and has potential for managing addictions. Professor Taylor and his colleagues at the University of Exeter have previously shown that exercise can curb cravings for chocolate but this is the first study to show a reduction in consumption.

Thursday, December 15, 2011



The two main causes of injuries, both acute and chronic, are poor mobility and poor technique. This applies equally to masters, youngsters, and those in between. Poor mobility esp. in the hips, shoulders and upper back may cause technical flaws in many movements from the simple to the complicated. A lack of understanding of the required movement skill, or a preexisting misunderstanding of an exercises’ correct execution, will lead to ugly lifts. Although all populations suffer from these flaws, masters athletes may suffer more frequently. The older athlete’s prior injuries and habits of a lifetime may lead to postural faults along with their concomitant mobility restrictions and compensatory movement. Prior coaching (high school coach from years ago) may lead older (mostly male) athletes to think they need no technical instruction.

Neither high reps nor high weight workouts are dangerous if performed with awareness and technical proficiency. If one insists on performing them in spite of poor mobility and/or technical insufficiency, injuries, not conditioning, are the probable outcome. In order to minimize the chance of injury all athletes across all ages need better postural awareness, regular mobility work, and frequent technical practice.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Is Fatigue All in Your Head?

For a long time, research on the causes of muscle fatigue have focused exclusively on changes in the muscle itself, while ignoring the fact that the brain has control over whether the muscle can contract. More recently, researchers such as Tim Noakes have been advancing the idea that the brain acts as a governor on muscle performance. The idea is that the brain makes you feel tired as a way to prevent you from the dangers of overexertion. In other words, when your muscles fail, it’s not because they can’t “just do it”, it’s because the brain just won’t let them do it.

A recent series of studies have identified some of the neural processes that are responsible for implementing the central governor. Here is a brief summary of the findings.

In one study, researchers showed that motor commands to engage in intense exercise eventually create a sensory feedback loop that inhibits those same commands. It goes like this. The primary motoric area of the brain tells the muscles to contract repeatedly. This results in sensory signalling from the body that is read by parts of the brain that act to inhibit the primary motoric area from continuing with the contractions.

This is very similar to the process by which pain inhibits muscular activity. Which is not surprising, since both pain and excessive muscle activity are a potential threat to the body. In each case, the brain elects to protect against the threat by essentially shutting down the ability to continue with the threatening activity – in this case, repeated contraction of tired muscles.

Researchers were able to determine through the use of a functional MRI that right before muscle failure, the areas of the brain that became more active were the thalamus and insular cortex, two areas that analyze information indicating a threat to the body. Another study confirmed that the insular cortex is in fact the area that inhibits the primary motoric area.

Another study showed that pain medication which blocks feedback from the body also prevents the muscular inhibition that comes from fatigue.

Put these findings all together and a simple picture merges. When the brain receives information from the body indicating that a particular form of exertion is a threat, it decides to shut the activity down. It is surprising to me that such a common sense idea takes so long to gain acceptance, and is ignored all too often.

This dovetails very well with a central principle of training recommended on this blog (which is also one of the basic ideas in Z-Health): threat not only causes pain, it limits performance. If you want to increase performance, work to reduce threat.

This is why the “no pain no gain” mentality of exercise is so counterproductive, and why giving the brain “good news” about the body should be a primary training strategy

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tissue Healing

Tissue healing can be divided into 3 main stages, each having multiple phases:

1. Inflammation:

- Vascular (day 0-14): covers the wound* and injured blood vessels

*wound can be an actual cut or damage to a muscle/ligament/tendon

- Cellular (day 0-14): removes bacteria and dead tissue to prevent injury

2. Proliferation (AKA Reparative)

- Re-epithelization (first 48 hours): forms scab over wound

- Fibroplasia with neovascularization (day 2-5): scar tissue formation and new blood vessels

- Wound contracture (day 4-21): closure of the wound

3. Maturation (AKA Remodeling)

- Consolidation (day 21-60): conversion of cells to fibrous tissue (collagen)

- Maturation (day 60-360): strengthening of scar tissue

Cappie definitely knows how to rest....

