Monday, June 17, 2024

The Ideal Supplement for Anxiety, Sleep and Stress!

 

What if someone told you there was an inexpensive nutrition supplement proven to be completely safe that has solid research proving that it can:

Immediately and dramatically reduce anxiety with zero sedation or side effects.

Improves mental focus and concentration.

Quickly reduces the stress hormone cortisol.

Reduces Beta Brain Waves associated with anxiety and fear.

Increases Alpha Brain Waves associated with relaxation and meditation.

Proven to offset stress induced Immune Suppression.

Improves Sleep:

Decreases time to fall asleep.

Decreases night-time awakenings.

Increases the amount of Deep, Restorative Sleep.

Improves Memory and Mental Capacity.

Sound too good to be true?   It’s NOT!

How Does Pharmagaba Work?

Pharmagaba is a unique, patented form of GABA that crosses the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB for short).     GABA is a neurotransmitter that that balances out the excitatory neurotransmitters like Norepinephrine aka noradrenalin.

Although GABA supplements have been around for a while regular GABA supplements are completely ineffective because they do not cross the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB).   The BBB is exactly what it sounds like – a chemical gateway designed to protect the brain from toxins and infections.

Unlike regular GABA supplements Pharmagaba crosses the BBB!   This allows it to quickly change your mental state from a sympathetic dominant state to a parasympathetic state.      A sympathetic dominant state means you are stressed out and anxious and feeling on edge whereas a parasympathetic dominant state is when you are relaxed and calm.

To learn more about Pharmagaba watch this short but highly informative video going through all the benefits and research:  https://youtu.be/wOzSy3HiXOU

The best supplement on the market is Pharmagaba from Natural Factors.    It is offered in chewables or capsules.   For maximum effects buy the Pharma GABA 250mg version which can be purchased through Amazon or Iherb online.  Do NOT confuse GABA with Pharmagaba – you will only experience benefits if you use the patented Pharmagaba form.


Monday, June 3, 2024

Can Cold Showers Improve Exercise and Fat Burning?

 


Exposure to cold is unpleasant, but used properly, cold exposure is an extremely potent tool for improving health, exercise capacity, and fat burning.

Cold causes an increase in metabolic rate to produce heat to try and counteract the effects of cold resulting in increased calorie/fat burning. However, exposure to cold has a far deeper biological and hormonal impact on the body.

Cold Therapy (CT) is proven to increase adiponectin levels. Adiponectin is a hormone that stimulates fatty acid oxidation in muscle cells by activating AMP-activated protein kinase. Or in simple terms – cold increases adiponectin, adiponectin burns fat.

CT also lowers blood sugar levels by burning glucose as heat and increases glucose uptake into muscle helping speed up recovery times. Clearance of excess blood glucose into muscle helps prevent blood sugar being converted into fat by the liver. Meaning a cold shower after a high carb meal might prevent a lot of the negatives from high sugar intake!

CT also activates conversion of regular body fat (known as white adipose tissue or WAT) into brown adipose tissue (BAT – aka Brown Fat). BAT is very different than typical fat in that it is dense in energy producing mitochondria (hence its brownish color) and utilizes body fat (typically from the belly and back) as its fuel source.

Cold and Norepinepherine

Norepinepherine (NE for short) is an excitatory neurotransmitter that is one of the primary initiators of fat burning.  NE is the key initiator of the Sympathetic Nervous System’s (SNS) Flight or Fight Response.

The Flight or Fight Response is something we have all experienced anytime we are really scared such as almost getting into a serious car accident. If you recall an experience like that you will remember that you are often shaking after the danger has passed.

Shaking occurs because when you perceive a threat the brain pushes out high levels of NE.   High levels of NE stimulate a cascade of effects including:

Increased heart rate

Increased oxygen consumption

Increased circulation

Shut-down of digestive tract while pushing more blood to muscles for action

Increased pupil dilation

Increased mental focus

Reduced perceived exertion, pain, and inflammation.

Release of fatty acids and glucose from storage to fuel high levels of muscular activity.

High levels of NE also stimulate the adrenal glands to secrete epinephrine (EP).   EP is also known as adrenalin.   NE and EP are chemically almost identical with NE being a neurotransmitter and EP being a hormonal version.     

