Saturday, September 29, 2012

Healthier Cranberry Juice

Last week a slew of studies were presented at the American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure Research 2012 Scientific Sessions. Among them, was a trial funded by Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. – a leading manufacturer of cranberry juice. The details of the study reveal that the daily consumption of “low calorie” cranberry juice moderately reduces blood pressure (by about 3 mmHg diastolic and systolic) as compared to a placebo beverage. But, before you go out to the market to stock up on low-cal cranberry “cocktails”, consider the details that weren’t included in the mainstream press converge.

Reduced calorie cranberry juice is typically made by combining cranberry concentrate or juice with water and artificial sweeteners. The resulting product is undeniably lower in energy and pretty tasty. However, it also lacks the nutrients and phytochemicals which make cranberries a bonafide health food. Still, these dietetic drinks are heavily marketed to children, diabetics and those hoping to lose weight. Some nutritionists support their use because they’re lower in calories than sugar sweetened or undiluted juice. Manufacturers include them in their product lines because they boast a more robust profit margin – artificial sweeteners and water are cheaper than actual fruit juice.
      The good reputation of cranberries has grown over the past several years. A handful of studies, including some using low calorie cranberry juice, have determined that this ruby red refresher is capable of supporting cardiovascular health in a variety of ways. Specifically, recent studies reveal that daily consumption of cranberry juice can: a) decrease cholesterol oxidation and lipid peroxidation while elevating overall antioxidant capacity; b) encourage healthier circulation by reducing “carotid femoral pulse wave velocity – a clinically relevant measure of arterial stiffness”; c) raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol. What’s more, a 2007 review carried out by the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging points out that cranberries are a rich source of naturally occurring chemicals (anthocyanins, ellagic acid, flavonols, etc.) which are known to lower blood pressure and systemic inflammation.
     If you’re concerned about cardiovascular health, there are a few details that bear discussion prior to adopting a regular cranberry juice routine. In the past, there were concerns expressed about potential interactions between cranberry juice and “blood thinning” medications such as Coumadin (warfarin). More recent investigations have ruled this out as a contraindication. In terms of which cranberries juice to use – I would suggest making your own homemade, low calorie cranberry juice instead of buying the premixed variety. The recipe I recommend is very simple and can be adjusted based on taste preferences. In our home, I generally combine equal parts 100% pure cranberry juice and purified water. I add several drops of liquid stevia to the mixture. The end result is a more natural product that provides higher levels of the therapeutic components found in fresh cranberries. I addition, based on personal blood sugar testing, this stevia-sweetened cranberry drink has virtually no impact on my fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Athletes Perform Better Under Pressure When They Make a Fist With Their Left Hand

 By James Hamblin

From the Journal of Experimental Psychology, a simple way to activate the part of your brain that lets you stop worrying and just be the ball.

PROBLEM: Thirty percent of penalty kicks in professional soccer are missed, as are 20-30 percent of NBA free throws, despite practice scenarios in which those numbers are notably lower. Studies have suggested that the reason is primarily psychological -- they fail not from lack of focus, but "because attention is directed toward the execution of the action" -- since most perform better at these rote but accuracy-dependent aspects of the game (which they've nearly perfected from a mechanical aspect with thousands of hours of practice) in low-pressure situations. So, like so many of us, they're always looking for ways to get out of their heads.

According to the researchers, freaking out is primarily associated with the left hemisphere of the brain, while the right hemisphere deals more with mechanical actions. Meanwhile the cortex of the right hemisphere controls movements of the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere controls the right side of the body. So they figured that if you can purposely activate the right hemisphere -- in this case, by making a fist or squeezing a ball with your left hand -- it will improve physical performance and draw focus away from the ruminating left hemisphere.

METHODOLOGY: In three experiments, German researchers had athletes perform their respective sports -- soccer (penalty kicks), tae kwon do, and badminton -- in casual environments. They then put them in front of large audiences or cameras to create "high-pressure environments" and measured the change in performance. Some of the athletes made fists with their left hand (or held a small ball in their left hand), and some made fists with their right.

Of note, only right-handed athletes were involved.

RESULTS:  Athletes who made a fist with their left hand did better under pressure than when they made a fist with their right hand -- and often as well as in the low-pressure practice scenarios.

CONCLUSION: "Hemisphere-specific priming" appears to discourage over-thinking in high-pressure situations. Activating the right hemisphere of the brain by doing a simple action with the left side of the body (making a fist, in this case) appears to negate context-related declines in complex motor performance.

IMPLICATIONS: Lead researcher Juergen Beckmann, PhD, put it pretty profoundly: "Consciously trying to keep one's balance is likely to produce imbalance." Simple (brain-hemisphere-dependent) tasks that activate motor portions of the brain while drawing activity away from the ruminating portions can help experienced athletes perform (in terms of accuracy and complex body movements done from muscle memory) without being messed up by nerves. "Just let it happen; be the ball."

Will all the professional soccer players be making fists with their left hands next time they take a penalty kick? Yes. They should, at least.

Let's all try it, too. Even if you don't play soccer (or badminton or tae kwon do), it should apply beyond sports, to other rote activities that have to be done under pressure. Like when you end up bagging your own groceries, and everyone in line is staring at you, and produce is flying down the conveyor belt, but you need to keep the bread on top. And the bottles on the bottom. And the bread on the bottom. No, that's wrong! Breathe, clench your left foot, and just let it happen.

