Injury Free Marathon Training

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I’m training for my third marathon.  People often tell me, “You are so healthy because you run” and my answer is “I can run because I’m so healthy”.  If my diet, sleep, stress levels and training regime weren’t dialed in, there is no way I could run a marathon at 52.  To optimize my wellness and performance I eat a wide variety of real foods; manage my stress levels via mind-body techniques; make high-quality sleep a priority and finally have an optimized training plan.  Let’s break these down individually.

Diet

There are few things we have as much control over as what we put in our mouths, but if you look at the standard American diet, as a nation we are doing a horrible job of eating for health.  If you’re training for a demanding endurance event, like a marathon, you need to make your calories count.  In addition, if you have a few extra pounds, you also need to count your calories as extra pounds on your frame will cause extra stress on your joints.

Standard diet advise for endurance athletes is carbs and more carbs, followed by a side of carbs.  I’m not a member of the “carbs are bad” club, but I do believe most endurance athletes can perform better if they become somewhat fat adapted.  A body can store roughly 2,000 calories of glycogen, enough for 90 minutes of activity, while it can store 30,000-100,000 calories of fat. If you can pull on your fat reserves, you will be able to run longer, harder and faster without bonking.  Here are a few tips for a healthy fat adapted diet.

  • The standard American diet is about 400 grams of carbs per day and a low carb diet is around 30 per day with keto below 10. Though it is definitely possible to perform well in endurance activities on a ketogenic diet, I believe for most people this transition is tough and can even cause health issues such as triglyceride level spikes and thyroid hormone level drops.  I generally don’t go below 100 grams, unless I’m fasting, and will even go up to 200 the day before an 18+ mile run.  I encourage you to track your macros via an app like MyFItnessPal and see what works for you.  Remember, if you’re used to eating a lot of carbs, you are more likely to feel a “crash” as you’re not used to calling on  fat reserves for energy.   It takes work to become fat adapted but for most endurance athletes, the pain is worth the gain.
  • Try some runs in a fasted state. It’s one of the best ways to get fat adapted. If you’re not used to this, start off with going out for 20 to 30 minutes.  I’ve built myself up to 2 hours.  Note:  On race day I’ll eat a breakfast with 100 grams of carbs, as studies (and observation) show eating (especially carbs) does help performance.  If you’re interested in the nitty gritty details, here’s a study done on race walkers. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1113/JP273230/abstract
  • Eat healthy carbs. In addition to copious amounts of vegetables, I eat lots of sweet potatoes, qinuoa, legumes and my delicious homemade einkorn sourdough bread.
  • Avoid ALL processed foods. These hyper-palatable, fake sustenance edibles are typically found in cafeteria vending machines, boxes and the frozen food aisle. These items will inflame you and you can’t afford to have inflammation in your body when you’re logging 20 mile runs.
  • Make a batch of bone broth every week and use it as a base for soup, chili or stew. Any extra can be frozen. Here’s my basic recipe:  Place carrots, celery, onion, garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaves in a slow cooker. Place roasted bones over vegetables; pour in enough cold water to cover  Add apple cider vinegar and kosher salt. Cook on Low for 24 hours.
  • Make sure you get enough protein from healthy sources, such as wild caught salmon or grass fed beef. Not sure it’s necessary to supplement, but if you’re vegan, you might want to think of doing a vegan protein powder.
  • If inflammation is bothering you, rather than taking NSAIDS, supplement with the following:
    • Curcumin (found in Tumeric)
    • Tart Cherry Juice
    • Ginger
  • Stay hydrated. I don’t recommend Gatorade, but missing electrolytes are a concern.  Make sure you are getting enough Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium and Calcium. On super sweaty days, I make a concoction of filtered water, coconut water, with a pink Himalayan sea salt and Natural Calm Magnesium/Calcium powder.

Sleep

This is probably the most common issue middle-aged, physically fit people have.  The answers are complex, but of one thing I’m certain:  Ambien is not the answer.  Here are a few tips for helping you get a good night’s sleep:

  • Once the sun goes down, put on some blue light blockers to avoid artificial light. Especially useful if you watch TV or on your computer for hours in the evening.
  • Get your core temperature down by taking a cool shower. When bathing at night, I use candles vs electric lights to illuminate the bathroom.
  • Get your bedroom DARK! You shouldn’t be able to see your hand in front of your face.
  • Make sure all blue, green, etc. LED lights are blocked.
  • Turn off your WiFI router.
  • Try to get to bed and get up at the same time.
  • Some natural supplements that can help include:
    • 3 to 5 mg of melatonin
    • 500 mg reishi mushrooms
    • 350 mg magnesium citrate Note:  It’s easy to build up a tolerance to these supplements, so don’t just up the doseage if you feel the effects wearing off.  You are better off trying another supplement.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and stimulants HOURS before bed

Stress Management

Even if your diet and exercise is dialed in, you won’t be successful running an injury free marathon if you can’t manage your stress.  Many folks are addicted to endurance sports because they get an endorphin rush from the effort.  Ironically, these exercise endorphin junkies are the often the exact same people who shouldn’t be running marathons.  They’d be better off with Yin Yoga.  Here are some tips to manage stress:

  • Meditation: If you’re new to the practice, try some guided meditation programs or relaxing to the sound of binaural beats.  Both can be explored for free via YouTube videos.
  • Positive social interactions: Nowadays I look forward to running solo as I’m intrinsically motivated and look forward to listening to my favorite podcasts as I’m running.  However, for my first marathon I buddied up with two other women and though we were all running different races, we definitely kept each other motivated and accountable. Also, don’t neglect your family and non-running friends during your training.  Nothing is better than seeing your loved ones at the end of a race and if they feel slighted they might not show up to celebrate with you at the end.
  • Gratitude Journaling: Wake up every day and be thankful you get to run vs being stressed that you have to run. Be thankful for a family and friends that support your efforts and the job that allows you to buy $150 running shoes.
  • Massage: I believe in the modality so much that I’m currently getting my massage license. Schedule regular massages, at least once a month, during your training. I also recommend daily five to ten minute myofascial release sessions using tools like a foam roller or lacrosse ball to address your “trouble spots”.

Training Program

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is to put on junk miles. Unless running is your job, less is more. My previous training programs all involved cross training with four runs a week, but this time around, I’m only running three times a week.  Here are the key runs:

  • Long Run (Sunday): I don’t care how fast I go, I just need to cover the distance. My longest run will be 22 miles.
  • Tempo Run (Tuesday or Thursday): Generally a third of my long run, and run at a pace that is a minute or more faster than my desired marathon pace.
  • Speed Work (Thursday or Thursday) about an hour of 440 or 880’s done at the track at an all-out pace, with full recovery between sprints. This is VERY hard for me, and the most important part of my training program as I’m a natural endurance runner, with little power and speed.

I’ve also schedule in some races, 5k to half- marathons, to help me with race jitters and execution strategy.

I will incorporate one day of biking (probably indoor as I’m a spin instructor), two to three days of strength training and two to three days of Yoga, Pilates or Barre.  I will not run and bike on the same day (not training for a triathlon), but will brick the other modalities.  For example, the day of my long run I will take a Yoga class.

Note: If Yoga is “not your thing” you still need to do some mobility sessions.  Here’s a video link of my clients doing  a quick mobility routine you can easily incorporate into your training program any day of the week. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLoppDs4KXE&index=4&list=UUrewpMDL8kqjWM2Q6nBlUbA

Conclusion

The oldest woman to complete a marathon was Harriette Thompson who in 2015, at 92, completed the San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon. Not saying I want to beat her record, but I’d like to be healthy enough to know I could. 

Fitness Industry Bull$hi+

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The fitness industry is fraught with products, pitches and dogmas that are completely false.  People are forever hopeful that they can just take a pill to lose weight or find one piece of exercise equipment that will make them look like a bikini model with just 20 minutes a day.  Buyer beware: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. However, there are several trends and “dogmas” that make me want pull-out my hair!   Since I don’t want to go bald, I decided to do the next best thing and rant about them in a blog post.  Enjoy!

Waist Trainers

Popularized by Kim Kardashian and other celebrities with hour glass shapes, these garments purport to “train” your waist to be narrow.  This is absolutely ludicrous and there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that you can make your waist smaller by wearing a corset.   It is true that while you’re wearing it, your waist will be smaller, and the change can even be semi-permanent as floating ribs and organs get moved, however, once no longer worn your waist will return to its normal size.  Also, you are liable to eat less while wearing a trainer, though this is not guaranteed as pregnant woman have less room in their stomachs due to a growing baby, yet many still manage to eat copious amounts of food.

Wearing Spanx or a corset for a few hours to look good in a dress is one thing, but wearing a trainer for hours on end to try to train your waist small, is bad for your organs, posture, breathing and abdominal muscles.  The big trend in wearing these garments while working out is ridiculous, as you are putting your natural core muscles to sleep, which will only make your abdominals weaker. If you are wearing a waist trainer, your natural core muscles are not supporting you! It’s like trying to make your arm stronger while wearing a cast. Have you ever seen someone’s limb after they’ve been in a brace or cast for a few weeks? It is noticeably smaller as the muscles have atrophied.   If you train your core properly you can use your own natural corset muscles, the transverse abdominals, to keep your posture strong and stable. Of course, if you have a layer of adipose tissue covering your abs, you won’t have a lean waist.   Eat appropriately and exercise to naturally trim your waist.  I’m a huge fan of Pilates exercise protocols for teaching you how to properly activate your core muscles.  I don’t even do traditional ab work (e.g. crunches, planks, etc.) when I do my own workouts, though I do them when teaching Group Ex classes, as I engage my power house muscles whenever I lift, and I like to lift heavy.

Note:  There is one time where I approve of waist trainers or corsets to “shrink” a tummy and that is post childbirth.  After both my pregnancies, I wrapped my torso very tightly to help shrink my uterus.  This, coupled with the fact that I only gained about 30 pounds with each pregnancy, allowed me to wear my jeans within a few days of giving birth.  However, in this instance I wasn’t “training my waist”, I was shrinking my uterus.

