Thursday, January 31, 2013

Five Reasons Fish Oil Will Make You Stronger, Leaner & Healthier

#1: Fish Oil Can Help You Lose Body Fat

Fish oil can help you lose body fat for a number of reasons, some of which are well known, while others are just emerging. First, fish oil provides essential fats because it is made up of omega-3 fatty acids. Essential fats are those which the body can’t produce on its own—they must be eaten—and it must have them for optimal function.

Fish oil won’t turn into fat in the body. Instead, the body will favorably use the fat from fish oil to build the outside lipid (fat) layer that protects our cells. Any kind of fat can be used to do this—trans fats, omega-6 fats, whatever you eat—but your cells will function the best, and metabolism will be optimal if fish oil makes up the cell lipid layer because it improves the activity of insulin.

This allows for better insulin sensitivity, which is a principal factor in fat loss. If you have poor insulin sensitivity, you will have a very difficult time losing fat. The other benefit of fish oil is that it is anti-inflammatory, which will be explained in greater depth in #3.

You can see fish oil working its fat loss magic in a recent study that gave healthy subjects 4 grams of fish oil or the same dose of safflower oil (an omega-6 fat) for 6 weeks. The participants who took the fish oil significantly lost body fat and increased muscle mass—and they weren’t even exercising!

Of interest, the participants in this study had a decrease in their levels of the stress hormone cortisol after taking the fish oil. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone that degrades muscle, leads to fat gain, and makes you feel stressed out.

#2: Fish Oil Can Help You Build Muscle: It’s Anabolic

As mentioned in #1, since fish oil decreases cortisol it leads one to think that it is anabolic, and the happy news is that there’s research to back this idea up. For instance, a new study that was performed on aging rats showed that giving them fish oil for 8 weeks significantly increased protein synthesis and helped them increase muscle cross-sectional area.

Fish oil is anabolic for humans as well. A study that gave middle-age adults 4 grams of fish oil a day found that it increased protein synthesis, producing a significant muscle building effect. The mTOR pathway that produces muscle growth was enhanced by 30 percent, as was muscle cell membrane signaling—the same mechanism via which insulin health is improved also enhances muscle building. Muscle mass increased by 2 percent, however, due to the small study population, researchers didn’t measure changes in body composition.

In fact, the anabolic effects of omega-3s prompted the NCAA to ban the distribution by major colleges to scholarship athletes. The rationale was that omega-3s gave an unfair advantage to the more financially advantage institutions who could afford to give this supplement to athletes.

#3: Fish Oil Will Decrease Inflammation, Enhancing Body Composition

Inflammation in the body is horrible for health, but it also significantly impacts your ability to lose body fat and build muscle. I can’t overstress the importance of decreasing inflammation if you want to be lean!

Inflammation seems to be this word that has no meaning for the general population, and people just don’t seem to understand that “inflammation” equals disease, illness, delayed recovery from injury, and obesity. Did you know that fat tissue actually produces inflammation on its own, progressively increasing the inflammatory status in the body?

Fish oil has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which is a principal reason it helps you lose fat. First, we saw in the study mentioned in number #1 that the people who took 4 grams/day of fish oil had lower cortisol at the end of the study. Anytime cortisol is unnecessarily elevated it causes inflammation and has a protein degrading effect that causes muscle and lean tissue loss.

The anti-inflammatory evidence of fish oil goes further: It is not just chronic inflammation that fish oil can prevent. It also decreases the acute inflammatory response to intense exercise. A recent study had young athletes take 3 grams of fish oil for 7 days and then perform very intense eccentric exercise to failure.

Results showed that compared to a placebo group, the fish oil group had much lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers, less muscle swelling, and less soreness and pain in response to the workout. Researchers suggest the fish oil helped with the elimination of waste products produced in response to energy metabolism during exercise, enhancing the anabolic properties in muscle tissue.

What it all comes down to is that getting the optimal percentage of your dietary fat from fish oil will convey these anti-inflammatory benefits: a) speed detoxification of stuff you don’t want in your body (waste products, inflammatory biomarkers), b) improve cellular health and the building of muscle, c) decrease hormones that cause inflammation, and d) help you be lean and feel better.

#4: Take Fish To Improve Insulin Sensitivity And Metabolism

Recall that fish oil improves insulin sensitivity because it gets incorporated into the cellular lipid layer, which allows the cell receptors to bind more easily with insulin. Once insulin is bound, its purpose is to shuttle glucose from dietary carbs into the muscles to be stored and used as energy later. If insulin can’t bind easily, it elevates cortisol, causes inflammation, and the overall result is that you get fat.

Insulin also plays a role in muscle building, which is the reason it is called an anabolic hormone. The good news is that by taking fish oil and limiting your carbohydrate intake, insulin will improve the muscle building process and it helps to load nutrients into the muscle like creatine and carnitine that are essential for physical performance and fat burning.

An example of the effect of fish oil on insulin sensitivity and body composition is seen with  a recent study of women with type 2 diabetes who took 2.5 grams of fish oil a day. After 30 days, the women significantly decreased body fat and shrunk their waistlines, while having significantly improved insulin sensitivity.

#5: Get The Right Ratio of Fish Oil To Other Fats For Body Composition

Hopefully, you agree that fish oil will help you build muscle and lose body fat. Studies have only tested relatively small doses of up to 4 grams a day, but anecdotal reports suggest more rapid fat loss from higher doses in the range of 1 to 1.5 grams of your body fat percentage a day. The idea behind this large dose—if you have 20 percent body fat, you should take 20 to 30 grams of fish oil daily—is that you are getting a large portion of your dietary fat from fish oil, which is logical because omega-3 fats are the healthiest.

Say your total fat intake is 60 grams a day, getting 20 to 30 grams divided between a fish oil supplement and however much is provided from organic meat and fish is common sense. There remains that other 30 grams of fat to account for, and it’s critical your intake be optimal if you want to reap the anti-inflammatory, muscle building, fat loss benefits already described. Here’s what you need to know:

•    Get most of your omega-3s from fish oil—that means you are getting primarily EPA and DHA, with only a small intake of the third omega-3, alpha linolenic acid (ALA) that is provided by flax seed.

•    The omega-6 fats are from plant rather than marine sources. They include olive oil, nuts, avocados, and the isolated vegetable oils—corn, soybean, canola, and the like. The Western diet is VERY high in omega-6 fats due to the overuse of isolated vegetable oils. Ideally, you want a balanced intake of omega-6 to omega-3 fat, while avoiding isolated vegetable oils completely.

•    The isolated vegetable oils cause inflammation when you eat too much of them. The reason is that the body uses the same enzymes to convert the omega-3 and the omega-6 fats into a form that can be used by the body. Simply, if you eat too many omega-6 fats—studies estimate the average Western diet provides a ratio around 16:1 of omega-6 to omega-3 fats—there won’t be enough enzymes available to convert the omega-3s.

•    Researchers estimate that large reductions in omega-6 intake decrease our need for omega-3s dramatically—by 90 percent in some cases—because they won’t be fighting for enzymes and the omega-3s won’t be needed to counteract the inflammation caused by the overabundance of omega-6 fat.

