Saturday, June 29, 2013

55-Year-Old Man Planks for 3+ Hours

April 20, George Hood, a 55-year-old former Marine and current Aurora, Illinois resident, shattered his own Guinness World Record for the “Longest Time in an Abdominal Plank Position”. Yes, this plank position. The one that makes your arms and abs quiver after a couple of minutes (ok, one minute. Ok, 30 seconds).

Hood attempted the feat in conjunction with HeartChase, an American Heart Association fundraiser in Newport, Kentucky. Propped up on a platform in a local mall, Hood was required to follow five Guinness guidelines:

*He needed to have four points of contact—both arms and both feet—at all times. 

*There could not ever be any “daylight” from the wrist to elbow. Although he could shift his weight, Hood could not lift his arms from the ground at any point.

*His hands could not touch one another.

*His legs had to be straight.

*His back had to be straight, with no arch or dip.

Read More

Friday, June 28, 2013

Best two core exercises? Crunches? Russian twists? Situps? Nope Squat and deadlift

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research:

Squat and deadlift

Abstract: Martuscello, JM, Nuzzo, JL, Ashley, CD, Campbell, BI, Orriola, JJ, and Mayer, JM. Systematic review of core muscle activity during physical fitness exercises.

A consensus has not been reached among strength and conditioning specialists regarding what physical fitness exercises are most effective to stimulate activity of the core muscles. Thus, the purpose of this article was to systematically review the literature on the electromyographic (EMG) activity of 3 core muscles (lumbar multifidus, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum) during physical fitness exercises in healthy adults.

 Seventeen studies enrolling 252 participants met the review's inclusion/exclusion criteria. Physical fitness exercises were partitioned into 5 major types:

Traditional core,
Core stability,
Free weight,
Noncore free weight.

 Strength of evidence was assessed and summarized for comparisons among exercise types. The major findings of this review with moderate levels of evidence indicate that lumbar multifidus EMG activity is greater during free weight exercises compared with ball/device exercises and is similar during core stability and ball/device exercises. Transverse abdominis EMG activity is similar during core stability and ball/device exercises. No studies were uncovered for quadratus lumborum EMG activity during physical fitness exercises. The available evidence suggests that strength and conditioning specialists should focus on implementing multijoint free weight exercises, rather than core-specific exercises, to adequately train the core muscles in their athletes and clients.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hydrogen Peroxide Magic!

Hydrogen peroxide should really be called oxygen water, since it is basically the same chemical make up as water but with an extra oxygen atom (H2O2). Because of this it breaks down quickly and harmlessly into oxygen and water.
Some other interesting facts about hydrogen peroxide:
  • It is found in all living material.
  • Your white blood cells naturally produce hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) to fight bacteria and infections.
  • Fruit and vegetables naturally produce hydrogen peroxide. This is one of the reasons why it is so healthy to eat fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • It is found in massive dosages in the mother’s first milk, called colostrum, and is transferred to the baby to boost their immune system.
  • It is found in rain water because some of the H20 in the atmosphere receives an additional oxygen atom from the ozone (O3) and this H2O2 makes plants grow faster.
Next to Apple Cider Vinegar, hydrogen peroxide ranks up there as one of the best household remedies.
Besides the obvious (cleansing wounds), did you know that it is probably the best remedy to dissolve ear wax? Brighten dingy floors? Add natural highlights to your hair? Improve your plants root systems? The list goes on and on!

There are SO many uses for this stuff that I’ve started replacing the cap on the hydrogen peroxide bottle with a sprayer because it’s easier and faster to use that way.

Wash vegetables and fruits with hydrogen peroxide to remove dirt and pesticides. Add 1/4 cup of H2O2 to a sink of cold water. After washing, rinse thoroughly with cool water.

In the dishwasher, add 2 oz. to your regular detergent for a sanitizing boost. Also, beef up your regular dish soap by adding roughly 2 ounces of 3% H2O2 to the bottle.

Use hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash to freshen breath. It kills the bacteria that causes halitosis. Use a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water.

Use baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to make a paste for brushing teeth. Helps with early stages of gingivitis as it kills bacteria. Mixed with salt and baking soda, hydrogen peroxide works as a whitening toothpaste.
 Read More

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Some Tips For Those Who Train Early in the Morning


To recap, if you’re training first thing in the morning:
1)    You should ideally be awake for an hour before your workout starts.
2)    A hot shower is a must
3)    A hot beverage like organic, mycotoxin-free black coffee or green tea is also a must
4)    Eating is not necessary
5)    Taking ten grams of BCAA before your workout is
6)    Do an extra long warm up
7)    Consider placing big lifts later in your routine for safety purposes
8)    Have some protein and fruit after
9)    Continue with similar meals throughout the day
10)     Feast at night

Read More

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cramming for Fitness

Can weekend warriors get the same benefits as those who exercise more regularly?


It used to be that physical activity guidelines recommended getting at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise five times a week, for a total of at least 150 minutes per week. A few years ago, that advice was changed: now the goal is simply to get 150 minutes per week, no matter how you divide it up. But does it really make no difference whether you exercise daily or just cram it all in on the weekend? There's not a lot of evidence either way (which is why the guidelines were changed, since there wasn't strong enough evidence to insist on daily exercise).

A new study from researchers at Queen's University in Kingston, published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, analyzes data from 2,324 adults in the Canadian Health Measures Survey to get some answers. Each participant wore an accelerometer for a seven-day period to get an objective snapshot of their physical activity patterns, allowing them to be grouped into inactive (less than half the recommended amount of moderate to vigorous exercise), somewhat active (between 50 and 100% of the recommendations), and active. The active group was then subdivided into those who exercise 1 to 4 times per week (infrequently) and those who exercised 5 or more times per week (frequently). The presence of metabolic syndrome (some combination of high blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and waist circumference readings) was assessed by a doctor.

The obvious result was that the active group was healthier than the inactive group, which was 4.43 times more likely to have metabolic syndrome. The infrequently active group was 1.73 times more likely to have metabolic syndrome than the frequently active group – but this was because the frequently active group did more exercise overall. When the results were adjusted to account for differences in total amount of exercise, there was no significant difference between those who exercise less than four or more than five times per week.