This strong SNS response prepares you for action!

Even brief exposure to extreme cold (20 seconds at 40°F, 4.4°C) causes a 200-300% boost in norepinephrine that lasts for an hour. As stated above increased NE stimulate release of EP as well. You experience a noticeable boost in vigilance, focus, attention, and mood, along with improved oxygen delivery, blood circulation, antioxidant function, mitochondrial biogenesis, and reduced perceived exertion, pain, and inflammation.

Cold and Testosterone

Heat on male genital can decrease testosterone.  Conversely cold temperatures can increase testosterone production! 

Cold showers can potentially help relieve depression

As stated above cold showers increase norepinepherine which helps with depression - see this study on cold showers and  depression:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17993252

Cold and Sleep

Although cold exposure initially causes a strong sympathetic nervous response (like what occurs during any high intensity exercise) later the body rebalances and there is an increase in your Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) response as a reaction to this stimulus.

Your PNS is basically your rest/sleep/repair mode.   So the increased PNS response to cold exposure after the acute SNS response helps with sleep quality.        

Takeaway – Cold Showers can be an effective tool to boost exercise performance and fat burning. for those seeking lower body fat levels. Do 1-5 minute sessions in the morning, dry off and then warm-up and exercise – you will feel rocket charged!

To learn more about all the positive effects of using cold exposure for positive health and fitness benefits listen to this great podcast on the subject:  https://www.foundmyfitness.com/episodes/cold-stress-hormesis

 


Monday, May 27, 2024

The Benefits of Redlight Therapy

 

Redlight Therapy is becoming very popular.    So, what is red-light?  And what are the benefits? 

Whenever you go outside into sunlight you are experiencing many different parts of the Sun’s electromagnetic spectrum including:

UV - Ultraviolet Light – while eyes cannot sense Ultraviolet light – UV is responsible for tanning, sunburn, and production of Vitamin D

Far Infrared light – this is invisible to our eyes but we feel this as heat!

Redlight – we see this quite literally as redlight and the percentage of the sun’s rays that are redlight are highest earlier and later in the day (think sunset or a campfire!).   

Blue light – think typical indoor lighting and your computer screen.    The sun has plenty of blue light earlier in the day and less late in the afternoon and evening when red takes over.    This type of light stimulates the brain and nervous system which is why it is a good idea to go outside early each day into the sunlight whenever possible.

NIR - Near Infrared Light – we cannot see this with our eyes but near infrared light has many benefits similar to the benefits of redlight.   About 40% of the Sun’s Rays consist of Near Infrared which is one of the reasons being in sunlight can have many benefits if you follow safe sun exposure rules!     To learn more about safe sun exposure see this blogpost:  https://workoutanytime.blogspot.com/2022/08/the-incredible-health-benefits-of-safe.html

How does Redlight and Near Infrared Light Work?

Redlight and Near Infrared Light work through the Mitochondria of your cells.   You may remember Mitochondria from high-school biology as “the powerhouse of the cell.”   Almost all cellular energy comes from your mitochondria.   As we age we have less mitochondria and they function less well.   Redlight and Near Infrared Light increase oxygenation of the mitochondria resulting in big increases in cellular energy production.   More energy means better cell function.

What are the Benefits of Redlight and Near Infrared Light?

Redlight is extremely beneficial for the skin!   It stimulates collagen production and reduces inflammation which can improve skin structure, strength, and elasticity.    It can help improve many skin conditions including:

Acne

Alopecia (male pattern balding)

Reduction of stretch marks

Reduction of wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots

Improvement in psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema

Most of the benefits of redlight therapy are skin deep but Near Infrared Light can penetrate much deeper into the body.     The benefits of near infrared light are similar to redlight including:

All the skin benefits provided by redlight.

Decreased joint and muscle pain including low back pain.

Improved wound healing.

Improved circulation and Recovery

Reduction in whole body inflammation

Increased white blood cell production.

Increased cellular metabolism.    

Near Infrared Light and Cellular Melatonin

Near Infrared Exposure also generates increased melatonin production in the cells it hits.  This is different than circulatory melatonin produced in your brain at night because it does not make you sleepy! 