•    Try a “whole diet” approach to get the complex nutrient and fat requirements for optimal body composition: Eat wild cold water fish, pasture raised, grass-fed beef, and wild meats. Supplement with high-quality fish oil that is in triglyceride form rather than ethyl ester because it has superior bioavailability. Round your fat intake out with nuts, olive oil, avocado, and coconut oil, with very limited intake of other organic oils. Avoid hydrogenated, trans fat, and processed foods.

•    Avoid foods fortified with omega-3s because you don’t know the source or quality of the fat.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Research Review: Good bacteria, gut health and exercise



Should you be taking probiotics?

Our digestive systems are home to hundreds of different bacterial species that keep our intestinal linings healthy, break down food, and regulate our immune response.
Evidence suggests that by controlling the immune response, supplemental probiotics can help prevent and treat diarrhea and decrease inflammation caused by diet and stress — whether from life or exercise.
But can probiotics also reduce GI damage, symptoms, and illness caused by intense exercise?


Is your belly in balance or do you suffer from CPBBS (caca-poopy-blocked-up-bowel syndrome)?
Okay so maybe CPBBS isn’t exactly an official term for GI disturbances, but more than likely you or someone you know suffers from occasional “plumbing problems” ranging from gas and bloating to nausea, stomach cramps, constipation or diarrhea.
Not surprisingly, diet and lifestyle play a key role in keeping our intestines running smoothly. Common culprits that can wreak havoc on our GI tracts:
  • not eating enough fruit, vegetables, and/or dietary fiber in general;
  • food intolerances (such as a gluten or dairy intolerance);
  • taking antibiotics; and/or
  • a stressful lifestyle (which can include stress from anything — life events, relationships, finances, travel, even intense regular exercise).
That last point may surprise you a little. Yes, exercise is good for you. But high-performance athletes, especially endurance athletes, suffer a lot of GI complaints.
Exercise shunts blood to the muscles, away from the GI tract, and raises our core temperature. Less blood to internal organs and an increased internal temperature can disrupt the intestinal lining, setting off the inflammatory response. High training loads — training hard for several hours a week — creates a chronic stress from which the body struggles to recover.
And before you know it, you’re sick with a respiratory infection or some other illness (1).  Read More

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Topical Wound Ointments

Antibiotic ointments like Neosporin are certainly good at preventing infection, they can certainly make cuts heal faster by preventing or stopping bacterial infection, and plenty of people will absolutely vouch for their efficacy, but they don’t always perform very well in clinical trials. In one recent study of different ointments’ influence on wound healing time, Aquaphor Healing Ointment, whose active ingredient is simple petroleum jelly, beat both Neosporin and Polypsorin (an antibiotic ointment containing fewer antibiotics than Neosporin). Other studies have had similar results, concluding that petroleum jelly was just as effective than the more expensive antibiotic ointments. Antibiotic ointments also bring the potential for skin irritation or allergic reactions, a problem more inert ointments generally do not have; another study found that Aquaphor Healing Ointment also caused less irritation than antibiotic ointments.

As to the gushing reports of Neosporin’s powers, I suspect a lot of it stems from lack of a proper control group. If all you ever put on your wounds is Neosporin and every wound has healed, you’ll assume that it “works,” even if it isn’t actually doing much. There’s also the chance that “dirty” wounds, like you might get out in the real world, are at a greater risk of infection and may benefit from topical antibiotics, whereas the controlled environments of clinical trials remove the risk of bacteria. There’s also evidence that antibiotic ointments are increasing the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bugs, including MRSA. That said, I find it likely that Neosporin works better than nothing at all, particularly if the wound is infected or at risk for infection (which you won’t know unless you test the wound).

Honey works well on wounds, acting as a broad-spectrum antibacterial agent and as a promoter of tissue healing. Thanks to many factors, including the antioxidant compounds, acidity, natural hydrogen peroxide content, osmotic effect, and as-yet unidentified compounds, it appears to stimulate tissue growth, reduce scar tissue formation, and increase epithelialization. The honey doesn’t even need to be raw as long as it’s actual, real honey (although unfiltered, raw honeys may have more bioactive compounds, also known as “impurities”). The only side effect of topical honey is, to my knowledge, incitement of pooh bears. If you ever cut yourself walking through the woods of Sussex, England, skip the honey – particularly if you see any bipedal piglets wearing pink horizontal striped singlets. Though normally plush and giggly, the pooh bear is a fearsome predator when in the throes of honey lust. Don’t let the baby T fool you.
Coconut oil is a potent antibacterial agent, mainly because of its medium chain triglyceride content (PDF). Since it’s MCTs we’re after, it shouldn’t matter much if you use refined or virgin coconut oil. That said, virgin coconut oil may have some extra bioactive compounds that affect the healing effect; sure enough, one study found that virgin coconut oil improves wound healing time partially due to “the cumulative effect of various biologically active minor components present in it” in addition to the MCTs.

Allantoin, a compound found in comfrey root, seems to speed up the healing process. This comfrey ointment gets very good reviews.
Garlic is another one, especially aged garlic extract (extract from garlic aged at least 20 months, giving it a higher phenolic content).
There’s also the timeless classic that spans species: wound licking. Most saliva has healing properties, whether canine, murine, or hominin. A dog’s saliva is antibacterial (against e. coli and s. canis), certain types of rat saliva promotes wound healing, human saliva contains healing-promoting histatin, and nerve growth factor, which stimulates wound healing, is produced in the saliva of most mammals. There are lots of other possible explanations for the beneficial effect of licking – the physical removal of dirt and debris from the wound, for one – but it’s pretty clear that we’re drawn to lick our wounds because it helps in some fashion.

I won’t go into an exhaustive list of all possible natural alternatives, because there are way too many. Some are bunk, some are legit. I’d even wager that most plant-based compounds have potential to help, even if an effect has yet to be shown in a clinical trial, simply because plants tend to contain bioactive compounds, oftentimes antimicrobial (to, you know, protect the plants from microbes). Antibiotic ointments and the aforementioned petroleum jelly ointments won’t win you any friends at the food co-op, but they also appear to be better than nothing.
Cleaning the wound with soap and water (or even just water), keeping it moist, and keeping it covered are prob

Read more:

Monday, January 28, 2013

New study: Big Food’s ties to Registered Dietitians

Michele Simon, president of Eat, Drink, Politics, an industry watchdog consulting group, has just published an exposé of the close financial relationships between food and beverage companies and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND, formerly the American Dietetic Association).
Her hard-hitting report, And Now a Word from Our Sponsors: Are America’s Nutrition Professionals in the Pocket of Big Food? provides ample evidence that partnerships and alliances with Big Food make it impossible for AND members to convey clear and accurate messages about nutrition and health.

