Sleep Deprivation in the Short Term to Benefit the Long Term?


Say what? How is sleep deprivation ever a good thing? I know, it sounds counterintuitive at best—and counterproductive or even harmful at worst—but forced sleep restriction in the short term is one of the methods used in Cognitive Behavioural Insomnia Therapy, or CBiT.

CBiT 101

CBiT is a way to treat insomnia, or poor sleep, without the use of any pills or medication. Instead, it focuses on helping people build good habits and associations with their beds (and bedrooms), and uses some other interesting techniques, such as relaxation therapy, biofeedback, as well as sleep restriction and sleep deprivation to help people sleep more effectively. You can read more about CbiT here (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/in-depth/insomnia-treatment/art-20046677), but today we’re going to talk about sleep restriction and deprivation and how it works.

 

 

Restricting Sleep to Benefit Future You…

Often people who have trouble sleeping find themselves lying in bed awake, frustrated that they’re not falling asleep. So the idea here is to get you super tired over the course of a few nights by restricting your sleep, which then makes you more tired the following nights, and ultimately helps you develop more consistent bed and wake-up times.

It’s actually pretty systematic in how it works in practice. Here’s how to give it a go:

  • Calculate how many hours of sleep you’re averaging a night right now. Let’s say this number is 6 hours.
  • Figure out your normal, consistent wake up time (If you don’t have a ‘normal’ time, commit to waking up at the same time as much as work/life allows). Let’s say this time is 6 a.m. 6 a.m. is now your daily wake-up time.
  • Work back from 6 a.m. to calculate what time you need to go to bed to log 6 hours of sleep: This means midnight. Your new bedtime is midnight and your new wake- up time is6 a.m. (Doesn’t sound like enough sleep, right?)
  • Go to bed at midnight and get up at 6 a.m. every day/night until you experience7 days in a row of successfully going to bed at midnight, waking up at 6 a.m. and experience little to no restlessness in the night. For most people, this happens faster than people think it will because they’ll find themselves not getting enough sleep for a few days—especially if they don’t fall asleep right away at midnight—and then being more than ready for bed well before midnight the following nights. At this point, and only at this point—after you log 7 good nights of sleep—you can set your bedtime 20 minutes earlier: Your new bedtime is 11:40 p.m.
  • Repeat this cycle, changing your bedtime by 20 minutes after one week of good sleep at your current set bedtime. Pretty soon, you’ll be falling asleep at 10 p.m. and waking up at 6 a.m.—getting your 8 hours of sleep—without trouble. Or at least, that’s the hope, and that’s what those who have had success with sleep restriction via CBiT have experienced.

 

 

While we’re at it, here are 3 more tips associated with CBiT that make a whole lot of sense to me in concept:

 

  1. Lose the Clock

Many people wake up and look at their phones or clocks to see how many more hours or minutes they have until their alarm goes off. The problem here is twofold:

One:Looking at the clock makes you subconsciously more anxious about the amount of sleep you’re getting, or aren’t getting, and often makes your sleep troubles worse.

Two: Opening your eyes, picking up your phone, seeing the bright light shine in your eyes etc wakes you body up more than it would have had you left your eyes closed, your body still, and simply gone back to sleep.

 

  1. Lose the App

There’s an app for everything, as they say, and sleep tracker apps are no exception: They can tell you information, such as how many hours of sleep you log each night, how deeply you’re sleeping, how many times you stirred in the night, and how many times your body woke up completely.

Trying a sleep app once or twice might be a good idea, but becoming consumed with it can backfire, because now you find yourself even more concerned about your sleep, and should you experience a poor night’s sleep, there you are stressing and putting pressure on yourself about needing to ensure you get a better sleep the following night to make up for the bad sleep the night before. This stress and pressure can contribute to a restless, stressed out sleep. And on and on the cycle goes.

 

  1. Lose the Nap

Napping can be great, and if you’re a good sleeper who naps here and there, keep on with the naps. But if you’re struggling with sleep at night and rely on a nap during the day to get you through the week, eliminate the nap for a month and replace it with a consistent bedtime and wake up time.

At the very least check out this chart that tell you about more and less appropriate nap times for what you’re after (By the way, a 3-hour nap isn’t a nap! It’s a full-blown sleep):

 

Read more about ideal nap times here: (https://sleep.org/articles/how-long-to-nap/).

Sleep well, and report back if you decide to try short term sleep restriction and let us know about your experience.

Don’t Take a Rest Month!


Two new studies find same conclusion: Don’t take a rest month!

 

If two recent studies out of the University of Liverpool and McMaster University are true, then that old saying, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” can even be taken a bit further:“If you don’t use it, not only will you lose it, but you might not even get it back!” The studies monitored regularly active and healthy people without Type 2 diabetes, who stopped working out and sat around for a couple weeks and discovered that their health markers worsened in just a couple weeks. Specifically, their blood sugar levels rose, their insulin sensitivity became worse and they gained weight. What’s even scarier is that when some of them, especially the older participants, returned to their regular exercise programs, the negative metabolic changes that had occurred in their bodies during those two sedentary weeks didn’t fully reverse themselves.

 

 

Here’s a link to the two studies:

Study 1(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29671031)

Study 2 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29095970)

 

The magic number seems to be two weeks, especially in people 65 years old and older; they had a harder time reversing the damage placed on their bodies from those two lazy weeks. However, even past studies that looked at college-aged people showed a similar result; health markers decreased in just two weeks, but their young age allowed them to reverse the damage quite quickly. Don’t be fooled: This isn’t an excuse to not take a rest day. Rest days are crucial for your recovery. We don’t want to see you here seven days a week. But it’s certainly reason to not less yourself fall off for more than a few days at a time. And reason to continue to exercise even on your 3-week vacation this summer!