The study, "Preventing Motor Skill Failure Through Hemisphere-Specific Priming: Cases From Choking Under Pressure" will be published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Metabolic Syndrome and the Teenage Brain

Metabolic syndrome, the combination of disorders that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, is known to be associated with brain changes and cognitive deficiencies in adults. Now a new study, published online in Pediatrics, has found a similar effect in teenagers with the disorder.
Researchers compared 49 nondiabetic teenagers who had metabolic syndrome — high blood levels of glucose, low levels of high-density lipoprotein, high triglycerides, abdominal obesity and high blood pressure — with 64 young people who had fewer than three of those symptoms. Participants were given magnetic resonance brain scans and standard tests of memory, learning, attention and psychomotor ability.
After controlling for age, socioeconomic status, school grade, sex and ethnicity, the researchers found that the teenagers with metabolic syndrome had lower scores on tests of mental ability and significantly lower academic performance in reading and arithmetic. The scientists were surprised to discover that the M.R.I. scans showed brain changes in children with metabolic syndrome, including reduced volume in the hippocampus, a part of the brain believed to be involved in memory formation and storage.
“The important thing here is the degree of insulin resistance — how much more insulin you need to keep your glucose normal,” said the senior author, Dr. Antonio Convit, a professor of psychiatry and medicine at New York University. “You can improve your kid’s brain health by having the kid eat better and exercise more.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nutrition for Healthy Skin: Silica, Niacin, Vitamin K2, and Probiotics

It’s time to close out my series on nutrition and skin health. I believe that a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet, with particular attention paid to certain vitamins, minerals, and other compounds, is a powerful tool in the treatment of skin disease. It’s unfortunate that many mainstream doctors and dermatologists typically deny any connection between diet and skin health, and many patients miss the opportunity to make major improvements in their skin simply by changing what they eat. I hope that this series will give you the evidence you need to make the switch to a skin-supporting diet. Read More

Monday, September 24, 2012

How to Read Supplement Labels: Sneaky Ways They Try to Trick You

Ingredient Listing Tricks

supplements, ingredients, nutritional facts, protein powder, label claimsAs you can see, claims listed on the front of any packaging can be misleading and the only place to look is the ingredient panel. Ingredients have to be listed in order by the amount of each ingredient from most used to the least used. Careful, there are tricks companies use to get around this rule as well. For example, you might see the words “protein blend” followed by ingredients listed in parentheses, for example: "(whey protein concentrate, milk protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, soy protein isolate)." There may be, and most likely is, less than a gram of the highest quality ingredient, whey isolate, in this product. By listing it in the “protein blend” companies avoid having to put whey protein isolate at the end of the ingredient list and alert consumers that there is only a dust cloud of this quality ingredient available.

Although not all products that have blends are necessarily using these rules to their advantage, be very aware of products that list “protein blend” or “protein matrix” as their main source of protein because you really don’t know how much of each component exists. It’s like saying you’ll receive a proprietary cash matrix for your paycheck (ones, fives, and tens) and when you open your wallet, there to greet you is nothing but ones, a five, and a ripped up ten.

Read More

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Does Weight Loss Surgery Make You Healthier? Maybe Not

   Weight loss surgery, cutting away healthy stomach organs, is promoted as the only effective treatment for obesity. But the cracks are starting to show now – not surprisingly. Yesterday a 20-year follow-up of the largest study on weight loss surgery was published and it could be the largest setback yet.
       It turns out that obese people undergoing weight loss surgery get an INCREASED need for medical treatment, even years after the surgery. Despite their weight loss! For example they need more inpatient care in hospitals. During the first six years after surgery the increase is very large (see figure above).
The cause is either complications from the surgery (like bleeding, infections, leakage of stomach contents into the abdominal cavity) or long-term dangers like bowel obstruction, anemia, gallstones or malnutrition.

      Obese people who did not receive surgery ultimately needed less medical care. So how healthy is it to lose weight by surgery?
There was also an increased need for psychiatric medications (e.g. for depression and anxiety) for weight loss surgery patients.
      We need a safer and wiser treatment for obesity. Amputating healthy organs is just an emergency solution. We need to stop giving simplistic calorie-fixated advice (the least effective advice in study after study) before exposing patients to risky surgery. These operations should be the last resort. Thus patients should first be offered advice on low carb (the most effective advice in study after study) and adequate support.
Weight loss surgery may be extremely lucrative for hospitals (the complications are an added bonus!) but if you are a patient: Be warned. And make sure you have good insurance.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Are All Marketers Liars?


Did you catch Quaker’s claims and tagline? Here are the highlights:
    • “They’re whole grain good, and yummy good.”
    • Real fruit pieces
    • 12g of whole grains
    • Creamy yogurt coating
    • Tagline: “Treat Yourself Good”
So what do you think? Is Quaker lying? Well, while selling all the wonderful taste and whole grain aspects of their new yogurt granola bar, they’re definitely leanwashing some very unhealthy details from the ingredient label:
    • 11 g of sugar from a vast variety of sources. If all these sugars were listed together on the ingredient label, I suspect “sugars” might be the first ingredient for these bars.
    • A yogurt coating that is yogurt in name only. These coatings use highly processed, shelf-stable dairy ingredients (most likely from cows treated with growth hormones) and flavors to imitate the taste of yogurt. The truth is, these coatings are all sugar and fat, and have no active cultures and none of the probiotic benefits of yogurt.
    • 4.5g of fat of which 2.5g are saturated fats
    • GMOs from genetically modified soy, corn, and sugar
    • Preservatives (BHT) and artificial colors
    • Palm kernel and palm oils which are often harvested unsustainably, resulting in deforestation and reduction of critical habitats
So what’s so good about Quaker’s Yogurt Granola bars? Well, there are 12g of whole grain, but is that enough to make a food item good for you? Even Lucky Charms Treats have whole grains, but are they healthy? In fact, guess what? In a side-by-side comparison with Lucky Charms Treats, the venerable Quaker man comes up short vs. the little leprechaun:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Staying Healthy When You Travel