When she talks about nutrition professionals, she doesn’t mean me.  I have a PhD (in molecular biology, although long lapsed) and a master’s in Public Health Nutrition.  She means AND members.  AND represents more than 70,000 individuals who mostly hold credentials as Registered Dietitians (RDs).
To qualify, they had to complete a bachelor’s degree that included a specified set of courses and a 6-month clinical internship.  I once tried to get credentialed as an RD after I completed a qualifying internship but I had never had a practical course in food service management.  That lack was a deal breaker.
Never mind.  Here’s what Simon’s report is about:
And here are a small selection of her observations and conclusions:
  • AND collected $1.85 million in sponsorship funds in 2011, a relatively small percentage of its $34 million income.
  • Companies such as Coca-Cola, Kraft, NestlĂ©, and PepsiCo offer approved continuing education courses to AND members.
  • Two of the messages conveyed by one of Coca-Cola’s courses: sugar is not harmful to children, and federal nutrition standards for school meals are too restrictive.
  • More than 20% of speakers at AND’s annual meeting have financial ties to Big Food companies, although most were not disclosed.
  • A survey found 80% of members to believe that sponsorship implies an AND endorsement of the sponsor’s products.
  • A majority of AND members believe that three current sponsors are unacceptable: Coca-Cola, Mars, and PepsiCo.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Friday, January 25, 2013

How Much Caffeine Before I End Up in the E.R.?

 By James Hamblin

Why are these drinks sending people to the emergency room? The only ingredient(s) in common energy drinks that have been proven to have acute stimulant effects are caffeine and guarana (which SAMHSA defines as "a plant product containing concentrated caffeine"). The vitamins and amino acids that many drinks include shouldn't give you a noticeable burst of energy unless you were previously malnourished and vitamin-deficient. And they're not reasoned to play a role in intoxication effects.
So, essentially, energy drinks can be looked at as caffeine. And as the SAMHSA report puts it, "Large amounts of caffeine can cause adverse effects such as insomnia, nervousness, headache, fast heartbeat, and seizures that are severe enough to require emergency care."

How much is a "large amount" of caffeine? Like alcohol, it's relative to metabolism and tolerance. Most people can tolerate a lot. In caffeine-modified electroconvulsive therapy, for patients with depression, up to 2,000 mg has been given -- intravenously. But that's in a controlled hospital environment where they are trying to give people seizures. And it does increase the likelihood they will have a seizure. For a frame of reference, SAMHSA notes, "The total amount of caffeine in a can or bottle of an energy drink varies from about 80 to more than 500 mg, compared with about 100 mg in a 5-ounce cup of coffee or 50 mg in a 12-ounce cola."
Those examples are a little misleading, though. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has a great list of how much caffeine specific foods/drinks contain. For energy drinks, "more than 500 mg" is far from the norm:
Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 12.46.00 PM.png
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Cran-Energy is a thing, yes.
And the 50 mg that SAMHSA cites for a "cup of coffee" is pretty optimistic -- at least in the way that many of us define coffee.
Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 12.45.25 PM.png
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Still, despite the fact that a Starbucks venti coffee has three times as much listed caffeine as a can of Monster, some people swear they're more wired after drinking an energy drink. That may be because of the extra caffeine in guarana. Energy drinks can advertise that they have the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee; but when you include guarana, they have a much stronger stimulant effect. In Australia, listing quantified guarana content on beverages is mandatory.
The most interesting implication that the report mentions is from a study in which "bar patrons who consumed alcohol mixed with energy drinks were ... four times more likely to intend to drive while intoxicated." Because, as SAMHSA puts it, "Individuals, especially young drinkers, may incorrectly believe that consumption of caffeine can 'undo' the effects of alcohol intake and make it safe to drive after drinking."
That sort of stimulant-empowered bullheaded behavior -- rather than the E.R. admissions for caffeine-induced anxiety -- is actually the most pressing public health concern.
So, caffeinate responsibly. "If I drink another Hardcore Energize Bullet, am I going to have to go to the hospital again?"

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hot Pants for Warming Up

Fun/interesting study (via Trent Stellingwerff) in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise about the role of muscle temperature in athletic performance. British researchers recruited 11 competitive cyclists, and had them do a 30-second maximal sprint on three different occasions. Each time, they did a standardized 15-minute warm-up, then waited around for 30 minutes. During the 30-minute wait, they wore:
  - regular tracksuit pants;
  - insulated tracksuit pants; or
  - insulated tracksuit pants with a 7.5-watt heater embedded around the thigh, operating at a maximum temperature of 40-42 degrees C (normal body temperature is around 36).
They also did lots of temperature measurements, including using a needle to measure muscle temperature at depths of 1, 2 and 3 centimeters. As expected, muscle temperature rose by around 3 degrees C (depending on depth) after the warm-up, and then gradually dropped again during the 30 minutes of sitting around. Not surprisingly, the heated pants kept the muscles warmer than the other two options, by a degree or so. (The insulated pants seemed marginally better than the normal ones, but not significantly so.)

And the punchline: when they wore the heated pants during the rest, the cyclists produced significantly higher peak power in the 30-second sprint than in the other two cases, by about 9%. They also had a higher increase in lactate levels, which the researchers believe indicates that ATP turnover was higher at the higher temperatures. (Most chemical reactions happen more quickly when temperature is increased; in this case, the series of reactions that releases anaerobic energy is speeding up, allowing the cyclists to sprint a bit harder.)

So does this have any practical application? It's aimed mostly at power athletes, and athletes whose sport requires intermittent bursts of power separated by periods of rest (where it's not practical to keep jogging around indefinitely to stay warm without getting tired) -- high jumpers, for example. But the results are interesting to consider for all athletes, since it's very common to experience delays in competitions, and you're often not permitted to keep warming up if your start time is suddenly pushed back by 20 minutes. Certainly it suggests that, once you've finished the active part of your warm-up, it's a good idea to keep your sweats on as long as possible. And who knows, maybe electric pants could help

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Strengthen Bones With Heavy Weight Training & Playing Power Sports

Strengthen your bones and prevent fractures by doing heavy weight training and playing “power sports” that involve jumping. Bone needs to be built at a young age and then maintained into old age to avoid fractures. Even though osteoporosis is much more prevalent in women, fracture rates are very similar between the sexes.

Research shows there are a few very effective ways to build bone: plyometrics, doing loaded jumps, and lifting heavy weights will significantly increase bone mineral density. Using walking or running for your primary mode of exercise is discouraged because, although they are weight bearing, they have little affect on bone development and both lead to muscle loss over the long-term. Non-weight bearing activities like swimming and cycling should absolutely be avoided by older people and anyone interested in building bone since they are linked to fairly significant bone loss.

Two recent studies show how to train for bone strength. First, researchers tested ground reaction forces (GRF) and rate of force development (RFD), which indicate osteogenic or “bone building potential” for the following exercises: A back squat with a load of 88 percent of the 1 RM, a jump squat with a 30 percent of the 1RM load, a depth jump, running, and walking.

Results showed that the depth jump, squat, and jump squat all produced significant GRF and RFD, making them superior exercises for strengthening bones. The GRF indicates the strain magnitude and RFD indicate the magnitude of loading, both of which have been found to correlate with bone development. Jogging and walking had minimal GRF and RFD, and researchers write they are not “likely to be effective osteogenic stimuli.“

A second study by the same research group tested GRF with three loads in a half squat. The loads tested were 80 percent, 100 percent, and 120 percent of the 1RM for the parallel squat—naturally, participants could squat more than their maximal amount when they only did a partial squat. Bone building may be the one and only time for which partial squats are favored over deep squats!

