Friday, December 16, 2011

Old Sayings: Cliché or Truth?

We all hear people quote old sayings from time to time or maybe you can remember quoting one yourself not too long ago, but have you ever thought about how the saying came to be?  Why was it said in the first place?  Was it to make a group of people chuckle or are some of these sayings words of wisdom that were meant to be passed down from generation to generation?  I hear people say things such as, "you are what you eat" or you're eating "empty calories", but I wonder if they know what they are referring to.

Take my example of the famous "you are what you eat" saying.  Many people don't realize that this is actually a true statement and we literally are what we eat.  If you don't know what I mean, stick around.  The tissue in our body is made up of everything we put in our mouth.  Every ounce of food and drink contribute making our muscles, tendons, ligaments, cells, etc...  That is why it is so important that we eat good, high quality, organic food.  A lot of people talk about the price of organic food, but what price can you put on your health?  If people were to cut out the unhealthy snacks, frozen dinners, cupcakes and other crap (just to name a few) and replace those items with some high quality food, they would be shocked at how much better they would feel.  Also, remember that even though the food costs more (who cares if it's better for you) you wind up eating less of it.  Why?  Becuase organic food has quality not quantities of crap, additives and preservatives.  Ahhh, there's another saying, "it's about quality, not quantity" (but I think I covered that).

Now let's take a look at "empty calories".  I think this is most commonly used when referring to alcohol.  Working at a bar in college, I heard this from time to time.  Someone would be on a diet and say they didn't want a drink because it was "empty calories" and they didn't want to waste them, but then they would order a soda and fries.  That clearly shows right there that this person probably heard that saying somewhere, picked up on how to use it in a sentence and never looked back.  I'm not saying they should have had a drink, but don't use a perfectly logical saying (and in the right context) like "empty calories" and then order a soda and fries!  An "empty calorie" is something that takes more nutrition for our body to process than it gets back in return.  Not only are you not giving the body what it needs, but now the brain tells the body to keep eating because it doesn't have enough nutrition, which leads to over consumption of food. 

It's like going to the bank everyday to get change for a $20, but you only get $10 in ones - you're giving more than you're getting.  Well, if do that everyday for a few months guess what, you're going to go bankrupt.  It's the same with nutrition!  Unfortunately, people are going nutritionally bankrupt from putting "empty calories" in their body and they are becoming... "what they eat".  A perfect example is the guy from Super Size Me (by the way, great movie and if you haven't seen it, rent it).  He would chow down a Big Mac, a Super Sized soda with fries and an apple pie and still be hungry!  Why, cause there's no nutrition in that garbage and his body wanted him to keep eating to accumulate something it could use.  

Eating right and staying healthy shouldn't be a chore, it should just be.  Since when is it cool to be unhealthy and unfit.  We only get one shot at life and we are all lucky to be here.  There are plenty of healthy foods and treats out there that taste good!  Let's live the best life we can, the healthiest life and the happiest life.  When your healthy and happy, you're not bouncing from doctor to doctor, worrying about going on a fad diet for beach season or trying to remember if you took this or that pill.  We need to start making better food choices and make sure we are taking responsibility for our own health because after all, we are the ones that can make a difference.

Thanks for reading and stay healthy!


Flatten Your Abs!

People in gyms across the country are struggling with loosing excess fat in their midsection.  Everyone wants to flatten their tummy and the first two things people think they need to start doing is… more sit ups and go on a diet!  I’m sorry to say, but this is not the answer.  Today you can walk into a gym and watch someone do sit up after sit up for months and nothing changes.  Also, you can see someone go on some cookie cutter diet and not lose a pound.  So, why is this?  Because there is no lone secret exercise or a one size fits all diet.  We are as different on the inside as the outside, which means different foods and proportions will affect certain people differently.

The first step to flattening your abs is to start eating right for your metabolic type.  As part of my program, I show you how to determine your metabolic type.  A person’s metabolic type will determine the amount of proteins, fats and carbohydrates that are needed with each meal.  Do you really think the diet of an Eskimo would be the same as someone from the Caribbean?  Of course not!  An Eskimo will have a diet high in fats and protein (whale blubber, fish, and seals) with very little carbohydrates.  The opposite will be true of the person from the Caribbean.  They will have a diet primarily of fruits and vegetables with much smaller amounts of animal proteins and fats.