My column this week in the Globe and Mail takes a look at a couple of studies on keeping elite athletes healthy when they travel -- with conclusions that are relevant to all of us.
When Norway’s Olympic athletes boarded flights to Vancouver in 2010, they were given a long list of instructions on how to avoid getting sick – strategies like using disinfectant hand gel, avoiding shaking hands with fans, and even covering hotel carpets with plastic upon arrival. [...]
The result: The incidence of illness on the Norwegian team during the Vancouver Games was cut to less than one-third of its rate during the 2006 Olympics in Turin, according to a post-Olympic report published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Only one medal contender was affected in Vancouver, compared to six in Turin, and Norway increased its gold-medal haul from two to nine. [READ ON...]

The key -- and somewhat surprising -- conclusion of the research is that long-haul flights, on their own, don't raise your susceptibility to illness. Instead, travel bugs are more likely picked up at the destination you're visiting. That's backed up by a recent study (which I blogged about last month) that monitored rugby players flying between South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand: the players were more likely to get sick after flying to distant destinations, but had no elevated illness rate after identical-length flights back home.
There's some irony to the timing of this column: I just returned from a trip to Europe, and I've been quite seriously ill since I got back. Given that I started feeling terrible the day I arrived home, I immediately assumed it was a bug I'd picked up on the flight. The subsequent progression of the illness, however, suggests that it's actually giardiasis -- which typically has an incubation period of about a week, meaning that I did pick it up when I was in Europe, rather than on the trip home. I guess I should read (and believe) my own columns!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Two Simple Tests To Predict Shin Splints

The current issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine has a study by Australian researchers who worked with a group of 384 soldiers during training. At the start of the study, they performed a couple of simple diagnostic tests; then, over the next 16 months, they waited to see who developed shin splints. Sure enough, the tests were pretty good predictors.
(They expressed the results in "likelihood ratios." For the two tests combined, the "positive likelihood ratio" was 7.94, meaning that if you're positive on both tests, you're about eight times more likely to develop shin splints than to not develop shin splints. Conversely, the "negative likelihood ratio" was <0 .001=".001" both="both" develop="develop" extremely="extremely" if="if" means="means" negative="negative" on="on" p="p" re="re" shin="shin" splints.="splints." tests="tests" that="that" to="to" unlikely="unlikely" which="which" you="you"> Anyway, here are the two tests:
(1) Shin Palpation Test
Basically, you squeeze the lower two-thirds of the lower leg, including the shin bone (tibia) and surrounding musculature, "with enough pressure to squeeze out a wet sponge." If there's any pain present, you're positive on that test.
(2) Shin Edema Test
Along the lower two-thirds of the tibia, as shown, press your finger in and hold for five seconds. When you remove your finger, does an indentation remain behind? If so, you have "pitting edema" -- basically an accumulation of fluid under the skin -- and you're positive for the test.
A positive result on the second test is much less common than on the first test -- and it's also a much more accurate sign that trouble (in the form of shin splints) is on the way. And the researchers also found one more key warning sign: the women in the study were three times as likely to develop shin splints than the men. What this means (strangely enough) is that the tests are better at predicting shin splints in men, since they're less likely to develop them in the first place.
So what should you do if you test positive? That's a big (and still controversial) question. The first thing to do is to watch your training load, since shin splints are often associated with sudden increases. Beyond that, I'm a fan of strengthening the muscles around the shin. There are no simple solutions to shin splints, but one thing's for sure: prevention or early treatment are much easier than dealing with a nagging, chronic case.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Take Vitamin C Post-Workout To Lower Cortisol & Recover Faster

Include vitamin C in your post-workout shake to help clear cortisol from the body and speed recovery. Vitamin C is often used only for immune protection, but studies show that it plays an integral role in helping to remove cortisol and minimize the catabolic stress response in a timely fashion.

For example, a study published last year in the European Journal of Applied Physiology tested the effect of giving physically active men 800 mg of vitamin C for six weeks and perform a session of high-intensity shuttle running for 90 minutes. Results showed that the vitamin C produced lower cortisol levels post-workout than a placebo group, and the vitamin C group cleared cortisol much more rapidly with significantly lower cortisol at 1 hour of recovery.

Other studies show similar effects of vitamin C as an anti-catabolic supplement:
•    A 2008 study had untrained men take 1,000 mg of vitamin C pre-workout and do 30 minutes of moderate exercise. Post-workout cortisol levels declined much faster than a placebo group and the effect was evident immediately after exercise, and at 2 and 24 hours post-workout.
•    Another 2008 study had trained men take 1,500 mg of vitamin C for 8 days and perform 120 minutes of cycling at moderate speed in a humid, 93 degree environment. Cortisol response was 57 percent lower after exercise in the vitamin C group compared to a placebo.
•    A 2006 study tested the effect of giving 1,000 mg of vitamin C a day for two weeks to trained men who performed a 2.5 hour run at 60 percent of maximal. Cortisol was significantly lower post-workout than a placebo group.

All of the studies mentioned also tested the effect of vitamin C on various other inflammatory biomarkers and found no significant differences on these measurements. Researchers are still unclear why vitamin C is so effective at lowering the cortisol response to intense training, while not having much effect on inflammation. However, we do know that vitamin C is released from the adrenal glands during physical stress when cortisol is also released. The purpose of vitamin C may be to quench the oxidative biomarkers produced when cortisol is elevated, or some other unidentified effect. Researchers write that the data indicate that vitamin C may actually have “hormone-like” properties, indicating the overwhelming value in getting more of this nutrient.

