Wednesday, July 31, 2013

All About Jet Lag

 by Brian St. Pierre

What is jet lag?

Have you ever taken a long flight and arrived at your destination feeling weak, tired, or generally awful?  That’s jet lag – and it’s not just your imagination. It’s a genuine physiological phenomenon.  Symptoms of jet lag may include:
  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • loss of appetite
  • disorientation
  • reduced concentration
  • reduced aerobic fitness
  • reduced anaerobic fitness
  • nausea
  • GI distress
  • joint swelling and stiffness
  • muscle pain and stiffness
Jet lag originates in the nerve cells of the hypothalamus, the region of our brain that regulates temperature, sleep, circadian rhythms, appetite, and hunger.
This part of the brain evolved long before air travel and it responds slowly to changes in external time and light levels. This conflict between “inner time” and “outer time” is jet lag.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Truth About Transformation Photos

by Andrew Dixon

I decided to take my own transformation photos to see what was possible with just a few easy tweaks. About six months ago I was around 185 pounds and about 16 percent body fat. I was feeling particularly bloated on the day, so I asked my girlfriend to take a before shot. I then shaved my head, face and chest and prepared for the after shot, which was about an hour after I took the before shot. I did a few push ups and chin ups, tweaked my bedroom lighting, sucked in, tightened my abs and BOOM! We got our after shot.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Benefits of Asparagus

 BY BenGreenfield

Asparagus has a long history, dating as far back as the first century, with records confirming its culinary use in ancient Rome and Greece. In ancient Egypt, the vegetable was grown for medicinal purposes and is believed to have been offered to gods during religious rituals. Asparagus, much like olives, is grown locally in the Unites States making this cruciferous vegetable available throughout the year. This easy availability of asparagus is a fortunate thing as this vegetable offers a host of healthful goodness.
Read further and learn more about the benefits of asparagus and why the Superhuman Food Pyramid recommends this vegetable.

Asparagus Benefits:
Asparagus, much like bananas and avocado, is a potent source of potassium, a mineral that most Americans are deficient in. Potassium acts  as an electrolyte in the body and is crucial for the proper contraction of muscles. Adequate potassium intake has shown potential in minimizing the risk of  stroke and developing cardiovascular disease in a study as well. A serving of asparagus, which contain about five spears, has roughly 670 milligrams of potassium. Eating 3 servings per day then can already provide you with 45% of the recommended daily value for this crucial mineral.
Asparagus is a rich source of folic acid as well. A water-soluble B vitamin, folic acid is crucial for optimal production of red blood cells. Folic acid plays a very crucial role in the healthy formation of genetic material within each cell of the body as well. It is this latter’s function of folic acid that makes it an essential nutrient for pregnant women. Each asparagus spear contains roughly 90 micrograms of this nutrient. Eating five asparagus spears, slightly more for pregnant women, should then provide the recommended daily intake for folic acid.
Asparagus helps in proper weight management as well. A serving, which contain about five asparagus spears, has approximately 20 calories and zero fat. One can then fill up on asparagus without worrying about consuming lots of calories. This vegetable is a natural diuretic, too, so eating asparagus can certainly help in preventing water weight gain. Two grams of dietary fiber can be had from one serving of this vegetable as well. A diet high in fiber not only helps in one’s weight loss goals by ensuring proper bowel movement, but it may also potentially lower the risk of developing colon cancer.
Asparagus provides other vitamins as well. One serving or five spears of this vegetable, for instance, can provide about 16% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin A which is essential for maintaining eye health. Roughly 25% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin C can be acquired from eating one serving of asparagus as well.
Asparagus Practical Uses:
The texture of asparagus holds better when cooked by steaming in a steamer. You can eat the vegetable on its own or with a dip. For a healthy and protein-rich dip, combine a teaspoon of lemon juice, a tablespoon of finely chopped mint leaves, and half a cup of organic full-fat yogurt and blend until smooth. Serve the dip as well as the steamed asparagus chilled.
Asparagus tastes great stir-fried in olive oil and garlic as well. For added flavor and healthful goodness, opt to include other vegetables like sprouts, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower.



Sunday, July 28, 2013

Friday, July 26, 2013

How Your Brain Changes As You Learn a New Skill

Every time you learn something new, your brain changes in a pretty substantial way. In turn, this makes other parts of your life easier because the benefits of learning stretch further than just being good at something. As The New Yorker points out, learning a new skill has all kinds of unexpected benefits, including improving working memory, better verbal intelligence, and increased language skills.

The more connections between neurons are formed, the more we learn, and the more information we retain. As those connection get stronger, the less we have to think about what we're doing, which means we can get better at other facets of a set of skills.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Searching for Meaningful Markers of Aging

Don’t look to online calculators of “biological age” for an answer. Those focus mainly on risk factors for diseases, and say little about normal aging, the slow, mysterious process that turns children to codgers. 

In fact, scientists are still hunting for biological markers of age that reliably register how fast the process is unfolding. Seemingly obvious candidates won’t do. Wrinkles, for example, often have more to do with sun exposure than aging. Markers like age-related increases in blood pressure are similarly problematic, often confounded by factors unrelated to aging.
But recently researchers have identified some particularly good indicators of time’s largely hidden toll on our bodies and how fast it’s increasing. Developing an “easy way to measure biological age will have a wide array of applications in prediction and prevention of age-related diseases, drug discovery and forensics,” said Dr. Kang Zhang, founding director of the Institute for Genomic Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. 