The second step is to start moving.  Humans are designed to move and be active, not sit at a desk in front of a computer screen.  Our primal ancestors would climb trees, hunt and carry their food along with jumping and lunging over obstacles.  My point is we need to be a little more primal than high-tech.  I guarantee you will get a greater overall benefit from doing pushups than using a chest press machine.  Next time you’re at the gym, see which one gets your heart pumping more.  Doing dynamic and compound exercises is the key to having a healthy, lean and strong body.  Recruiting multiple muscle groups at once will burn the most overall calories and keep the body in a fat burning state for hours after the exercise.

So, how does all this tie in with flattening your abs?  A proper diet (designed for you) along with exercises (if done correctly) such as pushups, wood chops, squats, lunges, pull-ups and deadlifts all help to strengthen the core musculature.  By doing these types of primal movements (pushing, pulling, bending, twisting, lunging) you will be able to burn more calories and start building a stronger, healthier and more stable body. 

Thanks for reading and stay healthy!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Can weak abdominals cause knee pain?

A few very common problems today that I see and hear about today are poor posture, weak abdominals and chronic knee pain. Did you ever think that all of these problems could be interconnected and related somehow? Let’s take a look and see how it all fits together.

First, we have to look the abdominal wall and the pelvis. The pelvis is supported by the abdominals, so if the abdominal wall looses coordination or doesn’t work properly the pelvis will tilt forward. To give you a visual, think of pouring water out of a bucket by tipping it forward. So if your pelvis is not supported and tips forward, this causes a shift in your spine to balance out the weight, but it also causes your knees to turn in. Contrary to that, if you tip your pelvis back, your knees will go outward. You can easily stand up and try it for yourself to see what I mean.  When the knees turn inward it is called pronation. When the knees are pronated this causes the knee cap (or patella) to shift laterally. If the knee moves laterally while walking it will start to wear the cartilage out, this then triggers a chronic inflammatory process in the knee joint.

An extreme case of weak abdominals is called Visceroptosis.  Visceroptosis means that the abdominal wall is so dysfunctional that the organs behind it can not properly be supported.  A quick test you can do to see if you have visceroptosis is to take a couple deep breaths (in through the nose) while standing and observe how much effort it takes.  Then do the same thing while lying down on your back.  If you can breathe much easier while lying on your back it could indicate visceroptosis.  

Getting the core functioning properly is very important on many levels and these are just a couple of examples mentioned in this article.  There's no point to going to the gym and doing 100 sit-ups if your abdominal wall is so screwed up it can't support the pelvis.  I recommend having a thorough assessment to make sure your abdominal wall is working properly and helping to support the rest of your body.

Thanks for reading and stay healthy!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vitamins... The Solution or Problem?

How many people do you know that take some sort of vitamin everyday?  I would be willing to bet that most people would say almost everyone they know takes a vitamin.  Unfortunately, all "vitamins" today are not created equal and the vitamins that are in so many household cabinets might not be as good for us as we think.  Natural, organic vitamins in nature are found in a complex, which includes minerals, trace minerals, enzymes and co-enzymes, that no scientist or laboratory can duplicate.  Mostly all vitamins people buy today are synthetic vitamins, where the one vitamin is isolated from the complex making it an incomplete product. 

So, what does it matter if the vitamin is separated from the rest of the complex?  For example, if B1 is removed from a B Vitamin Complex supplement, can't we just take a B1 vitamin to "complete" the complex?  No, you cant.  I know some of you were hoping I would say yes, but sorry, nature doesn't work that way.  There are so many other things (minerals, enzymes) that the body needs to properly process the vitamin.  Another example of isolated supplements not being effective is beta-carotene. 

In an article from one of the worlds greatest nutritionists, Dr. Royal Lee, he says, "Beta carotene is a precursor the body can convert to vitamin A. Unfortunately, as a supplement, synthetic beta carotene is usually 'stabilized' in refined vegetable oils. In this trans fatty acid form, oxidation occurs and the chemically 'pure' beta carotene can no longer act as a nutrient, because it was changed. Almost all synthetic beta carotene is produced by the Swiss drug giant Hoffman-LaRoche. This form can no longer be converted to vitamin A. The best it can be is worthless, and the worst is toxic".

To give you some evidence of a real life situation, the book Food and Nutrition by E.W.H.  Cruickshank, MD shows an experiment using Vitamin D.  The experiment took a group of three chicks (no, not women) that were fed on the same diet.  The first group received no vitamin D at all, the second group was given a synthetic vitamin D supplement and the third group was given natural vitamin D preparation made from cod-liver oil.  In the no-vitamin chicks, sixty percent died. In the  synthetic-D group, fifty percent died. However, in the natural vitamin D  group, there was not one death! 