A few things to note: All of these studies tested the effect of giving vitamin C for different periods of time and not immediately post-workout. The first point is to take it everyday or for an extended duration, and you might as well take it post-workout because that will help clear any excess caffeine or other stimulants left in your system. Best results will come from a 2 gram dose, which is slightly higher than those seen in the studies above.

Another benefit of taking a large dose of vitamin C daily is that over time it will also elevate testosterone. Human studies into the effect are sparse, but two recent studies show vitamin C supplementation for 30 days can improve testosterone levels in diabetic rats. Testosterone is typically very low in diabetics, and in one studies, the vitamin C totally restored testosterone levels and the rats recovered normal reproductive function. In the other, vitamin C partially restored testosterone and reproduction.

These results are impressive and suggest an even larger daily dose taken at multiple times throughout the day is preferred. Consider taking 10 grams of vitamin C spaced throughout the day.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Protein Foods Vs Protein Powder 

   Protein is perhaps the considered the most important macronutrient in your diet.  Protein is the building block of muscles and tissues.  Protein makes up a large portion of  your metabolic and detoxifying co-factors.  In other words in order to use energy, repair tissues, and remove waste from your body you need protein.  The average person requires about 30 grams of protein per day just to run their immune system.  Getting in enough protein is no doubt important, and depending on your goals, the sources of this protein are important as well.

The easiest protein food to point out is meat.  Meats are, on average 20% protein by weight, and have almost zero carbohydrates.  There are other food sources of protein like nuts, seeds, legumes, and some veggies, but the amount and quality is not comparable.  When looking for a quality protein food the things your should be concerned with are:
  • Is it a complete protein?
  • Is it a highly bioavailable protein
      Complete proteins are those that contain all the amino acids our body use.  This means that no matter what our body needs to do, it will be getting the materials to do so.  Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.  Our body can create some of them from others, while 9 essential ones must be obtained from our food.  If you are missing some essential amino acids because you chose to use limited plant source proteins over meat, you might be wasting your efforts because you are missing the amino acids you need.  For optimal results complete proteins like meat and dairy are the best option.
The other advantage meat has over other foods is that the fats in grass fed meats work synergistically with protein to promote energy production and metabolism.  Proteins with the right fats in a meal are much better for burning fat and building muscle than protein alone.
Protein bioavailablity basically means how well the proteins in the food are digested and utilized by our body.  It doesn’t matter how good a protein looks on paper if we can’t actually use it.  Here is a comparison of some protein sources and their relative bioavailability.
       Protein powders come in all forms these days.  Whey and Casein proteins from dairy, isolates from meat and eggs, as well as vegan protein powders.  The two biggest difference between protein powders and protein foods is digestion, and fat content.  When you eat a steak, the amino acids are slowly digested and taken up as your body breaks the protein in the meat.  This allows for a slower more steady release of amino acids into the blood stream.  The is most important when your goal is to lose body fat.  Many amino acids are glucogenic meaning that they can be converted into glucose in the liver and used as a carbohydrate.  When amino acids are taken in powder like Whey Protein, the amino acids are absorbed much faster, and this results in a higher insulin response than the slow digesting meat.  This is advantageous after a workout, but during the day spiking insulin is not going to help you shed that muffin top.
                  An important note is that studies on whey protein show that it does increase blood sugar and insulin, but actually decreases blood sugar in the hours post digestion.  This makes whey protein ideal for post workout even when fat loss is the goal.
Most protein powders and supplements have little to no fat content.  This means you lose those synergistic effects you get from eating grass fed meats and fish.  This can limit their benefits when taken away from workout periods.

   Recap:  Whether you are trying to lose fat, build muscle, or just stay full of energy and satisfied all day, using both protein from foods and powders is beneficial.  Limit your powders to when your body needs a faster influx of amino acids like post workout, and use food as much as you can away from training.  Too many protein shakes can plateau your body fat goals in a hurry.  If you struggle getting your protein in throughout the day, you can try adding small amounts of protein supplementation to your meals or at the least try to consume some healthy fats and veggies with a protein shake ( example: a shake plus some broccoli and pasture raised butter).

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Almond Butter Tip

      I’ve noticed that many of my clients find it difficult to make time for breakfast. In certain instances, it’s a matter of lacking appetite so early in the day. For others, making a healthy breakfast just doesn’t fit into their morning routine. In any event, there is value in eating something nutritious at the start of the day, and a few tablespoons of almond butter is a simple option worthy of consideration.
There’s a multitude of information available about the health benefits and nutritional content of almonds. For starters, they’re a rich source of fiber, magnesium, potassium and protein. Like most other nuts, almonds are decidedly low in carbohydrates and boast a glycemic load of 0. What’s more, the unique composition of almonds make them a valuable resource for anyone interested in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. If that’s not enough reason to eat more almonds, researchers have recently discovered that these delectable tree nuts are considerably lower in calories (-32%) than originally reported.
      In fairness, it should be made clear that the vast majority of studies conducted on almonds have examined the effects of whole nuts rather than the butter or ground form. However, the two studies that have been published in peer-review, scientific journals report that almond butter is equally effective, and occasionally more so, as whole nuts in promoting fullness and stable blood sugar levels. Also noteworthy is that both raw and roasted almond butters appear to confer similar improvements in terms of lipoproteins such as HDL and LDL cholesterol.
      If I don’t have time for a proper breakfast, I’ll frequently have a couple of tablespoons of almond butter along with a cup of unsweetened, vanilla coconut milk. Why this combination? Apart from the impressive nutritional content, this food pairing is particularly well suited to enhancing nutrient assimilation. And, since I always take a portion of my dietary supplements early in the day, this is an ideal time to optimize absorption. According to two recent studies, the predominant fatty acids in almonds (monounsaturated fats) and coconuts (medium chain triglycerides) may increase the uptake of fat soluble antioxidants (carotenoids) and nutrients such as Vitamin D. So, to summarize: almond butter and unsweetened coconut milk are low in carbohydrates, nutrient dense and provide an excellent accompaniment for supplements. The fact that this combination is both convenient and delicious is just an added bonus.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What vitamins to buy.