The quest for truly revealing biomarkers of aging could tell us a lot about our current and future health. Tracking these indexes before and after starting a new diet or exercise program, for instance, might show you whether it was actually pushing off your decline and fall. Aging-rate tests could help scientists evaluate possible anti-aging compounds in humans without prohibitively long studies.
Experts on aging generally agree that acceptable biomarkers of aging should foretell the remaining life span of a middle-aged person more accurately than chronological age does. Further, they should offer a consistent picture of biological age, said Dr. Richard A. Miller, a gerontologist at the University of Michigan: “Do those 50-year-olds with the best retention of immune function also tend to have the least cataracts, good sense of smell, least osteoporosis, lowest blood pressure and best memory?”
Proposed biomarkers of aging haven’t yet convincingly cleared these hurdles, he added. But some provocatively telling ones have come to light.
In a 2010 study, Dr. Miller and colleagues analyzed medical records of 4,097 women, collected over two decades beginning when they were in their 60s, to sift out 13 factors that best predicted future mortality from different causes.
Oddly, contrast sensitivity — as measured by a test of the eye’s ability to pick out very lightly shaded images on white backgrounds — was among the most predictive of the 377 factors evaluated, as was the number of rapid step-ups on a low platform that the subjects could complete in 10 seconds. Taken together, the 13 factors “characterize the clinical presentation of healthy aging” in older women, the study concluded.
More recently, novel technologies that can detect thousands of age-associated molecular changes in cells have come to the fore in the biomarker hunt. 

Earlier this year Dr. Zhang and his colleagues in San Diego reported that a kind of molecular aging clock is embedded in our genomes whose speed can be measured via blood testing. The moving parts of the clock consist of chemical tags on DNA molecules that control whether genes are active in cells. The researchers found that the patterns of the tags, called epigenetic markers, predictably change with age. In a study published in January in Molecular Cell, the scientists scrutinized around 485,000 of these tags in blood cells of 656 people aged 19 to 101. Some 70,387 tags were predictive of chronological age, the scientists found. 

Collectively these tags spell out a “signature for age” that is “largely not changed by disease or ethnic background,” said Ronald Kohanski, an expert on biomarkers of aging at the National Institute on Aging. That means these markers may be less muddied by confounders than other factors tied to aging.
Of the markers, 71 most indicative of chronological age were selected to measure the speed at which people are growing old. That was calculated by comparing a subject’s epigenetic tags to the norm for his or her age — a 40-year-old whose pattern closely resembled the typical one for 50-year-olds, for example, would apparently be aging 25 percent faster than normal.
Already the molecular clock has yielded interesting findings. Men appear to age on average 4 percent faster than women, the scientists have found, which may largely explain why women’s life expectancy exceeds men’s by about 6 percent worldwide. And the research has shed intriguing light on cancer: The clock indicated that tumor cells have aged, on average, 40 percent more than normal cells taken from the same patients. 

“We’re still far from having a diagnostic for biological aging,” said Trey Ideker, the chief of genetics at U.C.S.D and a co-author of the study with Dr. Zhang. “But this opens the door to an exciting new approach” to the problem. 

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently implanted a firefly gene into mice, engineering animals whose cells light up as they age and become “senescent,” losing the ability to divide and renew damaged tissue. This loss is tied to aging-related ills in many species, including degenerative diseases and dwindling muscle mass.  Surprisingly, the brightness levels weren’t closely tied to longevity in the animals, suggesting that cellular senescence is just part of the larger aging puzzle. The researchers also found that noncancerous cells near nascent tumors emitted a remarkably strong glow: early-stage cancers apparently set off hot spots of accelerated cellular aging.
That means “we can literally see the earliest molecular stages of cancer” unfolding in the mice, said Dr. Norman E. Sharpless, a professor of medicine and genetics at U.N.C. who led the study, published in January in the journal Cell. 

If this continuing research pans out, aging-rate tests may someday be standard in annual physicals, and tracking the results over time would offer unprecedented insights on health risks. But such tests also may well raise fractious privacy and social equity issues.
Insurers might demand that customers take them in order to set premiums for life and health care policies. The tests may also reveal how factors like exposure to environmental toxins and the stress of job loss accelerate aging, and by how much — fodder for lawsuits.
Some of us will be relatively short-lived, fast-aging “less fortunate,” and others will be long-lived, slow-aging “more fortunates,” predicted John K. Davis, a philosophy professor at California State University, Fullerton. And age discrimination will gain an entirely new meaning.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

3 Simple Steps to Properly Fuel Your Performance

by Megan Clements

  love the amount of discussion recently around the concept of eating for performance. Fuelling your body to be the best athlete you can be, whether you’re just starting out or a regular athlete, is a much healthier and more balanced focus than eating to look a certain way, or even worse, ignoring altogether the impact what you eat has on your performance.

But once you’ve decided that eating to fuel your performance is the way forward, the next logical question is how to eat? What do you actually eat in order to fuel your performance?

Of course this depends on what “performance” means in your given sport. For example carb loading for your early morning yoga class probably isn’t necessary, but then nor is starting a triathlon in ketosis a great idea. However, there are a few basics that all athletes will do well to consider:

1. Eat Enough

Firstly, and most importantly, eating adequate amounts of food to support your activity level is vital to performance. It seems like a no-brainer, yet it is one of the most commonly overlooked pieces of the puzzle. If you’re wondering why you’re not making any progress athletically when you’re eating barely enough to sustain your vital functions, this is the first thing you need to fix. Whilst your body can use existing protein (muscle) and body fat as fuel, to solely rely on these to fuel your athletic performance isn’t an optimum strategy, especially when your body kicks into survival mode assuming food is scarce since you’re depriving it. The combination doesn’t set you up to reach your performance goals.

2. Eat the Right Things

So, once you’ve made sure you’re eating enough to fuel your performance, you can start looking at the macronutrient breakdown. When it comes to energy sources, the two main macronutrients our body can use are carbohydrates and fats. Protein can also be used for energy, but this is a last resort. Unless you’re tired of walking around looking awesomely fit and healthy with all that muscle mass you worked so hard for and want to get rid of some of it, you don’t want to be fuelling your workouts with protein. (Note: What I’m referring to here is your body using your own muscle mass as fuel - it’s not a good idea from a health, metabolic, or aesthetic perspective, the only context in which it is a good idea is when it comes to pure survival.)

