Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Importance of Nutrition Supplementation

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of nutrients is set by the National Research Council.  Desirable levels for those vitamins that are known to be essential are based on available scientific knowledge and are considered adequate to meet the known nutritional needs of practically all healthy people.  These levels are intended to apply to those people whose physical activity is considered LIGHT and live in temperate climates.  However, in a  government survey of the individual diet of 21,500 Americans (The Anarem Report), not one of the diets met the RDA for each of 10 nutrients.  This poses the first problem in regard to RDAs - many individuals are not able to meet the RDAs through their diets. 

The second problem is the determination of the RDA.  The set standards are not meant to be final or optimal.  The RDAs are essentially based upon negative criterion: the absence of obvious nutritional disease.  So the RDA's are not designed to produce wellness - just absence of disease.    There is a big difference between being "not sick" and true wellness.  For example getting the RDA of certain key micronutrients will prevent overt diseases from insufficient micronutrients such as anemia, rickets, pellagra, beriberi, night blindness, or other nutrient deficiency disease.  However this does not mean that the RDA will insure optimal physiological functioning.    A clear example of this is the RDA for vitamin C which is designed to prevent Scurvy which is caused by lack of sufficient vitamin C.  The RDA for Vitamin C is anywhere from 40 mg per day (for a baby 6 months old or younger) to 135mg per day for an adult who smokes.    However, research shows that much higher dosages are better for reducing risk or cardiovascular disease, cateracts and other chronic conditions.

If we want to know how well an individual is nourished, we must evaluate the entire style of life he/she is pursuing in terms of how closely it reflects the full energy-producing capacity of his/her nervous system and fitness level.  It is at this level that both inferior nutrition and superior nutrition will clearly manifest themselves.

Additionally, people who exercise to lose fat without losing muscle, or to increase muscle mass without adding fat, should take supplements.  The increase in nutrients through supplementation will assist the body in coping with and adapting to the new stimuli (i.e., exercise, additional stresses) without additional calories.  The nutritional needs of an active individual or athlete, with few exceptions, cannot be met through food intake alone.

When attempting to lose fat while gaining muscle tissue, it becomes virtually impossible to receive the necessary nutrients from food alone.  The formula for losing fat, while increasing  muscle tissue, is a combination of a nutritionally-dense lowered caloric intake and the proper exercise recommendation.  To continue building muscle, it is necessary that the diet includes a specific amount of nutrient-dense calories, which must continually increase as lean mass increases.  A significant increase in caloric intake will impede the attempt to lose fat, and participation in competitive sports or attempting maximize genetic potential as is the case in bodybuilding will markedly increase the importance of supplementation.  The three primary purposes for nutrition supplementation are:

1) To provide nutritional insurance or optimal health;
2) To provide nutrients without the addition of calories;
3) To provide readily available nutrients at the proper times and in the proper quantities, in response to exercise.

The key to achieving your ideal body is to direct the body to use its stored fat to supply the extra calories needed to build or sustain muscle, therefore reducing your fat stores.  As a result, muscle is built or sustained at the expense of your bodyfat.

The primary nutrition supplements needed by most individuals consist of a high quality multi-vitamin and mineral formula along with an Omega 3 Fatty Acid Supplement.   Stay tuned for the next Workout Anytime Blog on how to design an effective Nutrition Supplementation Strategy.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Benefits of Crawling

Crawling is fundamental to the development of proper movement for humans, and it is not just good for babies!     Crawling builds specific strength, mobility and movement skills that are key to mobility, stability and strength.     Many parents encourage their children to walk early because they are concerned with their kids getting dirty, hurting their knees and want to hurry them through the developmental movement process – BIG mistake!     First of all, babies do not have kneecaps – that’s right you heard it here.    Humans are born without kneecaps and in fact the kneecap is not primarily there to protect the knee joint but rather to provide leverage for the quadriceps muscles on the front of thigh.   It is a sesamoid bone meaning it literally forms within a tendon (the quadriceps tendon).     So crawling on a hard surface does NOT hurt babies’ knees like it can adults'!

Second getting “dirty” is a normal part of childhood and there is actually evidence that children do better if exposed to more dirt and bacteria as this conditions the immune system in a positive way long-term.

So let babies crawl as long as they want to – they will walk when they are ready.     The crawling pattern:

Sets the base for walking and running
Develops hand-eye coordination
Develops visual triangulation that will later assist with reading
Develops core strength and stability
Develops mobility of foot, ankle, and hip
Teaches the contralateral cross crawl patterning – this activates a special area of the brain called the “Corpus Callosum” located between the left and right sides of the brain, and it is responsible for helping the left and right sides to communicate.    This communication is essential for all human movement.    The more this pattern is practiced during crawling, the stronger the pathway and communicate between the left and right sides of the brain becomes.
Develops Postural Control
Integrates Reflexes
Lengthens the long finger muscles
Develops the “arches” of the hand which are essential to proper hand function
Learning to separate the two sides of the hand – while carrying something and crawling.   This fundamental skill is what is required to button a shirt, zip a zipper, color, and write with a pencil or pen.
Development of the Thumb and Web Space
Develops the coordination of the neck and eye muscles essential to moving through the world
Develops spatial awareness

So crawling is a big deal and NOT just for babies.    As we get older and spend more and more time sitting on our butts (sitting is really bad for us and yet most of us spend more and more time doing it as we get older).    Crawling is a key movement pattern that unites all your sensory organs including your entire balance system consisting of eyes, inner ear structures; and proprioceptive system (sense of self and your bodies structures in space and in relation to one another).   It can literally help improve balance, overall coordination, core strength, endurance and mobility.  