Do you currently buy your vitamins at the local grocery store, bulk club store, pharmacy, etc? More than likely, you are not getting what you paid for and are doing more harm than good. Getting your daily dose of vitamins and minerals should come from food, and only then should you supplement with high quality products when necessary. Many store bought vitamins contain harmful ingredients and chemicals. Synthetic vitamins are cheaply made and are in non-absorbable forms so your body does not get any nutritional benefits. Stop wasting your money and harming your body.

What to avoid

Beware of the term "other ingredients," these can include: talc, dyes, sodium benzoate, methylcellulose, carnauba wax, silicon/titanium dioxide, animal parts, and artificial ingredients. Why does something that is supposed to benefit you contain such toxic chemicals while you, the consumer, think you are doing the right thing by supplementing.

Gummy or kids' fruit-flavored chewable vitamins, designed to be colorful and taste like candy, are loaded with possible carcinogenic, artificial ingredients and food dyes. The first ingredient in many of these children's vitamins is: glucose syrup. Other ingredients include: Blue #2, Red #40, Yellow #6 and aspartame, the known neurotoxin. Voluntarily feeding children these "vitamins" is doing more harm than good; stop poisoning your kids. Several published studies discuss the link between food additives/dyes and ADHD in children. In a double-blind study, children that were fed a diet that included food additives and dyes had worsening ADHD symptoms, while children that had additive-free diets had improved symptomology.

Centrum vitamins, owned by the drug company Pfizer, have a long list of toxic ingredients, including: Yellow #6, hydrogenated palm oil, pregelatinized corn starch, silicon dioxide, maltodextrin, modified food starch, and the list goes on. Please stop willingly ingesting these chemicals and causing damage to your body, instead of helping it. These vitamins do anything but promote health.

Remember, quality over quantity

Ask yourself, what are the ingredients? Where do the ingredients come from? Are the vitamins/minerals in absorbable forms? Is the product organic? How long has it been sitting on the shelf for? If you do not know what an ingredient is, research it. Companies such as, Standard Process, offer several whole food supplements. "Whole food supplements are made by concentrating foods for use in supplements" (Standard Process). Metagenics, Douglas Labs and several other supplements sold through healthcare practitioners are also of high quality, safe ingredients. Whole food supplements help to close the nutritional gap caused by over-processed, nutrient-deficient food in today's society. Eat more fruits and vegetables, organic whenever possible, and supplement with high quality products when necessary.


Friday, September 14, 2012

How your hormones determine your shape and your health

By Jene Luciani

     The Adrenal Shape
What it is: Our adrenal glands sit on the kidneys and deal with stress. “When too much stress builds up, your fight-or-flight response kicks in, triggering the hormone cortisol to build up fat around your most vital organs—which are located in your midsection,” Berg says.
What it means: Constant stress leads to poor sleep patterns, causing worry, excessive thinking, brain fog, poor memory, and weight gain, he says. “Most growth hormone is released at night, and this hormone regulates fat burn,” Berg explains. Trying to lose weight can actually cause you to add pounds since conventional diet programs that call for drastically cutting calories and overtraining with exhaustive workouts only further stress your body. “This is why hundreds of sit-ups every day will never give someone with the adrenal shape that flat stomach they desire,” Berg says. Overtime, as adrenal fatigue continues, tolerance to stress dives even lower and patience with others wears thing. “These types tend to be edgy and irritable, and oftentimes, others get on their nerves.”
    The Thyroid Shape
What it is: Your thyroid resides in the front of your lower neck and is about 2 and a half inches wide. It makes hormones that control the metabolism in all your cells. “Hence, thyroid types tend to get big all over, not in just one place,” explains Berg. “Many thyroid body types are triggered by the hormone estrogen. As estrogen becomes dominant, your thyroid slows down and over time, can become sluggish.” Stubborn baby weight that doesn’t seem to go away after giving birth is often due to a spike in estrogen, coupled with thyroid malfunction, he says.
What it means: Besides weight struggles, those with a thyroid body type also often suffer hair loss, saggy skin under the arms, ridged nails, and loss of the outer eyebrows, Berg says. “Thyroid types also tend to reach for simple carbs, such as bread, for quick energy to rev their sluggish metabolism.” You can get tested for thyroid disorders, but Berg says that problems don’t always show up on blood tests until the person is already in an advanced state.
The Liver Type
     What it is: Your liver is a 3-pound organ under your right rib cage that filters toxins and helps digest your food. “Liver types typically have thin legs and a protruding belly,” explains Berg. “These types have a condition called ascites, which is essentially the liver leaking a plasma-like fluid into the sac that sits just above our intestines.” Because the liver type has this belly pooch, people often equate them to having a fat stomach, but in reality, they actually have low body fat. “Even if the person is 300 pounds, if most that weight in their tummy, a lot of it could be fluid. People always incorrectly assume that all weight is equated to fat, when it isn’t,” says Berg.
What it means: In healthy individuals, blood sugar naturally rises in the morning due to hormonal changes, but after fasting overnight, liver types inevitably wake up with low blood sugar—and irritability, Berg says. They also have digestive problems such as gas and heartburn after they eat because of their sluggish digestive juices. “This means food is not broken down thoroughly, and if bile isn’t released, the person will feel unsatisfied and crave quick carb energy,” Berg says.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Key Question

My curiosity now is how much does one expect to lose in one's 40s and 50s?