Fat is a great source of fuel for getting you through the day. Assuming everything in your body is in pretty good working order both dietary fat and body fat can be used to fuel your body throughout the day quite well. It is the basic energy source that we have used to sustain ourselves for generations. Whilst body fat is seen as something negative in this day and age, from an evolutionary perspective your ability to store body fat to live off could literally be the difference between survival and death in a particularly barren winter. Whilst the landscape has changed significantly, our bodies haven’t that much, and we can still live pretty well off fat. With regard to dietary fat, different types of fats are more readily available energy sources than others.  For example, MCT oil is known to be a readily available energy source. From a health perspective, choosing your fats wisely is important. So eat plenty of avocado, omega-3s, and coconut oil, but steer clear of any vegetable oils or trans fats.

3. Carb Up if Your Sport Demands It

It is however generally more difficult for our bodies to meet high energy demands rapidly using only fat, so for challenging athletic pursuits (triathlons, team sports, CrossFit, weightlifting, marathon running, and most others you can think of) it often makes sense to pre-load our bodies with the most readily available energy source, carbohydrates. This is what many people refer to as carbing up or carb loading.

The general concept is to get as much glycogen into your muscles as possible so they’re ready to go when you need them. This is usually done in the lead up to a big race or competition by athletes, and involves intake of significant carbohydrates days before the event. But the same concept can also be used effectively on a more regular basis in preparation for hard training sessions, because the harder you can push yourself in training, the better results you’ll see. This is usually done with a more moderate carbohydrate intake on a more frequent basis (several times a week), simply to ensure that glycogen stores are available but trying to avoid intake of excess carbohydrates that would be stored as fat. The amount of the carbohydrate loads and frequency are different for each individual, based on his or her training regime and sport of choice. But with some experimentation and listening to your body, you can refine to suit your performance goals.

Then finally there is the choice of carbohydrate sources - from naturally occurring fruits and vegetables to highly processed junk. Whilst I’m not one to demonize an occasional indulgence, carb loading should not be an excuse to consistently make poor food choices. Nature provides plenty of good quality starches for our consumption, so my first preference will always be for the natural sources, rather than products with a scarily long ingredients list of unidentifiable extras. Generally starchy carbohydrates are considered to be a better option than fruits when it comes to carb loading because they tend to load glycogen more efficiently. So my top pick to carb up when I need to fuel my performance is, without a doubt, sweet potato.

So there are your three nutrition basics for fuelling performance. It doesn’t have to be too complicated. Eat enough, eat the right things, and carb up (intelligently) if your sport demands it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How the body clock works

 Written by

Our body clock is a small group of cells made up of unique ‘body clock’ genes. These cells turn on and off and tell other parts of the body what time it is and what to do. In fact, most of our individual organs have their own internal body clock cells as well.

So let’s take a look at how the internal body clock affects everything we do, and what the best time is for our body to engage in different daily activities.
The BBC also did a fantastic video of which the above is an excerpt of explaining more about how our cells work and the secret of our bodyclock.

Eating – Which meal at what time?

By far one of the trickiest topics to tackle is the optimal timing for eating. A quick search on Google reveals that there are as many viable diets as there are people. And yet, there are some great, general guidelines that we can follow.
A recent study in Cell Metabolism tried to find out, given all things equal, if timing actually makes a difference. 2 groups of mice were put onto the exact same diet in terms of caloric intake. The only difference was that the first group had access to the food all day round, whilst the second group only for 8 hours during peak activity.
The result according to the researchers was stunning:
The mice that ate only while active were 40% leaner and had lower cholesterol and blood sugar.
So, limiting your food intake to your 8 most active hours during the day could be a good idea. We can also dig a bit deeper into the optimal time for eating dinner in particular:


Monday, July 22, 2013

In Defense of Stairs

 A friend just forwarded me this frothing screed from Gawker about Michael Bloomberg's proposal to increase access and visibility of staircases in New York City. Normally I ignore fluff like this that's clearly written to be as provocative and antagonistic as possible, but this one misses the point so badly that I just wanted to share a few thoughts on the topic.

As it happens, I live on the 43rd floor of a building in a city where a two-month elevator technician strike has just been (finally!) resolved. So believe me, I have a great appreciation for elevators, escalators, and other means of vertical travel. But I also like having the option of taking the stairs. For one thing, it's often way faster in situations like exiting a crowded subway station. In fact, a CMAJ study a few years ago found that the average time for trips of up to six flights was 13 seconds per flight for stairs and about 37 seconds per flight for elevators, due to the time spent waiting for an elevator. And yet I've lived in several buildings where you weren't able to enter the stairs from the ground floor, meaning you had no options but to take the elevators. Tons of buildings, for security or fire reasons, make the stairs either difficult or impossible to access, and often make stairwells very unpleasant spaces.
This is the kind of thing that Bloomberg's initiative hopes to address: tweaking fire codes, for example, to allow "auto-shut" doors that would stay open by default and shut automatically if the fire alarm goes off, rather than having them always shut. Also, he wants buildings to put up signs that say "Take the stairs." These are hardly draconian measures -- you can still choose to ignore that bullying sign and take the elevator.

But I don't want to get bogged down with whether Bloomberg's proposal is appropriate or not -- that's a policy debate on which two reasonable people can disagree. What I find more frustrating is Gawker's argument against the usefulness of taking the stairs, which boils down to two points:
(1) Climbing a few flights of stairs each day will not cure obesity once and for all, balance the deficit, and usher in a millennium of world peace.
(2) In fact, any health gains from climbing stairs will be entirely negligible.