 

 

The fine line between taking much-needed rest days and losing fitness…

Sometimes your body needs more than a day off. I know when I have taken a week off here and there, I feel like I come back stronger and mentally fresh, ready to attack training again. According to science, the first thing you start to lose is your cardiovascular fitness. For a conditioned runner, for example, it might take 7 to 14 days until they start losing their aerobic capacity. This article (https://www.polar.com/blog/losing-fitness/) speaks to an exercise physiologist, who explained that a person’s V02 max (essentially how efficiently your body uses oxygen) will start to decrease after just two weeks, as well as your lactate threshold (the intensity point where your blood concentration of lactic acid starts to increase exponentially). On a similar note, another study showed that after four weeks of inactivity, endurance cyclists saw a 20 percent decrease in their V02 max, and after 12 days of inactivity, their blood enzymes needed for endurance performance had decreased by 50 percent. Also consistent with the two new studies from Liverpool and McMaster that I noted above, older people lose their endurance faster than younger people.

 

Strength loss is pretty similar. According to this study out of Coppenhagen (https://healthsciences.ku.dk/news/news2015/inactivity-reduces-peoples-muscle-strength/) from 2015, it takes just two weeks of not using your lower body for you to lose one third of your muscular strength. That being said, the Danish study looked at people who were immobilized completely, which is obviously much different than just not squatting heavy for two weeks. And yes, you might feel a little weak for a day or two if you don’t squat for two weeks, but this isn’t necessarily a negative thing. That strength will easily return as fast as you lost it. The lesson: Your body needs rest to recover, but two weeks of doing nothing is likely too much!

 

 

 Our Prescription For You:

 

Alas, our prescription for you:

  1. Show up to the gym three to five days a week as much as possible (On top of this, we strongly encourage you do get outside and hike, ski, run, swim, bike, surf, golf etc once a week when you can, and try a new sport each year).

 

  1. Listen to your body: If it tells you to take a rest day, take it. Even if it doesn’t, take at least one rest day per week.

 

  1. One or two times a year, take a full week off (or at least of an active recovery week, where you’re away from the gym), to heal any nagging injuries and reset your body and your mind.

 

  1. Avoid taking two weeks or more of sedentary living!

 

Obviously everyone is different, however, the above template is what we think is best for most people, to allow them to live a long, happy, fulfilling and independent life.

PRs Come in all Forms


Ever heard of social comparison theory? It’s a term coined by a psychologist named Leon Festiner in the 1950’s. Basically, it says we compare ourselves to others in order to determine our self worth. Never does this sound more relevant than when we look at the world today, where social media has become but a platform to show our value to others, and through their approval, to ourselves.

 

However, it’s more complicated than that, said Karen North, a professor of digital social media at the University of Southern California Annenberg. North explained that research shows that most people feel satisfied and confident if they perceive themselves to be better than two-thirds of what she referred to as their “relevant peer group.” What’s a relevant peer group? Well, let’s say you’re a high school athlete looking to get a college scholarship. You don’t compare yourself to the benchwarmers on your team who barely get to play, and you probably don’t directly compare yourself to the Olympic athletes in your sport. You compare yourself to other athletes looking to get an NCAA scholarship. And if you’re in the top third, you feel pretty good.

 

We see this all the time at the gym: People form rivalries—most of the time fun and healthy rivalries—with people at a similar level to them. You’re probably not online getting angry that you can’t finish a workout as fast as Mat Fraser or Tia-Clair Toomey, but dammit you are going to try to finish ahead of your gym rival. Seems logical, and not necessarily a negative thing; however, there’s a problem. It’s a losing battle because, as North explained, once you conquer one person or group, so to speak, you set your sights on conquering a new group! Bottom line: No matter how good you get, there will always be someone better than you. Now we’re not telling you to stop comparing yourself to others, because that’s a natural part of being human. And we’re certainly all for healthy rivalries that push people to be better, faster, stronger. But what we are asking you all to do is to stop and take the time, let’s say once a month, to write down or reflect upon YOUR PERSONAL IMPROVEMENTS and PRs.

 

 

 

If You Don’t, This Might Happen:

You finish a workout, where you lifted 10 lb. more than your best lift, or shaved two minutes off your previous time. The first thing you do is look at the leaderboard. You discover there are 10 people who finished faster than you that day. You then feel discouraged and you assume the person who had the fastest time of the day must be feeling a great little ego boost. But what you don’t know is he went 30 seconds slower than his best time and is feeling down on himself because he didn’t improve. Perception certainly is everything! The above is the perfect example of how comparison can kill joy. It’s natural to compare yourself, but if you’re forgetting to celebrate your wins along the way, no matter how small, you’re missing out on a lot of the fun. Here are some tools for you to employ you to ensure you recognize your improvements.

 

 

Write Down Your Scores, Times and Weights:

Step one: If you have no clue what your time was the first time you did a benchmark workout, then you have no way of knowing whether or not you have improved. Use an app, a notebook, or keep your numbers in your phone, but make sure you’re keeping track of your performance numbers somewhere.

 

 

Monthly and Quarterly Reviews:

Sit down and reflect, or meet with your coach each month, or at the very least each quarter, to make notes about any improvements and PRs you have made in recent weeks.