My answer:
Hi Robert,
Yes, that's the ultimate question for the aging athlete. The research using "normal" subjects (mostly sedentary, mostly overweight, mostly poor nutrition, mostly low motivation) says to expect a 1% decline per year in aerobic capacity (VO2max) after age 35. (Lactate threshold and economy have not been well researched in regards to age so we’re stuck with only one performance measure to consider.) There is very little research on older, athletic, fit, etc subjects. The little that exists suggests the decline for this group is more on the order of 0.5% per year after 35—about half of the “normal” decline. I suspect it's less than that if the athlete has maintained his/her training at a high level, which includes continuing high intensity interval-type workouts. Unfortunately, most don't as they get older and so the research is skewed a bit. As the baby boomers age there will be more research done on truly older populations who are more performance-focused. Then I believe we will find the decline to be considerably less than 0.5%.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Avoid BPA For Better Body Composition

Avoid Bisphenol-A (BPA) for a better body composition and less risk of disease. BPA mimics the hormone estrogen in the body and a notable new study found a direct association between urinary BPA levels and obesity risk in a large multi-ethnic population. This study shows BPA makes both men and women fat, and that it affects all races.

BPA is a chemical that is used to make plastic, line the inside of food cans, and it functions as an epoxy resin, coating everything from medical equipment to receipt paper. When it enters the body it mimics the hormone estrogen and binds to estrogen receptors. Because the body always tries to achieve homeostasis, any time one hormone is altered it affects the levels of other hormones, meaning that greater BPA exposure doesn’t just increase your estrogen levels—it can influence the function of everything from testosterone to insulin.

For example, there’s evidence that BPA exposure decreases reproductive function, increases heart disease risk, causes inflammation, affects brain function, and causes hyperactivity in children. In one study, BPA exposure in young girls was linked to behavior problems such as ADHD-like symptoms. And a 10-year study found that subjects who had increasing urinary BPA concentrations over the study period had much greater risk of heart disease, after adjusting for confounding factors. 

The new report in the International Scholarly Research Network-Endocrinology found that in 4,792 Americans, greater urinary BPA levels were associated with much greater risk of obesity as defined by BMI and waist circumference even after adjusting for factors such as smoking, alcohol intake, physical activity, education, and race. The study broke urinary BPA levels into quartiles and found that there was an across the board increased risk of obesity with higher levels of urinary BPA. This means that in every subgroup (gender, race, age, education level), rates of obesity increased with more BPA exposure.

For example, people who had more than 4.20 ng/ml BPA in their urine had at least a 34 percent chance of being obese compared to those with less than 1.10 ng/ml BPA who only had a 23 percent chance of being obese.

Researchers think that greater BPA exposure increases body fat because it alters insulin sensitivity, affects metabolism, causes inflammation, and decreases levels of a hormone called adiponectin that regulates fat burning.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?

Research of the Week

So a meta-analysis of around 240 studies just concluded that organic probably offers little nutritional benefit over conventional, leading to numerous “I told you so” quips and smug articles proclaiming organic to be a huge scam. But who ever thought organic was about increasing vitamin content? What about the other results of the study – the fact that conventional food tends to have upwards of 180 times more pesticide residue than organic food – that were mostly ignored by the media?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Seven ways that taking ginger can spice up your health

Cultivated and used medicinally for thousands of years all around the world, ginger root is a powerful medicinal herb that offers a variety of unique health benefits. When taken regularly in therapeutic doses, ginger root can effectively cure nausea; promote healthy digestion; boost immunity; treat asthma; improve cardiovascular function and heart health; relieve pain; and even prevent and cure chronic disease by quelling inflammation.

  1) improve digestion and promote better assimilation of nutrients into the body. A plethora of scientific research conducted throughout the past several decades confirms that ginger contains a distinct enzymatic profile that works synergistically to promote healthy digestion, and ease the processing of food in the stomach and intestines. (

  2) remedy for motion sickness, seasickness, and various other forms of nausea. Pregnant women, chemotherapy patients, and individuals with mild or moderate upset stomach can all experience relief by taking therapeutic doses of ginger, which was shown in at least one major study to eliminate nausea symptoms with as little as a one-quarter of a teaspoon dose. (

3) treat inflammation and boost immunity. Chronic inflammation is linked to a host of debilitating diseases, including cancer, all of which can be effectively prevented and even treated with therapeutic doses of whole ginger extract.

4) pain reliever, particularly for chronic pain conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica, and fibromyalgia. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism back in 2001, for instance, found that patients with osteoarthritis experienced dramatic pain relief when they took ginger extract twice daily

 5) cardiovascular health by suppressing the biosynthesis of an inflammatory mediator known as leukotrienes. The dual-action, anti-inflammatory nature of ginger, while it inhibits both leukotrienes and prostaglandins, it helps maintain optimal arterial flow. Ginger also prevents platelet aggregation while also stimulating the release of adrenaline, processes that both help strengthen the heart.