Regarding the first point, well, uh... yeah. This is almost too obvious to be worth addressing, except that it represents a basic failure of critical thinking that's all too common in discussions of public health. Sure, it would be nice if we could find "the cause" of modern obesity. Maybe it's fructose, or hormonal disruption caused by plastic bottles, or poor sleep patterns, or industrial agriculture, or whatever other cause du jour you want to mention. That would be great, because then we could make one single change to fix all our problems. Unfortunately, it's pretty obvious by now that the modern "obesogenic" environment contributes to obesity in many different ways. Fixing one thing is NEVER going to cure everyone's problems all at once, so dismissing initiatives that help a bit because they don't help more is utterly self-defeating.

As for the second point, it reflects both a narrow view of fitness (because the argument centers on the relatively modest number of calories burned by stair-climbing -- an argument that could be applied to ANY form of exercise that lasts less than a few hours) and a complete ignorance of what the data actually shows, which is that modest changes in behavior can induce measurable changes in health.
A simple example: a Swiss hospital ran a 12-week promotional campaign for stair use, consisting of "posters and floor stickers at the point of choice between stairs and elevators at each hospital floor." They monitored 77 sedentary employees before during, and six months after the campaign. The average number of flights ascended and descended per day climbed from 4.5 to 20.6 -- which is still quite modest, since a single flight takes just a few seconds. After 12 weeks, the average aerobic fitness ("maximal aerobic capacity") had increased by 9.2%, and there were also modest but significant declines in waist circumference, weight, fat mass, blood pressure, and LD cholesterol. Not bad, eh?
Again, you can debate whether Bloomberg's policies are an appropriate use of city powers -- but at least have an honest debate based on empirical reality rather than half-assed assumptions.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

What You Need to Know About Hormone Testing: Which Test to Get and Why

Vanessa Bennington

The health and fitness world has been abuzz with talk about adrenal health and hormonal balance. This has left many of us looking for ways to get our hormones and adrenal levels checked out so we can address any issues that might be standing in the way of our goals. Great idea! In fact, I love this idea and offer the service to my online clients as well as my medical patients.

Many of you are probably looking for quick, easy, and affordable ways to get these levels checked out too. I want to make sure you spend your money wisely and get accurate results. So, we’re going to talk about the best methods of evaluation to check adrenal hormones (mainly cortisol) and sex hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. I'll recommend some reputable companies, as well.

Traditionally, lab work refers to checking serum or blood levels. However, there are other methods of evaluating hormone levels such as saliva. There are pros and cons to both of these evaluation methods:

Blood Testing - Blood is inconvenient for many as you need to have a health care provider order the labs for you, you have to go to a location to have the labs drawn, and if insurance doesn’t cover the labs, they can be quite pricey. However, blood analysis is very accurate and tests, as well as testing facilities and labs, are highly regulated. So, with blood levels, you know you are getting reliable results.

Saliva Testing - Saliva or sputum tests can often be ordered by patients themselves or by non-medically licensed individuals. They are more convenient because the tests can be done at home and without scheduling an appointment, and many times the cost is not as high as blood tests. However, sputum and saliva can give you unreliable results.

Multiple studies have shown hormone levels vary significantly when salivary testing is done using cotton and polypropylene collection devices. Cotton collection devices or “rolls” result in elevated estradiol and testosterone levels, while polypropylene rolls result in lower estradiol and testosterone levels. Research has also found that small amounts of blood from the oral mucosa, variance in collection of the samples, and storage of the samples after they are collected can cause irregularities and inaccuracy as well. Furthermore, even if the samples are collected in the most perfect of circumstances, salivary levels of hormones vary so quickly and drastically they cannot be considered accurate. In fact, most insurance companies will not cover the cost of these tests because of these problems.

Now, sputum testing for cortisol is a completely different story. Salivary cortisol measurements have been studied and are considered reliable enough to use to diagnose adrenal diseases like Cushing’s syndrome. Cortisol levels seem to be more stable and have less variance than sex hormones regardless of collection devices and storage. This is fortunate because cortisol levels should be measured at multiple times throughout the day and at night in order to access if a person is producing appropriate amounts at appropriate times throughout the day. Having to send a person to a lab multiple times during a 24-hour period would be incredibly inconvenient. I can attest from personally seeing the results of saliva cortisol tests that they are both reliable and consistent with serum levels and patient symptoms.

Now, before anyone gets his or her panties in a bunch I just want to clarify that I don’t just personally hate saliva testing. It would be incredibly convenient and easier for everyone if in fact they were reliable enough to trust for accurate levels. But the research tells us they are not and my personal experience backs that up. I have had many patients bring in saliva tests that didn’t correlate with their symptoms or their history.

For example, I once had a female patient bring me her saliva hormone results she had recently done through another health care provider. The results indicated her testosterone and estrogen were sky high. This seemed extremely strange to me as she was having hot flashes, low libido, wasn’t sleeping, and was having drastic mood swings. Those symptoms are not consistent with high estrogen or testosterone levels. Also, keep in mind this patient was in her fifties and menopausal. If you aren’t ovulating, you probably aren’t making much estrogen or testosterone. You might be producing some testosterone from your adrenals and some estrogen from fat cells but those levels wouldn’t be clinically high. So, as I always do when seeing a new patient, I got blood work done. As I expected, her estrogen and testosterone were actually very low. I’ve had many other patients with similar issues with saliva tests and I’m sure I’m not the only clinician to experience this.

Attaining erroneous saliva hormone results not only results in a waste of money for the patient, but it also prevents patients from getting medical care and treatment in a timely manner. Many people may be living with unbalanced hormones unnecessarily because their saliva tests have been incorrect. That’s a big problem.

So, two things to remember:
  1. Saliva for cortisol is great.
  2. Blood levels for hormones like estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and other sex hormones are your best bet.

I’ve worked with several companies through the years and I can say there are some that are better than others when you are ordering cortisol testing and trying to find someone to order blood work for you. NeuroScience, ZRT Laboratory, and BioHealth Laboratory have four-point cortisol saliva test kits that enable the patient to get an idea of how they produce cortisol throughout the day. The kits are relatively easy to use and ship back to the company. Generally, it’s very easy for a patient to order the tests kits themselves or find a health care provider who can do it for them.