Melatonin has been shown to have antioxidant and anticancer effects, to play a role in the regulation of blood pressure and glucose levels, is highly anti-inflammatory, and has also been shown to lower the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection and mortality.

Melatonin exists in two main forms within the body – circulatory melatonin, which is produced by the pineal gland and has its major effect on sleep and the circadian rhythm, and subcellular melatonin, which is produced and used locally by the mitochondria within our cells.

 


Monday, May 20, 2024

Escalating Density Training

 

There are many different resistance training protocols, and one of the simplest and most productive is Escalating Density Training (EDT) which is the brain child of strength training legend Charles Staley.     There are three keys to this protocol:

Sets and Reps are not the focus – rather you focus on total number of reps performed in two exercises in a set period of time.  

Pair antagonistic exercises to allow for recovery despite high volume of work – such as chest press and row or overhead press and pull-up/pull-down or leg extensions and leg curls.

Adjust reps per set and rest time as fatigue starts to set in.   Reps per set tends to drop steadily such as 5, 4, 3, 2 and even singles towards the end of the 15-minute period.

The entire focus is on how many reps with a given exercise and load you can perform in two exercise in 15 minutes.    You MUST record the following for each workout and do NOT change the total workout time from 15 minutes:

Each exercise performed

Load/Weight/Resistance used for each exercise

Total repetitions performed in each exercise each session

You can perform up to 2 pairs of exercise per workout for 30 minutes of total workout time with 5-minute break in between such as:

Chest Press/Row – 15 minutes

Bicep/Tricep – 15 minutes

Progression

Then your progression is really simple – strive to do more reps of each exercise each session!   Once you increase your number of total reps per exercise by 20% or more you should increase your resistance by 5% or 5lbs whichever is less.

There are many possible exercise pairs including but not limited to:

Squats and Rows

Chest Press and Rows

Dip and Pull-up or Pull-down

Bicep and Tricep

Leg Extension and Leg Curl

There are also many possible weekly training plans, but it is important NOT to do too much so 5 workout days with 2 days off is a good system to insure adequate recovery, muscle growth and strength increases!


Monday, May 13, 2024

The Three Types of Exercise to Maximize Longevity

 

Most people are aware that exercise can improve quality of life and lifespan. However, most people do not that there are three types of exercise that are necessary to optimize overall health and longevity:

Zone 2 Cardiovascular Exercise

High Intensity Cardiovascular Exercise

Resistance Training

Each of these forms of exercise confer a specific set of benefits and contribute to longevity. Therefore, the optimal exercise longevity plan would include all three forms on a weekly basis.

Zone 2 Cardiovascular exercise requires exercise at a specific intensity for relatively long durations.  The ideal way to know if you are in zone 2 is to measure blood lactate levels but this is not practical so the next best measurement is heart rate, and you can even assess proper intensity through a simple talk test.

Zone 2 exercise is exercise is done at 60 – 70% of your maximum heart rate.    To learn how estimate max heart rate see this previous blogpost:  https://workoutanytime.blogspot.com/2024/03/the-many-benefits-of-walking-and-zone-2.html  The other way is to use the talk test which involves exercising at a steady intensity where you can talk comfortably in SHORT sentences, BUT you should start to feel a bit breathless with continuous talking!

To reap the physiological and life extension benefits of zone 2 exercise you should shoot for 150 minutes each week of Zone 2 training. Benefits begin with as little as 10 minutes per day if you are sedentary but to optimize results shoot for 150 minutes or longer. There is no ceiling to the accrual of benefit from Zone 2 exercise meaning more IS better, but the key is exercising at a steady pace that keeps you in Zone 2.  Overtime you will get more and more fit so your pace will have to increase to keep you in Zone 2 but avoid the temptation to go faster where you are breathless – save that for your High Intensity Interval Training.

Assessing progress with Zone 2 is simple if you are using heart rate monitoring.  Over time you should be able to hold a faster pace (whether walking, swimming, or biking) while at the same time staying in Zone 2. This guarantees all the many physiological and life extension benefits of Zone 2 exercise described in the blogpost listed above.