 

Recognize that PRs Come in all Forms:

Don’t just focus on your physical improvements. PRs can come in all forms. A PR can be that you showed up three times a week for six weeks straight and didn’t hit the snooze button once. Or that you haven’t had sugar in 30 days. Or that you’re finally able to put your arm overhead without pain in your shoulder.

 

Pictures Don’t Lie:

If you’re on a quest to change your body composition, take pictures and look back every few months. Chances are you have changed more than you realize.

 

Embrace the Plateau:

OK, this might be the toughest one to do mentally, but there will come a time where PRs do slow down. Even the best athletes in the world plateau. Take comfort in the fact that a plateau is part of the improvement process, too, and it’s usually the time when the biggest learning curve happens because it forces you to make small changes that can lead to big results.

Stay the course and enjoy the journey.

The Female Cycle: Diet and Training Tips to Help Your Life


We’re doing it; we’re talking about PMS. Men, feel free to sit this one out! We don’t like the term PMS, though, and we know many other woman who concur. From all the other options—on my period, menstruating, the tomato truck is in town, I’m having my moon time or shark week, we’re liking Shark Week best. Seems the least disturbing of the terms, and it makes women sound fierce!

Yep, today we’re going deep into shark week, and the female cycle in general, in relation to diet and training. Why? Because when we ask female clients about their emotional experiences, as well as their food cravings and energy levels at various times of their cycle, they often stare at me blankly and admit they don’t think about it much. During their actual shark week, they might pick up on things going on in their body, as there’s a physical symptom that’s hard to ignore, but during the rest of their cycle, usually because there’s no visible signs as to what’s going on inside them, they’re oblivious. Whether you’re currently in tune with your body or not, your cycle drastically affects your hormone levels, which influences you physically and emotionally more than you may have realized. Some small diet and exercise changes during these specific different times of the month can go a long way in helping you feel, sleep and perform better.

Let’s take a look:

cycle.jpg


 

Shark Week: (Day 1 to Day 5, 6 or 7, depending on the woman)

During this time, your hormones progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest. Because of this, you often feel zapped of energy, or just a little sluggish for a few days. Diet Tip – increase Iron and Vitamin B12. Losing blood meanings losing iron (low iron = fatigue), so it’s best to up your iron intake during this time. You might want to up your intake a couple days before your shark week, even, to prepare for the upcoming blood loss. This can mean eating more red meat and dark leafy greens, or getting on top of that iron supplement. Combining iron-riches foods with Vitamin C is also helpful as it helps your body absorb iron more effectively. Vitamin B12 also affects our energy, as it, too, plays a role in producing red blood cells. Foods high in Vitamin B12 are animal products, like eggs, milk, cheese, fish and chicken. So if there’s a time to eat cheese, it might be during this week! Shark Week Workout Tip – keep moving! Though it can be temping on those heavy cramping days, usually Day 1 and Day 2, to stay at home curled up in a ball pumping Advil and Aleve, it’s actually better to do something active, even if it just means going for a walk. Some research, like this study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25243766), even suggests a link between exercise and reducing cramps, but it seems to vary from woman to woman. If nothing else, the endorphin rush from a low-intensity workout should help with energy levels in those first couple, heavy flow days.

 

 

Once the Cramps are Gone, Push Hard!

The follicular phase of your cycle in general, meaning from the start of shark week until the end of ovulation, is when you’re pain tolerance and your insulin sensitivity is the highest, meaning your body will be prone to using carbs as fuel for muscle gains. Thus, you can make big gains in the gym during shark week and beyond (until the end of the ovulation phase) even if you don’t feel at your best for the first day or two of shark week. In general, think about the first 14 to 15 days of your cycle, the follicular phase and the ovulation phase, as being a time when you can push it harder at the gym and make valuable gains.

 

 

 

Ovulation (Day 11 to 14 ish, although, again, this depends on each women)

This is, of course, the time of the month where the new, mature egg gets released (aka your most fertile time of the month), and where estrogen and testosterone levels are high, and our energy levels, too. Ovulation phase diet tip  – during this stage of the cycle, your metabolism starts ramping up, so you might feel a bit more hungry than normal. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be eating a ton more, though. In fact, your metabolism won’t be at its highest until the luteal phase. So it’s best to stick to eating whole, unprocessed foods and appropriate portions sizes. Also, take advantage of your abundance of energy to get creative and get food prepping to prepare some extra meals for the luteal phase, when your energy drops and you start having cravings for high-sugar foods. Another ovulation phase workout tip – from a hormonal standpoint, this is the time to go for a PR! Your body is at its physical peak for the cycle. In other words, a great ego-boosting time 🙂

However, some science (https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/tjem/240/4/240_287/_html) also shows the ovulation phase may be a time you’re ironically also at higher risk of injury, because as your estrogen peaks, this can impact collagen metabolism, as well as your neuromuscular control. Because of this, joints are less stable and injuries can ensue if you’re not on top of warming up and prepping your body properly.