  6) antioxidants, the two most prominent of which are curcumin and gingerol. Not only do these and several other free radical scavengers prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells, but they also prevent from forming, and even eliminate, amyloid plaques in the brain that are linked to causing Alzheimer's disease and other degenerative brain conditions.

 7) asthma treatment as well. Ginger naturally contains several different compounds that can help alleviate asthma symptoms. These include alpha-pinene, which loosens mucus in the bronchial tubes, and beta-carotene, the antioxidant precursor to vitamin A.

Friday, September 7, 2012

10 Ways How To Be Unhealthy

1) Compare yourself to others
2) Make yourself miserable
3) Blindly follow
4) Change workout plans as often as possible. 
5) Treat the symptoms rather than the cause.  
6) Chase the quick fix.   
7) Complain! As loudly as possible. 
8) Make big changes quickly.  
9) Be nonspecific.  B
10) Give up.   

Read More 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Nutrition for Healthy Skin: Part 2

Omega-3 fatty acids are known to be anti-inflammatory, and the relative intake of omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) may be a crucial dietary factor in the regulation of systemic inflammation. Our modern diets tend to be very unbalanced in essential fatty acid intake; the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in Western diets is commonly at least 10 to 1, compared with ratios of 4 to 1 in Japan and 2 to 1 in hunter-gatherer populations. (1) This high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in our modern diet likely plays a role in the prevalence of inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and rosacea.
    Increasing dietary omega-3 fats is an important step towards healing the skin. High levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to decrease inflammation, and may reduce the risk of acne and other skin problems by decreasing insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and preventing hyperkeratinization of sebaceous follicles. (2) Conditions such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis have been shown to be positively affected by supplementation with omega-3s from fish oil, likely due to competitive inhibition of arachidonic acid leading to a reduction in the inflammatory process. (3) Clinical results from omega-3 supplementation include an improvement in overall skin condition as well as a reduction in pruritis, scaling, and erythema. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been demonstrated to inhibit inflammation in the skin caused by UV radiation, and may even reduce the risk of skin cancer. (4)

Read More

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How do you deal with soreness everyday and when should I get any pain I might be feeling checked out?

Q: How do you deal with soreness everyday and when should I get any pain I might be feeling checked out? - Mike

A: Eventually, as you continue to train everyday you will adapt to body soreness and just get used to it. The muscles will get stronger and more resilient to the stress you are putting on yourself. Weightlifters are usually always pretty sore everyday and come to accept this feeling. However, your body should never be so destroyed that you cannot train. Adaptation will set in and with smart training you will be surprised at how your body can deal with stress even when it is fatigued. There are no limits to what you can do. A high pain tolerance is essential for nearly every athlete. Deal with your pain and do not try to mask it with pain medicines. This is one of the steps you must take to become strong. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Don’t Wait to Train: Train Strength at a Young Age for Better Sport Performance

Begin strength training at a young age to perform better, avoid injury, and improve motor performance. Research shows that strength and preparatory plyometric training are appropriate for kids, and starting them training young will allow them to accumulate training years so that they reach a high level athleticism sooner.

Whether you are a young athlete with dreams of competitive glory, a coach of kids who have a passion for sports, or a parent with sedentary kids who need to learn how to move better, strength training is the answer! Research shows that youth are highly trainable and the best way to help them improve power output is to gain strength and coordination. 
Youth athletes in football, soccer, track, hockey, tennis, basketball l, lacrosse, and especially contact sports will perform best if they posses sufficient strength to overcome and accelerate body mass. Even if a child does not decide to play competitive sports in high school, why not give them the chance to develop motor skills, and the ability to “move well” by helping improving neuromuscular strength and practicing jumping, running, hopping, and skipping?
Two recent studies show that strength training is appropriate for youth of all ages, and a wealth of evidence suggests they can start performing age-appropriate training as early as age 7 or 8. For example, one study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research had youth soccer players ranging in age from 11 to 19-years-old perform periodized strength training programs for two years. The youngest players (under 13) did technique-oriented training of traditional free weight exercises including the squat using very moderate loads. The older youth trained the same free weight exercises with heavier loads. 
By the end of the study, compared to a control group of soccer players, the trainees had 40 to 50 percent higher 1RMs in the squat, indicating the effectiveness of strength training for youth. Researchers highlight the need to accumulate training years and learn technique in order to achieve peak levels of strength for the more competitive high school and college sporting years. By starting at 7 or 8, youth can have 10 years of training behind them at age 17. 
A second study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that plyometric training is safe and will improve  neuromuscular strength, which translates into better sports performance. Researchers found that kids aged 8 to 14 who took part in low-volume plyometric training improved jump height, running speed, and their ability to perform coordinated movements like running while throwing a ball. 
This research group suggests that plyometric training for youth be done one to three times a week with a relatively low volume of jumps (as low as 20 foot touches up to 120 touches per session) depending on the intensity of the training. Avoid depth jumps done off of a box, especially for youth who are undergoing growth spurts. Use what we know about periods of “accelerated adaptation” to guide programming. 
For example, for boys, ages 10 to 11, age 13, and then ages 15 to 16 are considered “windows” in which youth will adapt to training very quickly. There is typically a decrease in strength and neuromuscular performance from age 11 to 12 and from 13 to 14, due to what is termed “adolescent awkwardness.” This doesn’t mean training needs to be discontinued, just that decreases in strength or performance are natural during maturation, and should be accounted for. If a trainee or parent is concerned, the information can be communicated to lessen worries about decreased performance.    
Take away the understanding that strength and plyometric training is appropriate and ideal for kids as long as it is programmed and taught appropriately. Training should be serious but enjoyable, and begin with a focus on learning technique, improving movement patterns and the basic skills of running, jumping, throwing, and hopping.