High Intensity Cardiovascular Training also known as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT for short) involves short intervals at a very high intensity – between 85 – 100% of your maximum heart rate. There are many different HIIT protocols but the one that delivers the biggest bang for the buck is known as the Norwegian VO2 Max Protocol. It involves doing a warm-up followed by 4 minutes at the highest pace you can hold getting your heart rate to 85 – 95% of your maximum heart rate then going at a slow pace (just moving steadily) for 3 minutes and repeating this 4 times! his is very challenging and NOT for beginners!

This should be done 1 – 2 times week. This type of training is focused on improving your VO2 Max which is your maximum oxygen consumption capacity. To know that you are making progress with this type of exercise you can have your VO2 max measured on a regular basis improvements are the goal of this protocol.  This involves an exercise test with respired gas analysis using a metabolic gas analyzer and can be done at hospitals or other performance training facilities and costs $120 - $150.

Resistance Training – is the final type of exercise required to extend Lifespan.  The anti-aging benefits of resistance training include:

Maintaining muscle and bone mass

Maintaining strength

Maintaining the ability to be independent without requiring assistance for activities of daily living.

Maintaining blood sugar control because muscle pulls blood sugar out of circulation

In some respects, this is the most important type of exercise because without enough strength you cannot do Zone 2 exercise and definitely not HIIT training.     

A key feature of aging is “Sarcopenia” or loss of muscle mass and strength.  There are two keys to preventing this:

Proper Progressive Resistance Training

Optimal Protein Intake

It used to be assumed that this muscle loss was a very steady process, but research has discovered that sarcopenia is usually marked by periods of inactivity with large muscle loss that is never fully recovered.  Even in young healthy people one week of bedrest can results in the loss of 2 – 3 lbs. of lean mass.     

If you think about older family members you can probably recall events where you see “he was never the same after….”   These events can be caused by injury, surgery, infections or just periods of being very sedentary.     

All exercise helps to stimulate muscle mass and results in better use of amino acids from proteins in the diet, but the maximum stimulation occurs when we specifically challenge the muscles with resistance from free weight, resistance bands, pin-loaded exercise machines, or body weight resistance exercises like push-ups or bodyweight squats.  Even walking up stairs helps build and maintain muscle mass in the lower body!

Anyone at any age can benefit from appropriate resistance training and increase muscle mass and strength!  However, this is one area where investment in personal training and working with an exercise professional is really important!    Learning what type of resistance training is best for you as an individual based on your current fitness level, lifestyle and any injuries is critical for optimal results.    Just 10 – 15 sessions with a qualified trainer can help you develop a personalized progressive resistance plan!

Optimizing Protein Intake is also key as mentioned above.    This is not complicated and to learn how to determine your daily needs and how to obtain it check out these previous blogposts:

https://workoutanytime.blogspot.com/2021/06/everything-you-need-to-know-about.html - part 1 on protein intake

https://workoutanytime.blogspot.com/2021/06/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about.html - part 2 on protein intake

Monday, May 6, 2024

Creatine for Brain Health, Womans Health and Depression!

 


Yep – you heard that right – creatine is not just for muscle building!

Creatine/Brain Injury/ Depression/Woman’s Health

Research has proven that creatine supplementation can improve brain function.  Just like with muscles the brain uses creatine as a fuel source.

Brain levels of creatine are affected by aging, depression, schizophrenia, panic disorder and reduced physical activity.

Several studies have shown improved brain function from creatine supplementation.  A 2018 systemic review examined 6 of these studies and concluded that creatine can indeed improve short-term memory, intelligence, and reasoning.    

Creatine has also been shown to be especially useful in brain injury such as concussions.   During many brain injuries there is a cellular energy crisis induced and creatine is a key energy source.

Creatine also supports mental health and helps with depression.   In the review article Creatine Supplementation in Women’s Health: A Lifespan Perspective – authors point out that “dietary creatine intake is inversely proportional with depression occurrence: with a 31% greater incidence of depression in adults in the lowest quartile of creatine intake.”

The article goes on to point out several reasons that creatine supplementation can be especially beneficial for woman.  For example - woman naturally store only 10% as much creatine as men!

The article also points out that “creatine supplementation may be of particular importance during menses, pregnancy, post-partum, during and post-menopause.   The menstrual cycle may influence creatine homeostasis due to the cyclical nature of sex hormone regulation.”