The idea of tendons, ligaments, and muscles returning to their original state after injury is not strongly supported by research literature. (When I say muscle injury I’m referring to a large muscle tear, not a small one or the little tears that occur when you workout). This is because scar tissue fills the injured area, and it does not have the same strength as the original tissue. However, tissues still have the ability to repair, and the goal is to help normalize them as much as possible in order to re-gain the maximum amount of function. How do we normalize them? Listen to your body and take care of you injuries. Take a few days to rest, but don’t sit on your butt and complain that you are injured. In the post titled Injured Much? Cody shared his own injury experience, as well as some awesome insight from K-Starr on why it’s still good to exercise while recovering from an injury. I recommend reading this to help understand why it’s good to keep moving during recovery.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Avocado nutrition facts

(NaturalNews) Beware of popular health myths. For instance, throughout the 1990s and into the first few years of this century, popular health "experts" often warned against eating coconut oil or coconut milk, causing many people to eschew a food now known to offer many health benefits. Another lingering popular health myth warns against avocados, which wrongly labels them as a dietary culprit because of their caloric and fat content. Yet, the truth is avocado can boost health in at least 5 ways:

1. Protein
Avocados provide all 18 essential amino acids necessary for the body to form a complete protein. Unlike the protein in steak, which is difficult for most people to digest, avocado protein is readily absorbed by the body because avocados also contain fiber. If you are trying to cut down on animal sources of protein in your diet, or if you are a vegetarian, vegan or raw foodist seeking more protein, avocados are a great nutritional ally to include not merely as an occasional treat, but as a regular part of your diet.

2. Beneficial Fats
Avocados provide the healthy kind of fat that your body needs. Like olive oil, avocados boost levels of HDL (the "good" cholesterol). HDL cholesterol can help protect against the damage caused by free radicals. This type of cholesterol also helps regulate triglyceride levels, preventing diabetes. A study published early this year in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that a vegetarian diet, which includes HDL fats, can reduce levels of LDL (the "bad" cholesterol) as effectively as statin drugs.

3. Carotenoids
Avocados are an excellent source of carotenoids. Although many people associate carotenoids only with red and orange produce, avocadoes are also an excellent source of this phytonutrient. Avocados, also known as alligator pears, offer a diverse range of carotenoids including not only the better known ones such as beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and lutein, but also lesser known varieties of this type of phytonutrient such as neoxanthin, zeaxanthin, chrysanthemaxanthin, neochrome, beta-cryptoxanthin and violaxanthin. Every time you consume foods rich in carotenoids, you deliver high quality vitamin A to your body, thereby protecting eye health. Carotenoids also enhance the functioning of the immune system and promote healthy functioning of the reproductive system. Since carotenoids are fat soluble, eating avocados optimizes the absorption of these nutrients.

The combined effect of the deluxe package of nutrients contained in avocados offers powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. Avocados' unique combination of Vitamins C and E, carotenoids, selenium, zinc, phytosterols and omega-3 fatty acids helps guard against inflammation. This means avocados can help prevent or mitigate against both osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis.

5. Heart Health
The fat content, which causes some uninformed health "experts" to deem avocados as unhealthy, actually provides protection against heart diseases. Studies have shown that oleic acid improves cardiovascular health. Oleic acid is the primary fatty acid in avocados. Many people now take supplements in order to consume more omega-3 fatty acids to lower their risk of heart disease. Avocadoes are rich in omega-3, delivering 160 milligrams per cup of alpha-linolenic acid.

6. Choosing and Eating
To get the most nutritional value from avocados, avoid those which have become over-ripe. You can identify these at the store because they will have dents and feel overly soft when you hold them. A ripe avocado should have no dents in its skin and will feel slightly soft when squeezed. You can also buy unripe avocados, which feel very hard when gripped, and permit them to ripen at home. The portion of the avocado closest to the skin is the most dense in nutrients, so be sure to scrape the skin clean before discarding it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Special K Cereal: True Health Revealed

Special K cereal is probably one of the most popular cereals for adults.

But, does that make it the healthiest? Probably not, considering the majority of people are overweight.

If you choose Special K cereal for your breakfast or as part of the Special K Diet, you may want to think again.
special-k-nutrition.gifRice followed by wheat gluten, and sugar are the first ingredients in Special K, original flavor. High fructose corn syrup follows closely after.

So far, this says to label readers that this cereal is sugary and likely has a high glycemic index. This means that the food will cause a faster spike in blood glucose, and then leave you feeling tired and hungry.