 

 

 

Day approximately 25-28 (End of Luteal phase)

This is when the egg gets released, and your hormone levels decline again. Some women experience premenstrual cramping, headaches and bloating during this time, as well as mood swings and fatigue, especially in the last couple days of the luteal phase leading into shark week. Even though you don’t feel great on day 27 and 28, metabolically your body is actually peaking. One study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered your metabolism is about 7.7 percent higher during the luteal phase. Along with this metabolic peak, however, comes food cravings, especially cravings for sweet carbohydrates and fatty foods. These cravings aren’t just in your head. A 2016 study (https://ucdavis.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/estradiol-shbg-and-leptin-interplay-with-food-craving-and-intake-) showed a relationship between leptin and estrogen levels with food cravings. Diet Tip – get to know YOUR body and pound the protein! To help offset the decrease in serotonin and stop those carb cravings, you can try supplementing with tryptophan, as well as increase your protein intake, as they both can help promote an increase in serotonin production. Seratonin helps regulate mood, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function, so basically if your serotonin is too low, it could be contributing to making you moodier or more anxious than normal. If you’re unaware of your mood during this time, start writing down what you’re thinking and feeling for a couple months or so, as well as how you’re sleeping in the three days before shark week. When you become more aware of your mood, cravings, sleep, as well as any other physiological changes in your body, you’ll become better at dealing with them in the future.

 For example, if you feel bloated the day before shark weeks starts for three months in a row, it might be worth considering limiting salty foods the last two days of the luteal phase, as salty foods make us thirsty, so we drink more and end up feeling even more bloated. Or maybe you notice you have trouble sleeping for a few days during this time. Sometimes limiting your caffeine during those days, or eliminating your afternoon coffee, can help you sleep at night. Or maybe these are the three nights a month you take melatonin before bed. Maybe you realize you always get into a stupid argument with your spouse in the three days before shark week. Becoming aware of this might help you avoid bringing up any “big subjects” during this time. The take home message – take the time to get to know your body and mind during this time, and adjust accordingly. Exercise Tip – stick to your routine, but back off intensity. During this time, your body temperature is often higher than normal, so you’ll often feel more tired during conditioning workouts. This doesn’t mean you can’t workout; it just means you may want to reconsider how intensely you’re pushing yourself. Though it’s tempting to fall off the horse if you’re feeling crampy and bloated for three days, this is probably the most important time to stick to your workout routine, even if you’re not able to put forth the same amount of intensity or effort. Be gentle on yourself as you prepare for the next cycle to begin with a shark-like bang!

 

Is the Ketogenic Diet Here to Stay or Just Another Unhealthy Fad of the Past?


 

If you’re confused about the ketogenic diet and whether or not it’s a good option for you, I don’t blame you. You have likely heard it’s the best way to help you lose fat, lean up, decrease your appetite, combat diabetes and inflammation, and maybe even enhance your athletic performance. And you have probably also heard it’s not a sustainable way to eat, that your body needs carbs, that it causes cancer, and that that much fat is bad for your long-term health. Which one is it then? I’m not here to preach the ketogenic diet one way or another, but I’m here to give you a closer look at to what the yes side and the no side is saying.

 

 

What is the ketogenic diet:

Simply put, eating a ketogenic diet means you’re eating close to 75% fat, 20% protein and just 5% carbs. A true ketogenic diet would mean eating just 10 to 15 grams of carbs per day, which is equivalent to just one apple a day. Basically this means no sugar, no processed foods, little to no fruit, and just whole lot of healthy fats, animal products and some vegetables. Read more about exactly what you can and can’t eat on a ketogenic diet here: (https://www.perfectketo.com/full-ketogenic-diet-food-list/)

 

What are ketones and what is ketosis?

Ketones are a group of organic compounds, two of which can be used as energy sources in our bodies: acetoacetate and D-β-hydroxybutyrate. Our body can also make its own ketones under certain circumstances: when we’re fasting, during starvation, or when carbohydrates aren’t present (if carb levels are super low). These ketones are then released by the liver into the blood to then be used as energy by our body. More specifically, ketosis occurs when ketones in your blood are higher than normal (and blood glucose is very low). How fast you go into ketosis varies a lot by age. Interestingly, human beings go into ketosis a lot faster than other mammals—as we know, bears can hibernate for an entire winter without hitting ketosis. Meanwhile, young human babies will go into ketosis in just a few hours. Experts believe this has to do with how developed the human brain is; ketosis happens in humans to give our brains energy during times of starvation or fasting. So basically, the ketosis diet then cuts off our body’s glucose supply, forcing our bodies to use fat as energy, as opposed to glucose.

 

 

What the YES TEAM says:

  • Helps Metabolic Diseases

There’s certainly some evidence that fasting is a short-term treatment for some metabolic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes or chronic inflammation, and that ketosis can even help the body return to a normal, well-regulated state. Makes a ton of sense for the diabetes argument: Less sugar is sure to increase insulin deficiencies. Check out this study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism: (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1325029/) for more on the topic.

  • Helps Brain Injuries and Degenerative Brain Diseases

Some research suggests that brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as brain injuries, seem to be helped by the presence of ketones, but it’s important to note most of the research in this area hasn’t been done on humans.

  • Best Way to Lose Fat

No doubt about it, people report they lean up when they’re following a ketogenic diet. However, this could be due to eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods as much as it is about eating all the fat and none of the carbs. Check out this study for more: (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27385608).