Monday, September 3, 2012


What the Broscience says:

“Eating 6 times a day boosts your metabolism.”

What the Science says:

Even though the example of the "metabolic fire" beings stoked by "little sticks" rather than "logs" may make intuitive sense, multiple studies have shown people are not campfires and that there is no “metabolic boost” from eating 6 times a day vs 3. [1] There isn’t even a difference between eating 3 times a day vs 2! [2] This rumor likely started with a grain of truth. When you eat, your metabolism does in fact rev up, but how much it revs up depends on how much you ate. As long as your total calories remain the same, there is no difference because you are either experiencing 6 little boosts or 3 big boosts. In fact, there are even studies that show metabolism increases after short-term fasting

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Good Lifestyle Makes a Difference Even Late in Life

       Keeping up on the health basics makes a difference even in the last years of life: "It is well known that lifestyle factors, like being overweight, smoking and heavy drinking, predict death among elderly people. But is it uncertain whether these associations are applicable to people aged 75 years or more. So a team of researchers based in Sweden measured the differences in survival among adults aged 75 and older based on modifiable factors such as lifestyle behaviours, leisure activities, and social networks. The study involved just over 1,800 individuals who were followed for 18 years (1987-2005). Data on age, sex, occupation, education, lifestyle behaviours, social network and leisure activities were recorded. During the follow-up period 92% of participants died. Half of the participants lived longer than 90 years. Survivors were more likely to be women, be highly educated, have healthy lifestyle behaviours, have a better social network, and participate in more leisure activities than non-survivors. The results show that smokers died one year earlier than non-smokers. Former smokers had a similar pattern of survival to never smokers, suggesting that quitting smoking in middle age reduces the effect on mortality. Of the leisure activities, physical activity was most strongly associated with survival. The average age at death of participants who regularly swam, walked or did gymnastics was two years greater than those who did not. Overall, the average survival of people with a low risk profile (healthy lifestyle behaviours, participation in at least one leisure activity, and a rich or moderate social network) was 5.4 years longer than those with a high risk profile (unhealthy lifestyle behaviours, no participation in leisure activities, and a limited or poor social network). Even among those aged 85 years or older and people with chronic conditions, the average age at death was four years higher for those with a low risk profile compared with those with a high risk profile. In summary, the associations between leisure activity, not smoking, and increased survival still existed in those aged 75 years or more, with women's lives prolonged by five years and men's by six years, say the authors. These associations, although attenuated, were still present among people aged 85 or more and in those with chronic conditions.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sneaky Ways to Get More Fitness Gains from Your Workouts

  • There are no shortcuts. To be a good runner and see consistent improvement, you have to put in a lot of hard work.
  • I’m not suggesting performance-enhancing drugs. Duh.
  • These strategies might mean the difference between a PR and an “almost PR” – but they’re the icing on the cake, not the meat of your actual training plan.
If you’re looking for those secret workouts or “top marathon tricks” then there are other websites for that. And you’ll never see the improvement that Strength Runners see – like Mark or Terry.
But for those who want to squeeze out every ounce of fitness from their bodies, there are certain ways to maximize training adaptations. Today, we’ll look at 5 specific strategies that you can start implementing this week.
These tips are excerpts from my Kindle book 101 Simple Ways to be a Better Runner, available on Amazon for $2.99. My goal is to give you a small sample of the 100+ pieces of advice in the book so you can make changes to your running for the better.

Learn to Love Negative Splits

Running a negative split simply means running the last half faster than the first. You should negative split most of your distance runs, workouts, and races if you can.
Negative splitting runs during training will increase your confidence to do it during a race – when time really counts. You also get a better aerobic stimulus (as in, more endurance!) when you teach your body to run faster later in a run when you’re already tired.
It’s easiest to do these types of workouts on out-and-back runs where you can time each half exactly. Any workout on the track lends itself well to negative splits since you can monitor each interval time to the second. Have fun with it!

Run Workouts That Have More Than Two Paces

Common workouts among runners include a set of intervals at a predetermined pace like your current 5k or half-marathon pace. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these workouts – in fact, they can be great during the specific phase of your training period.
But including 2-3 different paces in your workout can help you learn to run faster when tired, boost your fitness, and improve your finishing kick. So instead of your next 3 x mile at 10k pace, try the following:
2 x mile at your goal 10k pace with 3 minutes jog recovery, then 2 x 800m at your 5k pace with 2 minutes jog recovery.
This workout has you running at a faster pace at the end with the same overall volume. Hopefully this workout will help you negative split your 10k race!

Run Fasted Once in Awhile

Occasionally run in the morning without breakfast to practice running on low glycogen stores. A moderate effort in this state has been shown in studies to help you burn more fat instead of carbs and make you more efficient with your existing carbohydrate reserves.
This strategy is a bit advanced, so only experiment with it if you’re an experienced runner and training for a longer race like a half-marathon or marathon. A smart fueling strategy can help you achieve your goals in these long races and fasted runs can help.

Don’t Be Afraid to Run in the Heat and Humidity

Those brutal summer runs might be slow, hot, sweaty, and miserable, but they actually help you. See, your body learns to be more efficient when the temperature and humidity are really high. You lose less salt through your sweat and better regulate your body temperature. In fact, high heat training can actually simulate running at altitude.
Of course, I’m not recommending you give yourself heat stroke during 100 degree days in the middle of summer. But with 1-2 moderate runs every week in hot and humid conditions, you’ll improve your body’s metabolic efficiency. Just remember to hydrate!