So this is generally good news: we seem to have quite a bit of flexibility in how we schedule our exercise. That being said, I wouldn't push these results too far – after all, exercising four times a week is still relatively frequent. Would the same thing apply if you simply did a 2.5-hour run or bike ride once a week? Would that be equivalent to, say, five 30-minute runs or rides at the same intensity? It's not obvious to me either way. For one thing, it would be much, much harder to maintain the same intensity for a single 2.5-hour bout. Realistically, my guess is that the best place to be is somewhere in the middle: don't do all your exercise in 15-minute micro-bouts, but don't save it all for one mega-bout either

Monday, June 24, 2013

How to add nutrients without adding calories

by Dr Mike Hart

The problem with eating a ton of healthy food is that you may be over consuming calories.  Mainstream media and fitness experts often tout the benefits of berries, avocados and dark chocolate.  Do they have benefits?  Yes.  Does this give you permission to eat these foods whenever you want?  Absolutely not.  Berries contain sugar, avocados are calorie dense and dark chocolate is high in both fat and sugar.  If you consume too many calories (even from “healthy” foods) you’re going to get fat.
The solution – Extracts and spices
What if there was a way to get all the benefits from foods without having to consume the calories contained within the food itself? Enter extracts.  An extract is when you remove the desired nutrients from a food while leaving behind the undesired calories.  Extracts do not carry all the benefits of real food, however it allows you to get many of the benefits without having to consume any/minimal amount of calories. 
Spices are another great way to add many valuable nutrients without adding calories.  Numerous spices have a ton of health benefits and can be easily added to your diet in a variety of different ways.
So, what extracts/spices do I add to my greens shake? 
If you haven’t read my post on blending green veggies, I suggest reading that here:  before continuing.  Here are the extracts and spices that I add to my shake everyday. 
Raw cocoa powder: 5 grams = 12 calories
Prevents stroke (1)
Decreases your risk of heart disease (2)
Increases overall well-being by regulating neurotransmitters (3,4,5)

Ginger: 2 grams = 2 calories
Decreases pain as a natural anti-inflammatory (6)
May help with allergic asthma (7)
Reduces nausea and vomiting (8)
Anti-carcinogenic (9)

Turmeric:  2 grams = 7 calories
Can protect and reverse liver damage (10, 11)
Potent anti-inflammatory (12)
Anti-carcinogenic (13)
Cinnamon:  2 grams = 6 calories
Improves blood sugar levels (14)
Improves cholesterol profile (14)
Anti-carcinogenic (15)
Green tea powder: 1 teaspoon = 12 calories
Protects against cardiovascular disease (16)
Inversely correlated with type 2 diabetes (17)

Whole foods vs. extracts and spices
Please don’t walk away thinking you get can all your nutrition from extracts and spices.  Eating organic whole foods is how you should be consuming the majority of your nutrition.  Extracts and spices are just a simple way of adding additional nutrients to your diet without over consuming calories.  As always, thanks for reading.   

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Reduce your cholesterol with chocolate:

(NaturalNews) More good news for chocolate lovers: Research shows that the polyphenols in cocoa powder can improve your cholesterol levels.

Like certain other foods such as berries and green tea, cocoa powder is high in antioxidant chemicals known as polyphenols. In cocoa, the polyphenol family known as the flavanols predominates. Studies have shown that these polyphenols are good for the heart.

One of the first studies to examine how these polyphenols affect cholesterol levels was conducted by researchers from the University of Hull, England, and published in the journal Diabetic Medicine in 2010. The experiment was a crossover study, meaning that participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions (experimental or control), and then the two groups were switched. In this manner, the researchers could compare the effects of the intervention on specific individuals as well as the group as a whole.

The randomized, double-blind study involved 12 participants with type 2 diabetes. The experimental intervention involved feeding them 45 g of high-polyphenol chocolate per day, while the control intervention involved an equal amount of low-polyphenol chocolate. The researchers found that consumption of high-polyphenol chocolate was associated with an increase in HDL ("good") cholesterol and a decrease in the total cholesterol to HDL ratio.

Chocolate also lowers LDL cholesterol

These findings were confirmed and expanded in two other studies conducted over the next two years. The first, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2011, was a meta-analysis of 10 prior clinical trials on cocoa consumption and cholesterol. The researchers found that in short-term interventions, increases in cocoa consumption significantly reduced levels of both LDL ("bad") and total cholesterol, without significant effects on HDL cholesterol.

A second study, conducted by San Diego State University researchers and presented at Experimental Biology 2012, compared 31 people who were assigned to eat either white chocolate (zero percent cocoa) or dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa). The researchers found that those who ate 50 g of dark chocolate per day for 15 days had significantly higher levels of HDL cholesterol and lower levels of LDL cholesterol. Notably, they also had significantly lower levels of blood sugar!

The news gets even better. According to a 2012 study led by Penn State researchers and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, chocolate doesn't just lower your levels of LDL cholesterol, but also slows the rate at which LDL oxidizes. This is important because the oxidation of LDL is believed to play a key role in the hardening of arteries. Slowing this oxidation may actually slow the development and progression of heart disease.

The crossover study was performed by assigning 23 participants to eat either a standard U.S. diet with the flavonoids deliberately stripped away, or the same diet with an added 1.25 oz of cocoa powder and dark chocolate per day. Both diets contained equivalent amounts of caffeine and theobromine (both found in chocolate). Cocoa butter was added to the control diet to compensate for the extra cocoa butter found in the chocolate added to the other diet.

The researchers found that LDL extracted from study participants oxidized significantly more slowly following the chocolate diet than following the control diet. In addition, total antioxidant capacity and HDL cholesterol were significantly higher after the chocolate diet.

Consumers should note that much commercial chocolate is low in polyphenols and high in sugar and saturated fat. A good way to get the health benefits of chocolate without the risks is to add dark unsweetened cocoa powder to your meal.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Surgeries often done unnecessarily

by Peter Eisler, USA TODAY

Here are six common surgeries that carry significant risks of being done without medical necessity, according to federal data and independent studies.