The major issue with taking vitamin isolates is that it can create other vitamin deficiencies.  Reason being is that the body uses its vitamin stores to try and complete the complex because it just got an overdose of a certain vitamin and doesn't know what to do with it all.  If you think about it, it's a great way to keep the vitamin companies in business.  For example, if you go to the doctor's office complaining about bleeding gums he'll probably tell you that you have a vitamin C deficiency, then you're gonna go home and eat them like M&M's.  A month later you go back and he says, "glad to see your gums have stopped bleeding, but now you have a vitamin E deficiency".

My recommendation is to get your vitamins for natural, organic whole foods.  You don't need a multi-vitamin if you have a well balanced, diverse diet of fruits, vegetables and meat.  I've asked this question before about other things, but how did we survive millions of years without a GNC multi-vitamin.  I personally don't believe that science can outsmart Mother Nature.

Thanks for reading and stay healthy!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why Go Barefoot?

Why not?  How did the human race survive millions of years of evolution without the support and cushioning from Nike's or Asics'?  The answer is we used the perfect, God given shock absorbs available to us... our bare feet.  It makes sense if you think about it.  Personally I grew up with the exact opposite mindset, which was "always wear your sneakers".  I always heard that we need the proper support and cushioning for our feet.  It wasn't until I saw this guy, who is now a friend of mine, wearing the Vibram Five Fingers that I started doing some research on going barefoot.  At first, I thought to myself, "doesn't this guy know those things are bad for his feet?"  So I started doing research and to my surprise, going barefoot is actually the best way for us to walk!  This was one of the first pieces I read on the benefits of going barefoot... and this is from 1905!!...
"Most people, including doctors, have never seen a natural foot, unaltered by footwear. The following images of habitually bare feet are taken from a study performed almost 100 years ago, published 1905 in the American Journal of Orthopedic Surgery, which examined the feet of native barefoot populations in the Philippines and Central Africa. A line can be drawn that runs through the heel, ball, and big toe of a habitually bare foot. The little toes spread naturally and fan out to provide a wide, stable base for walking or standing
How do our shod feet compare? The following more common image, also taken from the 1905 study, demonstrates feet that are shaped like the owner’s shoes. No such line can be drawn, and the little toes crowd to a point—a comparatively unstable, narrow base for walking or standing."

Did you know that the human foot has an approximate 7,800 nerves and almost 200,000 sensors?  When our foot (barefoot) makes contact with the ground these sensors are activated, which then sends signals to the three most injury prone areas of the legs: the ankles, knees and hips.  Also, when we walk barefoot we force the muscles in our feet to actually develop.  Have you ever noticed the shape at the top of a sneaker?  Now compare that with the shape of our feet near our toes.  The sneaker comes to a narrow cone, but our feet are naturally wide at the top.  What this does is it crowds our toes and doesn't allow up to use the balls of our feet nor or toes to propel us.  Instead we rely on the upward curve at the tip of the sneaker to "rock us" into our next step (notice the curve towards the toes - kind of looks like a rocking chair doesn't it?).

The problem is, we start to wear shoes at such a young age that the muscles in our feet never develop to their full potential because the toes are squeezed together in our laced up, fashionable footwear.  But what's more important, the way your feet look or feel?  I personally love walking around the house barefoot and after all the research I did, it was time to go try on the Vibram Five Fingers.  This is the pair that I own and I love them, no matter what they look like.  I wear them whenever I can (even though my wife doesn't like them) and my legs and feet haven't been stronger!  Research shows that developing the foot muscles also strengthens the legs and low back muscles.  Personally, I felt a considerable increase in the strength of my feet the last time I did Yoga and I have been wearing the Vibrams for about a year.  If you don't like the alien lizard feet look there are alternatives to simulate a barefoot experience, but none compare to the Five Fingers (I think you'll like the reaction you get).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Is Cortisol the Culprit?

There are many people today trying to lose weight, build muscle, improve their sleep and the list goes on.  Some people think that they have to beat themselves up in the gym after a stressful day at work or wake up real early to get their workout in.  What people don't realize is that these things put a lot of stress on the body and can prevent your body from responding the way you want.  Stress is something that affects all of us at one time or the other, but by understanding how certain everyday habits might add to the problem, maybe we can reverse these habits and get one step closer to our goal.