Pre-workout

When I started in the fitness industry back in the early 1980’s there was no such thing as “pre-workout”.  The body building legends of the 1970’s, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane, drank coffee before they trained. In researching this post, I also learned that some people at the time also used Niacin (B3), which helps your blood vessels dilute, to get an extra pump for demanding workouts.  Then sometime in the late 80’s I became aware of some of my fellow gym rats taking a product called “Ultimate Orange” which was basically ephedrine mixed with Tang. This blend gave you a carb boost coupled with a strong stimulant.  The next phase I remember was body builders taking creatine before workouts to get water into the muscle cell.  In the late 90’s manufacturers started to blend creatine supporting nutrients into pre-workouts to enhance the creatine effect of pulling water into the muscle cell.  This helped give body builders the “swole” look.  From there I remember ever more elaborate blends, that used amino acids such as Arginine designed to deliver more nutrients to the muscle cells by opening up the blood vessels.   This delivered a “pump in the gym”.  Next up, manufacturers decided to add caffeine to boost energy and (hopefully) the quality of your workout. Unfortunately, this stimulant craze led to pre-workouts that were pretty much legal meth, flavored with artificial sweeteners.  It is the opposite ofhealthy, and though unhealthy is pretty much embedded in the professional world of body building (as is the case with many sports), I’m hoping amateur athletes are focused more on health and longevity than chasing the pump. Here are some natural ingredients to use for making your own pre-workout. I’m also including a few formulations I use for endurance sports, such as running.   Some I’ve tried, and some (for legal or other reasons) I’ve only heard about.  The goal here is to provide you with supplements that help you meet your training goals and minimize harmful additives and extremely high quantities of stimulants.

  • Caffeine: You can go as basic as having a strong cup of coffee (my favorite) or make a smoothie with cold coffee and some other ingredients listed below.  Finally, you can also, just take a caffeine pill.  I recommend 100 to 200 mg (depending on your body size).
  • Nicotine: Nicotine gets a bad rap because of its delivery system, cigarettes, but the substance itself can give you an energy boost.  I tried chewing some gum before a lifting workout (2 mg) and had great energy without jitters, but I still preferred caffeine.  Then I coupled nicotine (2 mg) with coffee (100 mg).  This left my heart beating a bit too fast and also killed my appetite for a while. Not good if you are trying to bulk, but definitely a handy hack if you’re trying to lose weight.
  • CBD: I have not tried this as I live in Florida and though medical marijuana was legalized, our legislators are imbeciles and haven’t made the process easy. Once the kinks are worked out, I want to experiment with high-quality CBD oil, which doesn’t cause the “high” of THC, for endurance exercise, such as my long runs.
  • Niacin (B3): Helps your blood vessels dilate, which increases the flow of blood in your body. This will help you get an extra “pump” in your demanding workouts. I take a B complex daily, which includes B3 so I don’t use it in a pre-workout. Note:  Niacinamide is NOT the flushing form of vitamin B3, rather niacin (nicotinic acid) is the FLUSHer.
  • Creatine: I take 5 grams daily as creatine has been proven to boost mental sharpness as well as physical performance. I make it part of my morning smoothie, but it can also be used in your pre-workout regimine.
  • Taurine: If you are an endurance athlete and take electrolytes (magnesium, sodium, potassium and calcium) consider including the amino acid taurine in your mix as it is vital to the proper functioning of the electrolyte minerals. Here’s my special conconction for long runs on hot days:
    • Coconut water (I read it was similar to the fluid used in IV rehydration)
    • ¼ teaspoon of salt per 8 oz of coconut water
    • 1 tablespoon per 8 oz Natural Calm Calcium/Magnesium Powder
    • Approximately 2,000 mg of taurine (note recommended dosage is 27-58 mg per kg of body weight)

Running is Bad for Your Body

I would be rich if I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say running is bad for your knees.  Humans are meant to walk/run.  We have a better endurance capacity than virtually all other mammals.  However, it is true that almost half of all runners report an injury at least once a year making it statistically one of the most dangerous sports.   My personal belief is that these numbers a deceptive.  Because running is a relatively easy activity: You put on shoes and go.  In meta-analysis studies on running injuries, novice runners were two and a half more likely than recreational runners and TEN TIMES as elite runners to get injured.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4473093/

De-conditioned people are more likely to try running as an exercise than say CrossFit, which in my opinion is WAY more likely to cause injury (and it does have a fairly high injury rate). Also, the reporting of running injuries can depend on medical coding.  For example, you get bit by a dog while running.  Is that a running injury or a dog bite or both?

At the end of this section I give you tips on how to embark on a running program without getting injured.  First, here are several studies to prove how good running is for you:

If you have no physical limitations, and are just scared of running because of the danger “myth”, start by walking four minutes and running one minute for 30 minutes.  Once that is easy, walk for three minutes and run for two minutes.  Keep going until you can run for five minutes total.  After that you can decide if you want to stay with a walk/run interval program or attempt to get up to running thirty minutes non-stop. In my opinion, running more than a 5K (3.1 miles) isn’t necessary for health reasons, however, some people are naturally adept at running and might want to go for longer distances.  You can actually get your DNA tested to determine if you have the endurance gene (ACE I/D) variant.  Finally, make sure to add one to two days or strength training and/or Yoga to your weekly routine to minimize repetitive stress injuries.  As I noted in my blog post http://bewellwithmel.com/whats-the-perfect-exercise/ , there’s no such thing as a perfect exercise routine and variety reduces boredom and risk of injury.

Conclusion

Many products sold in the name of health, fitness and wellness are backed by entities with no desire other than to make money.  However, if you do your research, you will find supplements, equipment and information created by people who have a passion for well-being and want to improve the world.  Find those people and support them.  They will give more than take and be very transparent as to how they make their money.  I strive to be one of the good ones my friends.

 

 

 

Optimize Your Smoothie

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Smoothie’s are my go to breakfast choice.  They’re easy to make, portable and filling.  Unfortunately, I’ve noticed many folks jumping into the “smoothie culture” and making less than healthy choices.  Here are some tips to make sure you have a delicious and nutritious smoothie.

Keep it Real

Though it is convenient to rely on powders for your smoothie, powders are generally highly processed and full of artificial flavors and sweeteners.  Though I do add some powders to my smoothie (see section titled “Add in Supplements” below for details), my focus is on high quality real foods, especially greens. Here are some tips for making a delicious and nutritious smoothie.

Focus on Vegetables

The majority of your smoothie should be vegetables.  U.S. dietary guidelines call for at least three servings of vegetables a day.  Unfortunately, most of us don’t even get that.  Use an organic mix of greens such as kale, chard, arugula, dandelion, collards and spinach.  Other vegetables that add a refreshing touch are cucumber, celery and mushrooms, as they all have a high-water content.  Don’t be afraid to try different ingredients.  I once threw in some beets.  True confession, this was not one of my better smoothies.

If you have three cups of greens in your morning smoothie, you’ve already meet your minimum consumption of vegetables for the day.  My challenge to you is to strive to double that amount. As an additional challenge, attempt to eat a wide variety of vegetables.  Most Americans eat a very limited variety of vegetables, our ancestors ate a huge variety. Next time you’re at the grocery store, buy a green you’ve never tried.  Be adventurous!

Easy on the Fruit

Bananas are probably the tastiest fruit to add to your smoothie.  From a nutritional standpoint, berries are a better pick.  As a housewife who hates to waste food, my go to fruit is usually whatever is about to go bad.  I’ve added everything from apples to watermelon and I’ve never had a bad tasting smoothie because of fruit (unlike the beet fiasco).

Though avocados are technically a fruit, I don’t count them under the fruit category for smoothie purposes as they don’t contribute to the overall sugar content of the smoothie.  They are a nutritional powerhouse, chock full of healthy fats and very nutrient dense.  In addition, avocados help give your smoothie a nice creamy texture.

Dairy

Always use organic as conventional dairy is notoriously high in antibiotics and hormones.  According to a Harvard University Study, dairy consumption accounts for 60-80% of dietary estrogens, which have been linked to cancer.  Use fermented dairy such as plain full fat Yogurt or Milk Kefir for a probiotic boost.  Kefir is the better choice as it can have two to three times as many cultures as Yogurt and twenty different types of probiotics.  It’s perfectly fine to use both or alternate between the two.  Just use full fat, plain and organic brands.

Liquid

Unsweetened nut milks, like almond, are a great addition to your smoothie.  If you are very dehydrated, for example after a long run in the summer, it’s nice to add in some coconut water for a little extra hydration and electrolyte boost.  My go to liquid blend is ½ cup unsweetened almond milk along with ½ cup coconut water.

Greens Powder

A high quality green powder is a great way to maximize the nutritional value of your smoothie. Make sure to use a powder that contains vegetables you aren’t adding in raw form. Ideally one that has a great mix of antioxidants and immune building compounds to compliment your fresh greens.  I’m a big fan of the Orgnifi brand, though there are probably others that are equally reputable.  The Organifi green powder has many organic powdered superfoods that I’m unlikely to get in the supermarket, for example the algae Chlorella and Moringa leaves, a powerful medicinal plant from the Asian subcontinent.

Add-ons

This is where you can fine tune and get granular with your smoothie nutrients.

  • Protein: If you are in a muscle building phase, feel free to add in a high-quality protein powder. Don’t cut corners!  Cheaper is not better.  Many cheap brands have poor quality protein, low amounts of protein and artificial sweeteners or fillers that can wreak havoc on your gut.  The Organifi brand has an excellent vegan protein powder.  For my smoothies, I always add a tablespoon of Great Lakes Gelatin, which is derived from collagen, has twenty different amino acids and 11 grams of protein. It’s a great way to easily give your smoothie some of the same benefits derived from bone broth.
  • I also add 5 grams of Creatine which has been shown to help reduce muscle loss and cognitive function as we age. As a woman in her 50’s I need all the help I can get!
  • Other good add-ons include superfoods (e,g, algae), medicinal mushrooms or adaptogenic herbs (they help your body adapt to stresses by making it easier for you to balance your hormonal system). One of my favorite places to shop for these add-ons is a company called Four Sigmatic.  They have a wide variety of mushroom blends to help you with everything from anxiety to sleep. Sometimes I just raid my spice rack for some help: turmeric if I’m feeling inflamed; wild oregano or Echinacea if I feel I need an immune system boost.