Cardiac angioplasty, stents:
A 2011 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at angioplasty procedures, which often include insertion of stents. In cases where patients were not suffering acute heart attack symptoms, 12% of all angioplasty procedures were found to lack medical necessity.
"This procedure (angioplasty), along with stenting, has been proved to protect the heart or prolong life only in people highly susceptible to heart attack," Consumer Reports wrote in 2005. "In everyone else, it appears only to ease angina. Further, the procedure has risks, including, in two to six percent of patients, heart attack, stroke or death."

Cardiac pacemakers:
A 2011 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed records for 112,000 patients who had an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), a pacemaker-like device that corrects heartbeat irregularities. In 22.5% of the cases, researchers found no medical evidence to support the installation.
A 1988 study in the New England Journal of Medicine reviewed 382 pacemaker implants at 30 Philadelphia-area hospitals and found that 20% of the procedures were not medically warranted.

Back surgery, spinal fusion:
A 2011 study, in the journal Surgical Neurology International, assessed the medical records of 274 patients who were told they needed spinal surgery. More than 17% had no abnormal neurological or radiographic findings in their case histories.
"Since the 1980s, operations for low-back pain have increased from about 190,000 to more than 300,000 per year," Consumer Reports noted in 2005. "Many of those operations are probably unnecessary."

Hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus):
In a 2000 study for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, researchers assessed hysterectomies on 497 women in Southern California. They found the surgery was recommended inappropriately in about 70% of cases, often because doctors did not try non-surgical approaches.
"The conditions that most often cause pelvic pain or abnormal bleeding — fibroids, or benign tumors; endometriosis, or growth of uterine-like tissue on abdominal or pelvic organs; and hormonal imbalances — can all be treated less aggressively," Consumer Reports reported. Other potential options: therapy to reduce estrogen levels or surgery to remove fibroids but retain the uterus.

Knee and hip replacement:
In a 2012 study in Health Affairs, researchers provided patients in a Washington state health system with "decision aids," which included information on joint replacements and alternative treatments. The researchers found that patients who got the information had 26% fewer hip replacements and 38% fewer knee replacements.

Cesarean section:
In a 2013 study in Health Affairs using data from 593 hospitals nationwide, researchers found that cesarean rates varied tenfold across hospitals, from 7.1% to 69.9%. Among women with lower-risk pregnancies, where researchers expected less variation, cesarean rates varied by a factor of 15, from 2.4% to 36.5%. "Vast differences in practice patterns are likely to be driving the costly overuse of cesarean delivery in many U.S. hospitals," the study concluded.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Why You're Not a Morning Person (and How to Become One)


At 6 AM, most of us are lucky if we have the energy to reach for a cup of coffee. Mornings may be rough, but hold off on sleeping in. There are perks to waking up with the sun, and we've got some tips on making it easier.

Snooze and Lose: The Need to Know

The old “I’m just too tired” complaint may be more than a sorry excuse for waking up late. Research suggests there are biological differences between early larks, who wake up at the same time every morning and feel most active around 9 AM, and night owls, who get more stuff done once the sun goes down [1]. One survey found more than half of Americans fall into the morning category, saying they’re at their “personal best” from 5 AM to noon. And it may get easier to greet the day at dawn as we get older, thanks to body clock changes as we age [2].
It turns out the early bird may get more than the worm. According to self-reports from college students, those who wake up earlier feel more optimistic and proactive than those who rise later. Other studies have found morning larks tend to be harder working and conscientious than night owls. (Still, it’s not clear whether waking up early actually makes someone more productive or optimistic.)
And perhaps the secret to a 4.0 isn’t only hitting the books: Another study of university undergraduates found those who said they function better in the morning received higher grades than those who preferred the evening [3]. That’s possibly because morning risers are more likely to get to class on time or to forgo late-night partying. Researchers also suggest memory may improve during sleep, so getting to bed earlier in preparation for a morning alarm could help those exam notes soak in.
Being a morning person may actually be good for our health, too. When UK researchers questioned adults about their sleep habits, they found people who stay under the covers on the weekdays until 9 AM are more likely to be stressed, overweight, and depressed than those who get up at 7 AM. Another study found teenagers who went to bed and woke up late were less inclined to hit the gym and more likely to be overweight than those who went to bed and woke up early [4]. Talk about waking up on the wrong side of the bed. (Again, remember it’s not clear that waking up early causes stress, depression, or weight gain.)

Good Day Sunshine: Your Action Plan

Night owls aren’t totally out of luck. One study found evening lovers are more productive than morning people are at night [5]. Still, being a morning person may be more advantageous for most people’s work schedules and routines, since the workday typically starts around 9 AM and the office is (usually!) not open at midnight. Regardless of the situation, there are ways to reset the body clock and happily greet the day:
  • Get enough sleep. It may seem obvious, but getting those recommended seven to nine hours will make getting up earlier easier. Pro tip? Keep the laptop and other work out of the bed to sleep soundly.
  • Stay consistent. Try to set the alarm clock for the same time every morning—including weekends. A constant wakeup call may make it progressively easier to jump out of bed.
  • Start slowly. Pick a new wakeup time and gradually work towards it. Want to wake up at 7 AM but stuck at 8? Start by setting the clock for 7:45, and move down in 15-minute increments until that new time goal is reached.
  • Skip the snooze. Disrupting sleep an hour or so before actually getting out of bed may disturb our REM cycle, which helps stimulate brain regions linked to cognition. Don’t want to mess with that (or bug a roommate with multiple alarms!). Set one alarm for when it’s time to rise—and maybe another a few minutes later in case you snooze through.
  • Set some happy sounds. Skip the beeps and blares and set an alarm tone to something soothing or fun. Need an idea? Here are 10.
  • Let in the light. Research shows a little light may be all we need to reset the body block [6]. A simple solution is to keep the blinds open during the night. Or greet the day and brush your teeth outside!
  • Treat yo’self. Have a reward waiting in the a.m. to motivate climbing out of the covers. Dive into some freshly baked fruit and nut bars, or slide into a warm bath instead of taking a quick shower.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Clearing up Kidney Confusion

If I wanted to cut to the chase I could boil this whole thing down to the following:


2-Chronically elevated BLOOD GLUCOSE levels DO cause kidney damage.