 

 

 

What the NO TEAM says

  • Not a Sustainable Fat Loss Strategy

Contrary to many success stories, there’s a school of thought that doesn’t think such a high-fat diet is helpful for long-term weight loss. The reputable Precision Nutrition, for example, says this: “For women in particular, lowering carbohydrate intake seems to have negative effects. …Women’s bodies go on high alert faster when they sense less energy and fewer nutrients coming in. Many women have found that the low-carb diet that worked great for their husband not only didn’t work for them, but it knocked out their menstrual cycle on the way out the door.” As a result, “We don’t recommend the ketogenic diet for sustainable fat loss,” reported Krista Scott-Dixon, Ph.D. and Helen Kollias, Ph.Din their article, “The Ketogenic Diet:
Does it live up to the hype?” (https://www.precisionnutrition.com/ketogenic-diet)

  • Unhealthy in the Long Term

Critics often argue it’s not healthy for long periods of time because it causes you to lose muscle and eventually become chronically fatigued, and can even do long term damage to the heart. However, this study that looked at obese patients who switched to the ketogenic diet suggests its perfectly healthy in the long term: (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/) Then again, this study suggests the maximum time you should stay on a ketogenic diet is 6 to 12 months: (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945587/)

  • Cancer

Critics argue that the ketogenic diet doesn’t include enough plant-base foods, and that consuming too many animal products leads to various health problems down the road—all sorts of chronic diseases, cancer and ultimately premature death. Read more here: (https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/cancerwise/2018/04/the-keto-diet-and-cancer–what-patients-should-know.html).

 

We aren’t here to make a choice for you in one way or another. However, more often than not, what appears to be too good to be true, generally is. Extremes are exactly that, extremes! As a general rule, being physically active and eating a well balanced diet should be enough to support you in a healthy lifestyle.

 

 

What You Need to Know About Calories and Metabolism


Losing weight is complicated….And unfair. 

 

It sounds like common sense: Reduce your calories and lose weight, increase your calories and gain weight. The concept sounds so foolproof that it led to the commonly-held conclusion we have believed for decades: “Eat less, move more,” and you will shed pounds. But this advice is flawed. It’s not that simple. Anyone who has found himself/herself trying to lose weight but failing to do so—by restricting calories and moving more—can attest to this. Why? Well to start, the calories in, calories out theory doesn’t tell us anything about your age, gender, body composition or hormone levels, nor does it tell us about your macronutrient intake, your training style, your genetic makeup, or whether you’re taking any medications etc. It also doesn’t tell us about your metabolism –  the process your body goes through to convert what you eat and drink into energy.

 

Metabolism aside for a moment, there are a couple of warnings to note about calories. The first is to be aware of labels! Check out this Precision Nutrition article that explains that food labels can be off by as much as 20 to 25 percent!(https://www.precisionnutrition.com/food-labels) The second is that consuming calories isn’t the same as absorbing them. The amount of energy we eat in the form of calories isn’t always equal to the amount of energy we absorb, store or use. This comes down to our metabolism, as well as the type of calories we’re eating, hence the idea that “calories aren’t created equal.”  In short, we absorb less energy from carbohydrates and fats that are minimally process and more energy from highly-processed carbohydrates because they’re easy to digest. Further, whether a food is cooked or raw also makes a difference in what we absorb from it. We absorb food differently depending on the types of bacteria we have in our gut, hence the whole probiotic craze we have been inundated with in recent years (probiotics are known to help increase the good bacteria in your gut, which helps you absorb nutrients more effectively). Back to the unfair truth about metabolism – when it comes to metabolism, we aren’t created equal. Here’s a look at how we are all different when we break down our metabolism into four categories:

 

 

  1. Resting Metabolic Rate, or RMR

We all differ in terms of the number of calories we burn when we’re simply just resting (breathing, thinking, sleeping etc…). Things that affect your RMP either positively or negatively include your genetic makeup, your body composition, your age etc, your fitness level, and so on.

 

2. Fitness and Metabolism

Again, we all burn calories differently when we workout (kind of why you can’t trust what the rowing machine or bike is telling you about how many calories you just burned). This changes depending on how much exercise you do. In other words, more consistent fitness can help your metabolism speed up.

 

  1. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis

We talked about resting metabolism and working out metabolism. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis, on the other hand, is basically everything in between. It’s the energy you burn when you’re going about your daily life, sitting down, standing up, fidgeting, doing dishes, talking, laughing etc. Once again, this also varies from person-to-person.

 

  1. Thermic Effect of Eating

This is basically how many calories you burn just by eating (and digesting and processing your food). Once again, this varies considerably from person to person.

 

 

 

 

Below are 5 Simple Ways to Amp up Your Metabolism

1.Eat Protein – Protein helps improve your thermic effect of food, meaning you’ll burn more calories while you’re eating and digesting. Read more here (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4258944/)

2. Drink more water – Some research shows drinking more water can help speed up your resting metabolism. Read more here (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19661958).

3. Workout More – Exercise, especially lifting weights and high-intensity work, goes a long way in speeding up your metabolism—not just the calories you burn when you workout, but also your resting metabolism and your non-exercise activity thermogenesis. This study explains that high-intensity training can help your metabolism speed up for up to 14 hours after a workout: (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21311363).

4. Sleep – Sleep and sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, have a huge impact on metabolism. Check out this for more (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2929498/) . And even if you don’t have sleep apnea, not getting enough sleep can alter glucose metabolism, as well as hormones involved in regulating metabolism, like leptin and ghrelin. There’s a reason they call it beauty sleep.

5. Omega 3’s – There’s some evidence that taking a fish oil supplement rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can help speed your metabolism, largely because it is believed it helps decrease the chances of leptin resistance, which is linked to how your body burns fat. More research needs to be done here, but even if fish oil doesn’t help your amp up your metabolism, there are many other well-known health benefits that come from taking Omega-3 fatty acids.

Give it a try for 30 days: Increase protein intake (and decrease carb intake), more water, consistent working out, go to bed earlier, and fish oil it up on a daily basis. Then report back.