Enhance the Nutrients

Here are a few simple hacks to increase the nutrient content of your smoothie:

  • Ice at the bottom of the blender to keep the ingredients from getting overheated during blending.
  • A squeeze of lemon juice from half a lemon to assure there is no oxidation of your healthy produce and a little added Vitamin C.
  • About a ¼ teaspoon of black pepper to help with nutrient absorption.

Macro & Micro Smoothie Breakdown

I probably have never made the exact same smoothie twice. Here is a breakdown of this morning’s smoothie. The macro nutrient content of my smoothie probably varies very little. However, the micronutrients can differ substantially depending on the addition of superfoods or adaptogens.  This morning’s creation was very simple and took less than three minutes from start to finish.

  • Three cups organic spinach, kale and chard
  • One medium ripe banana
  • Half an avocado
  • Half a cup plain full fat Kefir
  • ¼ cup almond milk
  • ¼ cup coconut water
  • One scoop green powder
  • One tablespoon Great Lakes Gelatin
  • 5 mg Creatine
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1 tsp Turmeric

Calories: 430

Carbohydrates: 50 grams

Protein: 28 grams

Fat: 13 grams

Fiber: 17 grams

Vitamin A 75% RDA

Vitamin C 100% RDA

Vitamin D 50% RDA

Vitamin B6 40% RDA

Iron 30% RDA

Calcium 80% RDA

Potassium 25% RDA

This was a fairly high carb smoothie because of the banana. If you are going low-carb, definitely stay with berries or eliminate all fruit and the coconut water.  It’s also easy to double the protein by adding more Gelatin or increase the fat by adding a whole avocado.

Conclusion

Eating a smoothie in lieu of a standard breakfast, lunch or dinner can be a great way to increase the nutrient quality of your diet.  Just remember to use real food, focus on vegetables and avoid additions with empty calories.  Make healthy choices my friends.

Here are the links to some of the brands I mentioned in this post. Many of their products are also sold on Amazon.

https://us.foursigmatic.com/

http://www.organifi.com/green-juice/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Biohacking?

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Whether it’s listening to podcasts, reading books, perusing Pinterest posts or watching YouTube videos, I’m a huge consumer of health and fitness content.  Often times I run across biohacking concepts and many of these ideas have become so main stream to my personal wellness and what I preach to my clients, that I forget how fringe the whole concept of biohacking can be to most people.  When I was writing this blog, I went to Wikipedia for the definition of “Biohacking” and the page stated: “The article needs to be written”.   Since I don’t consider myself a biohacker or gifted writer, I’ll leave that task to someone else, my goal here is to discuss some of the more common “biohacks” ; their purpose; my experience (if I’ve tried them) , and provide links for you in case you want to take a deeper dive.

Since Wikipedia let me down, I decided to take a stab at writing my own definition of biohacking.  Here’s what I came up with:   “The process of using lifestyle hacks, technology, science and biology to optimize your mind and body performance”.

Common BioHacks

Bulletproof Coffee

Popularized by Dave Asprey , Bulletproof Coffee is coffee blended with one to two tablespoons each of unsalted grass-fed butter and medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil.  The blending of buttery dairy into caffeine based beverages has been happening for centuries, and Dave decided to produce a coffee version after getting energized by some tea and Yak butter while hiking in Tibet.  Dave Asprey’s  recipe calls for his special mold free coffee and an MCT oil called Brain Octane that is designed to keep you sharp, stave off hunger, up your ketones (more on that topic later) and  keep you from getting the “poopy pants” often associated with consuming too much MCT oil.

Bulletproof Coffee

BulletProof Coffee

I’ve tried Bulletproof Coffee.  It’s delicious!  Blending the black coffee with the dairy and MCT oil makes a frothy, Latte like beverage.  However, I noticed no measurable difference in mental clarity or satiation.  I reverted back to consuming my regular coffee (I drink it with a splash of half-n-half) vs Bulletproof.

If you want to try some Bulletproof Coffee and MCT oil, here’s a link.  Mr. Asprey  (and I) recommend Kerrygold butter to finish the recipe. https://www.google.com/search?biw=1600&bih=770&tbm=shop&q=bulletproof+coffee+kit&oq=bulletproof+coffee+kit&gs_l=psy-ab.1.0.0.5165.5536.0.7699.3.3.0.0.0.0.230.441.1j1j1.3.0….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..0.3.440.cMdT_V7giS8#spd=15494404369160500779

 

Ketosis

Our bodies use ketones via our mitochondria to generate energy.  They are an alternative fuel source to glucose and according to virtually every biohacker I’ve listened to, a superior source. A ketogenic diet is one that is very high in fat (75%), moderate in protein (25%) and EXTREMELY low in carbohydrates (5%).  Ketosis happens when blood ketones are higher than normal either through dietary changes (which lead to very low blood glucose) or through supplementation (independent of blood glucose concentrations).   Because a ketogenic diet is so restrictive, many biohackers have taken to supplementing, primarily with Beta Hydroxybuyrate or BHB, to get into Ketosis.

I’ve never worked on getting into ketosis, but intuitively I see a benefit to my body being efficient at getting its energy from either glucose or ketones.  For example, I do long runs in a fasted state and have never bonked, so I’m guessing at some point my glucose stores must have been depleted and I was switching over to ketones, i.e. I think I might be fat adapted!  I’m currently in the off season for running, but when I start doing long runs in the fall, I’m going to buy some ketone measuring strips to see how high my ketones are after a long run.  Here’s a link if you’re interested is doing something similar.

https://www.amazon.com/Just-Fitter-Fabulous-Ketogenic-Accurately/dp/B01J9LOP4M/ref=sr_1_1_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1501967582&sr=8-1&keywords=ketone+test+strips

So should you follow a ketogenic diet or consume BHB?  If you have cancer or a brain injury, there seems to be compelling evidence to suggest yes.  (Obviously this is something that must be discussed with your health care practitioner.)  There is also evidence that ketosis can be helpful for endurance athletes.   However, for weight loss and general health there appears to be no real advantage and potential detriments in areas such as thyroid hormones and triglycerides.

If you want to learn more about ketosis, Dominic D’ Agostino a researcher at the University of Southern Florida, is a wonderful source.  Here is his website with a link to some of his published research.

http://www.dominicdagostino.com/

 

Eyewear

Though blue light is prevalent in nature, we are getting an overabundance of it due to our constant exposure to TV, Phone and computer screens.  In addition to causing eye strain, scientists are concerned this overexposure could lead to macular degeneration.  There is also concern that blue light at night keeps you from getting a good night’s sleep.  I have adopted the practice of wearing blue light blockers when the sun goes down.  You can get a pair for as little as $10 on Amazon (I’m actually wearing some as I type this at 9 p.m.)

Blue Light Blockers

Me with Blue Light Blockers

or you can get a really cool pair through a company called Biohacked.  They even have a pair you can wear during the day to keep the junk LED and fluorescent light you encounter in your office from damaging your mitochondria, which are super abundant in those eye cells! If you want to learn more about the perils of junk lighting, please check out the Biohacked website.  You can conveniently purchase the glasses there too! https://biohacked.com/product/truedarktwilight/

 

Supplements

Let’s just say that biohackers spend a lot of money on supplements and probably have very expensive urine. Though I haven’t delved into it yet, the area of Nootropics (brain enhancing supplements) intrigues me.  In addition to this, I know there is a fairly high-rate of successful folks micro dosing on hallucinogenics.  As someone who dabbled with pot, coke, mushrooms and LSD in her youth, not sure how this will all play out.  That said, it seems like tiny doses of LSD can’t be much worse than the  Adderall and Xanax everyone is legally taking.

Here are some details on a few fringe supplements which I’ve heard about on podcasts or read about on the interweb and come up frequently on my  FB or IG feeds.  There are some heavy hitters behind these supplements: Nobel Prize Laureates, Doctors, etc., and they’ve gone the route of making their products supplements vs drugs to bypass FDA approval.  Buyer beware.

The first is Qualia, which falls under the nootropic category, and is sometimes referred to as “The God pill”.  (Great marketing.) Designed to be a whole system upgrade to your cognitive capacity, and give you drive, focus, willpower and emotional resilience.  Cost is $129/month (subscription auto-ship) or $1,548.00/year Here’s the link if you want to learn more about it:

https://neurohacker.com/qualia/

The second is Elysium, which is an anti-aging supplement that works directly on Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide  (NAD) production, a precursor to mitochondria production. There are many other NAD supplements out there, but the pedigree of the people behind this one makes it interesting. I already wrote about this supplement in my blog post, http://bewellwithmel.com/healthy-aging-as-we-age/ .Cost is $40/month (subscription/auto-ship) or $480/year.

https://www.elysiumhealth.com/

Some of the biohackers I follow have endorsed these supplements, but the on-line consumer reviews are mixed.  My guess is they work better for some people than others.  I haven’t taken the plunge yet, but am tempted.  Paying  $1,500/yr for a pill that can make me perform like the character in the movie “Limitless” seems like a bargain.  Here’s hoping there are no side effects!

Another, even fringier supplement, is Selective Androgen Modulators (SARMs).  SARMs are chemicals that are designed to modulate the androgen receptors in the body.  (Androgen receptors are the ones that testosterone attaches too.) This one is designed to “pump your body”.  If you Google SARMs, you will get lots of hits on what appear to be research studies touting the benefits of SARMs.

SARMs Internet Ad

SARMs Internet Ad

The articles basically state you get all the benefits of steroids with none of the negatives.  However, most of these sites are “click-bait” that will lead you to a link to purchase SARMs.  SARMs are not authorized for human use, they are being researched.  This allows you to purchase them under the loophole of “lab purposes”.  My advice is to proceed with caution.

As for me personally, I get all my vitamins from a German company called Thorne:

  • Multivitamin:  Just in case I’m missing something!
  • Creatine (5 grams per day to minimize muscle loss and keep memory sharp
  • Vitamin D3, K, Magnesium, Zinc and Calcium: we seem to be commonly deficient in these vitamins (D is kind of a hormone) and minerals work best together stacked.
  • Astaxanthan:  Protect my skin from sunburn when I go out without sunscreen to absorb some extra Vitamin D.