For hormone testing, I recommend either asking your health care provider to order them for you or you can find qualified professionals through numerous websites. WellnessFX and Accesa Labs are both great resources that can set you up with a provider who will order and review your labs with you. Often times you can have the labs drawn at a location convenient to you, which saves you time and money. If you’d rather find a qualified healthcare provider you can see in person who specializes in hormones, BioTE Medical is another great resource.

I hope this cleared a few things up and I also hope it helps many of you get accurate labs results. Proper hormone balance and adrenal health is absolutely vital to your overall health and longevity, not to mention your fitness.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Legs on the wall pose

from Susan McLaughlin,

PictureThe dot is on the pubis, and the pelvis is in posterior rotation.
Legs on the wall pose is a restorative position that should be a staple for every person that has a pelvis! Traditionally, the pose is taught by placing the butt close to the wall, and then bringing the legs up against the wall so the back of the legs touch, and the soles of the feet are facing the ceiling.  A variation to the pose is to widen the legs into a "V" position to stretch the inner thighs and groin.

Recently I have rediscovered the beauty of this pose by modifying the position to be able to maintain neutral pelvis (pubis and ASIS in line) and rib alignment.  The benefit of maintaining the alignment markers during this pose allows the connective tissue and muscles to fully release.  When the alignment markers are not in place, there is more load to the tissues which can potentially maintain tension, and prevent a full yield ("letting go") of the muscles and fascia.

In order to do this pose in alignment, you may need to get out props.  Due to the tightness of my psoas muscles and the increased kyphosis of my thoracic spine, I have used a thin yoga mat rolled up to maintain neutral pelvis: pubis and ASIS level, and a half cylinder & block to prop up my upper back to get my lower ribs down and flush with my abdomen. In order to get my pelvis level, I needed to scoot away from the wall, get the props set up, and then place my legs on the wall (see pics below).

Benefits to Legs on the Wall Pose:
  • Gently stretches the back of the legs, inner thighs and low back to relieve aches and pains
  • Improves lymphatic/venous return from the feet and legs 
  • Eases stress/anxiety
  • Alleviates symptoms of menstrual cramps, PMS and menopause 
  • Relieves swollen ankles and varicose veins

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Why Healthy Eaters Fall for Fries

LAST Tuesday, Connor Moran, a limit-the-red-meat, increase-the-greens, eat-salad-for-lunch kind of guy, stopped into a Bronx Dunkin’ Donuts for his usual black coffee, no sugar, no cream.
He walked out with a sandwich of egg and bacon between two halves of a glazed doughnut.
Such is the puzzle of the food industry: American consumers, even otherwise healthy ones, keep choosing caloric indulgences rather than healthy foods at fast-food restaurants.
Public health officials have been pushing fast-food restaurants to offer more nutritious foods to help combat excess weight in the United States, where more than one-third of American adults are obese. And restaurants have obliged by adding healthy menu items. But it’s the sugary, fatty items that are flying — or waddling — out the door. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

2 Rebuttals to Omega-3 Fats and Cancer

On Wednesday a new paper reported that higher levels of long-chain omega-3 fats (EPA, DPA, and DHA) in blood are associated with a 43% increased risk of prostate cancer and a 71% increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer. [1] This built on earlier work by the same group. [2] In a press release, the authors stated:
“We’ve shown once again that use of nutritional supplements may be harmful,” said Alan Kristal, Dr.P.H., the paper’s senior author …
“[W]e have confirmed that marine omega-3 fatty acids play a role in prostate cancer occurrence,” said corresponding author Theodore Brasky, Ph.D.
They sound confident! Is there anything to it, and should it affect our dietary advice?

Read More at 

Prostate Cancer and Omega-3 Fats

Ok, so lots of hub-bub about some recent papers implicating N-3 fats and increased prostate cancer risk. Here are two papers which largely cover the same material, which I will refer to here in a bit (serum fatty acids prostate cancer risk1, plasma FAs and prostate cancer2). Luckily, some other folks have entered the fray, so I do not need to re-hash what type of study this is, and one of the main shortcomings of the research: this is correlation, not a demonstration of mechanistic causation. Check out this piece from which breaks all that down in a very accessible way. The main takeaway from this is typical of how the media runs wild with research: Headlines are saying fish oil gives you prostate cancer. As points out, even IF this is the case, the current batch of literature is not anywhere near sufficient to make that statement, just keep that in mind.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Food combining

Dear Mark,
I have heard two competing ideas on food combining and insulin release/fat storage. One says that you should combine high carb foods with fat or protein to minimize insulin spikes.  The other says that you should eat carbs by themselves because the insulin stimulated by the carbs will also store protein or fat as fat if eaten in the same meal as carbs. Which theory is correct and does it really matter for health/weight loss?
Thank you so much!