Wheat gluten is used to improve the texture and flavor.

Wheat germ is what gives the cereal most of its nutrition. Defatted means that the fat is taken out so that the grain has a longer shelf life. The wheat germ is what adds the small amount of fiber, and some of the protein to the cereal.

Special K contains a significant amount of salt (223mg). When reading cereal labels, I like to see the sodium below 200mg.

Dried whey is a common food additive used for flavor, and is actual whey protein with the moisture removed. This contributes to the protein content of the cereal.

Malt adds flavor as well. The remainder of the ingredients are added vitamins and minerals.

The calories aren't high, and the actual sugar (4g) is not outrageous even though the first few ingredients are sugar. This is surprising, but still does not make Special K cereal a healthy choice. The fiber content is actually less than a gram!

The main problem I have with this cereal is that it is not a high enough quality grain. It lacks the necessary fiber, nutrients, and phytochemicals to start the day off right.

Many people use this cereal to control calories, but you would be better off eating a piece of fruit with a few almonds.

Do you eat Special K or have you tried the Special K Diet?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Which “rules of running” should you break?


Forgot to mention this earlier — I have an article in this month’s Runner’s World called “Breaking All the Rules,” which is now available online. Basically, I had a chance to chat with a bunch of veteran coaches — Jack Daniels, Frank “Gags” Gagliano, Roy Benson, Jeff Galloway, Hal Higdon and Pete Pfitzinger — and ask them which “rules of running” they’d recommend not following blindly. Here’s one example:

THE RULE: Do prerace strides
For generations, runners have followed the same rituals to warm up before races or workouts: Start with some jogging, move on to a little bit of stretching, then perform a series of “strides”—short sprints lasting about 10 seconds that get your heart pumping and kick-start the delivery of oxygen to your running muscles. But do these timeworn rituals really help us perform better? Jack Daniels, Ph.D., isn’t convinced. “What I most often see at races is a bunch of runners striding up and down at a speed that is clearly faster than the coming race pace,” he says. Since these strides are the last thing runners do before starting the event, that inappropriate pace is fresh in their minds. “And when the gun finally sounds, they ‘stride’ or sprint right out.” The result: a way-too-fast start followed by an inevitable crash.
HOW TO BREAK IT: For shorter events like 5-K and 10-K races, jogging just long enough to get a good sweat going is all you need to do, says Daniels. (For longer races, you can get away with even less: Run the first mile of a half or full marathon as your warmup.) To get the oxygen-boosting benefits of strides without skewing your pace judgment—and screwing up your race result—try a sustained two-to three-minute effort 10 minutes before starting the race or workout. Run it slightly faster than your half-marathon pace, or at a speed that feels moderately hard. You should not be sprinting.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Your morning cup of joe

(NaturalNews) Your morning cup of joe at Starbucks may have a higher calorie count and fat percentage than a serving of ice cream or a piece of chocolate cake. NaturalNews looked into the nutritional information on Starbucks' website and found that many of the chain's popular latte drinks have the same dietary impact as the kind of dessert most people avoid for being "too fattening."

Starbucks' Numbers
Starbucks' Salted Caramel Mocha is described on the company's website as "espresso and steamed milk, blended with mocha sauce and toffee nut flavored syrup. Topped with sweetened whipped cream, caramel sauce and a mixture of turbinado sugar and sea salt." One cup of this coffee confection contains 420 calories, 25% of them from fat. Drinking one of these provides your body with 50mg of cholesterol, 290mg of sodium and 26g of sugar. All the steamed milk and whipped cream does give you 35% of the recommended daily allowance of calcium; however the 175mg of caffeine will interfere with your ability to absorb that calcium. The coffee chain's seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte offering contains fewer calories (380) than the caramel late and has a lower sugar content (49g compared to 56g). Since salt isn't part of its name, it has a slightly lower sodium content (220). If you prefer blended coffee drinks, Starbucks' Java Chip Frappacino has 460 calories, 18g of fat, and 260mg of sodium and 66g of sugar.