Results showed that the supramaximal load of 120 percent of the 1RM produced a 13 percent greater GRF and RFD than the 80 percent load, and a 9 percent greater GRF than the 100 percent load. Researchers conclude that best bone building results will come from doing a periodized training program with full-range of motion lifts for strength and hypertrophy, and to include wave-like cycles of supramaximal lifting with partials. In order to be able to lift super heavy loads, base levels of strength and muscle development are necessary, as is impeccable exercise technique.

Avoid non-weight bearing activities in favor of weight bearing ones. Also, favor activities and sports that load the body with weight (strength training, wearing a weight vest) and involve jumping. For individuals with arthritis or joint pain, weight training should be the primary exercise mode with the goal being to eventually include heavier load training cycles.

Monday, January 21, 2013

We average 9.3 hours a day. And it’s lethal.

Sitting is the Smoking of our Generation:
  • I find myself, probably like many of you, spending way too much time in front of my computer.
  • As we work, we sit more than we do anything else. We’re averaging 9.3 hours a day, compared to 7.7 hours of sleeping.
  • Sitting is so prevalent and so pervasive that we don’t even question how much we’re doing it. I’ve come to see that sitting is the smoking of our generation.
  • Of course, health studies conclude that people should sit less, and get up and move around. After 1 hour of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat declines by as much as 90%.
  • Research shows that this lack of physical activity is directly tied to 6% of the impact for heart diseases, 7% for type 2 diabetes, and 10% for breast cancer, or colon cancer.
  • You might already know that the death rate associated with obesity in the US is now 35 million. But do you know what it is in relationship to Tobacco? Just 3.5 million.
  • A doctor is quoted as saying that excessive sitting, which he defines as nine hours a day, is a lethal activity.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Why choose coffee & tea for energy?

  • Both coffee & tea have ZERO calories – can’t beat that for dieters!
  • Sweeten with what you like – adding your own sugar will result in using less sweetener than the manufacturer might add.
  • Both coffee & tea (when brewed fresh) have antioxidants.
  • Save money – both coffee & tea cost less per cup than an energy drink.
  • Save the environment – less packaging = less waste.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Using Heart Rate To Measure Overtraining

Even though I prefer not to train and coach by heart rate, I have found that using these numbers can be a great tool when it comes to assessing recovery and how the body is adapting to training. Specifically, runners can measure their resting heart rate over time to assess their gains in fitness during long bouts of training without tune-up races and also to track when they might be overtraining or not properly recovered from their last hard workout.
This neat little trick doesn’t even require the use of a heart rate monitor. All you need is to be able to take your pulse and record the numbers. Over the following pages I’ll explain why this strategy works and show you how to identify one of the major signs of overtraining in just one minute a day.

Using Morning Heart Rate To Measure Fitness & Fatigue

Measuring your morning heart rate is pretty simple. All you need is a digital watch,  a small notebook and a pen on your nightstand. As soon as you wake up in the morning, find your pulse on your neck, just under your chin, or on your wrist. Using the watch, count the number of times your heart beats for 20 seconds. Multiply this number by three and you have your resting heart rate (RHR) in beats per minute (bpm). Record this number in your notebook next to the day’s date. Now make sure to repeat this process every morning.
With each passing day, you’re creating an accurate record of your morning heart rate that you can reference after challenging workouts to ensure that you’re recovered. You can also look at this data when you think you might be facing a case of overtraining. Before trying to glean any insight from these numbers, however, be sure to record at least three weeks of data.

How to use this data:

Keep an eye on your resting morning heart rate in the two or three days after a hard workout. If it’s significantly elevated from its normal average (7 or more beats per minute), that’s a sign that you’re not fully recovered from the workout. Remember, there is going to be some variability in your daily heart rate regardless of your recovery level, do don’t be concerned if you’re 3 to 4 bpm over your normal average on a given day. In my experience, it takes a reading that’s 7 bpm higher than normal to signify excessive training fatigue.

You can also use this data to identify long-term trends. If you notice your heart rate steadily increasing over a two- or three-week period, it’s quite possible you’re overtraining or not scheduling enough recovery time between workouts. In this circumstance, consider taking a down week and monitor how your body and heart rate respond to the extra recovery.
On the opposite spectrum, if you see your heart rate is slowly declining, it’s usually a good indication that you’re getting fitter! If you haven’t raced in a while, this can be a great boost to your motivation.
While scientific research has not conclusively proven that long-term resting heart rate equates specifically to overtraining, there is data that seems to indicate there is a high probability that an increasing heart rate is associated with training fatigue. Taking a few extra recovery days after a tough workout or a light week of training never hurt anyone. You need to have the courage to rest!

Why Morning Heart Rate Data Works

From a physiological perspective, measuring heart rate data to determine fatigue works because heart rate modulation is determined by the effect of the muscular contractions and nervous signals of both branches of the autonomic nervous system on the myocardium and the sinus node.

Increased parasympathetic nervous activity slows heart rate, whereas increased sympathetic nervous activity accelerates heart rate. The autonomic nervous system also fulfils a pivotal role in stress tolerance. Consequently, negative adaptation to training stress potentially involves the autonomic nervous system, and may result in an altered heart rate.
My aversion to training strictly by heart rate is that I’ve often found the data to be unreliable. When training, you need to factor in weather, stress, stimulant intake (e.g. caffeine consumption), stress, and of course the variability of the monitor itself. However, measuring heart rate at the same time each morning avoids many of these potential pitfalls. While there is still the potential for some variability (like a bad night’s sleep or daily heart rate variation of 2-4 bpm), it is far less so compared to when used every day in training. In short, tracking morning heart rate can provide more reliable data.
Morning heart rate data, if tracked regularly, can be an easy, effective method for monitoring fatigue levels, how well you’re adapting to workouts, and can help prevent long-term overtraining. Considering it takes less than a minute to perform, there’s no excuse for not adding this simple practice to your daily routine to ensure you’re training optimally and recovering well between workouts.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Scientifically-Proven Tips for Faster Sprinting

Jeff Barnett

The study examined 22 Australian netball players during a preseason training camp. (In case netball is unfamiliar, think of it as basketball without a backboard.) Players were asked to perform 2.5-meter sprints in two ways. First, they lined up with toes on the starting line, facing the finish line, and performed a normal sprint. Next, they lined up with heels on the starting line and their backs to the finish line. This required them to quickly spin 180 degrees and sprint to the finish. Technique was paramount on such a short sprint, because athletes had very little distance to overcome poor technique with strength and speed.

What differentiated the faster sprinters from the slower ones?