 For the most part, there’s no need to separate fats from carbs from protein in a normal meal with reasonable amounts of calories. In one study, researchers put patients on one of two hypocaloric diets: either a balanced diet, where fat and protein and carbs were eaten together, or a food combining diet, where macronutrients were consumed mostly separately. Both groups lost the same amount of weight, though people who ate macronutrients together achieved better blood pressure numbers and lost slightly more fat. Those were low calorie diets, however, not massive ad libitum feedings. If you’re eating normal amounts of food (i.e. not stuffing yourself or purposely overfeeding), I see no reason why some sweet potato fries cooked in coconut oil or a bowl of Greek yogurt and berries will do any harm. Your body doesn’t have to handle extra energy, so switching between fuel substrates isn’t much of a problem.
When overfeeding, whether on purpose or inadvertently (the buffet effect), macronutrient selection begins to matter. One of the reasons why I recommend that folks doing a carb refeed for weight loss limit fat for the duration is that overfeeding with carbs boosts leptin and energy expenditure, while overfeeding with fat does not. It’s also why bodybuilders typically follow their workouts with a super high-carb, high-protein meal – to spike insulin and shuttle nutrients into their gaping, starving muscle cells – and go lower carb and higher fat on rest days – to keep fat burning elevated. As a general rule, burning massive amounts of fat precludes burning massive amounts of carbs, and vice versa. Plus, there’s the simple fact that carbs and fat are incredibly tasty together – think pizza, cookies, ice cream, french fries, and so on. Fat alone or carbs alone aren’t very appetizing, but combined they definitely promote overeating. That’s not a problem for people who want to gain weight, or have no issue with incredibly tasty foods, but it bears mentioning. For an idea of the long term effects of a high-carb diet with significant amounts of (bad, refined, seed-based) fat, just look at the obesity rates in America.


Monday, July 15, 2013

The Metabolic Demands of Various Exercise Protocols

by Doug Dupont


Whether we are athletes or coaches, if we are involved in program design then we need to understand the body's basic processes. If you choose the wrong programs, the results will invariably suffer. For example, many people use resistance training prescriptions for stressing muscle metabolism, which is not as well understood as you may think. Understanding these processes could factor into designing programs for increasing the ability to withstand metabolic stress, such as CrossFit, or programs focused on fatigue avoidance, such as many strength programs and recovery workouts.

In a study this month in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, researchers sought to learn more about how common workout routines affect muscle metabolism. According to the researchers, these facts were well understood for cardiovascular training, but much less so for resistance training.

In particular, the researchers wanted to study two chemicals that increase with training. The first is ammonium. Ammonium is the product of what’s called the purine nucleotide cycle. This cycle is most active when there is rapid use of both ATP and phosphocreatine. The second is lactate, which signals the depletion of muscle glycogen and dropping pH. Each of these chemicals represents a different energy cycle and responds differently to various training methods, although they are often expressed simultaneously. This was the first time the relationship between these two chemicals has been examined.

The researchers tested three common workout programs, and then measured for ammonium and lactate. The programs ran the gamut, from endurance (2 sets of 20 reps with short rests), to hypertrophy (3 sets of 10 reps with 2 minute rest periods), and on up to strength (5 sets of 5 reps with 3 minute rests). Each program was equalized in terms of work. In other words, although the 5x5 protocol had fewer total reps than the other programs, it used more weight, so the total work load was the same for all three protocols.

Since ammonium increases with heavy resistance because of the demand on ATP, the researchers speculated the strength routine would cause the greatest elevations. Although there was a relationship between ammonium and lactate in all three protocols, the joint chemical response to the protocols was varied enough to indicate that the energy systems involved did respond differently to each program.

That said, the researchers were wrong in their hypothesis. The endurance program caused the greatest levels of both ammonium and lactate. Hypertrophy was in the middle, and strength had the least response. So total volume of repetitions had a more substantial effect on these chemicals than intensity of each rep.

The rest period was another suspected culprit in the results. For each set, the endurance work might not have caused the same metabolic response, but with only 45 seconds of recovery, the researchers hypothesized that ATP and creatine could not recover quickly enough, resulting in elevated ammonium and lactate.

Ultimately, the results aren’t so surprising, but it’s always good to have more academic power behind your plan designs. A light load and short rests are key for working these metabolic systems. For recovery, a light load with longer rest periods would work well. For strength, long rest is ideal to ensure the most consistent heavy lifting. For added muscle, something in between is probably best.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Not-So-Sweet Side Effects of Artificial Sweeteners

 People are turning to artificial sweeteners as a lower-calorie alternative to sugar. Writing in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, researcher Susan Swithers argues that artificial sweeteners may negatively affect our metabolism and brain—and even lead to weight gain

Listen to 8 Min Podcast

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Considering Getting a Free Slurpee Today? Think Again

 by Hemi Weingarten 

Today is 7/11, which is a good excuse for 7 Eleven to celebrate its annual Slurpee Giveaway. Every year, 7-11 hands out millions of free Slurpee drinks nationwide. This year, the serving size has grown from 8 ounces to 12 ounces. Because, you know, the war on obesity has been won.
Planning to join in on the fun?
Let’s take a look at the Berry Blaster Slurpee. Here are some key data points for you to keep in mind:
  • 6 (six!) tsp of sugar (actually High Fructose Corn Syrup)
  • Fruit content = 0% (did you seriously think there would be any here?)
  • Artificially colored with RED #40 (causes tumors in mice, causes some kids to bounce off walls)
  • Contains sodium benzoate – even Coca Cola removed this bad ingredient from Coke.
Here’s the full nutrition info for an 8 ounce Slurpee. (Did they make it extra hard to read on purpose???)berry blaster nutrients
Still planning to slurp today?

Three Reasons to Love Lactate
2005: Argh, I hate the burn of lactic acid in my muscles after hard workouts!
2010: What's that you say? Lactic acid doesn't cause muscle soreness? And it's actually "lactate," not lactic acid, that accumulates during hard exercise?
2015: I love lactate so much. I wish I could figure out how to produce more of it.
It's funny how attitudes change -- but reassuring that new ideas (gradually) gain acceptance when they're supported by good data. Certainly attitudes about lactate haven't changed overnight, but I think the idea that it's not an enemy is slowly taking over. The next step is to realize how important it is as a fuel during hard exercise. One of the challenges there is that the process is quite complex, so it's hard to get an intuitive feel for it (for me, at least).

Anyway, there's a new study from George Brooks -- the researcher most responsible for "rehabilitating" lactate - in the Journal of Applied Physiology that has a few interesting details about how training ramps up the use of lactate as a fuel.

- Overall use of lactate: You get about 1/3 of your total carbohydrate energy from lactate; the rest is from blood glucose and muscle glycogen.