Compare with solid food desserts
If you consume specialty latte drinks regularly, you should know you are basically drinking the equivalent of one (or more) desserts per day. For comparison, if you decided to get your coffee flavor from a dish of ice cream, a half cup serving of Ben and Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch contains 280 calories, 16g of fat, 60g of cholesterol, 95mg of sodium and 27g of sugar. Eating a piece of pumpkin pie rather than drinking a pumpkin spice flavor latte would, depending on the recipe, give you 323 calories, roughly 15g of fat and 22g of sugar. Chocolate fans may want to consider the relative dietary merits of a piece of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting (235 calories, 11 grams of fat) compared with a chocolate-coffee drink.

If you want a coffee drink treat, rather than a plain cup of coffee or espresso, the best bet on the Starbuck's menu is probably the Skinny Caramel at 140 calories, 1 gram of fat and 11 grams of sugar.

Invisible Calories?
Whatever you choose to consume, eat and drink with awareness. Beverages can often become invisible sources of fat, sugar and calories, as people swallow liquids more unconsciously than they chew food. In one experiment, researchers gave volunteers 450 extra calories at the beginning of the day to see if they compensated by consuming less later in the day. Those given the extra calories in solid food did compensate, however those given the extra calories in liquid form did not.

If you are a Starbucks fan, choose wisely from their menu so that your next coffee break doesn't leave you mysteriously fatigued from sugars and fats. Remember to include your drinkable dessert in balancing your overall food intake for the day.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How to prevent colds and flus naturally

from Chris Kesser


A nutrient-dense, toxin-free diet: avoid the foods that tend to weaken the immune system, such as sugar, unprepared grains, industrial seed oils and processed and refined foods.

Fermented cod liver oil/butter oil blend (FCLO/BO): if there’s only one superfood/supplement you take through the winter, this should be it. It’s rich with fat-soluble vitamins that regulate and support the immune system, and fatty acids like EPA and DHA that reduce inflammation. It also seems to have some kind of synergistic quality above and beyond the individual nutrients it contains that powerfully boosts immunity. I rarely get colds and flus when I’m taking my FCLO/BO. I prefer the Blue Ice brand available at Green Pasture. Dosage: 1 tsp/d or 2 caps per day.

Liver. Liver is nature’s multivitamin. It’s the most nutrient-dense food on the planet, as I explained here. I recommend eating 3 ounces a week if you’re taking FCLO/BO.

Bone broth. Grandma knew best! Homemade bone broth is rich with easily absorbable minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, and trace minerals difficult to obtain elsewhere. Check out the Weston A. Price article “Broth is Beautiful” for recipes and more information.

Fermented foods and/or probiotics: 70-80% of our immune system is in our gut. If you have intestinal dysbiosis or poor gut flora, you’ll be more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections (and colds and flus).
Vitamin C: I don’t supplement with vitamin C at all times during the year, but when cold and flu season rolls around, I’ll often take 1 g/d as a precaution.

Vitamin D. Vitamin D plays a powerful immunoregulatory role. For most people, the FCLO/BO blend should be enough to maintain adequate vitamin D levels. However, some people require higher doses of vitamin D to keep their 25D levels in the desired range of 35-60 ng/mL. This is especially true of those with obesity or inflammation, because these conditions impair the conversion of sunlight to vitamin D. Dosage: 2,000 -- 4,000 IU/d depending on beginning level and amount of FCLO/BO you’re taking.

Jade Windscreen Formula. Jade Windscreen (or Yu Ping Feng San in Pinyin Chinese) is an immune system tonic made up of botanicals that enhance the immune system and have anti-viral and anti-microbial properties. The traditional formula contains Astragalus, Actractylodes and Ledebouriella, but modern preparations also add cinnamon, siler root, Chinese yam rhizome, and white peony root. You can often buy Jade Windscreen at a health food store or natural pharmacy. You can also buy it online. I like the Kan Herbs tincture. Dosage: 10-20 drops 2-3x/daily (check with your medical provider if you are pregnant or nursing or have an autoimmune condition)

Sleep and rest. Getting adequate sleep and rest is perhaps the most important thing you can do to optimize your immune function. Just a few nights of not sleeping well can elevate inflammatory markers and reduce the protective capability of your immune system. That’s why it’s a good idea to go to bed earlier, sleep longer and rest more in the winter season.
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Monday, December 5, 2011

Strength is Temporary - Technique Is Forever

There are generally two approaches to acquiring new skills and abilities. One is through strength, the other is through technique (deliberately leaving out mobility for the sake of this discussion). Generally both are required to varying degrees dependent on the particular skill. We’re going to discuss persistence a bit here. Strength and technique have wildly varying levels of persistence.