3-Dietary fructose REALLY causes kidney damage.

4-Many kidney issues have either a hyperinsulinemic characteristic, an autoimmune characteristic, and or a combination of autoimmunity or hyperinsulinism. A standard, low-ish carb paleo diet can fix most of these issues.

5-For serious kidney damage a low-protein, ketogenic diet can be remarkably therapeutic.

6-If you get kidney stones that are from oxalates, reduce your green veggie intake (spinach for example) and have other types of veggies.

7-If you get kidney stones that are from urate salts, you are likely NOT following a low-ish carb paleo diet, you likely have insulin resistance and your liver is not processing uric acid.

Read More 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Why It’s Important to Cook Your Own Meals

When was the last time you made a great meal? From-scratch prep, serious gratification result. This morning? Last week? Last month? Although I imagine Primal folks cook much more often than most non-Primal types, we all get caught up in the busyness of life. Eating – even healthy eating – often gets boiled down to convenience and strategy. I get it. Few of us have the luxury of basking in culinary ventures at every meal (myself included), but I do find real cooking to be an underappreciated indulgence – and there’s the rub.

Why, as a larger culture, have we chosen to forgo so many of these gifts – taking extra time to shop for better food, creating meals together, lingering at the table? For example, we can look at statistics that say the average American spends only 27 minutes on food preparation each day and wonder – are we really that busy? What are we rushing off to? Then we see average T.V. viewing is 151 hours a month! (How is this even possible?) Clearly, our priorities are royally screwed up.

Of all the things we can do for our health, many (if not most) are just outright enjoyable, pleasurable even. Connecting with our food can be exactly that – from absorbing the joys of gardening to relishing the sensory delights of great recipes to reclaiming the social hour for dinner. As for cooking itself, learning to cook is just one of those essential human skills. It was an evolutionary linchpin. Our hominid brains as well as our bodies benefited from the chance to access new food sources that were only available to our ancestors through cooking. And it wasn’t just about heat. As we learned to adapt food sources in other ways such as soaking, curing, fermenting and smoking we had more options for calories and nutrition. Yet, it was more than that.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Poke Test, Using a Fork to Flip, and Other Steak-Cooking Myths


You've probably heard some of these steak cooking tips before: Use the finger test to see if a steak is done. Only flip your steak once. Let it rest at room temperature before cooking. According to The Food Lab's J Kenji Lopez-Alt, these—among others—are steak cooking myths that need to go away once and for all.
If there's anyone who knows how to cook a steak properly, it's Kenji. You've seen his tips here before several times several times. In his latest piece, he tackles a number of steak cooking myths that we've been guilty of sharing before too. For example, he summarily dismisses the so-called "finger test" for testing the doneness of a steak:
There are so many uncontrolled variables in this assay that it boggles the mind that anyone would think it's at all accurate. First off, not all hands are created equal. My thumb is squishier than my wife's thumb. Should I gauge my steak's doneness based on hers or mine? Or perhaps some Harry Potter-esque universal constant will make her steak conform to the rheological properties of her hand, and mine conform to mine.

Then we get to the meat itself. Thick steaks don't compress the same way as thin steaks. Fatty steaks don't compress the same way as lean steaks. Tenderloins don't compress like ribeyes. You get the picture. More than once I've seen a macho grill cook take an unfamiliar cut of meat, apply the poke test, and come out completely off the mark when the steak is sliced.

Truth is, if you work in a restaurant where you are cooking very similar cuts of meat on a regular basis, then you will eventually develop the ability to tell their doneness by poking. Throw some irregularity into that mix, and that ability quickly disappears.
Ultimately, instead of relying on the finger test (or the face test), buy an instant read thermometer. He suggests (and I agree) that the Thermapen is the one to have, but our friends at The Sweethome have a cheaper option.
Similarly, Kenji debunks the whole "don't use a fork to flip your steak" myth as well—he explains as long as you're not repeatedly stabbing your steak over and over with a fork, you're okay:
This one is true... to a degree. A degree so small that it can't possibly be detected by the human mouth. The whole myth here is that people seem to think that a steak is like a water balloon; That is can be "popped," releasing juices. This is not actually the case.

Really, a steak is like a series of very very very very very very thin water balloons, all packed tightly into bundles. Poke your steak with a fork and a few of those balloons may indeed pop, but most will simply be pushed out of the way. It's like filling up an olympic-sized swimming pool with water balloons then throwing a needle into it. You may pop a a couple, but you'll hardly notice that they're gone.

It's by this very principle that a jaccard meat tenderizer works—it pokes a steak with dozens of thin prongs, pulling apart some of its muscle fibrils without actually rupturing too many of them.

The Takeaway: Go ahead and use that fork if your tongs or spatula are in the dishwasher. None of your guests will taste the difference.
You'll note that he doesn't say "have fun and use that fork all the time," he just clarifies that using your fork to flip a steak isn't going to automatically ruin it and make it tough and dry. These are just two of the seven steak-cooking myths that he tackles in the post—you can read the rest at the link below, like why letting your steak come to room temperature is bunk (and how he tested the myth to disprove it), and the ever-popular "searing locks in juices," a myth even we've debunked before.
Check out the full post—it may save your backyard barbecues this summer—or at least it'll make sure the steaks you serve are the best your guests have ever eaten.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Have your reached your physical pontential?

Remember when you were a kid flying down the street as fast as your dirt bike would propel you? How about on the swing set, pumping your legs madly, targeting angle and timing for maximum lift until you felt like you would fly over the overhead bar? What about that sheer thrill of legs going so fast they almost felt like they were coming loose as you chased your friends (or were chased) down a trail? As kids we were an unrelenting ball of will, every moment looking to test boundaries, defy limits, overturn physics. We were in love with speed and heights and adventure, yes, but I think we were amazed by all of our own capabilities – the new (and ever enhanced) capacities we were always discovering. Decades beyond those wild days of youth, we’re still each in possession of an amazing human body. We each still hold untold genetic potential – potential that, as the Edison quote suggests, would astound us. The question is, what do we do with this potential? Do we chase it down with the same fervor of our 10-year-old selves? Do we put it on the mental back burner in the name of adult responsibilities? Have we simply forgotten about it – or given up on it entirely?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Is Sleep More Important than Nutrition?