Creatine supplementation is especially useful for people who do not eat meat since this is the primary dietary source of creatine, and this is particularly relevant for woman because they are twice as likely as men to say they do not eat meat.

The Benefits of Creatine Supplementation in Seniors

Another group that can reap benefits from creatine supplementation is seniors!  With gaining and inactivity muscle wasting and atrophy occurs – particularly in fast-twitch muscle fibers which produce the most force.   These are the type of muscle fibers that benefit most from creatine supplementation.  

Creatine has been shown to quickly improve muscle strength in conjunction with resistance training significantly more than just resistance training.

Since creatine also improves brain function and memory through improved cellular energy it can produce big benefits all the way around for seniors.

How much creatine to take for benefits? 

Creatine intake of 5 grams per day is plenty to reap the benefits.  There is science showing that doing loading doses of up to 20 grams per day can speed up benefits but over time 5 grams on a consistent basis is plenty to get all the benefits.

Creatine Safety

Concerns are often raised over creatine and kidney health – like those raised about protein intake harming the kidneys.   This is a myth that simply will not die despite the scientific facts – creatine in moderate doses (like 5 grams per day) does NOT do any damage to normal, healthy individuals with normal kidney function.   For the full low down on this myth see this previous blog post: http://workoutanytime.blogspot.com/2018/10/is-creatine-safe-for-your-kidneys.html 

Saturday, April 20, 2024

How to Deal with Stress Preventing Good Sleep

 

Most people report high stress levels some or all of the time, and during stressful periods it is common for people to have problems falling asleep and staying asleep. In fact, today 57% of Americans report they would feel better if they got more sleep which is up dramatically from years past.    For example, in 1959 59% of Americans said they slept eight-plus hours today only 25% are getting 8 hours of sleep and stress is a big part of the problem.

Key Lifestyle Recommendations for Better Sleep

Set a consistent bedtime and waking schedule that you adhere to EVERY day – not just weekdays!

Try eliminating screen time for 1 full hour before bed.    Reading is fine as is listening to music, meditating, or listening to an audio book.    If you use your phone or tablet to read  download a free red-light app such as “Twilight” which progressively eliminates more and more blue-light from the screen as you approach bedtime.  The Blue portion of the light spectrum is a stimulant and helps wake us up in the morning but also keeps us away at night.

Eliminate all caffeine after 11am.

Eliminate or dramatically limit alcohol consumption.   If you are going to have a glass of wine do so early and stop drinking at least 2 hours before bedtime to give your body time to eliminate the alcohol from your system (1 drink per hour of time not drinking).

Hydrate very early in the day by consciously drinking two large glasses of water first thing in the morning and tapering fluid into after 5pm to limit the need to go to the bathroom while sleeping.

Exercise early in the day – an amazing antidepressant and a known sleep aid as long as you do not exercise vigorously right before bed!

Stop eating anything or drinking any calories 3 hours before bed to avoid heartburn and digestive issues while sleeping.

Nutrition Supplements for Sleep and Stress

While you can try over the counter sleep medications like diphenhydramine which is an antihistamine (aka Sominex, Unisom, and Benadryl) even this basic drug has side effects including prostate issues and contributing to dementia if taken for long periods of time.

Sensoril Ashwaganda – is a specific form of the Ayervedic herb which is highly effective for safe stress reduction, improved sleep and improved energy levels.  Completely safe with almost no contraindications and also very inexpensive.  Available from many sources online including from several different manufacturers on Amazon.  Take 500mg per day in single or divided doses with or without food.  This herb is incredibly good for overall health and vitality – to learn more click here:  https://neurohacker.com/sensoril-ashwagandha-withania-somnifera-root-and-leaf-extract

L-Theanine – is an amino acid derived from Green Tea.   L-Theanine is another fantastic and safe stress reducer.   Like Sensoril it actually improves daytime concentration and focus but facilitates sleep by dramatically reducing the stress response.  Dosage should be 200 – 400mg up to four times per day.   For sleep start with 100mg about an hour before bed and adjust dosage accordingly.   Very safe with almost no side effects or interactions.   Available on Amazon from many fine manufacturers.  