One thing that a lot people do everyday are drink high caffeine drinks such as coffee or Red Bull.  Caffeine is very stressful to the adrenal glands, which stimulates the sympathetic nervous system putting our bodies in a "fight or flight" mode.  A stress hormone called Cortisol is then released in the body.  Stress hormones, like Cortisol, are categorized as catabolic hormones, which mean they break down tissue.  If you are trying to build muscle, you do not want your catabolic hormone levels high!  The opposite of catabolic is anabolic and these are the good guys.  These are the hormones that will build muscle and help keep the body in "fat burning mode".

Remember, cortisol is released due to stress, so when our stress is high it can have a harmful affect on our bodies.  For example, cortisol negatively affects neural tissue health, quality of sleep and mood.  You might be wondering, how does it affect sleep?  Well, cortisol is naturally high in your body in the morning when the sun rises.  The light stimulates your pineal gland, which activates the reticular activating system, which gets you ready for your day.  After about 12 o'clock your cortisol levels start to slowly decrease (as long as you don't artificially stimulate them) and your melatonin levels (the hormone that helps you sleep) increases.  So let's say you are on your way to the gym around 6:00 p.m after a long day of work and your decide to have a coffee or a Red Bull to give yourself some energy.  The caffeine spikes your cortisol levels and lowers your melatonin levels, so then you get home from the gym and can't get to bed until after midnight because you had a coffee at 6 o'clock, but now your cutting into your good sleep when the body should be rebuilding itself.  Remember, your cortisol levels should naturally be down at this time and when cortisol is down, hormones like DHEA, growth hormone and testosterone are high.  

Also, as I stated earlier, stress creates a sympathetic response in the body, which blocks digestion.  So with the examples given above, we can see the various negative affects that stress has on the body.  Like I said, we all deal with stress at one point or the other, but what we need to do is slow down.   Keep yourself properly hydrated (How much water a day?) and don't rely on caffeine for energy, get to bed at a reasonable hour and relax when you feel tried.  Don't beat yourself up in the gym after a long, tiring day at work because you could be doing more damage than good.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Water... Is 8 ounces a day enough??

Depending on an individuals size, the human body is made up of 55% - 78%.  It is important to keep ourselves hydrated, as water supports many of our bodily functions including: removing toxins and waste from the body along with transporting oxygen, nutrients and other elements through the blood.  In addition, there are many benefits from drinking the right amount of water each day.  To name a couple, it increases the availability of oxygen for our cells, increases the absorption of nutrients and helps to detoxify the body.

The one question I get a lot is, "Well what about coffee?".  Even though coffee is mostly water, coffee is a diuretic, which causes our bodies to lose water.  Don't worry, I'm not saying you can never have coffee again, but you shouldn't be drinking 3 cups a day to "wake your self up".  You would be surprised at how much more "awake" you feel when your body is properly hydrated.  Also, I wouldn't recommend drinking coffee after lunch time, but that is for another post.  So now that we see how important water is for our bodies the magic question becomes, "How much should I be drinking to stay properly hydrated?".

I am a big fan of Paul Chek of the C.H.E.K Institute and I have found that his formula for how much water someone should be drinking per day is very accurate.  It is very simple... take your weight and divide it by 2.  Take that number and that is how many ounces of water you should be drinking daily.  So take me for example, I currently weight 190 lbs... 190 / 2 = 95, therefore, I should be consuming 95 ounces of water per day.  Once I started doing this I noticed a world of difference.  I felt less tired, less hungry throughout the day, I had better skin and I started losing weight (in a good way).  A good way to track how much you are drinking is to purchase a water bottle and figure out how many bottles you have to drink each day.  I prefer a 24 oz to 27 oz bottle (glass is best, but if you get a plastic one make sure it is BPA free).

Friday, March 4, 2011

Getting Healthy Isn't Hard!

Today there are more sick and unhealthy people than ever in history.  In addition, we have more “health professionals” than ever in history, but how healthy are they?  The average doctor dies 10 years before his average patient.  We can’t be taking health advice from unhealthy people.  Most people think it is such a chore to get healthy, but it’s really not.  People want results right away, but there is no quick fix or magic pill that will transform us to become healthy.  It is a lifestyle change that should be done little by little.  This is why people stop their “diets” after 1-2 months because they try to change too much too quick.  I tell people to relax and be patient, it will happen.   A few things you can start doing are drinking more water (half your body weight in ounces per day), set up a regular exercise routine.  If you sit at a desk all day – park further away from your building and take the stairs.  Remember, don't rush it - small changes + good food + exercise = health