The Mechanisms behind Sleep’s Benefits

1. Increased plasticity

Plasticity can be defined by how entire brain structures, and the brain itself, can change from experience, and in this case, lead to improved skills. These last 2 hours of sleep are significant because they represent a much greater electrical activity of spindles that trigger a key mechanism for plasticity.

2.  Growth Hormone (HGH)

The peak time for HGH secretion in humans is about an hour after you fall asleep and greatest during slow wave sleep (deep sleep). Therefore, the longer you sleep, the more, you maximize HGH.

3.  Cortisol

Any disruption of your normal circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle), significantly increases cortisol secretion. Cortisol is known as the "stress hormone," it increases your blood pressure and blood sugar, and reduces your immune responses.


While this data is valid, it is useless without action. So you need to begin the process improving your sleep,
basically developing a prebed routine just like you have a pregame routine, outlined in greater detail previously (see Sparta Point).

1. Log your sleep every day
=  9.5 hours average need for athlete

2. Consistent sleep and wake hours 
=  maximize your personal internal "clock"

3. Improve environment 
=  a cool, dark, and quiet "cave"

Travel schedule is one of the major obstacles to establishing a good routine. Cheri Mah, Stanford sleep lab expert, finds it takes 1 day/time zone to adjust your body clock, so provides our athletes some general tips for traveling

  • stay on PST if you do not have adequate time to adjust to EST, i.e. 1-2 day trip
  • flights in the late morning rather than post night game
  • eliminate naps on flights heading east

Sure nutrition is important, but often over emphasized because sleep requires the hardest commitment of all; your time. How much time are you willing to sacrifice for more sleep?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

There's No Such Thing as Willpower: How to Identify Triggers of Bad Habits

Vanessa Bennington

Do you find yourself feeling envious of your friend who can skip the brownies or the pizza without flinching? Or does it amaze you that your buddy can hit the gym every day like clockwork no matter how crazy the workday was? Do you think they have some gene or that they are just different from you and you’ll never be able to mount that kind of willpower?

It does seem like people with ironclad willpower are born with some kind of innate gift. They ignore tasty food and drink, never miss their workouts, and get great results in the gym, their career, and pretty much every aspect of their life. They are the people that most of us roll our eyes at and think, “It must be nice to be born with that kind of discipline.”

But what if I told you they weren’t born that way? That they have simply created good habits that enable them to seemingly sail through life untempted and undeterred from their goals? And what if I told you that all you have to do is change your bad habits to good habits and things can be just as “easy” for you? “Hogwash!” you say, but you may be wrong. There are studies and books that are exposing the truth about habits, and it turns out, with a little self-evaluation and practice, everyone can develop superhuman willpower.

First, I want to breakdown what really composes a habit and then explain how to identify bad habits in your life. According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, every habit consists of a cue, a behavior or routine, and a reward. We need habits and use many every day. In fact, 40-45% of the tasks we perform every day are just habits. If we had to think about every action, every thing we did every day, we would get little done and would more than likely feel a little nuts. Most habits are not an issue. They enable us to get to work, to take care of our families, and generally live life. However, there are some habits that may be keeping us from realizing some of our weight loss, fitness, and financial goals.

For example, you get a Starbucks coffee every day - every single day. As soon as you get in the car (your cue) you start anticipating the warm, maybe sweet, maybe creamy concoction and probably the energy buzz it gives you (your reward). You drive to your regular Starbucks, get out of the car, hustle through the front door, say “hi” to the barista, and order your standard drink without even thinking about what you’re doing. It’s an automatic behavior (also known as a habit) at this point. And if someone told you to give up your morning coffee it would be tough for you to do that because it’s become such a regular part of your day. You crave that reward so much that at times it might seem impossible to change. In reality, you are wasting money and probably consuming quite a bit of sugar and calories because of this coffee-drinking behavior.

Another example involves eating habits like snacking. You might go all day eating extremely well. Everything is perfectly portioned, all your Zone blocks are dialed in, and your calories are on point. But after dinner when you are cleaning the kitchen or watching TV (your cue), you crave something indulgent. You reach into the cabinet, pull out the almond butter, and measure yourself out a teaspoon (your routine). Okay, so maybe it’s more than a teaspoon, since it is kind of overflowing and you do scrape the sides of the jar to ‘even out’ the level of the almond butter. Can’t have an unsightly almond butter smudges on the side of the jar, right? (I may or may not be revealing to you my nightly habit.) Your reward is the tasty almond butter, the mouth feel, and the satisfying fullness it gives. And you can see how this habit could cause a weight loss plan to fail.

Many of you might identify with the habits listed above or you may have completely different bad habits. Others of you may know you are having difficulties reaching goals but you can’t really figure out what’s tripping you up. I’d say that’s the majority of us. We just say, “I’m lazy” or “I just crave junk food.” No, really you just have a habit of eating Cheetos instead of carrots or a habit of rushing home to sit on the couch rather than going to the gym. The first step to achieving your goal is to identify the cue, the behavior, and the reward that are preventing you from crossing the finish line.

Identify the Cue

First, you need to identify the cue that gets the whole bad habit started. Let’s use the goal of going to yoga at least three times a week as an example. Try to identify the cue that keeps derailing you from going. Think about the moments right before you decide not to go to yoga. What time is it? Where you are? Who else is around you? What you are doing? How you are feeling? Is it the end of the day, you’re about to leave work, your annoying coworker is riding in the elevator with you, and you feel stressed and drained? Do you feel pressured to spend time with your significant other or kids instead of going to yoga?

One of the aforementioned things is your cue. Identify which of these things are the same every time you have planned to go to yoga but do not go. That’s the cue that’s derailing you.

Identify the Reward

Then, think about the reward you get from not going to yoga (or whatever behavior it is that’s getting in the way of your goals). Is your reward going straight home, getting in your pajamas, and watching TV or playing on Facebook? What craving is that behavior satisfying? Does that make you feel less stressed? Does it allow you to turn off your brain for a bit and relax? If your bad habit is nibbling on candies from your coworkers candy bowl throughout the day, think about what the candy offers as a reward. Does it offer relief from the boredom of work? Do you use it as an excuse to talk to your coworker instead of working on a spreadsheet?