 

Your Fish Oil Guide to Better Heart and Brain Health


Omega-3 Fish oil: You have probably heard that you should be taking it to improve your recovery, to decrease inflammation, to improve brain function, and even to prevent and manage heart disease and blood pressure. Many of you might already be taking some brand of Omega-3 fish oil. According to the National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health, more than 18 million people in the United States spent more than $1.3 billion on fish oil in 2012 alone, so the word is obviously getting through to people about its positive health benefits. But all this time, there’s a good chance you have been taking it wrong…Mic drop! What I mean is the type and dosage of fish oil matters, and varies from person to person depending on a few factors. Before we go into that, though, let’s talk a bit about what fish oil is and how you can get it into your system.

 

 

DHA versus EPA: Omega-3 fish oil contains both DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) fatty acids that your body wants and needs. Specifically, DHA is known for boosting brain function, while EPA contains more of the anti-inflammatory effects.

 

Foods with DHA and EPA: Great food sources that also contain these two fatty acids can be found in salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, tuna, trout, swordfish, and cod, among other fish. On average, one 100-gram serving of most fish contains around 1 gram of Omega-3 fatty acids. Atlantic salmon and mackerel are a bit higher: They’re closer to 2 grams of both EPA and DHA per 100 gram serving of salmon. Here’s a snapshot of various fish and the exact amount of both EPA and DHA they have. All this is to say, if you eat a lot of fish (more than 3 or 4 days a week), you might be getting enough fish oil from your diet. But if you don’t eat fish and have other needs, there’s a good chance you’ll benefit from a fish oil supplement on top of what you’re already getting from your food.

 

 

 

Traditional Fish Oil Dosage Suggestions

There are various reasons to take fish oil. Some take it to improve their cardiovascular health, others to improve their joint health, and others still to improve their attention and concentration. According to various clinical studies, here are the amounts of fish oil you should consider taking depending on your needs:

Heart Health:600 – 4,000 mg (0.6 g to 4 grams) of combined EPA and DHA.

To Improve Mood:At least 1 gram of EPA per day. The oil you choose should be higher in EPA than DHA.

To Improve Concentration and Focus:500-1,000 mg (0.5 to 1 g) of EPA per day. This is also useful for children over the age of 5. Again, the oil you choose should be higher in EPA than DHA.

Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women:At least 300mg (0.3 g). Generally, the oil you choose should be higher in DHA than EPA.

Bowel Health: 2,000-4,000 mg (2-4 g) of combined EPA and DHA each day.

Respiratory Health:2,000-4,000 mg (2-4 g) of combined EPA and DHA each day.

The above dosages are pretty standard and accepted; however, there are many other (perhaps more progressive and aggressive) nutrition gurus out there who recommend taking much larger doses. Robb Wolf—the author to the Paleo Solution (https://robbwolf.com/)—recommends taking 0.5 grams of EPA and DHA PER 10 POUNDS OF BODYWEIGHT. And if you’re recovering from an injury, are overweight, stressed out, not sleeping well or have a poor diet, he even says this can be upped to 0.75 to 1 grams per 10 lb. of bodyweight! This means if you weigh 150 lb., then:

  1. Divide 150 by 10 = 15
  2. 5 g (of fish oil) and multiply that by 15
  3. 5 x 15 = 7.5 g

Thus, for maintenance, he suggests you take 7.5 g of fish oil each day. Considerably more than the old-school requirements, but might be worth doing and seeing how you feel.

 

 

 

What About Brands?

One thing to consider is where is the fish from your oil is coming from (i.e. environmental contaminants). The same way you don’t want to consume fish caught in ocean areas that are contaminated, you don’t want your oil to come from there either. Also, some fish, especially the longer-living species—usually the predators that eat other fish—accumulate contaminants in their bodies‚ things like heavy metals, such as mercury, arsenic, cadmium and lead. It goes to say that these contaminants can end up in fish oil, which will do more damage than good if you consume them. What all this means for us is that when looking for a fish oil supplement, it’s best to look for one that has been highly purified. Two other things to consider are freshness and form.

Freshness: If you’re buying fish oil in oil form, as opposed to capsules, freshness can be determined by how translucent the oil is. It should be quite translucent and free from cloudiness or “floaters.” Second, the taste: The fresher it is the least fishy it should taste.

Form:Omega-3s are naturally found in the triglyceride form, but often times cheap fish oils are sold in an ethyl ester (EE) form, a semi-synthetic form that are harder for your cells to absorb. Thus, you want to strive for the triglyceride form. Good brands usually list this somewhere on their bottle. If you want to get really nerdy and dig more into this, check out this research that compares the two forms: (http://www.promedics.ca/site/downloads/Triglycerides%20vs%20Ethyl%20Esters.pdf)

 

With all that being said, one really good brand that is sourced from short-lived species—anchovies, sardines and mackerel—which don’t feed on the bottom so they pick up less contaminants, is BrainMD’s Omega-3 Power. (https://www.brainmdhealth.com/omega-3-power). Another great option is SFH which is something we sell. It has a great taste and no fishy burps! Also, for your convenience we have pumps available to it’s super easy to

 

There are many other good brands out there. What’s most important is to do some research into the product and beware of EPA to DHA ratios, freshness, triglyceride form, and, of course, figure out the right dosage for your needs.