  1. First, more steps led to faster sprints. And a tiny difference went a long way. Just an extra quarter step over the 2.5-meters differentiated the fastest sprinters. I’m reminded of a coach who once told me, “You can’t move forward with your feet in the air.”
  2. Next, shorter step length led to faster sprints. This makes sense when paired with the first tip - more steps. For any given distance, adding more steps means each step will be shorter.
  3. Torso angle was the next predictor of sprint success. Leaning forward just two degrees extra made the difference between the slowest and fastest sprints.
  4. Finally, the actual first step of the sprint was critical. Athletes who showed less knee lift in the first step turned in faster sprints. Less knee lift means a faster step, which means more steps.

Ahh, this is all starting to make sense. Lean forward and use many fast steps - especially starting from the first step. Several of these strategies sound like the POSE running technique described in Brian Mackenzie’s book Power Speed Endurance. Mackenzie preaches the importance of learning proper running technique before battering your body with high volumes of running with poor technique.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Flu Shot?

Dr. Scott Fuller, DC



The mass media coverage of flu shots has been generally disappointing and biased, not providing the public balanced information. You hear about the possible benefits of flu shots, but rarely do you hear about potential side effects, including injuries and deaths. You can search for injuries and deaths here.  You also don’t hear about the most important things you should do to fortify your defenses against the flu (see below).

First, I recommend watching this  video  from Barbara Loe Fisher from the National Vaccine Information Center, It is titled “Influenza Deaths: The Hype vs. The Evidence.”
Next, read the newsletters on my website  here and here, titled “The Flu, Chiropractic, and Flu Shots,” and “Swine Flu Vaccine.”

Last, strengthen your immune system with these simple steps:
1. Eat a healthy, high vegetable, low sugar, no processed food diet
2. Continue with wellness Chiropractic care (the newsletters above tell you why)
3. Get regular, and enough, rest
4. Aim for daily exercise, 20-30 minutes a day
5. Take immune system supporting supplements including fish oil, antioxidants, vitamin D, and probiotics.
6. Reduce stress

It is helpful to reduce your exposure to sick people, but near impossible to avoid all exposure.  However, the healthier you are, the chance of you becoming ill may be much lower even if exposed.


Perform Better at a Younger Age By Weight Training: Kids Can Start Training by Age 7

Begin weight training at a young age to improve sports performance and overall health. Research shows that kids can do technique-oriented training as early as age 7 in order to improve motor control and neural drive. The benefits include enhanced jumping, running, and throwing ability as well as better postural control.

Two new studies show the benefits of incorporating weight training into physical education classes. An 8-week study of 7 year olds had them do 15 minutes of weight training exercises at the beginning of gym class twice a week. Results showed significant gains in abdominal endurance and jumping ability that were much greater than those seen in a group of students who participated in the gym class but did not weight train. Researchers also tested what would happen to the physical performance gains after an 8-week detraining period. Results showed the following:
•    The kids experienced no detraining or performance decrease in abdominal endurance, whereas they did regress somewhat in the single-leg hop, but not back to baseline. Performance on a long jump test returned to baseline after 8 weeks of detraining.

•    Researchers think that the changes in performance during detraining in youth vary depending on the complexity of the skill and the musculature involved. For instance, endurance in the core is better maintained, whereas power and strength in the lower body requires more regular training stimulus.

•    It is appropriate for youth as young as 6 or 7 to start doing technique training with light loads and low volume. Neuromuscular adaptations will occur and children this young will gain strength.

•    Weight training can easily be included in gym classes to teach kids technique, build coordination, and improve athletic performance. This study shows 30 minutes a week of training will produce considerable results and is a reasonable method of combating obesity.

A second study of older girls in 10th grade also showed significant physical gains from training during a gym class for 6 weeks. Results showed that a muscular endurance program increased abdominal endurance by 23 percent, the number of push-ups that could be done by 27 percent, and jumping ability by 8 percent.

Similar to the study of 7 year olds, this showed that the girls had greater improvements in the core and upper body than in the lower body. This may be due to the training stimulus (both programs were muscular endurance programs rather than strength or power focused), age of the trainees, short duration of the study, or some other unidentified mechanism.

Rest assured that kids can start weight training at a very young age—as early as 6 or 7—and they are highly trainable. Weight training is the best method of preparing kids for sports and helping them avoid injury. It can also help fight obesity and will likely give kids confidence and better coordination. In addition, by starting to train at a young age kids will accumulate training years and be able to progress to heavier load, more challenging training earlier.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why and How You Absolutely Must Manage Your Cortisol

by Ben Mattingly

You have been training hard, eating nothing but high quality foods, and staying as active as possible, and yet, your body isn’t changing quite as much as you hoped. Sound familiar? This is the case for many people. So, what could be keeping you from losing that last five pounds of bodyfat? The answer is probably stress.

 The world we live in today is incredibly stressful. We work long hours, have endless bills to pay, and have excessive noise levels in cities assault that our ears. Pretty much everything in modern life causes our stress levels to raise and in turn raise our levels of cortisol.

Cortisol is not a problem in itself, in fact it can be highly beneficial. This hormone is a big player in the ‘fight or flight’ response in the human body, but I will get to that later. It is the excess amounts of cortisol we produce that are the issue. Cortisol is the body’s primary catabolic hormone, which means it’s a hormone that breaks down tissue. It is released under conditions of high physical or mental stress and also under high temperature - conditions that are everywhere we go.

When our levels of cortisol become excessive we increase our risk of:
  • Reduced glucose utilization
  • Osteoporosis
  • Impaired immunity
  • Reduced muscle mass
  • Increased abdominal fatith two of the effects of cortisol being a reduction in muscle mass and an increase in the storage of abdominal fat, controlling the level of cortisol in your system should play an important role in your lifestyle if you wish to get the long sought after six-pack or even just health in general.
    As mentioned earlier, cortisol is part of the fight or flight response that we experience under stress. When our body is faced with a life or death situation, cortisol kicks in, increasing the flow of glucose to the tissues and bloodstream, giving a short-term energy boost and a natural aid to surviving physical danger.

    There are few actual life or death situations encountered in modern life, but this does not mean the body reacts any differently. Whenever we get stressed, the same response that could have once saved our lives kicks in, but as we are not burning this energy off by fighting a sabre-toothed tiger, the additional energy is simply stored as fat. This is the same whether the stress was emotional (an argument) or physical (when that argument escalates). Another effect is a spike in appetite, leading to cravings for foods that are high in sugar, fat, or both.

    The good news is that reducing the amount of this hormone is a thoroughly enjoyable, relaxing process. The first two tools for reduction you most likely are already using: exercise and nutrition. Exercise, both aerobic and anaerobic, releases endorphins, which will offset any cortisol released during your workouts, provided that your nutritional needs are met. If those needs are not being met, your body will not be able to process the cortisol as efficiently. Having carbohydrates combined with protein post-workout will help replenish your glucose and nitrate levels, bringing cortisol back under control much faster than usual.

    Stress management will be next on your list of tools for managing cortisol. As cortisol is released in response to mentally and physically stressful events, it makes sense to try to reduce these. This is the enjoyable part: just do things that make you happy. It is as simple as that. Get a massage, go for an easy swim, or play with your children. Yoga, Primal Move, meditation, and things of this nature will all help you to stay active while simultaneously relaxing your body and mind.