I also always add two things to my Smoothie: Organifi green powder, which is chock full of algae and other exotic greens; and Great Lakes Gelatin, to help keep my connective tissues healthy.

One supplement I stopped taking after listening to biohackers was Fish Oil.  They indicated about 80% of it was rancid, and thus  worse than not taking fish oil, so I decided to eat wild salmon at least twice a week.  When it’s not in season, I buy it frozen.  I also consume Sardines regularly.   I’ve also learned  what is more important than the amount of Omega 3’s you consume is their ratio to Omega 6’s.  The ratio should be about one to one, Omega 6 to Omega 3.  Modern Western diets exhibit omega-6:omega-3 ratios ranging between 15:1 to 17:1.  Bottom line, even if you take a healthy fish oil supplement, you aren’t doing yourself any favors if you then douse your salad in a canola based dressing.

For the best diet, nutrition and supplement advice, I recommend Examine.com, an unbiased Canadian company that runs an online encyclopedia focused on health, nutrition, and supplementation.  They receive no money from supplement companies.  I purchased their 1200 page Supplement Guide and refer to it constantly.   Here’s their website if you want to check them out:

https://examine.com/

 

Self-Testing

Most of us get a blood test at least once every few years, but hackers have all sorts of markers they check. This list is far from comprehensive, but I have some experience with DNA evaluation, Telomere testing and blood sugar monitoring.

Many folks are familiar with having their DNA tested through 23andMe to determine ancestry.  This is fun stuff, but biohackers delve into the nitty gritty and look at variations in genetic sequences called SNP’s  (single nucleotide polymorphisms) that don’t cause disease but can help determine the chances of developing a certain illness.   The practice of hacking your lifestyle to avoid getting a disease that you might be predisposed to is called epigenetics.   So for example, recent collaborative genome-wide association efforts revealed at least 38 common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with increased risk of T2D.  If you have one these 38 SNP’s you should be extra careful with your carbohydrate intake and monitor your blood sugar closely.  If you’ve done 23andMe and want a complete genetic analysis, check out Rhonda Patrick’s Found My Fitness website:

https://www.foundmyfitness.com/genetics

Another interesting test is your biological age as determined by your telomeres.  Telomeres are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes, like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces.  As the telomeres shorten, your cells can no longer reproduce.  This is why we are all doomed to die.  I just sent off a blood test to a company called Teloyears to determine my biological age.  I’m sincerely hoping it is less than my chronological age of 52.  The test is relatively inexpensive ($89).  Here’s the link if you want to do the same.

https://www.teloyears.com/home/

If my test comes back showing, I’m older than I am, I will definitely make some changes. Unfortunately, I lead a pretty healthy life already, but I do consume wine on a daily basis.  I’d hate to lose my glass of wine!!!

In my blog post, http://bewellwithmel.com/should-you-check-your-blood-sugar/, I wrote about my week long glucose monitoring experiment where I checked my blood sugar three to four times a day and tracked all my macros to see how my blood sugar responded to carbohydrates.  Luckily I proved to be pretty insulin sensitive.  If you’re having a hard time losing weight or are feeling really sluggish (and you’ve already cleaned up your diet), I highly recommend you do this experiment on yourself.  You can buy a glucose meter, lancets and testing strips for $40 on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Easy-Touch-Diabetes-Testing-Kit/dp/B01HF5L98E/ref=sr_1_1_s_it?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1502053073&sr=1-1&keywords=blood%2Bglucose%2Bmonitor%2Bkit&th=1

Finally, there are a lot of labs out there that can help you check out your poop, blood, saliva, etc. to determine if you have any autoimmune issues, food allergies,etc.  I’ve had good luck with Cyrex Labs.

https://www.cyrexlabs.com/

Remember, if you can quantify it, you can optimize it!

Thermogenesis

Our ancestors thrived in brutal elements, but with modern heat and air, we spend most of lives in a very comfortable climate of approximately 72 degrees.  There is a long history of humanity practicing cold plunges or saunas, now the science is starting to catch up to the tradition and showing how spending time in temperature extremes builds our immune system, lowers body fat, improves our mood and helps us manage stress.  Simple acts like ending your shower with 20 seconds of cold water (make sure it hits your face) or spending time outdoors during relatively extreme heat or cold, can help.

If you want to take it a step further, visit a facility with cold pools, saunas, etc.   There are also Cryosaunas (pod with your head exposed) and CryoChamber (walk-in) centers opening up all over the place.   Both use nitrogen to lower your skin temperature by 30 to 50 degrees.   I haven’t tried this yet, but am planning on going to one with one of my clients shortly.  Two have opened up within a few miles of my house.

On the heat side of things, most biohackers are fans of Infrared saunas, and I like them too.  They don’t heat the air like traditional saunas and you can sit in them much longer.  Many emit lots of EMF, so I visit a local spa that has a version made by a company called Clearlight.

My dream wellness center will have cold plunge pools and an Clearlight Infrared sauna.

If you want to learn more about biohacking yourself to withstand extreme elements and up your mental and physical stamina, I suggest you read a book by Scott Carney called “What Doesn’t Kill Us” or “The Way of the Iceman” by Wim Hof.

Sleep

As a personal trainer, I think one of the most overlooked aspects of fitness is a good night’s sleep.  Though many people think getting by with a minimal amount of sleep is a badge of honor, the truth is most of us need eight hours. There is a genetic gene mutation in DEC2  that allows people to function on less sleep, however, it’s estimated that only three percent of the population has it.

I’m grateful to biohackers for making sleep hip.   Here are a few of the hacks I’ve adopted:

  • Wearing blue ray blockers when the sun goes down
  • Black out curtains.
  • Covering of flashing LED lights.
  • Cool rooms (okay, I live in Florida, this is limited).
  • Turning off my EMF at night.
  • Night time ritual of cool bath or shower by candelight

    Bathing by Candlelight

    Bathing by Candlelight

Hacks, I’d like to add, but haven’t yet for legal and financial reasons include ingesting a little CBD (cannabidoil) before bed (I use herbal tea) and a high quality mattress free of springs and petrol chemicals.  My dream mattress is a loom and leaf https://www.loomandleaf.com

I’ve never been a great sleeper, and being menopausal certainly hasn’t helped. These hacks are so much better than taking sleeping pills or drugs like Ambien, which don’t even put you in a real sleep anyhow.  That rant will be saved for another blog.

Here’s a link to the bonus sleep section of the Biohackers handbook:

http://biohackingbook.com/bonus-materials/sleep/

 

Exercise

There is definitely a law of diminishing returns with exercise.  Granted most American’s don’t get enough, but there are also others who are seriously overtraining and possibly keeping themselves from performing at their highest level.  Most biohackers prefer movement throughout the day with brief periods of intensity.  There is one machine, that I’ve never used, but have heard mentioned on several podcasts I listen to, it’s called the VASPER

Vasper

Vasper

and it uses compression technology, cooling and interval training to give you an intense full body workout that only needs to be done a few times a week for twenty to thirty minutes.   You can purchase one for your home (yes, they are pricey) or find a wellness facility where you can go to use one.

Personally, I don’t think our ancestors would have used a VASPER and I actually enjoy exercise!  I’ll leave this one to the rich biohackers.

Another exercise protocol that many Biohackers approve of is the Body by Science protocol popularized by Doug McGuff ten years ago. It’s basically a few multi-joint exercises, leg press, shoulder press, etc. done at a very slow tempo.  There is also some cardio and stamina sessions.   Definitely easier on your pocket book than a VASPER.

Meditation

As a certified Yoga instructor, I’m deeply aware of how breathing and controlling the parasympathetic nervous system helps calm us. Meditation has been proven to be better than virtually any modern pharmaceutical at alleviating depression, anxiety and managing stress.   The best variation appears to be Transcendental, which is fairly simple on the surface: you sit quietly and repeat a Sanskrit mantra.  However, it is difficult and there are clinics and workshops you can take to master the art.

I’m a huge fan of just simple, calming breath work.  For example, every morning when I get up and before I do ANYTHING ELSE, I sit quietly and take ten deep breaths:   ten seconds in, hold ten seconds, breath out ten seconds. Throughout the day, I take various “breath breaks”.  Sometimes I do alternate nasal

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Blocking a nostril, alternately inhale/exhale.

breathing or even extended breath holds, e.g. breath in and hold for 30 then 45 seconds then 60 seconds.  There are apena charts you can use to get better at this and some of the books I mentioned earlier, e.g. Wim Hof, have detailed breath work protocols.

I also like guided or moving meditations, like TaiChi or QiGong.

Finally, use an app called BrainFM, which is NOT binaural beats, but music generated via artificial intelligence to relax, focus, calm or help you meditate.  Cost is about $6/month.

Conclusion

There is much more to biohacking than what I’ve written.  If the subject interests you, please check out the following experts:

Dave Asprey : longevity

Ben Greenfield : athletic performance

Tim Ferris:  productivity

Hack well my friends.

 

 

 

 

How to Check Your Blood Sugar

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I’ve never had a problem with my sugar levels. All fasting tests have been below 100 mg/dL and my glucose tolerance tests (done during my pregnancies), were all way below 140. However, I did notice that if I ate a very heavy meal, which usually had lots of carbs, e.g. Pasta Primavera, my heart would race and I would feel exhausted.  I attributed this to my body being super busy digesting and not having enough energy to help me do anything else, like move.  However, when I read Robb Wolf’s latest book, “Wired to Eat”, it left me wondering if my blood sugar was also going sky high.  This blog post is about me taking my blood sugar levels for a week and noting what I ate and how I felt.  It was an interesting experiment and I learned a few surprising things about myself.

A little more about Robb Wolf (my inspiration for doing this experiment).

Mr. Wolf is a former research biochemist who had a host of health problems that he solved by eating Paleo style.  He was also an early adopter of CrossFit.   He is a BIG deal in the Paleo and CrossFit world.  His book “The Paleo Diet” pretty much vilified carbohydrates.  However, he started to realize that some folks, including high-level Cross Fit competitors, did better with a diet that included healthy carbs (still far from the Standard American Diet).  He actually took some heat from Paleo purists for taking this stance.  I have never been a one-size fits all believer, and though I was initially very skeptical of Mr. Wolf, after listening to his podcasts and reading his books, I realized he is not a paleo fanatic, (but some of his followers are).