PharmaGABA is a very specific form of GABA that crosses the Blood-Brain Barrier which no other form of GABA does.  GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that puts the brakes on the excitatory neurotransmitter norepinepherine which is part of the stress - fight or flight response that is at the heart of anxiety and sleep disorders.

Unlike anti-anxiety drugs like Valium, which affect the GABA receptors and are highly addictive – PharmaGABA is proven to decrease the stress response without sedation, or addiction, and IMPROVE daytime concentration.

PharmaGABA is more potent and fast-acting than either Sensoril and L-Theanine, but you can also combine L-Theanine, Sensoril and Pharmagaba.  This includes this author’s favorite stress lowering supplement:  Jarrow Gaba Soothe which contains l-theanine, Sensoril and PharmaGABA – see below.   This supplement almost never fails to produce a dramatic and noticeable reduction in stress and improved sleep response with other side benefits like more daytime energy, increased focus, and improved sex drive with no stimulants or hormones.

To get the best of all three of these supplements try Jarrow Gaba Soothe which includes all three – great company and a fantastic and safe stress reduction supplement with side benefits instead of side effects!

 


Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Many Benefits of Sauna after a Workout!

 


Sauna use is not just about sweating - it can actually help you become fitter and healthier!

Sauna for Increased Muscle Strength and Size

Sauna use can help increase muscle size and strength – particularly if done after a resistance training workout.   Sauna use boosts levels of Heath Shock Proteins (HSP’s).    HSP’s promote muscle mass by assisting in the repair of cellular damage by attracting amino acids to damaged sites and encouraging them to convert into new muscle fibers.  

Post-exercise Sauna use has been shown to:

Trigger a large secretion of growth hormone along with improved insulin sensitivity.

Activate the mTOR cellular pathway which is responsible for protein synthesis in muscles.

Reduce muscle protein breakdown through inhibition of the FOXO pathway activation.

HSP’s prevent damage by directly scavenging free radicals and by supporting cellular antioxidant capacity through its effects on maintaining glutathione.

Research has shown that sauna use reduces muscle soreness and increases muscle strength when done after high intensity training.    In addition, sauna use during periods of inactivity has been proven to help prevent muscle loss.  

 For more information on the muscular benefits of sauna watch this video from researcher Rhonda Patrick:  https://youtu.be/H054e_r5W80?si=VXVZSoiRMpZfwNAa 

Sauna use for Improved Cardiovascular Fitness

Sauna use after a cardio workout can also bring big benefits.   This should come as no surprise as research has proven that sauna use mimics moderate aerobic activity meaning a sauna session is like a low to moderate intensity cardio workout!   

Regular sauna use results in multiple adaptations that benefit cardio fitness including:

Increased plasma volume and blood flow to the heart resulting in increased stroke volume (stroke volume is the amount of blood your heart can pump with each contraction).  When stroke volume goes up heart rate decreases!.

Increased red blood cell count resulting in increased oxygen delivery to muscles. 

Increased blood flow to muscles and other tissues resulting in increased delivery of nutrients and disposal of cellular waste products.

Reduced rate of glycogen depletion which significantly improves endurance exercise performance.  Glycogen is the storage form of blood sugar in your muscles and liver.

Lower core body temperature during workouts and heat exposure

A study showed that a 30-minute sauna session two times per week for three weeks done after a run increased run time to exhaustion by 32% in experienced runners.  

Sauna and Cardiovascular Disease Prevention

Sauna use 4 – 7 times per week decreased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 50 percent and risk of premature death from ALL causes by 40 percent.

Sauna improves blood pressure, arterial compliance and left ventricular function.

Sauna and the Brain

HSP’s from Sauna use increase the expression of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).  BDNF is like Miracle Growth for the brain causing the growth of new brain cells, improves ability to learn new information and helps ameliorate depression and anxiety.

Sauna use increases the release of norepinephrine which improves attention and focus and causes a robust increase in dynorphin which results in increased sensitivity to endorphins.  In addition, sauna use also boosts endorphin levels directly.

The bottom line is that sauna use provides a powerful mood boosting effect that persists for hours by increasing the brain and body’s sensitivity to endorphins while also increasing the level of circulating endorphins.

Sauna use is proven to substantially reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.   Men who took saunas 4 – 7 times per week had a 65% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia over the next 20 years than men who did it once a week.