    Rest and relaxation - these are two things that the vast majority of us are simply not getting enough of. Sleep is especially important for cortisol management. When sleep-deprived, the nervous system remains in a constant state of alertness, requiring much higher levels of cortisol, therefore, getting a good night’s sleep (eight hours) will naturally reduce the cortisol in the body while simultaneously replenishing and restoring the muscles, organs, and tissues.

    Perhaps you will not be able to make all of these changes in one go, that is fine. Just add one little change at a time and gradually your cortisol will drop, you will be much more relaxed, your energy levels will elevate, and so will your mood. A good way to begin is to pick just one of the ideas mentioned above and start fitting it into your lifestyle. Spend a week, maybe two just on this modification, until it becomes routine, at which point it is time to add another. Gradually changing in this way will prevent your body from any additional stress that big changes can create.

Monday, January 14, 2013

U.S. health is lousy compared with peer nations, report says

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Really? The Claim: Green Tea Helps Burn Fat


Green tea extract is one of the most popular workout supplements on the market, used widely by bodybuilders, runners and others looking to increase fat-burning effects of exercise.
One of the key compounds in green tea is Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, a potent antioxidant thought of by some as a sort of kryptonite to body fat. Supporters say it reduces fat gain and enhances fat-burning. But the amount found in a typical cup of green tea is not enough to have much effect. That was made clear in a report published this month in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. The report analyzed a dozen randomized controlled trials, each lasting at least three months, and found that regularly drinking green tea had no meaningful effect on weight loss in overweight adults.

Green tea extracts, more richly concentrated with EGCG, may not be much better. In a small but detailed study published this month in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, scientists looked at its effects on a group of 31 healthy men who were monitored closely and put on similar diets. Over a weeklong period, one group consumed a green tea extract supplement twice daily — the equivalent of eight cups of green tea a day — while another group was given a placebo. A third group was given a placebo for six days and then the extract on the seventh day. At the start and end of the week, the men cycled on stationary bikes at “an exercise intensity known to elicit maximal fat oxidation.”
The researchers took blood samples and did extensive testing, all of which indicated that the green tea extract did not improve fat oxidation.
Research suggests that green tea extract may not have any meaningful effect on the body’s ability to burn fat.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Friday, January 11, 2013

Hearing loss partially reversed in noise-damaged ears of mice

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Are You Eating These Important Supplemental Foods?

Egg yolks

Egg yolks are number one in my book. The way they blend effortlessly with other foods and even enrich them, and (if you get a really pastured one) provide unparalleled taste and mouthfeel when eaten straight out of the shell can’t be praised enough. The vitamin A, choline, folate, selenium, iodine, and omega-3 (again, if you get pastured) are rather nice, too. Eat egg yolks every day, just don’t smoke ‘em. Yes, that was a double reference to both the egg yolk/cigarette study and Dr. Dre.


Since every animal comes with but a single liver, it’s tough to get more than a few ounces if you’re sharing with everyone else in the group. Good thing liver is the most nutrient-dense food on the planet, so nutrient-dense that eating more than a half pound to a pound a week is probably overkill and will net you an excessive amount of certain nutrients.


Seaweed is green vegetation that’s been marinating in mineral-dense seawater for its entire life, and when you eat seaweed, you get the best source of iodine, plus magnesium, manganese, iron, and tons of other trace minerals that you might be (probably are) missing out on. Some of the healthiest traditional cultures consider seaweed a staple food, and essentially every group of coastal people utilized sea vegetables in their diets. Sprinkle kelp or dulse flakes on food, make broth using dried kombu, eat seaweed salad when you go out to eat sushi, roll up avocado and meat in nori wraps – the possibilites are many and delicious.


You might have read my old post on turmeric, thought, “Huh, interesting,” gone out for Indian that night, and never thought about it again. That’s a mistake, in my opinion, because turmeric is delicious and a true health food. It and its primary bioactive component – curcumin – have been shown to be anti-inflammatory, anti-lipid peroxidative, blood lipid-improving, and anti-carcinogenic in human studies. Contrary to popular belief, turmeric doesn’t just go with Indian food. I often sprinkle it liberally on my eggs, meat, and vegetables, and I even make a tea out of it. So no, you have no excuse not to use more turmeric more often. Add black pepper to increase the benefits.

Bone broth

It can feel like a chore to make, but it’s really not. Get bones, cover with water, heat, strain. It only seems like a big job. Once you get going, though, it’s easy enough. Make it a routine, to make it even easier and ensure that you have bone broth on hand at all times. Just be sure to clean those pots right away; dried, obliterated skeletal matrices are tough to scrub off of stainless steel pots. As for the benefits, bone broth is a good source of minerals and gelatin. If you’ve been pounding the muscle meat, balancing the amino acid methionine out with some glycine from gelatin is advised, since methionine metabolism depletes glycine. Gelatin also improves joint pain and sleep quality. I hate the former and love the latter, so I make and drink bone broth.

Bone marrow

Bone marrow is an interesting one. It’s plainly obvious why humans and their ancestors have been seeking it out for millions of years – it’s fatty, calorie-dense, and delicious – but its nutritional value beyond macronutrients is a bit more murky. In a previous post on bone marrow, I tried to divine the specifics and came to the shaky conclusion that since marrow is actively involved in bone and connective formation and resorption, we can effectively think of it as an organ and thus assume it to be nutrient-dense. I think that still holds. No, there are no studies or nutritional databases to confirm this, but I’m going to go out on a limb and propose we consider bone marrow to be an important supplemental food.


Over a year ago, I told you guys to start eating shellfish. Did you? Well, consider this another notification that shellfish, particularly oysters and mussels, should be a regular part of your diet. Why oysters? Just four medium sized Pacific oysters supply a smattering of B-vitamins (including over 1000% of daily B12), 1200 IU of vitamin A, a third of daily folate, almost 7 mg of vitamin E, 3 mg copper, 280% of daily selenium, and 33 mg zinc. That comes with 18 g protein, 4 g fat, 1.5 g omega-3, 0.1 g omega-6, and 9 grams of carbohydrates. Why mussels? They’re also rich in B-vitamins, selenium, zinc, and protein, but also come with good amounts of magnesium and manganese. Other shellfish are also good, but probably not as important as oysters and mussels.

Aged cheese

Gouda and pecorino romano are ideal choices. Gouda is the cheese with the highest vitamin K2 content, and the longer the cheese is aged (fermented), the more K2 it picks up. Pecorino romano, by definition, must come from raw sheep’s milk grazed on lush grasses, and it must be made the traditional way – from animal rennet. The result is a salty, sharp cheese with bite, CLA, and the ability to “cause favourable biochemical changes of atherosclerotic markers.”