The book he published in 2017, “Wired to Eat”, aims to help everyone determine their ideal carb intake via blood glucose monitoring.  Though the thought of pricking your finger may be a turn off, it truly isn’t painful and the information is really useful.  To be honest, it was more painful for me to figure out my macros than to prick my finger. His book outlines a protocol for you to follow if you’re trying to lose weight and determine your carb sensitivity.  Please buy the book if those are your goals.  I highly recommend it.

My goal was to determine at what blood sugar level I felt the best and then eat to keep myself in that level.  During my tracking week, I did one 24 hour fast and also had several meals that were much carb heavier than normal. A day-by-day blow is followed by my conclusions.  Enjoy the read my friends.

My Seven Day Challenge

Here was my protocol:

  • Take my blood sugar three to four times a day
  • Include my exercise (but not calories burned) as exercise affects blood sugar levels.
  • Write down everything I ate and break out the macro nutrients.

July 14

7 a.m. 90 fasted state

7 a.m. Drank two cups coffee with tablespoon of half-and-half (40 calories, mainly fat)

7:30 a.m. Ran 30 minutes at a slow pace (9:30/mile)

9:15 a.m. Taught Barre

10:30 a.m. Green Smoothie with half an avocado, 1 cup of Sprouts Organic Greens, 1 cup coconut water, ½ cup Vanilla Yogurt, 1 serving Organifi Powdered Greens, 5mg Creatine, 1 ½ tablespoons Lake Gelatin  Macro Nutrients:  Calories 422; Fat 18 grams (38%); Protein 26.5 grams (25%);  Carbs 38.5 grams (37%)

Noon:  105

2:30 p.m. Two Homemade Soft Shell Beef Tacos with Avocado, Tomato, Cheese, Lettuce, Salsa and Sour Cream, One store bought White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie Macro Nutrients:  Calories 684; Fat 36 grams (47%); Protein 30 grams (18%); Carbohydrates 60 grams (35%)

3:00 to 3:30: Napped

4:30 p.m.:  88

5:30 p.m. 20 minutes easy rowing (active relaxation)

7:30 p.m. Negroni, 1 piece Grimaldi’s Don Pizza, 1 piece Grimaldi’s Pesto Pizza, ½ serving Mediterranean Salad, 2 glasses red wine Macro Nutrients:  Calories 992; Fat 22 grams (20%); Protein 17 grams (7%);  Carbs 80 grams (32%) Alcohol 58 grams (41%)

9 p.m. walked dog for 20 minutes

9:30 p.m.:  156 (my highest reading)

July 15

7:15 a.m.:  97

7:30 a.m.: Two cups coffee with tablespoon half and half. (40 calories, virtually all from fat)

9 a.m.:  Taught Body Blast.

10:15 a.m.: Taught Yoga

11:30 a.m. : Green Smoothie with quarter avocado 1 banana, 1 cup greens, 1 cup coconut water, ½ cup Plain Full Fat Yogurt, 1 serving Organifi Powdered Greens, 5mg  Creatine,  1 ½ tablespoons Lake Gelatin. Macro Nutrients:  Calories 419 Fat grams 11 (23%); Protein grams 20 (19%);  Carbs grams 60 (58%)

1:00 p.m.:  115

3:00 p.m.:  One cup coffee with tablespoon of half and half. (20 calories, virtually all from fat)

5:30 p.m.: Tapas plate with salami, white cheddar, jicama, cherry tomatoes, olives, cherries and mixed nuts, glass of red wine   Macro Nutrients:  Calories 516; Fat 23 grams (43%); Protein  13 grams (6%);  Carbs 45 grams (35%); Alcohol 11 grams (16%)

8:30 p.m.: Homemade Bone Broth with shredded chicken breast, greens, green onion, slice of sourdough bread with butter, glass red wine, two Mochi     Macro Nutrients: Calories 710; Fat 26 grams  (33%); Protein 40 grams (23%);  Carbs grams 58 (33%); Alcohol 12 grams (11%)

9:30 p.m.: 125

July 16

5:00 a.m. Two cups of coffee with half-n-half (approx. 40 calories, all fat)

6:00 a.m.: 105

6:30 a.m. 30 minute run

8:00 a.m.:  Yoga with Weights Class

9:30 a.m.: Breakfast of Green Smoothie (Banana, ½ an avocado, greens, coconut water, Organifi, Great Lakes Gelatin, Creatine); Two scrambled eggs with green onions, bacon and cheese; Rainer Cherries; Handful of Mixed Nuts.   Macro Nutrients:  Calories 788; Fat 40 grams (46%); Protein 43 grams (22%); Carbs 64 grams (32%)

1 p.m.: 102

4:30 p.m. Homemade Apple Cinnamon Kombucha Cocktails Macro Nutrients: Calories 300; Carbs 19 grams (25%); Alcohol 32 grams (75%)

5:30 p.m. 104

7:30 p.m.: Dinner of Wild Salmon Steak, Roasted Asparagus, Sweet Potato Spiralized Oven Fries and one glass red wine. Macros: Calories 654; Fat 32 grams (45%); Protein 34 grams (21%); Carbs 37.5 grams (22%);  Alcohol 11.5 grams (12%)

10:30 p.m. 97

July 17

5:30 a.m. 92

Drank a cup of coffee with a tablespoon of half and half.

6:15 a.m. 30 minute easy run (9:30/minute mile)

8:30 a.m.:  Green Smoothie (1/2 an avocado, ½ cup Greek Whole Fat Vanilla Yogurt, 1 cup greens, 1 cup coconut water, Organifi, Creatine, Gelatin)  Macros: Calories 405; Fat 17.5 grams (39%); Protein 23 grams (22%); Carbs 39 grams (39%)

10:00 a.m.: 86

Noon:  Mary’s Crackers; Vege Mix (jicama, peppers and cherry tomatoes); two hard boiled eggs; cheese and liverwurst  Macros:  Calories 547; Fat 35 grams (56%); Protein 27 grams (21%); Carbs 31 grams (23%)

4:30 p.m.:  Iced Triple Espresso with one packet raw brown sugar and 1 tablespoon half-n-half; two Sunrise Energy Bars Macros:  Calories 330; Fat 18 grams (49%); Protein 6 grams (8%); Carbs 36 grams (43%)

6:30 p.m.:  Taught Yoga

8:00 p.m.:  5 oz Salmon; ¼ cup Pickled Daikon; ¼ cup Fresh Daikon; ¼ cup White Rice; 1 cup Sautéed Bok Choy; Ponzu; 2 glasses white wine; ice Cream with cashew clusters Macros: Calories 1000; Fat 40 grams (36%); Protein 36 grams (14%); Carbs 67 grams (27%); Alcohol 32 grams (22%)

9:00 p.m.: Walked dog for 20 minutes

9:30 p.m.:  116

July 18, 2017

5:45 a.m. 96

Drank a cup of coffee with a tablespoon of half and half.

6:15 a.m. 30 minute easy run (9:30/minute mile)

8:30 a.m. Green Smoothie with 1 banana, 1 cup greens, 1 cup coconut water, ½ cup Plain Full Fat Yogurt, 1 serving Organifi Powdered Greens, 5mg  Creatine,  1 ½ tablespoons Lake Gelatin.  Macro Nutrients:  Calories 326; Fat 4.5 grams (12%); Protein 17 grams (21%); Carbs 52 grams (64%)

Noon: Mary’s Crackers; Vege Mix (jicama, peppers and cherry tomatoes); four olives; cheese and liverwurst Macro Nutrients: Calories 500; Fat 27 grams (50%); Protein 31 grams (25%); Carbs 31 (25%)

2 p.m.: 86

4:30 p.m. .:  Iced Triple Espresso with one packet raw brown sugar and 1 tablespoon half-n-half; two Sunrise Energy Bars Macros:  Calories 330; Fat 18 grams (49%); Protein 6 grams (8%); Carbs 36 grams (43%)

6:45 p.m. Strength Training Upper Body Only

7:30 p.m. Taught Pilates

9:00 p.m.: Stroganoff over Vege Pasta Noodles, Lots of Broccoli, two glasses red wine, peach pie with ice cream Macros:  Calories 1,507; Fat 64 grams (37%); Protein 67 grams (25%); Carbs 160 grams (22%); Alcohol 23 grams (16%)

10:30 p.m.: 133

July 19

5:30 a.m. Two cups of coffee with half-n-half, approx. 40 calories, all fat)

6:30 a.m. 95

Drank Pelligrino and a Stevia Sweetened Soda for lunch (23 hour fasting day)

3:00 p.m. 86

4:30 p.m. Triple Espresso with Stevia

8:00 p.m. .: Stroganoff over Vege Pasta Noodles, Lots of Cauliflower, two glasses red wine, peach pie with ice cream Macros:  Calories 1,507; Fat 64 grams (37%); Protein 67 grams (25%); Carbs 160 grams (22%); Alcohol 23 grams (16%)

9:30 p.m. 139

July 20

6:45 a.m. 95 fasting

7 a.m.  Two cups of coffee with half-n-half, approx. 40 calories, all fat)

7:30 a.m. easy 30 minute run

11:30 a.m.:  Green Smoothie with ½ banana, ½ cup greens, ¼ avocado, ½ cup coconut water, ¼  cup Plain Full Fat Yogurt & ¼ cup Greek Full Fat Vanilla Yogurt, ½ serving Organifi Powdered Greens, 2.5 mg  Creatine,  1/2 tablespoons Lake Gelatin. Mary’s Crackers, Four Olives, Cheese and Liverwurst   Macro Nutrients:  Calories 753; Fat 43 grams (51%); Protein 35 grams (21%); Carbs 52 grams (28%)

4:00 p.m.: Triple Espresso with sugar and half-n-half Macro’s: 70 Calories; Fat 4 grams ( 50%  ); Protein 1 gram (6% ) Carbs 7 grams (40%)

5:30 p.m.: Taught Sculpting and Abs

7:00 p.m. Glass of White Wine Macros: Calories 110: 6 grams Carbs (25%): 11 grams alcohol (75%)

7:30 p.m. 93

8:00 p.m. Big salad of baby greens (kale, chard and spinach), 3 oz salmon, cherry tomatoes, peppers, sauerkraut and a hard boiled egg.  Dressing was olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. One glass white wine.  Peach pie with ice cream Macro’s: 1,310 Calories; Fat 50 grams  (35%); Protein 81 gram (25% ); Carbs 81 grams (25%); Alcohol  49 grams (15%)

10:00 p.m. 125

What I Learned

They say about a quarter of people who have diabetes don’t know it because they have no symptoms unless their blood sugar gets to be 400. This is scary!  My highest reading was only 156 and this was after copious amounts of carbs.  My experiment confirmed that I’m insulin sensitive, which is a wonderful thing.