In college I was a bit of a “muscle it” gymnast. I didn’t have the extensive gymnastics backgrounds of most of my competitors and my technique was lacking in many areas. I discovered that if I got strong enough I could muscle my way through some fairly difficult skills. This allowed me to compete to some degree, but was a pretty ineffective approach to the sport in the long run.

You see this in many individuals in our gym. Some are able to just get through skills and workouts on strength alone. I can be frustrating to watch someone handle loads you simply can’t, even when their technique is poor in comparison. Rest assured, a focus on technique, in the long run is the best option.

It has been concluded that it takes about three years for an untrained individual to reach their genetic maximal strength. This is assuming a dedicated focus on purely strength training. Also, there are some indications that once this “maximum” is reached, continued strength training continues to lead to strength gains, though these gains are small. Now, if we took this individual that has attained maximal strength and took them off strength training we are going to see atrophy. Their strength gains will ebb in time. In most cases they won’t reach the same minimum strength state they were in before they started strength training, indicating there is some permanence in the strength, but they will loose a great deal of that strength. In order to regain the strength they will need to repeat the strength training process. The next time around it will come back faster than it was to build it in the first place, but a big piece of this permanence is neurological, not physiological.

With technique there really isn’t any “maximal” state. With most skills refinement can be continued for years. Personally there are some gymnastics elements that I can perform with more technical accuracy now than I did when I was in college. This comes out of just having more years of practicing the skills, and a better understanding of the mechanics. So lets for the sake of this discussion look at a 3 year period. If we take someone through a rigorous technical training program for 3 years on some skill or set of skills we would see dramatic increases in ability in that area. If we then removed them from the skill set and tested them a significant time later their technique would be a bit “rusty”, but they would maintain a high degree of competency in that skill. We see this all the time when new people come into the gym which is why we want to know their sport background clear back to when they were a child. These skill sets are maintained for decades in some cases.

This is why we stress technical proficiency so much. Particularly in how we train children. If we are able to develop solid mechanics in a young athlete it doesn’t matter if they walk away from sport for a long time, those movements will aid them for the rest of their lives.

This isn’t to say strength isn’t important. If it wasn’t important we wouldn’t work on it so darned much. It is just to clarify the differences in persistence. Now, when you have an athlete that has both a high degree of strength, and technical proficiency is when you have a champion.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Allergies in marathon runners

It’s pretty well established that heavy training — the type you might do to prepare for a marathon — can reduce immune function a bit, leaving you more susceptible to colds. Same thing with the race itself, which can trigger a temporary lowering of immune function: it’s well documented that runners have an elevated risk of catching an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) in the week or so after a marathon.

Except… are those symptoms (e.g. congestion, cough, watery eyes, sneezing, “nasal discharge”) really the result of URTIs? In a new paper in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, a group of mostly British researchers suggest an alternate explanation: allergies. And they provide some intriguing data to support this claim. They studied 208 runners who ran the 2010 London marathon. Before the race, the runners completed an allergy questionnaire and did a blood test to look for reactions to common inhaled allergens (like pollen). After the race, they filled out questionnaires daily for 15 days describing any possible URTI/allergy symptoms. The key results:

47% of the runners suffered from the symptoms of an apparent URTI after the marathon (i.e. they reported symptoms on at least two days in a three-day period during the 15-day follow-up).
The researchers also surveyed non-runners who were living with the runners in the study; only 19% of the non-runners reported URTI symptoms during the period, which (the researchers say) argues against the symptoms being due to an infectious disease like cold or flu.
40% of the runners had some form of allergy, based on either the questionnaire or blood test — and the allergy questionnaire was a “significant predictor” of the whether the runner would suffer URTI symptoms after the race.

So what’s going on here? According to the researchers:

The shifting of breathing during exercise from nose to combined mouth and nasal breathing results in a greater deposition of airborne allergens, and unconditioned air, to the lower airways.

They go on to note that these symptoms may be associated with asthma, but that, “worryingly,” few of the runners were being treated pharmacologically for asthma — which they attribute to the fact that asthma meds are restricted by the World Anti-Doping Association. Given that the average finishing time of their subjects was slower than five hours, I find this an extremely strange argument to make! They go on to recommend that recreational runners should be screened for allergies and consider treatment.