I know, I know. It’s soy, a legume with significant levels of phytoestrogens, phytic acid, and trypsin inhibitors. It’s got a gross, slimy texture that may be outdone only by its interesting taste. It’s soy. By most accounts, people following a Primal lifestyle shouldn’t have anything to do with it. If you asked me a couple years ago, I may have said that. But natto is a special kind of soy. It’s fermented using a particular strain of bacterium called Bacillus subtilis natto. When steamed soybeans are inoculated with b. subtilis, they are transformed from a basic legume with few redeeming qualities into a powerful supplemental food imbued with high levels of vitamin K2, a nutrient important in bone mineralization, cancer prevention, and protection from heart disease. If you’re into those sorts of things, natto is the single best source of vitamin K2.

Tiny whole fish with heads and guts

Anytime you can eat the entire animal, you should. Heck, if they were able to genetically engineer bite-sized cows, I’d be all over that (assuming they were grass-fed, of course). Until then, tiny fish with heads and guts will do the trick. I’m talking sardines. I’m talking anchovies. I’m talking smelt. I’m talking any of the fish running between a half inch and six inches long. Any longer and the guts will begin to stand out in your mouth. But if you keep to that sweet spot, you’ll get the brains, the glands (all of them), the organs, the bones, the fermenting algae, krill, and assorted sundry microscopic marine goodies tiny fish like to eat, in addition to the omega-3s and protein, without adverse flavors. Oh, and because they’re tiny and low on the food chain, tiny fish will be largely free of the heavy metals other, larger fish tend to accumulate.

Red palm oil

For the PBer who fears almonds and other nuts and seeds for the omega-6 content, vitamin E is scarce in the diet. Some would argue that vitamin E is only there to prevent oxidation of omega-6 present in foods, and there’s something to that. But still: dietary, full-spectrum vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, and red palm oil is the richest source of the full-spectrum variety. It’s also a good source of CoQ10, another powerful nutrient. Oh, and it tastes good (once you get used to the unique flavor). Go for African palm oil instead of Southeast Asian, because the former isn’t produced on the backs of dead orangutans.

Brazil nuts

Selenium, selenium, selenium. This essential little mineral is woefully absent from most people’s diets, and it’s a shame: selenium is vital for thyroid hormone production, the manufacture of endogenous antioxidants, and sex hormone production. Brazil nuts are the best source of selenium. Many of the previously listed foods are going to get you plenty of selenium, but brazil nuts are nice to keep around for those days when you haven’t been eating your lamb kidneys, mussels, and anchovies. Just pop two or three brazil nuts and you’ll have more than a day’s worth heading straight to your gastrointestinal tract. Easy peasy. Go for the ones in their shells if you can, since those are going to be fresher than the shelled nuts.
Speaking of brazil nuts, I’ve always wondered whether to capitalize the “b” or not. Any thoughts?

Purple/blue foods (sweet potatoes, berries, vegetables)

As I’ve said before, bright colors in plants often indicate the presence of potent polyphenols – bioactive compounds found in plants. No bioactive color has been more studied and lauded than the blue/purple anthocyanins, which are linked to anti-inflammatory, anti-atherosclerotic, and anti-carcinogenic effects and can pretty much be found in any blue or purple fruit, vegetable, or tuber. So, Okinawan sweet potatoes are great sources. Blueberries, raspberries, currants, purple grapes, and blackberries are great. Red lettuce, radicchio, and purple cabbage, cauliflower, kale, tomatoes, and carrots are also rich with anthocyanins. If it’s purple or blue and edible, it’s probably worth eating.

Fermented food

Since modern medicine is steadily unearthing new connections between the gut microbiome and a host of health and disease states, we know we should pay attention to our gut flora. I can’t tell you to go eat dirt and stamp around barefooted in parasite-ridden water (even though both may theoretically have their benefits), but I can tell you to eat a mix of fermented foods. You’ve got your yogurts, your kefirs, your sauerkrauts, your kimchis, your (aforementioned) nattos, your beet kvasses, your kombuchas. Benefits include more numerous and more bioavailable nutrients, new nutrients, new genetic material for your gut flora to acquire, and membership into a tens of thousands of years-old fermented food appreciation Meetup group with billions of members from every culture that came before us. In other words, gut flora is important, everyone who’s anyone regularly ate fermented food, and you should too.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Should You Walk Or Jog Your Interval Recoveries?

Quick note about a recent study that addresses a very common question, though it doesn't settle anything definitively. The question is: should you walk or jog during the recovery periods in an interval workout? A group of researchers in France and Tunisia tackled this question in a study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. You can read the abstract here, but the gist is as follows.
A group of 18 volunteers were assigned to do a seven-week interval training program, doing workouts three times a week. Each workout consisted of repetitions of 30 seconds "hard" and 30 seconds "easy." The hard sections were at 100 to 110% of "maximal aerobic velocity," which is basically the speed you reach during a VO2max test just before you fall off the treadmill. The easy sections were either jogging at 50% of maximal aerobic velocity, or doing nothing.

To balance out the overall training load, the group taking passive rest did 50% more hard repetitions -- for example, if the active recovery group did 10 reps, the passive recovery group did 15 reps. I understand why they did this (to balance the training loads), but this means that the study isn't really tackling the question I'm most interested in -- which is, if I do a given workout (e.g. 10 x 400m with 1:00 recovery), what are the pros and cons of active versus passive recovery?

Anyway, the researchers did a whole battery of tests on the runners before and after the training period, but there's really only one result that matters: the active recovery group got a big boost in VO2max, but the passive recovery group didn't. This is despite the fact that both groups spent roughly the same amount of time overall at high intensities (greater than 90% and 95% of VO2max). Why is this? One effect they discuss is that passive recovery allows you to regenerate your stores of phosphocreatine -- the "instant energy" stores that you use for the first 10 seconds or so of a sprint -- more effectively. That means in each sprint, you're getting an extra boost from phosphocreatine, whereas with the active recovery, you have to rely more fully on the standard aerobic and anaerobic energy sources that matter to endurance athletes.

The takeaway? On the surface, it's that if you're interested in endurance you should jog (or whatever sport-specific intensity applies in your activity of choice) your recoveries. Of course, in the real world, it's a bit more complicated. If you're a middle-distance runner, you'll sometimes be doing workouts where the focus is on speed, not endurance. And there's not always a black-or-white distinction between different types of workouts -- so when should you walk and when should you jog? For now, that remains art, not science.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Post Workout Nutrition

Nutrition step one for pretty much everyone that walks through the door at CFSS revolves around improving food quality. Stop eating so much sugar, reduce grain consumption, eat more animal protein, avoid processed foods, and eat MORE of these high quality foods to fuel athletic performance.

What to do once you’ve got that down? Now we can really start to look at utilizing food to improve performance in the gym and recovery between training sessions. If you are training hard and often, I recommend getting in a high protein / high carbohydrate meal almost immediately after training. Gauge the size of the meal with the size of the workout you just performed; also keep in mind your potential activity level tomorrow as well. If you plan on hitting a long run or demanding workout, fill up on some starchy carbs in advance of that workout.

Think of you post training meal as accelerated recovery and a great place to put the bulk of your carbohydrate intake for the day. Try being more proactive in your post-workout nutrition for a weeks and evaluate whether or not you notice a difference in your output and recovery.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Fructose vs Glucose

Glucose: Increases insulin, increases GLP-1, decreases ghrelin: all of which increase satiety and decrease reward seeking behavior.