Or maybe your habit is to go shopping every weekend when you really need to save money for a down payment on a house. What reward are you getting from the shopping? Think deeper than just “I’m getting a cute new pair of shoes.” How does shopping make you feel? Do you forget about other stresses or does it make you feel better about yourself when you are the best-dressed person in the room?

This might take some time, but it’s important to analyze how your habits benefit you so that you can create good habits that reward you in the same way. Once you’ve established the cue and the reward, you are well on your way to changing your bad habit to a good one.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ferritin and Fatigue

By Alex Hutchinson

My column in the Globe and Mail this week looks at iron levels for athletes, and in particular at new evidence that you can have normal hemoglobin levels but still be suffering negative effects from iron depletion. Endurance athletes have been warned for decades that they need more iron than the general population because their training causes an expansion in the amount of red blood cells in their veins; this means that their hemoglobin levels may seem normal but their ferritin levels (a marker of the iron reserves stored in the body) may be low. That's a problem, because we're now realizing that, in addition to assisting with oxygen transport, iron has a lot of other important roles in the body, including energy metabolism, immune function, and brain processes.
So how much ferritin do you need? That's more controversial. But recent studies have suggested that even non-athletes may need more than previously thought:
[...] In 2011, Swiss researchers published a study in which 90 women suffering from unexplained fatigue received injections of either iron or placebo. All of the women had normal hemoglobin levels but low levels of ferritin, which is a marker of how much iron your body has in its reserves, primarily stored in bone marrow. For women with the lowest ferritin levels, 82 per cent had reduced fatigue after receiving iron compared to just 47 per cent who reported improvement in the placebo group.
A subsequent study published last year in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, from another Swiss group, found similar results for 198 women with unexplained fatigue and low ferritin levels using oral iron supplementation. [...]
The threshold for "normal" ferritin in athletes is often pegged at 30 micrograms/L, but there's really not a lot of research identifying exactly where problems start. When I chatted with Laura Garvican, a researcher at the University of Canberra and Australian Institute of Sport who's studying iron in endurance athletes (and who is also an accomplished runner), she said that in a perfect world she'd aim to keep her levels closer to 60 micrograms/L -- which is easier said than done for many athletes, since iron absorption can be a challenge. That's just speculative at this point (and as I blogged about a few months ago, some athletes seem to be able to perform exceptionally well even with ferritin levels below 30).  But it's something to keep an eye on if blood tests show you're in the questionable range.

Monday, June 10, 2013

How to Make Hand Sanitizer Naturally


Chemicals in Hand Sanitizers

Commercial hand sanitizers can actual cause more harm than good as they are packed with toxic chemicals. The chemicals can be absorbed through the skin and cause serious health effects.
The most harmful ingredients to watch out for include Triclosan, Fragrance, Parabens, Formaldehyde and Phthalates, all of which have been labeled as possible carcinogens. There’s also the issue of hand sanitizers containing alcohol, if you are looking for one that is alcohol free, this recipe is a great solution!

How to Make Hand Sanitizer

Why this recipe works:

The main ingredient in this homemade hand sanitizer, that helps fight germs and viruses, is tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is a powerful antiseptic which is why it only requires a few drops. It is antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiviral, which makes it a great all natural alternative to alcohol based sanitizers. The tea tree oil also acts as a natural preservative, which allows this mixture to last for at least several weeks.


-          8 Tablespoons Aloe Vera Gel (where to buy)
-       16 Drops of Tea Tree Oil (where to buy)
-       10 Drops of Lavender Essential Oil (where to buy)
-          Optional: Add a few drops of other essential oils such as thyme, lemon, or orange


1. Mix all ingredients in a dish
2. Pour into a spray bottle or squirt bottle to use on the go (where to buy)
3. Shake before applying

Saturday, June 8, 2013

New Research Reveals Recent Trends in Ultra-Endurance Events

Doug Dupont

Few athletic events capture attention and respect like long endurance events. And I don’t even mean marathon long, I mean what we call ultra-endurance races that last for days, like the Tour De France or Iditerod.

For foot races, ultra-marathons might cover 100 miles or more. A recent study in Extreme Physiology and Medicine takes a look at the trends in these ultra-marathons. The researchers didn’t look at just any ultra-marathons though. Instead, they examined two of the most infamous ultra-endurance races out there: the Spartathlon and Badwater.

The Spartathlon is the most well-known historically inspired run. This race is a vicious 153-mile trek from Athens to Sparta in Greece. The legendary run by Pheidippides, an Athenian messenger sent to Sparta to request assistance against invading Persians, is where we get our modern term “marathon.” According to the story, Pheidippides arrived at his destination the very next day. In 1982 five British air force officers traveled to Greece on an official mission to see if this was possible. Sure enough, three of them made it, the fastest in 34.5 hours. And thus the Spartathlon was born.

The other race the researchers looked at is known as Badwater, advertised as the most brutal foot race in the world. This race is thankfully shorter than the Spartathlon, at “only” 135 miles. Problem is, it’s in Death Valley. In July. If running an ultra-marathon in 120-degree heat isn’t enough to dissuade you, allow me to continue. Not only would you be running a race 135 miles long, you'd also be climbing about a mile and a half. That’s right, it’s uphill the entire way.

The researchers examined the basic demographics and performance trends of both races. The biggest change in recent times is the increase in female participation. Women make up about a fifth of the participants in Badwater, and about half that for the Spartathlon, but the trend is increasing. Female participation in these races is on the rice.

The other major change noted was the age. Only the fastest men at the Badwater have gotten younger in the last few years, dipping to just under 40 years old, but finishers at both races in general averaged in their mid-40s, and the fastest racers in each race and in both sexes was roughly in the 40 to 45 year age range.

No surprise, Badwater is the slower of the two races, with average running speeds at only 80% that of the Spartathlon. However, unlike the Spartathlon, the Badwater racers are getting faster in time. Perhaps better technologies for dealing with the heat are to blame, or possibly people are simply desperate to get it over with. I know I would be.