 

 

 

Why a Calorie Isn’t Just a Calorie


We used to believe that calories were all created equal. It sounded like common sense, seeing as one dietary calorie contains 4,284 Joules of energy. This naturally led us to believe that if you consume 2,000 calories a day and burn 2,000 calories a day, homeostasis on your body will be the result. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case—100 calories of gummy bears act very differently when consumed than 100 calories of asparagus—and adopting the blind calorie-counting method of eating is at least part of the reason we see more obesity as a society in recent decades. Here are a few examples that highlight HOW all calories aren’t created equal:

 

Fructose versus Glucose

Fructose and glucose are two simple sugars in many foods, and one gram of each gives you the same number of calories; however, your body metabolizes them very differently. Fructose is predominantly only be metabolized in the liver, where as glucose gets metabolized by all the tissues in the body. On top of this, fructose leads to higher levels of the hormone Ghrelin (known as the hunger hormone). So, consuming more fructose means you’ll probably feel more hunger than satiation. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15181085).  In case that’s not enough reason to steer clear of fructose—and, of course, high-fructose corn syrup—it has also been shown to lead to insulin resistance and an increase in fat around your mid-section. But wait, isn’t there fructose in fruit? There is, but fruit are also rich in fiber and water, which prevents much of the negative damage. The long and the short of it is fructose calories do more hormonal and metabolic damage on your health than glucose.

 

 

Protein’s Metabolic Advantage

 Different foods go through different metabolic pathways in your body, some of which are more effective than others. For example, protein has four calories per gram, but much of these calories are lost as heat when your body metabolizes them (what is known as the thermic effect). In other words, it requires much more energy to metabolize protein than it does to metabolize fat and carbs.

 Thermic Effect Percentages:

• Protein: 25-30%

• Carbs: 6-8 %

• Fat: 2-3 %

 Based on the above percentages, this means if you consume 100 calories of protein, you end up with only 75 calories in your body, because of the 25% thermic effect (meaning 25% of protein’s calories get lost as heat). On the other hand, if you eat 100 grams of carbs, your body will still end up with 94 calories, because you only lose around 6 calories as heat due to the thermic effect. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11838888). It’s no surprise then that various studies have shown that a higher protein diet boosts your metabolism as compared to a lower protein diet.

 

 

Protein and Portion Control

 On top of its metabolic effect, protein also has a special appetite-killing power, so to speak. Protein calories are the most effective at making you feel full. You have probably noticed this. You can eat waffle after waffle loaded with berries, but you’re likely not going to eat three steaks for dinner. This study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16002798) showed that people who eat more protein (30 percent of their diet was protein) ate 441 fewer calories per day and lost 11 lb. on average in 12 weeks. This essentially comes down to the satiety index. I already pointed out how your body feels like a bottomless pit when you’re throwing back waffles, or ice cream, but you’ll have a hard time getting the same amount of calories of milk, eggs or meat into your system.

 

 

Glycemic Index

 The glycemic index basically has to do with measuring how fast foods raise your blood sugar. As expected, highly refined carbohydrates spike your blood sugar faster than protein and healthy fats, for example. Blood sugar spikes lead to blood sugar crashes, which lead to cravings for more high-carb foods. In short, eating more foods higher on the glycemic index means you’re putting yourself more at risk of both gaining weight and getting Type 2 diabetes.

 

 If you want more nutrition advice, come talk to us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pass the Salt Please!


Study says you can stop feeling guilty when you ask your neighbour to “Pass the salt, please!” Fat used to be sinful, and now it’s not. Sugar was never great, but now we know how awful it is for us. And then there’s salt. Salt has always been moderately evil—it has been thought to cause high-blood pressure and heart problems—to the point that some health professionals say 0 grams of salt a day for many people is best. Especially for old people, they say. If you have ever visited a grandparent in assisted living and joined them for lunch, you probably ate a whole lot of bland, tasteless, saltless food.

 

The WHO (World Health Organization)’s generic recommendation is to consume than 2 grams of salt a day to ensure you stay free from high blood pressure and strokes. To put that into context, 100 grams of bacon has around 1,7 grams of sodium, so if you ate bacon for breakfast that’s pretty much your salt for the day according to the WHO. Don’t even think about sprinkling any additional salt on your eggs or avocado! Good new for salt lovers is this could all be poor advice, says a new study, which involved more then 90,000 people in more than 18 countries, published in the Lancet Medical Journal. The study says no country has ever reduced their sodium intake to those low levels, nor should they try. Link to the study: (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31376-X/fulltext).

 

The Canadian researchers discovered salt’s alleged harmful effects were only relevant in countries, such as China, where they use a ton of salty substances, like soy sauce, very liberally, and where people tend to consume more than 12 g of salt a day. Not only that, they discovered that incredibly low levels of salt in a person’s diet led to more heart attacks and death than moderate levels of sodium. Their conclusion: Low levels are bad (i.e. 0-5 grams) and high level are bad (above 12.5 g), but somewhere in the middle can actually play a role in improving cardiovascular health, as the body needs sodium—an essential nutrient. The average intake in the UK is believed to be around 8 grams, possible right where it should be, according to this research.

Why Your Body Needs Salt

  • Sodium is needed for our muscles to contract, for regulating fluid balance, for regulating blood pressure, and for our nervous system to properly transmit signals.
  • Sodium also helps you absorb chloride, amino acids, glucose and water in your intestines.

 

Despite these new findings, the study has already been stirring up big criticism from the anti-sodium camp, and has even sparked a movement among other scientists to prove them wrong. One of their biggest challenges is that the Lancet study didn’t properly measure how much sodium was in people’s urine, as this needs to be done over a 24-hour period of time, they argue. You can read more about the criticism to this study here: (https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/07/17/experts-criticize-new-study-about-salt-consumption) Another aspect of the study to consider is potassium intake. The research found that cardiovascular problems decreased when people were also eating higher levels of potassium—which is found in plenty in many vegetables, fruits, as well as nuts. So perhaps it’s less about sodium intake and more about potassium intake? Something to consider for future research.