A few other nuggets of knowledge:

*My blood sugar was often higher when I first woke up at 5:30 than mid-morning (after I had eaten).  I’m attributing this to the “dawn effect” where my blood sugar is higher when I get up in the morning to help prepare my body for the day ahead.

*After doing this experiment, I started taking my blood sugar after short (less than an hour) fasted runs and noticed my blood sugar often went up by 10 mg.  This was my body releasing glucose to help with the exertion of my run.

*I felt best when my daily carb intake was around 150 grams. Given that my daily calorie intake is above 2,000 calories, my ideal percentage of carbs is below 30%.  Not low carb by any means, but still way lower than the Standard American Diet.

*The fluctuation in my daily caloric intake was fairly high and something that probably mimics what our ancestors experienced as they undulated through times of feast and famine. A weekly 24 hour fast really helps vary your daily caloric intake.

*It’s amazing how quickly alcohol can become a significant percentage of your daily calories.  Ouch!  I usually drink two glasses of wine a week, but will also have a cocktail on the weekends. I need to cut back to one glass a day.

Conclusion

I highly recommend everyone do this experiment.  Like I said, pricking my finger wasn’t nearly as painful as tracking my macros.  If you’re just curious as to how your body reacts to glucose, you could make the experiment easier by just eating something with different carb levels for breakfast  (make sure your exercise routine doesn’t change).  For example, one day eat yogurt with fruit, next day bacon and eggs, etc.

Good luck my friends.

Menu Planning 101

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Here’s a simple secret to healthier living: make time to cook.  I’ve got a pretty busy schedule.  I generally wake up at 5 a.m., see clients at 6 a.m. (or do my own workout), head to school on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday until 4:30 and then see clients after school.  It is not unusual for me to leave the house before 6 a.m. and not get home until past 8 p.m.  Thankfully, my husband cooks for me, but he was gone last week and I was determined to eat well!

Here’s my meal plan for the week.  You will note, I stayed away from complicated recipes.  All the prep work was done Sunday afternoon and it went fairly quickly as I Stayed Away From Complicated Recipes.

Grocery Shopping

  • Lots of organic greens (spinach, kale, argula, etc.)
  • Other veges (peppers, jicama, butternut squash etc.)
  • Avocados (because)
  • Seasonal Fruits (tend to be the tastiest)
  • Meats (I tend to buy in bulk and freeze)
  • Yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Healthy Startches and Legumes (Barley, Quinoa, Lentils, black beans, etc.)
  • Snacks (nuts, dried figs, dates, etc.)

Sunday Meal Prep

Made Lentils, Barley, Roasted Butternut Squash, Chopped up Peppers and Jicama, Boiled Eggs.  Took me about 90 minutes total, with about 45 of that active and the remainder cooking time.

Weekly Menu

Breakfast

For me this is always a smoothie or plain full fat yogurt with fruit and nuts.  I don’t have a set smoothie recipe, but always include a large quantity of greens such as kale, chard and spinach; one serving of fruit, a cup of plain whole fat yogurt or Kefier and some avocado.   If something is about to go bad, e.g. lettuce or tomato, it goes into the smoothie.  As a result, my smoothie might not always be the tastiest.  For that reason, I like a product called Organifi Green Juice Powder.  It is an organic, gently dried greens powder with lots of healthy ingredients, such as ashwaganda and moranga that I normally would not get in my smoothie.  It is also happens to be absolutely delicious and makes even my “bad” smoothies taste good. I use Almond Milk and maybe some Coconut Water to liquify.  Finally, I add five grams of creatine to help me maintain muscle and memory; and a tablespoon of Great Lakes Gelatin for the amino acids and to maintain my strong bones, healthy skin, nails and hair.

Lunch

I eat lunch at school on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and have decided that tapas style is best.  A typical lunch is some of the following:  cut up vegetables (carrots, peppers, cherry tomatoes, jicama etc.);  sliced meat (turkey, liverwurst, etc.); a few slices hard cheese (cheddar, gouda, etc.); olives; crackers(made without vegetable oil) and maybe some cherries or other seasonal fruit.   My school mates often compliment my lunch, but most still head over to a fast food restaurant or bring a frozen Lean Cuisine style entry.  I’ve explained how easy the process is, but they aren’t ready to make the change.  Don’t be that person, make the change.

If I’m home for lunch, I like making scrambled eggs (I cook the whites first than add the yolks at the end to keep the cholesterol from oxidizing)  with lots of vegetables and bacon. Bacon is delicious and I once heard a nutritionist state it is one of the most nutrient dense foods we can eat.  My gut feeling is that liver is probably more nutrient dense than bacon, but sometimes we just have to believe the experts.

Dinner

This is specific to the week my husband was gone.

Monday:

I got home shortly before 8 and quickly grilled about four ounces of steak on the stove in my cast iron skillet, served it with greens and butternut squash. Dressing was olive oil and balsamic vinegar with some Pink Himalayan sea salt.  It paired nicely with a glass of red wine.

Tuesday:

This was a late night.  I didn’t get home until 8:45.  Dinner was a quick stir fry of  pre-made barley, lentils, butternut squash, greens and some sliced chicken apple sausages from TJ’s . I used olive oil and butter to grease the skillet and seasoned everything with ground black pepper and Pink Himalayan sea salt.  It tasted delicious with a glass of Chardonnay.

Wednesday:

Made it home before 7:30. I made the same dinner as Tuesday, but I also roasted some marrow bones and chicken necks for 20 minutes and then placed them in a slow cooker, along with some sliced onions, for bone broth which would serve the basis of my dinner for Thursday night.

Thursday:

Made it home shortly before 9.  My bone broth was ready.  I removed the bones and  seasoned the broth with salt andpepper; added barley, greens and sausage.  Turned heat on to “high” and then took a shower.  The barley, sausage and greens were heated through by the time I finished my shower.  It was a late meal, but not very heavy.  Wine of choice: Pinot Noir.

Friday:

Went out with girlfriends. TGIF

Build an Amazing Six-Pack

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Here’s a soundbite I would never use:  “Let me show you how to build an AWESOME six pack.”  Ironically, I sport a nice set of abdominal muscles.  Maybe I should use them to market my services?  After all, I’m no spring chicken.  Not only have I birthed two babies, I’m post-menopausal.   If my abs cause envy, shouldn’t a twenty-something get the same results if she does exactly what I do?   Unfortunately, as all things fitness and wellness related, it’s not that simple.

Just like many men have a hard time building their calves, many people will struggle to get six pack abs. Obviously body fat needs to be low, so diet and exercise play a huge role, but trying to eat right and exercise in order to look a certain way is a lousy reason to make a lifestyle change and usually leads to failure.  For most of us, trying to move more and eat less processed food, will make you feel better and then maybe you’ll be motivated to work hard enough to get that six-pack (any maybe even become a physic competitorJ Unfortunately, a majority of American’s eat crappy food, don’t move and then want a magic pill that will allow them to keep these behaviors, while they sport a six pack.

I would be happy to who you how to get great abs, but the secret is in your mind not your body.

Most people who embark on a journey to eat healthy and exercise fail.  As someone who is trying to help people live healthier lives, this makes me sad.  Why am I failing to help you??? You tell me you’re motivated and you like any motivation quote I send you, but your mind-set isn’t there.  Your head is NOT in the game.   Before you worry about getting six pack abs, you need to find out why you keep sabotaging yourself.  Most people who are unhappy with their bodies are almost resigned to that fact.  This behavior doesn’t just apply to body-image.  Others do it with work or relationships.  Sometimes you have to accept something.  Maybe you don’t like your job, but your partner is sick and unable to work or kids are in school and you’re supporting them, but with fitness you control those choices.  You decide to eat the cake in the break room.  You opt to come home and sit on the coach watching TV instead of exercising.  Why?  You need to be aware that you can either accept this behavior, develop the awareness of what needs to change, set accountability standards and then adapt your behavior.

I do have a few tricks to keep you lean.  Luckily they also tend to make you healthier:

  • Exercise in the morning in a fasted state (coffee or tea is fine). Doesn’t have to be hard-core. Fast walk, easy jog, Flow Yoga or light weight training all work well.
  • Don’t be afraid to go hungry. You can easily survive a day without eating. If you find yourself “crashing” at 11 a.m., you might have extreme sugar swings. Check your blood sugar with an inexpensive glucose monitor.  Here’s one that costs less than $15 on Amazon and talks to you, https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002JLEXFQ/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1   If you find that your daily breakfast of oatmeal and a banana (which is fine for many folks) is spiking your blood sugar and giving you a crash at 11 a.m., you might be better off with scrambled eggs and spinach.
  • Move as much as possible throughout the day. Track your movement:  Fitbit, Apple Watch, etc. Aim for 10,000 steps a day.  I’m in massage/esthetics school at the moment, which means I don’t get as much activity as I’d like.   I make it a point to do squats over the toilet in the bathroom, push-ups against the massage table and volunteer to fold laundry. Anything to keep me active.  I always have 10,000+ steps/day.
  • Weight train.
  • Do abdominal exercises, crunches and planks, to strengthen your muscles, NOT to make those abdominal muscles “pop”.
  • Lean out using HIIT or long-steady state cardio, the latter ideally in a fasted state.

 

In Conclusion

Let your six pack, abdominal strength be a by-product of your healthy living.