I think this is a really interesting topic. It’s been known for a long time that endurance athletes (particularly winter athletes) are far more likely to suffer from conditions like exercise-induced brochoconstriction (basically exercise-induced asthma symptoms) than the general population. Why is this happening? What makes athletes’ airways more sensitive? Is it the airways being dried out by large volumes of air passing through? Is it particulate matter being inhaled and damaging airways? Or is it allergens that are causing inflammation due to all the deep breathing? It would be great to see more research looking into these questions.

That being said, I think this study has some pretty important limitations. I found the presentation of the data to be a bit lacking — it’s very hard to get a precise sense of just how different the allergy and non-allergy groups were, to see how strong the data really is. But the more fundamental issue is simple: selection bias. The subjects “were recruited randomly during the 4-day registration exhibition before competing in the 2010 London Marathon.” So which people would be more likely to agree to fill out a questionnaire about allergies and give a blood sample for allergy testing? Probably people who have, or believe they have, allergies. So when the results tell us that a very high proportion of runners have some indication of allergies, that doesn’t necessarily hold true for all runners!

Still, a thought-provoking paper: maybe the famous “post-marathon cold” isn’t quite what we thought.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Honey and cinnamon cures - do they really work? Here's what you need to know .

(NaturalNews) Hopeful newcomers to holistic health marvel at reports about honey and cinnamon as a miracle cure-all. On the other hand, alternative health skeptics scoff at the notion of cinnamon and honey as medicine, pointing out that the plethora of articles about the curative benefits of this food duo originated with a 1995 article in the tabloid newspaper Weekly World News. The truth is that cinnamon and honey have been used to promote health for centuries, but their efficacy depends largely on a lifestyle of energetic activity and whole foods.

Traditional Healing
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), cinnamon is viewed as possessing heat or yang, and is thus used to cure ills stemming from excess yin or coldness. Honey, in this system, is viewed as a neutral substance, balanced between yin and yang. Ancient practitioners of India's healing tradition, Ayurveda (from the Sanskrit Ayur meaning life and Veda meaning knowledge), classified 8 different varieties of honey each with its own healing properties. Ayurvedic healers use cinnamon to help heal gum disease, erectile dysfunction, and many other conditions.

Honey and Cinnamon Benefits
Folk wisdom still retains knowledge of the healing properties of both honey and cinnamon. Honey and cinnamon are still used as medicine in many situations, especially among people who, because of distance or income, have reduced access to mainstream health care.

Honey possesses natural anti-bacterial properties. Honey poured on wounds or burns prevents infection and promotes healing. Regular consumption of honey and cinnamon together, when combined with an overall healthy diet and moderate activity level, can prevent heart disease by clearing clogged arteries.

Drinking honey and cinnamon in lukewarm water results in them moving through the bladder and cleansing it, as well as clearing infections there. Drinking this beverage on a regular basis can also relieve, and in some cases entirely cure, arthritis pain.

This drink also strengthens the immune system, helping ward off colds as well as some viruses. Applying a paste of honey and cinnamon to infected gums can ease pain and bleeding as well as slow the progression of the infection.

When consumed together, honey and cinnamon can ease digestion, helping to prevent gas. Honey and cinnamon also provide energy, making people more mentally alert and ready for physical activity.

The two biggest claims for honey and cinnamon are that they enhance the ability to lose weight, and they are effective against some forms of cancer.
While these latter two claims are unproven, however nature does provide an amazing range of natural healing substances, most of which are untested by medical science. Relying exclusively on honey and cinnamon for either weight loss or eliminating cancer is not advisable.

How to Gain Maximum Benefits
Cinnamon and honey can boost your health, both separately and in combination. However, our modern dependence on the pharmaceutical industry has fooled us into believing that medicines should be able to provide a cure regardless of lifestyle. If you follow health news, it becomes obvious that the pharmaceutical industry's "magic bullet" drugs make one set of symptoms disappear, only to create a new set of symptoms.

Disease results from imbalance, so finding health and balance again requires a recalibration of choices about how we live. A couch potato who follows up a dinner of fried chicken and potato chips with a dessert of cinnamon and honey will receive few health benefits. You are more likely to reap the full healing power when you include honey and cinnamon as part of your healthy lifestyle.