- Direct vs. indirect lactate oxidation: To use lactate as fuel for muscles, you can either "burn" it directly, or turn it into glucose and then burn it. In untrained subjects, about 75% of the lactate used is directly oxidized. In trained subjects, about 90% is directly oxidized. Trained subjects also burn significantly more lactate overall. This shows that endurance training stimulates adaptations to use more lactate, and to use it more efficiently -- in fact, Brooks writes, "these findings suggest that in trained subjects, lactate is a preferred substrate over glucose." Who'd have guessed that? If you train enough, you actually prefer lactate to sugar!

- The consequence: the more lactate you're able to use during exercise, the less muscle glycogen you have to use, which means your glycogen stores will last longer. Isn't lactate wonderful?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Chipotle is the Paleo “go-to” for fast food


Hi Mark, I know Chipotle is the Paleo “go-to” for fast food/on the road. Wondering if you were gonna comment on this?
Chipotle GMO information added to website: Addition earns mixed reviews
You know, I’ve never been a big fan of Chipotle, probably because I live near some of the greatest Mexican food joints in the United States (Southern California), and the bastardized versions found in Chipotle simply pale in comparison. But this GMO stuff doesn’t concern me too much.
Reason? All the GMO-containing foods are already problematic for other reasons. The biggest GMO offender is the soybean oil that’s found in just about everything on the menu. I don’t know about you, but when I see empty cartons of soybean oil outside the back of restaurants and shudder to myself, I shudder not because the soy used to make the oil was genetically modified. I shudder because soybean oil is one of the best (read: worst) sources of linoleic acid in the American diet, a fatty acid that already skews our collective omega-3:omega-6 ratios an unprecedented amount. That’s the real reason you should be wary of Chipotle. There’s also GMO corn in the tortillas – which serve to spoon soybean oil-cooked meat into your maw – and chips – which are fried in even more soybean oil.
Go ahead and eat Chipotle. You can certainly do a lot worse. Plus, you can be smart and pick around the problematic stuff to get a decent meal. The carnitas, for example, is free of soybean oil, though it does contain some rice bran and sunflower oil, which aren’t terribly better. Their guacamole is good slathered on the aforementioned carnitas.
I’d just be more worried about the seed oils for their fatty acid composition than for their GMO status.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Look at How Squatting Affects the Knee


I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people say not to perform back squats because it’s bad for this or that. Usually they say the spine or the knees (or both). And yet it’s one of the most fundamental movements for human beings. In many countries, people rest in a squatting position every single day like a catcher in baseball. Therefore, I’ve always looked on such claims with skepticism.

It’s always good to be prepared with information, though, particularly as a coach. When you work with numerous athletes of every level of ability, you need to be armed to the teeth with knowledge if you want to do any good for your clients. Knee injuries are perhaps the most common of all injuries I see, so it’s important to understand how the squat does affect the knee. Recently a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning did just that.

In the study, the researchers focused on pressure at the patellofemoral joint. That’s an anatomical term for where your kneecap rests on your knee. Injuries to this joint account for some 30% of all knee injuries reported, and pressure at this joint seems to have something to do with these injuries.

The researchers looked at various loads and joint angles of the squat exercise and how it affected forces at the knee. Since intensity in exercise science is expressed as a percentage of maximal strength, the researchers noted that maximum strength drops as squat depth increases. For this reason, the researchers tested the athletes’ maxes at all three squat depths they analyzed. They hypothesized that forces at the knee would increase as the squat got deeper, but that reduced maximal weight in the deeper squat would reduce the force evenly.

My own hypothesis was slightly different. I thought the greatest force on the patellofemoral joint would be when the knee was close to a 90 degree angle. That would be the point at which the body is farthest from the center of gravity, meaning it would require higher forces.

Well, we were both wrong. The force at the knee went up with heavier weights and greater squat depth. Even though the rep maxes were less (for some) at the deepest position, the force at the knee was still the highest. However, it should be noted that everyone’s squat form and leverages are different, so these results may not hold true for everyone.

For athletes without injuries, there is some important takeaway to keep in mind. Despite tremendous force at the knee, many people do heavy squats with a lot of depth for years and are just fine. The researchers noted that experienced lifters had reduced knee laxity, meaning the soft tissues of the knee joint were healthier than sedentary controls. So keep working your squat and listen to your body.

For people with existing injury or knee pain, these results also give us something practical to work with. It’s still possible, and in many cases favorable, to strengthen the legs by squatting. However, it’s best to start working on your squat unloaded and above parallel and then slowly increase the depth before adding weight.

Monday, July 8, 2013

5 Brain Nutrients Found Only in Meat, Fish and Eggs (NOT Plants)

The human brain is the most complex object in the universe.
It is also the organ that consumes by far the most energy, compared to its weight.
The brain is only about 2% of our body weight, but uses 20% of the energy.
This remarkable organ has evolved over millions of years. During this time, humans were omnivores. We ate both meat and plants.

There are many nutrients in these foods that are absolutely critical for the proper function of this very delicate system.

Unless proper care is taken to supplement, going vegan and eschewing animal foods may lead to a deficiency in some of these important substances.
Here are 5 nutrients that are very important for the brain and only found in animal foods.


Vitamin D3


Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)

. Creatine

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Supermarkets – Your Friendly Neighbourhood Fast-Food Warehouse

Just enough time to do a very quick commentary on supermarkets.  We get all up in arms about fast-food outlets sprouting up everywhere, and about the amount of crap-in-a-bag and fattening fizz pop sold in your neighbourhood convenience store.  And we get positively feral when a bottle store opens in the middle of our suburban dream.  Yet we barely bat an eyelid when a supermarket opens up in a nice and handy location to us.  Maybe, however, we need to rethink that attitude as supermarkets, it would seem, are where we are buying all the crap, including alcohol.