The Problem With Probiotics

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How many of you have consumed probiotic supplements for health benefits?  I was at CVS yesterday and saw gummy probiotics.  To be honest, I’m not sure that should even be a thing.  I’ve got nothing against probiotics and make a solid effort to eat some at every meal.  For example: yogurt for breakfast; sauerkraut with salad at lunch; and, kimchi as a side with dinner.  If I eat bread it’s sourdough and I make my own Kombucha..  You could say I’m a huge fan of probiotics (and prebiotics).  They keep my gut healthy, my immune system strong and even my mood upbeat (90%+ of all serotonin is manufactured in the gut).  So why am I skeptical about probiotic supplements?  Read on my friends.

Probiotics, Prebiotics & Something called Synbiotics

People who take probiotic supplements are attempting to manipulate their intestinal microbiota for health.  Given that studies have linked a healthy gut with everything from a trimer waistline to reduced cancer risk, who wouldn’t want to take supplements that are “designed” to do just that?  In addition to probiotics, there are two other closely related products:  prebiotics and synbiotics. Here are definitions and examples of all three:

  • Probiotics:  “Live microorganisms that confer a health benefit on the host when administered in appropriate amounts.” (WebMd definition)  In addition to the examples I listed above, kefir, miso soup and even dark chocolate are probiotics.  There are four major classes and within these classes, hundreds (if not thousands) of varieties.
    • Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium: Among the most commonly used probiotic supplements, these are naturally found in cultured milk based products (yogurt, kefir, etc.) and fermented foods such as sauerkraut.
    • Saccharomyces boulardii: Yeast or fungus based probiotics.
    • Soil based bacterial probiotics: also known as spore-forming bacteria, you’ll see “Bacillus” in the name.
    • e coli 1917: The non-deadly E-coli. This particular E. coli strain was isolated in 1917 based on its potential to protect from presumably infectious gastroenteritis.
  • Prebiotics: These are the things that probiotics feed upon. They are soluble fiber, not alive, and include foods such as onions, Jerusalem artichokes and garlic.
  • Synbiotics: These are products that contain both probiotics and prebiotics.  I believe this term was coined by the supplement industry, when it created pills that combined both pro and pre-biotics.  This should be a warning that it might not be the best idea J. That said, there are examples of traditional foods that are synbiotics. For example, Europeans often mix yogurt (probiotic) with oats (prebiotic).

What is the Gut Microbiota and Why is it Important to my Health?

To say that the gut microbiota is a complex organism is a gross oversimplification.   Here are some pertinent facts about the gut microbiota from the European Society for Neurogastroenterology

  • Our gut microbiota contains tens of trillions of microorganisms.
  • This includes at least 1000 different species of know bacteria.
  • One third of our gut microbiota is common to most people, while two thirds are specific to each one of us. (Yes, your gut microbiota is a unique fingerprint!)
  • It is now well established that a healthy gut microbiota is largely responsible for the overall health of the host.

What happens If the Gut Microbiota Is Unbalanced?

In addition to obvious gastro-intestinal issues such as diarrhea, bloating, gas and burping; studies have linked unbalanced gut microbiota to auto-immune disorders, depression, skin problems, weight gain and myriad of other problems.  The term often thrown around for unexplained gut issues is “leaky gut”.  In talking with my clients, I’ve realize there is a lot of confusion concerning this condition.  Here’s a high level explanation:

Mainstream practitioners generally don’t use the term “leaky gut”.  Though they do recognize a condition called  “intestinal permeability”, which is veiwed as a symptom of a disease such as Crohn’s or Celiac.  However, most functional medicine practitioners consider leaky gut a legitimate and prevalent reason for illness related to your gut microbiota.  Either way, the process looks like this: If you imagine a healthy intestinal track as a very tightly meshed kitchen strainer, someone with leaky gut would have a kitchen strainer that became “inflamed”  and their mesh would be  looser, allowing items to pass through the intestines into the bloodstream that don’t belong there.  If you’re suffering from “leaky gut” and testing negative for Crohn’s and Celiac, traditional doctors can be frustrating as they might negate your symptoms.  However, functional medicine practitioners can also be disheartening as they might try to sell your supplements that are totally unnecessary.

Another area of interest to me is the relationship between mood and gut health.  As noted in my opening paragraph, 90% of all serotonin (that feel good chemical that the pharmaceutical industry tries to upregulate with drugs such as Prozac) is created in the GI tract.  I believe that “gut feeling” might be more factual than metaphorical.  There have been some studies on mice where changes in gut microbiota have resulted in altered behavior.  From an empirical standpoint, I have noticed that people who eat crap are generally more anxious than those who eat healthy.  Even if their weight is fine, they are more likely to have autoimmune issues such as eczema.  I’m currently getting my esthetician license and my textbook says food has no bearing on skin conditions such as acne, but I think that’s a load of crap. Enough said.

So What’s a Healthy Gut?

A healthy gut has a diverse microbiota.  Studies show people with a diverse gut flora are healthier:  they are less likely to be overweight, have autoimmune issues or be depressed.  The standard recommendation for building a healthy gut is to eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables and consume low-fat dairy (I consume raw,full-fat dairy, but that’s an issue for another blog.)  What might be surprising to some readers is that exercise helps your gut microbiota.  Dr. Deanna L. Gibson from the Department of Biology at the University of British Columbia (Canada), has found that cardiorespiratory fitness is correlated with increased microbial diversity in healthy humans.

https://microbiomejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40168-016-0189-7

The tricky part, as mentioned above:  there is no one-size fits all gut flora.   If you have a healthy gut and eat well studies show there is little benefit to taking probiotics as supplements don’t live long in the body.

Also, a probiotic that helps one person can hurt another.  Even what is considered a healthy diet, can differ from one person to the next.  For example, people with Crohn’s or IBS are often put on a low FODMAP diet.  FODAMAPs are a collection of short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in foods naturally or as food additives. FODMAP is an acronym that stands for:

Fermentable – meaning they are broken down (fermented) by bacteria in the large bowel

Oligosaccharides – “oligo” means “few” and “saccharide” means sugar. These molecules made up of individual sugars joined together in a chain

Disaccharides – “di” means two. This is a double sugar molecule.

Monosaccharides – “mono” means single. This is a single-sugar molecule.

And

Polyols – these are sugar alcohols (however don’t lead to intoxication!)

As you can see from this chart, many high FODMAP foods are healthy for the average person:

FODMAP FOODS

FODMAP Chart

 

Many studies have shown that there are regional differences in gut flora.  People closer to the equator tend to eat more plants and vegetables, i.e. carbs, while those closer to the artic would eat more animal protein, i.e. protein and fats. Your heritage might determine how well you do with high carb diet and what type of pro and prebiotics are good for you.

Have I confused you?

If I’ve confused you, I’m sorry.  Unfortunately, the topic is rather complicated and research is breaking new ground on a daily basis.  On a thirty thousand level view, here are some practical tips:

If you think your gut is healthy:

  • Avoid taking anitbiotics unless absolutely necessary. If you have to take antibiotics, studies suggest taking a diverse, high-count probiotic can help keep your gut microbiota healthy. These are usually found in the refrigerated section of a health food store.
  • Eat a wide variety of foods, including fermented.
  • Avoid processed foods.
  • You will probably not benefit from taking pro-biotics.
  • Make sure the following are properly managed: stress, sleep and exercise.

If you think your gut is “off”:

Assuming standard tests, such as a colonoscopy, haven’t revealed anything, here are some things to try:

  • Hydrogen Breath Test: If you’ve been eating a diet super high in processed foods you could have SIBO, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.  You might need to take an antibiotic  to “trim the bad bacteria”.  From there you can repopulate the gut with healthy specimen. SIBO is generally diagnosed via a hydrogen breath test.
  • Stool Sample: A comprehensive stool sample (CSA) will show the good, bad and ugly of your gut.  I’ve never had a CSA, but with a name like Yoshida, I eat Sushi which is a common trigger for parasites.   If something would ever feel off, including a prolonged depressed state, I would definitely check for parasites via a CSA and properly supplement to rectify the situation.
  • Fast: Obviously check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to sustain yourself on only water for 24-48 hours, but it might be the vacation your gut needs to regulate itself.
  • Take Probiotics: However, be granular in your approach. Try classes of probiotics separately, e.g. take Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium only and see how you do.  Don’t take a supplement with a pre-biotic. Though it seems better, if the probiotic you are taking isn’t right for you, it will exacerbate the effect.   Also, note you can be a probiotic non-responder.
  • Exercise (check out my previous blogs on how to motivate yourself)
  • Manage stress
  • Get enough sleep

Conclusion

The gut is so important to our health and wellbeing.  According to Hippocrates, “All disease begins in the gut.”  So does your health my friends.  Let’s nurture that ecosystem and pinky swear to never take gummy probiotics.

How Do I Motivate Myself to Exercise?

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Often I hear folks say, “I just need to find some motivation to start exercising.”  Maybe you will find it for a wedding, reunion, etc., but this is almost never enough to make a lifestyle change.  In order to make exercise an integral part of your day, you are going to have to JUST DO IT. (Sorry Nike).

Most people think of “motivation” – as a single entity, which they either have or don’t have.  We may attempt to reward ourselves for doing a certain activity, e.g. I’ll work out and then give myself $10 to put into a fund for a new outfit.  Unfortunately, it is super easy to talk yourself out of this type of extrinsic reward.

Extrinsic motivation (which I discussed in my blog post http://bewellwithmel.com/so-you-want-to-lose-weight/) is some outside demand, obligation, or reward that requires the achievement of a particular goal. Intrinsic motivation, however, is an internal form of motivation. You strive towards a goal for personal satisfaction or accomplishment.

Sometimes I use extrinsic motivation for my clients, e.g., encourage them to sign up for an event like a 5k.  My ultimate goal however is to turn exercise into something that is intrinsic. If you exercise regularly, and at the proper intensities, you will feel better, sleep better and have more energy.  These are undisputable facts and should be your ultimate reason for exercising.  However, for the vast majority of American’s, It.Just. Isn’t. Enough.

So my recommendation is to start with an extrinsic reward and then get the intrinsic to kick in.  In order to do this, you’re going to have to realize that the whole idea of MOTIVATION is overrated.  You need to start to learn to enjoy the process of exercise.  I’ve exercised almost everyday for most of my adult life and I haven’t always been “motivated” to do so, however I still did.  It became a habit, like brushing my teeth.