 

Why is Potassium Important?

  • Potassium regulates fluid balance, muscle contractions and plays a role in your nervous system. A high-potassium diet is believed to reduce blood pressure and water retention, as well as it helps stave off cardiovascular troubles, osteoporosis and kidney stones.
  • low potassium is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, digestive problems and infertility
  • Check out more about potassium and if you’re getting enough of it here: https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/potassium-sources-and-benefits#1    

 

 

One more final thought about salt to take with a grain of salt (Because it’s coming from my common sense, not a doctor): If you sweat a lot, especially in the summer, you probably can handle more salt than otherwise. So the next time you want to ask for salt but feel like you might offend the cook as the implication might be the food is bland, don’t hold back. You need sodium as much as any other mineral in your body and if you’re craving salty foods, there might be a reason for it.

Hand Protection 101


Our Guide to Treating and Protecting Your Hands

 

If you have spent any time on the barbell, swinging KBs around, or doing pull-ups or toes-to-bar, you have probably experienced a blister or a rip. (If you’re still a rip virgin, chances are you won’t be for long, so you too, can listen up). It generally starts with an uncomfortable feeling somewhere on your hand or finger as you feel your skin shift and loosen up. Generally, it’s enough to signal you to hop off the bar and tape up, or stop the movement altogether for the day. However, sometimes it’s too late. The skin has already ripped off, or a water or blood blister, has already formed. What do you do next? Should you pop the blister? Should you cut any dangling skin? Keep it moist? Dry it out? Let’s address these one by one.

 

 

POP IT OR LEAVE IT BE?

The old-school gymnastics coach advice is to grab a needle and thread and poke a hole on one side of your blister, and then string the thread through and out the other side of the blister. Gymnasts far and wide have been known to go to bed with thread hanging out on both sides of their blister. What this does is help dry the rip out—via the small air hole made from the needle—all the while keeping the skin covering and protecting the rip. Sounds kind of gross but it does work and some people like this method. It is certainly better than popping the blood blister and force ripping the skin off, leaving your hand stingy and vulnerable for the next 24 hours.

However, if you’re going to avoid any hand movements for a couple days, then it’s often best just to leave the blister be. That skin will rip off at some point, but if it has a couple days to sit and heal, by the time the skin rips off, it will be a lot dryer and much less painful than a newly-formed open rip in the middle of your hand.

 

 

LEAVE THE DANGLY BITS?

If you have ripped, but the skin is still sitting nice and flat over the rip, then it’s probably best to leave the skin as is. But if the skin is dangling, and especially if you’re planning on continuing to work with your hands that day or the following day, then definitely grab some scissors or cuticle cutters and cut off the loose skin. If you don’t, the skin is likely to keep pulling back further and further, making your rip longer and deeper and more painful.

When you do cut the skin off, it’s best to grab some fine grain sandpaper or a pumice stone and gently smooth the callus out around the edge of the rip when the skin is soft – like just out of the shower. Again, this will prevent the skin from pulling back further and aggravating the rip even more.

 

 

MOIST OR DRY?

 The million dollar question! This one is a bit like Goldilocks: You want to aim for not too moist, not too dry, but just right. If you keep lathering polysporin on your rips, or Aloe, or some other product, sometimes it can backfire and slow healing because it keeps the wound too moist, which makes it even more tender. However, if you don’t do anything and let it dry out, then sometimes it gets so dry it cracks and forms an even deeper, more painful rip. The best approach is to put some sort of disinfecting ointment on the right away and cover it up with a band-aid, but then pull the band-aid off and let your hands air out when you sleep. You’ll find they’ll feel significantly better in the morning when they’re not kept covered and moist overnight. If the rip looks too dry in the morning, put some more product on it. If not, leave it be.

Here are some options for what to put on your rips to speed healing and stop them from getting too dry:

 

  • Polysporin or Neosporin

 

  • Aloe

 

  • Climb On

We are big fans of this stuff! It was introduced to us back in 2010 ish and we have been loving it ever since. We carry it at the gym so don’t hesitate to ask us about it. We have commonly called it “magic in a bottle.” It is what rock climbers use when they rip their fingers climbing and it heals the rip really fast so you’re able to get back on the barbell or pull up rig a lot quicker than if you left the rip alone.

 

 

Though ripping your hands is sometimes inevitable, like with any ailment, prevention is the best medicine. And there are three steps that can be taken to avoid ripping in the first place:

 

1. Keep Calluses Thin and Pliable

One of the most common places for calluses to become thick and stiff is right at the base of your fingers where they meet your palm. It’s worth spending a few minutes each day checking out what your calluses are doing and filing them down to thin them out, again either with fine grain sandpaper file (we carry these in our pro shop) or a pumice stone.

 

  1. The Goldilocks Rule

Same goes for the moisture level of your skin. If your hands are super dry, it’s worth applying a moisturizer before going to bed. Dry skin can lead to cracks, which turn into rips.

 

  1. Grips or Tape

If you’re going to be doing 100 pull-ups, it’s best to throw on some grips or tape you’re hands as a prevention measure. The Natural Grip makes some great ones. We sell them at the gym so you can take a look at them in our pro shop. There are a bunch of different kinds of gymnastics grips – but it really depends on you, the athlete, as to how they feel on your hand. Go with something you’re comfortable with.