The research shows these sorts of races are increasing in popularity, especially among women, so expect to hear more about these events in the future. One thing that hasn’t changed over time so far is the difference between the sexes. There’s about a 20% difference in performance between men and women for both races, with men consistently outrunning women. It’s time to go get ‘em, ladies.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The “Inevitabilities” of Aging: How Inevitable Are They?

Read More

How many times have you heard some old timer attribute the dysfunction of a body part or physiological attribute to “gettin’ old”? Or how about that time you tweaked your back and everyone was quick to tell you to get used to it because it’s never going to get any better? “It’s all downhill after 30!” The funny thing is that this is somehow supposed to make you feel better about your prospects. Some people, I guess, prefer to have control over their health wrested out of their hands and distributed to the fates. Some people like the idea of letting “nature take its course.” At least that way nothing that goes wrong is your fault, because you never had a chance anyway. You were always destined to get all soft and flabby, lose your hearing, get brittle bones, and be unable to go to the toilet by yourself. Right?
Wrong. Age isn’t “just” a number, and we can’t maintain Dorian Gray-esque vigor all through life, but that doesn’t mean we’re destined to be frail, brittle things relegated to chairs and walkers and homes and doctor’s offices.
Today, let’s take a look at some common “inevitabilities” of aging and why they may not be so inevitable after all.

Loss of Testosterone

Creaky Joints

Loss of Lean Mass

Hearing Loss

Brittle Bones

Read More






The “Inevitabilities” of Aging: How Inevitable Are They?

How many times have you heard some old timer attribute the dysfunction of a body part or physiological attribute to “gettin’ old”? Or how about that time you tweaked your back and everyone was quick to tell you to get used to it because it’s never going to get any better? “It’s all downhill after 30!” The funny thing is that this is somehow supposed to make you feel better about your prospects. Some people, I guess, prefer to have control over their health wrested out of their hands and distributed to the fates. Some people like the idea of letting “nature take its course.” At least that way nothing that goes wrong is your fault, because you never had a chance anyway. You were always destined to get all soft and flabby, lose your hearing, get brittle bones, and be unable to go to the toilet by yourself. Right?
Wrong. Age isn’t “just” a number, and we can’t maintain Dorian Gray-esque vigor all through life, but that doesn’t mean we’re destined to be frail, brittle things relegated to chairs and walkers and homes and doctor’s offices.
Today, let’s take a look at some common “inevitabilities” of aging and why they may not be so inevitable after all.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The gallbladder

The gallbladder is a storage facility for bile produced by the liver. It also serves to concentrate the bile during storage, making it more potent. When fat is consumed, the gallbladder releases bile into the small intestine to help emulsify the fat. Once emulsified by bile into much smaller droplets, fat can then be more easily digested by lipase (the fat-digesting enzyme). Without emulsification, the fat globules remain large and mostly inaccessible by lipase. Emulsification increases the surface area of the globules and allows greater access and more complete digestion. So, although your liver will still produce bile without a gallbladder, it will no longer be concentrated in the gallbladder and super potent.

So yes, when it comes down to it, you simply don’t have as much fat-digesting equipment as most people. That’s fine, and you can still eat healthy and Primal, but it does mean your ideal macronutrient ratio may look slightly different from mine or the next person’s. Don’t think you have to eat the quantities of fat promoted by others. I like the high-fat approach for myself and most other people coming from a Standard American Diet, simply because it seems to work best. You have to work with what you’ve got. You can’t try to replicate what others are doing because those people aren’t you and they aren’t dealing with your situation. You may – gasp – have to eat less fat than you thought you would be eating on a Primal eating plan. As long as you stick to the basics – animals, plants, good fats – and avoid grains, refined sugar, and processed seed oils, you’ll do great. Heck, it seems like you’re already doing great. Tweak the fat, carb, and protein ratios until it works for you, and don’t get caught up in any kind of perceived “ideal macro ratio.”

There are also a few other ways to support your gallbladder-less digestion:
Ox bile: Since you don’t have a gallbladder, supplementing with ox bile can partially replace the bile your nonexistent gallbladder would have been producing. To use, take a 500 mg (the usual starting dose for ox biles) pill a few minutes before consuming fat. Note your digestion and the supplementary bile:dietary fat ratio. If all is well, you likely have the right dose. If you get diarrhea, you may need a different dose next time.
Bitters: We possess the ability to perceive bitter tastes for a couple reasons. First, “bitter” often indicates the presence of toxins or poisons. When something is bitter, we know to be wary of it (and sometimes, that bitterness indicates the presence of polyphenols (plant “toxins”), which in adequate amounts can act as healthy hormetic stressors to increase antioxidant action in our bodies). Second, bitter herbs – and the concoctions made from them – have the interesting tendency to stimulate the digestive process. When something bitter is tasted, salivation increases, gastric acid production increases, pepsin (which breaks down protein) is released, and bile production is upregulated in the liver. This may be the body’s way of moving things forward to get the offensively tasting food (and possible toxin) out of the body quickly, but it has the helpful effect of stimulating digestion of all subsequently consumed foods. If you don’t have a gallbladder, using bitters ten to fifteen minutes before eating a meal that contains fat might help you produce more bile than you otherwise would.
Though I haven’t used it expressly as a digestive aid, I do keep a bottle of Angostura bitters around in case I want to make the odd rum cannonball or Carrie makes sangria for a party.
Short-chain fats: Shorter chain fats, like coconut oil and pastured dairy, require less “work” from the gall bladder. When you do add fat, consider favoring these sources.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Muscle Feedback: The Key to Fatigue?

If I put you on a treadmill and ramp up the speed to a challenging level, you will eventually have to hop off or hit the emergency stop button. But why? What is it, precisely, that determines the moment where you have to give up? On the surface, this seems like a super-obvious question, but it's actually the focus of hot debate these days. Is it that your muscle fibers fail, or run out of fuel, or can't get enough oxygen? Or is it that your brain decides that you're pushing too hard? Or is there some more complicated mixture of effects?