There are a few other tricks to help you develop a habit and stick with an exercise program:  Chronotype, Personality, Gratitude and Help.

Chronotype

There is a best time to do something you are putting off based on your chronotype. According to Wikipedia, “Chronotype refers to the behavioral manifestation of underlying circadian rhythms of myriad physical processes. A person’s chronotype is the propensity for the individual to sleep at a particular time during a 24-hour period.”

Dr. Michael Breus wrote a great book called, “The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype–and the Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for a Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds, and More”.  Working with your bodies inner clock, Dr. Michael Breus will help you define yourself as one of the following four dominant chronotypes:

What’s Your Sleep Animal? (From The Power of When)

  1. Dolphins.Real dolphins sleep with only half of their brain at a time (which is why they’re called unihemispheric sleepers). The other half is awake and alert, concentrating on swimming and looking for predators. This name fits insomniacs well: intelligent, neurotic light sleepers with a low sleep drive [sleep drive = your need for sleep].
  2. Lions.Real lions are morning hunters at the top of the food chain. This name fits morning-oriented, driven optimists with a medium sleep drive.
  3. Bears.Real bears are go-with-the-flow ramblers, good sleepers and anytime hunters. This name fits fun-loving, outgoing people who prefer a solar-based schedule and have a high sleep drive.
  4. Wolves.Real wolves are nocturnal hunters. This name fits night-oriented creative extroverts with a medium sleep drive.

If you’re adopting a behavior that is challenging for you, e.g, starting a new exercise program, go with your chronotype.  Lions should start in the morning and wolves at night.  You are probably already pretty sure what your chronotype is, but here’s a quiz for fun:

https://thepowerofwhenquiz.com/

Personality Type

If you are an introvert and value your time alone, it’s best if you engage in a solitary activity such as walking, running, or solo weight training at the gym.  However, within this group, there are several subsets.

  • Intellectual: Listen to podcasts or books
  • Artist: A great Spotify playlist
  • Competitor: Find people to compete with virtually on apps such as Strava for running or cycling.

Gratitude

Hedonic adaptation (we take the good things in our life for granted) is pervasive in our society.  It can be as simple as writing down three things you are thankful for on a daily basis. Research indicates this will generate happiness gains that get compunded (versus plateauing).  Huge happiness gains means you are more likely to take care of yourself and exercise.

Help

Motivation is often difficult to maintain when you exercise on your own. Regular sessions with a personal trainer enhance your motivation to continue with a workout regimen. Even if you don’t use a personal trainer for every session, knowing that you’ll meet with your trainer soon will motivate you during workouts. You also get the satisfaction of showing your trainer the improvement you’ve made as your exercise program proceeds.

Conclusion

If you’re not exercising, the time to start is NOW. You have all the information telling you that you should do it, you just need to get emotionally invested.  After all, we are more driven by emotion than reason.  Not necessarily a bad thing, unless your emotions are keeping you from starting an exercise program.  Just do it, my friends.

 

 

Musings on a Fitness Convention

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I attended over 15 sessions and learned a ton of excellent programming, nutrition and motivational hacks at last weekend’s SCW Florida Mania Convention.   I’m always humbled and inspired by the speakers at these conventions.  They are top-notch fitness professional who have a deep understanding of exercise physiology, nutrition, business and psychology.  Many people assume fitness professionals get into the business so they can work out all the time.  The truth is we get into this business because we have a passion for helping people.  Compassion is in every successful trainers tool box.

Though many of the sessions were Group Ex and choreography based, I did take a few exercise science, nutrition and mindfulness classes and I wanted to share my top favorite take-aways  with you.  Please enjoy the read my friends.

Keynote Address

Irene Lewis-MCCormick Key Note Speaker

Irene Lewis-MCCormick
Key Note Speaker

The Keynote speaker was Irene Lewis-McCormick, a fitness veteran with an impressive resume:  author, educator, Master Trainer, etc.  Her keynote was on promoting “The Attitude of Gratitude”.  Though she directed the address to fitness professionals, her overall message is applicable to everyone:  Attitude and Gratitude go hand-in-hand.   Here are the highlights of her message:

  • Smile, It increases your face value
  • Interrupt anxiety with gratitude. Even if you are having a really rough day, find one thing to be thankful for, e.g. at least the weather is nice today.
  • Learn people’s names and use them. It’s a skill and can be learned.  She didn’t go into detail, but I always try to repeat the name of the person I’m introduced to, use it at least once, e.g. “What a lovely sweater, Julia”, and try to associate her name with something, e.g., Julia has red hair, just like my neighbor, whose also called Julia.
  • Engage with people. Say “hello”, hold a door open, help someone with their packages etc. Also, don’t fake caring. Be interested when someone talks about their weekend.
  • Journaling has been scientifically proven to create positive feelings, help you sleep better, improve health and lengthen life.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, just write down what you did that day or your thoughts and feelings.  Entries can be long or short.  The reflection forces you to pay attention to good things in your life.

Joint Friendly Strength Training

This session was presented by Nick Tumminello,

Nick Tumminello

Nick Tumminello
Performance University

owner of Performance University, author and fitness expert.  The jest of the message is that people often go to trainers because they want to improve their fitness and look better.  Unfortunately, if they have pain they are often unable to do standard exercises.  Today’s trainers are well versed in postural assessments and often focus on trying to fix their clients pain and create more efficient movement patterns rather than provide clients with effective workouts to meet their fitness goals.  Though the trainers are well-intentioned, this “corrective exercise trap” leads to frustrated clients who aren’t meeting their fitness goals  Mr. Tumminello said, “Studies do not support the claim that posture relates to pain patterns”.  Furthermore, people who are in pain, generally improve regardless of the exercise format they start.  (I mentioned something similar to this in my blog http://bewellwithmel.com/whats-the-perfect-exercise/).    Mr. Tumminello wrote an article called the “Corrective Exercise Trap” for Personal Training Quarterly.    Article appears on page 6 of this PDF:

https://www.nsca.com/uploadedFiles/NSCA/Resources/PDF/Publications/PTQ/PTQ%204.1.pdf

This session hit home with me as  I do FMS (Functional Movement Screening, reference link if you are unfamiliary with this assessement https://www.functionalmovement.com/Store/11/functional_movement_screen_fms_test_kit)

with my clients and it made me wonder if I was getting into  “paralysis by analysis” when I spend so much time trying to correct imbalances that I lose sight of increasing their fitness.  It comes from a caring place, but sometimes “you just need to move”.  Since my clientele consists primarily of woman from 30 to 60, there are often issues with knees, back and shoulders. Mr. Tumminello gave some excellent takeaway exercise alterations for some common gym movements:

  • Lunges: Either reverse lunges (one of my favorite lunge modifcations) or a modifield forward lunge with a small step to the front and a forward lean to activate more posterior muscles and fewer quad (pic 1).

    Modified Lunge

    Pic 1 Modified Forward Lunge

  • Squats: If you have a bad back, single legged squats allow you to increase the load on the legs without increasing load on spine.  For example, if you squat holding two 25 pound DB’s, the load on each leg is 25’s and 50’s for the back.  If you go to one leg, the load on the leg is 50 pounds, and the load on the back stayed at 50 pounds.    Another hack is to do a single leg half squat/half deadlift.   (Pic’s 2 & 3). Avoid forward leans, like you would do to alleviate knee pain.

    Pic 2 Single Leg Deadlift

    Pic 3 Single Leg Squat

  • Presses: For people with shoulder pain, tubing chest presses usually work well and don’t produce pain. (Pic 4)

    Pic 4 Tubing Presses

  • Other: Mr. Tumminello is a huge fan of Sled Pushes (Pic 5). It’s an effective strength and conditioning exercise for anyone who has knee, back or shoulder pain.

    Pic 5 Sled Push

  • He also likes doing HIIT (Hi-intensity interval training) on a bike to build leg strength.  In my experience the best bike HIIT protocol is 80 to 100 RPM at a very high resistance for twenty to thirty seconds, with recovery of 10 to 30 seconds, repeated for up to ten minutes.

Graceful Strength and Dancer Body Sculpting

This was a Barre class presented by Kelli Roberts,

Keli Roberts

who like Ms. McCromick, is an industry icon with multiple Master trainer credentials and a deep knowledge of Group Exercise programming.  I teach Barre, so I took the class to learn some new moves, I could take back to my students.  I was not disappointed and if you take my Barre class, you are in for some fun, new programming.  Ms. Roberts, also clarified a few points about strength training, especially as it applies to females:

  • A strong muscle is a toned muscle.
  • Muscle length is genetic. You can’t sculpt long muscles.
  • Muscle tissue is lean, so when you build muscle, you become leaner.

She also discussed mobility and stability.  Uncontrolled mobility is a liability.  You need to balance stability and mobility.  From the foot to the head, you have joints that need to be stable and joints that need to be mobile.  This is the pattern:

  • Foot: Stable
  • Ankle: Mobile
  • Knee: Stable
  • Hip: Mobile
  • Lumbar: Stable
  • Thoracic: Mobile
  • Scapular: Stable
  • Glenohumeral: Mobile

Make sure your exercise programming promotes mobility in the mobile joints and stability in the stable joints.  For example, if you are doing an overhead press, you want the the Glenohumeral (shoulder joint) to be initiate the move, but you want the scapular to stay hugging the ribs.

Random Quotes

Elain Haan talking about Taichi:

Not meditation in motion, but medication in motion.”

Melanie Yoshida (me):

Subjects to controversial to talk about in casual conversation: politics, religion and anterior vs posterior pelvic tilts in Pilates style exercise protocols.

Nick Tumminello:  

“Fit exercises to individuals not individuals to exercises.”

Conclusion

Next month I’m going back to Orlando for an International Beauty Conference called “Premiere” as I’m currently in school to become a licensed Esthetician and Massage Therapist.  This will  be my first time at a Cosmotology Conference.  I’ll be avoiding the hair and nail seminars (sorry beauty aficionados), but I’m looking forward to learning more about esthetics, wellness, anti-again and massage therapy.

Stay hungry for knowledge my friends.