Sure, they look all wholesome… flower stands at the front door, a sea of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables as you enter.  But scoot past that lot, as many of you will tend to do, turn a corner, and you are warped into a twilight zone of fast foods and drinks.  I can say this with a degree of confidence as I was fortunate enough to have been leaked commercially sensitive data under threat of death if I give up my source (it turns out that just because your work for Big Food, it doesn’t mean you are all on board with what they are up to).

Back in 2009, similar data was leaked to the newspapers and appeared as this story, making for very sad reading as to just what New Zealanders were spending their money on in supermarkets.  As it turns out, we are indeed all fat because of all those high-fat foods we are eating.  It isn’t the sugar after all.  Just have a look at that 2009 list and see;
The top 10 items sold in Supermarkets…
1. Coca-Cola 1.5l
2. Wattie’s spaghetti 420g
3. Coca-Cola 2.25l
4. QB Nature’s Fresh white toast 700g
5. Wattie’s baked beans 420g
6. Dole bobby bananas (850g)
7. Tip Top super soft white toast 700g
8. Sprite lemonade 1.5l
9. QB Molenberg original toast 700g

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

3 Minerals Your Skin is Craving

he importance of minerals in skincare has been severely overlooked, especially in comparison to the attention vitamins receive. 

Minerals are essentially the “spark plugs” of the body, carrying out important bodily functions through enzyme reactions. They facilitate the transfer of nutrients across cell membranes with important assistance from vitamins.
In addition, they maintain PH balance and proper nerve conduction, contract and relax muscles, provide structural support, and regulate tissue growth. As you can see, minerals are a must to maintaining a healthy functioning body, but also to maintain healthy vibrant skin.

We need a variety of minerals, and the best place to get these is through consuming a clean whole foods diet with an array of high quality foods. Having a focus on skin in my practice, many of my clients who initially come to me are deficient in minerals in general, but in particular ones that can be extremely helpful in repair and maintenance of skin. If you’re struggling with a skin condition, such as acne, you may want to consider focusing on the minerals discussed below

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

8 Foods We Eat In The U.S. That Are Banned In Other Countries

1. Artificial food dye: Makes your food pretty and can inhibit nerve-cell development.

Found in: Practically everything we eat: cake mixes, sports drinks, cheese, candy, and even MACARONI AND CHEESE.
Why it’s dangerous: Artificial dyes are made from chemicals derived from petroleum, which is also used to make gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt, and tar! Artificial dyes have been linked to brain cancer, nerve-cell deterioration, and hyperactivity in children, just to name a few.
Where it’s banned: Norway, Finland, Austria, France, and the U.K.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Fight Inflammation with Pineapple

Pineapples can be a challenge to cut, but it is definitely worth it! The fruit is a delicious, juicy, tropical treat and so…beneficial to health! It’s interesting that the pineapple got it’s name (in English) because it was similar looking to a pine cone and the inside had a firm interior pulp like an apple. Pineapples look pretty cool, who doesn’t like sipping a smoothie from a pineapple?

Pineapples Inflammation Fighters and more!

From ancient times the pineapple has been used for it’s anti-inflammatory benefits. The pineapple contains the enzyme, bromelain, which has medicinal properties and has been shown to help reduce inflammation.
Several inflammatory diseases have been shown to benefit from the high content of bromelain in pineapples. In particular, pineapples have been reported to help with osteo-arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, in addition to inflammatory bowel disease.
The anti-inflammatory properties of pineapples have also been shown to be helpful in reducing swelling, bruising, and pain in musculoskeletal injuries. In addition, the bromelain helps reduce inflammation associated with tendinitis, sprains, strains, and other minor muscle injuries.
One study showed that adults with mild knee pain, experienced reduced pain and improved well being (Walker et. al, 2002).
Bromelain was approved by the German Commission E (which is the German version of the FDA) to treat swelling and inflammation after surgery, particularly sinus surgery. Healing time and pain after surgery has been benefited through the use of bromelain. Studies have shown improvement for dental, nasal, and foot surgeries.
The nutrients and enzymes in pineapples not only help fight inflammation, but slows blood clotting, helps lessen hay fever symptoms, aides in digestion and some research even suggests it can aide in control of growth of tumors and malignant cells.

Pineapples Nutrition and Health Benefits

Pineapple is packed with fiber and is a great source of vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, folate, and copper.
Bromelain- Contains protein-digesting enzymes (cysteine protinases). Some healthcare practitioners have reported improved digestion for patients after adding pineapple to their meal plan.
Fiber- For digestive health
High in Vitamin C- Boosts immune system, great for fighting colds, also the bromelain helps reduce mucous in the throat.
High in Manganese- For development of strong bones and connective tissue – One cup of pineapple provides almost 75% of the recommended daily amount. The trace mineral manganese is important to enzymes for energy production and antioxidant defenses.
Thiamin- Vitamin B1, which is central for energy production.

Antioxidants in Pineapple

Pineapples contain a high amount of antioxidants which help support the immune system. The vitamin C, flavonoids, and vitamin A in pineapples aid in reducing the amount of free radicals in the body causing oxidative stress. Free radicals cause cell damage that can lead to chronic and degenerative diseases. The antioxidants in pineapples help protect the body from free radicals and boost the immune system.

How to Choose a Pineapple

Always choose a fresh pineapple for optimal nutrients. Find one that is heavy for its size without bruises or soft spots and fresh looking green leaves.
Only pick fresh pineapple as the bromelain is destroyed by heating and processing.
Once you cut the pineapple, it retains most nutrients for several days.
The color of the pineapple may differ depending on the variety, some are ripe when they are green and others turn gold when they’re ripe.

Grow Your Own Pineapple

You can grow your own pineapple by cutting off the top of a pineapple and let it dry out for about a week. Then root it in water by putting the crown in water and changing the water every day. In a week or so you will start seeing the roots. When the roots are long, the crown is ready to plant.