Sauna and Improved Immune Function

Sauna enhances immune function by raising body temperature (think artificial fever).   This stimulates the production of immune cells and improves immune cell function.   Increased body temperature reduces viral replication and improves natural killer function.   Natural killer cells are the special forces of your immune system and key to preventing and fighting viral infections.

Sauna and Skin Health

Sauna dramatically increases blood flow to your skin (think red face and red skin!) which helps increase collagen production.    Sauna use also opens skin pores and makes you sweat which helps to shed dead skin cells.    Saunas have been proven to be beneficial for specific skin conditions including psoriasis and eczema by reducing inflammation.

It is important to shower after sauna with a cold-water finish after washing to close the skin pores.     Hydration is also key to replace water lost from sweat.    Then apply moisturizer when skin is still damp to help seal in moisture.

Sauna Safety and Usage Instructions

Start slow – and always drink water before, during and after sauna use – you should drink a minimum of 1 quart of water for each 20 minutes in a sauna.

Start with 5 or 10 minutes and gradually build up time to 20 minutes.

For maximum benefits do 4 sessions per week of 20 minutes each.

Do NOT use sauna if:

After consuming any alcoholic beverages – this can be VERY dangerous!

If you experience any type of chest pain at any time.

Have any type of existing cardiovascular disease without first checking with your physician.

If you are pregnant

 

 

 


Sunday, April 7, 2024

Is it Important to Delay Morning Caffeine Intake?

 


This idea has been popularized lately based on several physiological   mechanisms that support this idea.   First, is the fact that caffeine intake can definitely boost levels of cortisol which is already elevated in the morning. Cortisol is often labeled as being “bad” because it is a catabolic hormone that can have negative effects if chronically elevated.

Although this mechanism is real and caffeine can increase cortisol that is not the whole story!   If you are new to caffeine – it will definitely produce a big cortisol spike.    However, you quickly adapt to caffeine such that there is zero additional increase in cortisol.    In a study that looked at this they found that just 5 days of 300 – 600mg of caffeine the initial morning increased cortisol response was eliminated.

In addition, a strong morning cortisol response is important for several reasons:

It raises levels of blood glucose to provide the energy burst we need to wake up and go about our day!

Cortisol is essential for managing stressors – in fact if without cortisol you would die!

Cortisol stimulates the production of endogenous (internally produced) anti-oxidants such as Super Oxide Dismutase. 

High Cortisol is a problem if it is elevated all the time or at night because it can prevent sleep and breakdown body tissues.  Understanding if you have problems from cortisol is more about looking at your body’s cortisol rhythm – when is it high and low.  Cortisol is supposed to be high in the morning and low at night for example.

Another mechanism that has negative implications is that caffeine blocks the effects of a biochemical called Adenosine.   Adenosine build up throughout the day and is part of what makes us feel sleepy at night.  The thought is that by taking caffeine right away to block the affects of adenosine you will create a big crash when the caffeine wears off that could be avoided by delaying its intake.

However, is that what research on this subject has shown? 

According to a meta-analysis of over 200 studies just published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition:   

“There is no evidence that caffeine ingestion upon waking is somehow responsible for the afternoon ‘crash’ or that delaying consumption would somehow prevent this if it did occur.”

The third mechanism cited is that caffeine causes dehydration.   Is that true and is the level of dehydration meaningful?   Even mild dehydration can reduce concentration, slow your reaction time, negatively impact short-term memory, and even negatively impact your mood.   As a metanalysis found the slight diuretic effect of caffeine may be minor or non-existent and proper fluid intake prevents dehydration.

So make sure you have plenty of fluids and dehydration from your morning caffeine is a non-issue!

In summary – common sense should prevail here.  Too much of anything is a bad idea and that includes caffeine – try to keep your intake at or under 400 milligrams per day.     

There are slow and fast caffeine metabolizers so pay attention to how you feel and adjust accordingly.   Also try not to have caffeine after Noon each day.

Like most substances caffeine does not agree with everyone and some people are very sensitive and find that even small amounts can cause anxiety, irritability and even heart palpitations. 

If you are taking any medication google caffeine and your medications to see if there are possible interactions and as always your physician is the best source of information!