Fructose: Barely increases insulin, doesn't increase GLP-1, and doesn't decrease ghrelin, so after ingestion you will presumably still be hungry and looking for the next bag of skittles.

So, for a small study, rather interesting. Big difference in straight up fructose vs. glucose in how the brain and appetite centers react, and one would tend to think from the results that glucose decreases appetite and reduces food-seeking behaviors, whereas fructose doesn't really fill you up. Of course, no one drinks straight fructose unless you are glopping agave nectar into your tea, and it would have been interesting to see what the soda version of HFCS (from memory, I think it is 55% fructose, 42% glucose) did compared to straight-up glucose. And fizzy (hard to blind that one)! And cherry-flavored! Someone get me some healthy volunteers and an enormously expensive functional MRI machine!

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Dangers of Open Water Swimming: Hypothermia and Hyperthermia

here are two potential scenarios when it comes to water temperature: the water can be too hot or the water can be too cold. With those two scenarios come two body responses: hyperthermia and hypothermia.

There is a broad range for normal human body temperature, and hypothermia is defined as a temperature below that of the accepted normal human body temperature. While in a body of water, the levels of hypothermia fall into definitions of mild, moderate, and severe.

  • Mild hypothermia has two levels of severity. Between 96-99F the symptoms are shivering and impairment to perform coordinated tasks. The basic treatment consists of simple re-warming by blankets and removal from the exposure. If removal is not practical an individual can be wrapped in towels and covered with sand. Between 91-95F the symptoms are shaking, shivering, and mild impairment of the central nervous system indicated by slow thinking and speech difficulty. The basic treatment is the same as the other type of mild hypothermia, but it will take longer to reverse. In addition a warm shower could be beneficial, and the swimmer should be watched closely during recovery.
  • Moderate hypothermia is classified as when the body temperature is between 86-90F. At this temperature shivering slows down and stops and there is profound slowing of mental function. Confusion may include hallucinations and paradoxical undressing. Also commonly observed is muscle rigidity, along with jerky motions and irregular heartbeats. The basic treatment in this case includes prevention of further heat loss with the basic measures described above. No aggressive re-warming should be attempted since this results in shunting cold blood into the core and may further drop the core temperature. Evacuation should be considered, to a place where warmed IVs may be performed.
  • Severe hypothermia occurs when body temperature is below 86F. The symptoms are drastic and include coma, falling blood pressure, and life-threatening cardiac irregularities. In this situation time is of the essence and this is a true emergency. Evacuate the swimmer and protect him or her from further heat loss. Further attention should be performed by a medical professional.


Hyperthermia is elevated body temperature that occurs when the body absorbs more heat than it dissipates (in the case of a swimmer). Extreme temperature elevation then becomes a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment to prevent disability or death. There are several conditions associated with hyperthermia:

  • Heat Edema – The main symptom is the swelling of the hands, which usually resolves spontaneously after several days of acclimatization.
  • Heat Syncope – Dizziness to the point of fainting in an unacclimatized athlete. It manifests when the swimmer stands up quickly, usually in a state of dehydration. Keeping the swimmer in the supine position with legs elevated, cool liquids (but not iced) and resting in a cool place are the primary ways to care for the swimmer.
  • Heat Cramps – Manifest as painful cramps and spasms and are usually cared for by massage, rehydration, and attention to electrolytes. If this is unsuccessful then be attentive to blood sodium content as well as other electrolytes.
  • Heat Exhaustion –  Usually associated with fatigue, weakness, lack of coordination, mild confusion, agitation, headache, sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, and cramping. It is associated with a body temperate of less than 104F. Care for this condition includes all the measures described for the milder conditions above, in addition to protection from further exposure by removal to an emergency facility where advanced treatment will be available. During transport spray the swimmer with lukewarm water in a setting of cooling fans and perform cool oral rehydration.
  • Heat Stroke – Skin is dry and very warm, there is profound confusion and loss of coordination, and also possibly seizures, coma, and hallucinations. This is a true medical emergency that requires immediate transfer to an emergency facility. Gradual central cooling will be conducted with close attention to organ function and damage.

Prevention of hypothermia and hyperthermia is the key. One of the ways swimmers prepare is by acclimatization to the water they are going to swim in. But in the end, if the water temperature is too high or too low it may be impossible to prevent a drop or increase of body core temperature. Safety is in the prevention, but if you ever find yourself in this situation the measures above should help you stay safe until you can seek medical attention.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Testosterone levels tied to Vit. D levels

Vitamin D. kind of a misnomer, as it is actually a hormone synthesized form cholesterol. T, D3, and cholesterol all clearly share the steroid skeleton. let me know if you don’t see it…
we get D3 in one of three ways: by exposure to sunshine, orally through food/supplementation, and absorbed through our skin. it is of great importance to us and has been positively correlated with numerous health benefits including slowing the cellular aging process. click here to see a list of relevant studies to this effect.
today i want to touch on the strong correlation between vitamin D levels and testosterone levels in men. essentially, low vitamin D levels correlate to low T levels and vice-versa, per the chart below. also, notice the drop in SHBG as vitamin D and T increase. it wasn’t a focus of the study, but that would also mean more free T to actually do the work we want it to do.

It  looks like 90-130 nmol/L is the optimal zone.    Reference ranges for blood tests for reference ranges of numerous hormones and blood constituents with a handy, multi-scale reference for changing readings from one unit to another. if you only get this from my article, it will have been worth your time to read this far.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Go Get An A Standard

  Track and field athletes around the world, particularly men in distance events, are entering the 2013 campaign knowing the entry standards for the Moscow World Championships are tougher than ever before.

The Go Get An A Standard has made significant changes in two areas.  First, the window to lock up an A or B standard is smaller.  The window to achieve standards for the 10k, marathon, walks, relays, and multi events is January 1, 2012-July 29, 2013.  This is similar to previous years. However, all other events have a window of October 1, 2012-July 29, 2013.  Essentially all marks needs to be achieved in 2013.

Standards in the men's 1500, 5k, and 10k improved to 3:35.00, 13:15.00, and 27:40.00, respectively.  

The USATF Championships/World Championships Trials is scheduled for June 19-23 in Des Moines.  Similar to 2011, it is assumed that standard chasing will be allowed between USA's and WC's.

Planning and coordination, and possibly cooperation, will be critical in 2013.  Post-USA's standard chasing is stressful, exhausting, and leaves athletes drained when they arrive at the championship event.  Just ask Amy Hastings and Angela Bizzarri about 2011.

The US team needs to be cemented at USAs.  While standard chasing was not allowed after the 2012 US Trials, American distance success at the Olympic Games serve as proof of the need to set the team as early as possible.  Rarely is success found in frantic standard chasing throughout Europe in a desparate effort to get in a USA jersey.

One suggestion is to set up quality distance races at reliable meets.  Invest in meet with good conditions and hire the best pacers to get the job done.  I cannot tell you where the resources will come from, but it needs to happen.  The US distance team is better than ever.  These athletes need support and planning so they will be ready when it counts the most.