There's a new paper in the Journal of Applied Physiology, from Markus Amann's group at the University of Utah, that offers some more evidence in favor of the role of something called "afferent feedback." Basically, Amann argues that it's not your muscles that fail per se; rather your muscles send a constant stream of signals back to the brain letting it know how they're doing. When that feedback reaches a critical threshold, the brain says "that's enough." (This is different from Tim Noakes's central governor theory, in that the brain's role is purely reactive: it doesn't try to predict and avoid coming problems.)
So how do you test this idea? Well, it's complicated... but here's the meat of Amann's latest study:

The study involved volunteers doing one-legged constant-load knee extensions (basically like one-legged cycling, but using only the quads). The open circles in the graph above show the perceived exertion as the volunteers do this exercise to exhaustion for one of their legs -- at the chosen load, they can last just under 10 minutes before their perceived exertion reaches 10 out of 10 and they give up.
The filled circles represent the same exercise with the same leg on a different day; the difference is that this time it was performed immediately after doing the exercise with the other leg. So they're doing this single-legged exercise with fresh muscles and not particularly exhausted (using just one muscle means they don't have the full-body exhaustion you'd get from running or even cycling). Still, the effort they perceive is higher right from the start, and they give up about 50% sooner. Why should this be? The researchers argue it's because the afferent feedback from muscles on both sides goes to the same part of the brain, so there's still lingering distress signals coming from the other (recovering) leg while the second leg exercises.

My take? This view of afferent feedback from muscle to brain playing a role in fatigue seems eminently reasonable and intuitive. That being said, I'm not particularly convinced that they've entirely eliminated other possible explanations. They only very briefly acknowledge the potential role that afferent feedback from other parts of the body -- like the heart and lungs -- could play (heart rate at the start of the second exercise session was over 130 bpm, for example), as well as the possible role of cognitive demand (it takes effort and concentration to exercise to exhaustion, and numerous recent studies have shown that these are finite and depletable quantities). The scientific debate seems to involve a lot of "either-or" thinking, but I suspect the eventual conclusion will be more along the lines of "all (or at least many) of the above

Monday, June 3, 2013

Heart problems plaguing top athletes

By Phil Taylor

With Hamish Carter the latest high-profile athlete to suffer heart problems, Phil Taylor investigates whether training programmes are excessive
Studies have shown that veteran athletes may be 5 times more at risk of atrial fibrillation - Hamish Carter's arrhythmia.  

Hamish Carter is the latest in a series of elite endurance athletes to have encountered heart problems. An electrical charge was recently used to shock it back into normal rhythm.
The appearance of his condition comes as scientists are finding a possible link between extreme endurance sport and dangerous heart arrhythmias.

Carter, who won the triathlon at the 2004 Athens Olympics, was last year diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, an arrhythmia estimated to cause 15 per cent of all strokes. Abnormal electrical impulses cause the upper chambers to beat chaotically and out of sync with the lower chambers, causing poor blood flow to the body. His heart rhythm has been consistent since it was restarted but he was told to expect it to return.

If it re-occurs often he may need an operation, called ablation, to cauterise the heart tissue that triggers the irregular heartbeat.

Rower Rob Waddell, Tour de France cyclist Hayden Roulston and triple Olympic champion Sir Peter Snell are other star Kiwi athletes to have developed heart issues.
World champion Australian triathletes Greg Welch and Emma Carney both ended their careers suddenly and had defibrillator pacemakers implanted following repeated severe arrhythmias of the right ventricle - a condition associated with sudden death.  Read More

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Returning From Injury: The Most Importance Clearance


 The most common question in any injury is simple;


This answer to this question of return to play is critical because previous injury is the #1 cause of any injury, whether it is a concussion, sprain, or pulled muscle (see Sparta Point).

Return to Play refers to the point in injury recovery when an athlete is able to go back to playing sports at a pre-injury level. The process begins after the acute phase of injury, which can last up to 3 days after the injury (see Sparta Point). Unfortunately, after this normal initial healing response, medical recommendations are primarily very time focused. For example, 6 weeks is a common response, as it is the average healing time for soft tissue (bones, muscles, etc.).

Yet, we train and play in a meritocracy, so we shouldn't we base our Return to Play decisions the same way?

Choosing a Baseline Test for Your Meritocracy

The first step is to choose a baseline test, a point of reference, ideally the level of performance before injury OR a normal score for your peers. The value cannot be the sport itself, but rather some form of measurement that has or can occur during training.

The keys to finding a baseline test is to find something

  • objective
  • repeatable (avoid too long between follow-up tests)
  • reliable (dependable)
We use a force plate because it has been proven superior in the above 3 requirements. More importantly, it is valid, measuring the foundation through which all things flow, ground-based strength (see Sparta Point).

To make it easier to understand, we name our Return to Play phases based off their clearance; quantitative standards required for the athletes to move onto a higher level of participation.

Clearance #1 = PAIN

If surgery occurred, athletes have to be cleared by a physician for at least jogging, otherwise the only requirement is no pain during the brief dynamic warm-up to actually perform the baseline test, which is the force plate in our case.

Clearance #2 = QUALITY

Once you have your test, previous research has indicated 85-95% of baseline is your key to return to play, generally comparing the injured to the non-injured side, or even better, their previous best performance.

The reason for 100% being unnecessary is that most tests, even the force plate, has a daily variation of a certain percentage. This natural fluctuation does not necessarily reflect a better or worse performance than the previous test. Therefore Return to Play does not require 100%. To achieve clearance, athletes must attain 90% of their previously lowest value on the force plate, or all variables need to be within 10 points.

Unfortunately, this movement efficiency or quality Return to Play, is often skipped because it is hard to find objective tests for quality movement, and everyone is always eager to return as quickly as possible. Make no mistake, the order of clearance importance is as written and skipping this phase occurs at your own peril.

Clearance #3 =QUANTITY

Movement quality, or efficiency, can improve physiological processes like heart rate and cardiovascular indices. BUT, fitness is less likely to improve the physics of HOW a movement is done.

So once quality clearance occurs, the next step is to return the athlete to a level of fitness acceptable for play, ideally using movements close to the required movements in your respective sport. For example, lower body injuries must be able to maintain a baseline in sprinting and change of direction activities, while upper body injuries should be bolstered against swinging or rotational movements.

In the coming weeks, we will start outlining some blocks we prescribe for quantity clearance, but in the meanntime, what is your quality clearance ?