And if you think bear crawls are not for you because you are already fit think again – crawls can humble even the fittest athletes in the world.     Just try 20 seconds of bear crawling and you will get the picture!  Nearly every muscle in the body is worked during crawling exercise and there are many variations and all of them can be beneficial, but to make it simple we will focus on the bear crawl!

A properly done bear crawl is essentially a travelling plank.    You have to keep the core stable like the plank, but by crawling forward, sideways, and backwards you really challenge the entire body in all planes and directions resulting in big increases in functional strength, endurance and even cardiovascular capacity (crawling is harder than it looks!).

Keys to proper bear crawl:

Start with hands underneath shoulders and knees under hips with feet down and balls of the feet in contact with the ground.   Lift up so that knees are a few inches off the ground keeping hips low and back straight from hips to top of head.    Crawl forward by moving left hand and right leg forward and repeating on other side.     Also try crawling backwards (really challenging) and to the right and left.   In fact doing square crawling (four steps forward, four steps to the side, four steps back, four steps to the other side to complete a square is great for tight spaces!    See how many times you can do that straight!

For a great video on the bear crawl see:  - Todd Durkin

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Turmeric: King of Herbal Anti-Inflammatories

Turmeric is best known as the main spice in curry, but like most spices it does far more than add flavor to foods.   Turmeric has been used for thousands of years in China and India for medicinal purposes, and modern science has revealed the key ingredient responsible for its therapeutic benefits.    This ingredient or actually ingredients are collectively referred to as “curcuminoids” and include curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin.  Curcumin is the primary curcuminoid in Turmeric and the compound which most of the 6,235 peer-reviewed articles on the benefits of Turmeric focus on.

The proven benefits of Turmeric extracts are many including:

Acting as a safe anticoagulant that can help with vascular thrombosis (NOTE: because of its slight anticoagulant effect it is important NOT to take it with medications such as aspirin, Plavix, Coumadin, and other anticoagulant drugs).

Turmeric has been shown to be as effective as Prozac in treating manic depressions and is very well tolerated.

Turmeric’s most powerful benefit is as a very safe anti-inflammatory substance.    Most diseases can be linked to excessive inflammation but all anti-inflammatory medication has a dark side including greatly increasing risk of gastric bleeding and kidney damage, elevated risk of heart attack, and the propensity to increase blood pressure.  Turmeric has none of these side effects and in fact improves gastric health, is very beneficial for the liver and causes no negative effects on the kidneys.  

Side benefits of Turmeric include improved liver health, improved cognitive health (it is being studied for the potential to slow down Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease), and it has proven power anti-cancer benefits both for the prevention and treatment of cancer.

Many studies have proven Turmeric’s ability to act as a potent and safe anti-inflammatory substance including studies showing Turmeric works as well if not better than some of the most potent anti-inflammatory medications such as Diclofenac.    However, Turmeric is much better tolerated making it an ideal choice for the management of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease while also safely reducing oxidative stress throughout the body.

Turmeric is such a potent anti-inflammatory that it is even capable of rivaling the most potent anti-inflammatory drug, corticosteroids, in the treatment of Psoriasis, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Scleroderma and Chronic pain.   This is particularly relevant as corticosteroids have a host of very serious side effects including delayed wound healing, glaucoma, hypertension, insomnia, kidney and thyroid issues, increased risk of infection, thinning skin, cancer, asthma, acne, and muscle and bone loss!

Bioavailability Challenges 
Until recently the challenge with obtaining benefit from Turmeric is poor bioavailability of curcumin and its tendency to be metabolized quickly with rapid systemic clearance. So despite many proven benefits people have resorted to very high dosages which can cause gastric and intestinal upset and other side effects.   

To overcome these challenges, several curcumin preparations have been developed to increase the bioavailability of curcumin after oral administration.    One in particular, Theracumin, has proven to be more effective than all the others.  In a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, Theracumin was shown to be over 5 times more bioavailable than the other two formulations tested AND over 27 times better absorbed and bioavailable than standard Turmeric supplements.   Here is the study:

This is great news because this allows a much lower dosage which eliminates the GI side effects that can be experienced with high intake of raw herb powder Turmeric.     For a great video review on Theracumin done by one of the world’s leading physician on integrative medicine Dr. Michael Murray click here:  

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding for Core Strength, Balance and Total Body Fitness!

Stand-up Paddle Boarding (SUP) is a fun activity that almost anyone can learn, and it is one of the best workouts available!  Stand-up Paddle Boarding is low impact and provides a combination of balance, core, strength, and endurance.   Since you are standing you have to use everything from your feet (WOW do you use your feet!) all the way up through your entire shoulder girdle.   Because you are standing your arms never have to go above shoulder level which means that there is much less stress on the rotator cuff muscles than kayaking.   You use your shoulders heavily but your shoulders are stressed in the position where they are naturally most stable and strong making SUP much better than kayaking for those with shoulder and neck issues!

Just standing on a Paddle Board forces you to stabilize your entire body and core, and it is one of the best activities available to develop balance.   Best of all if you do fall you land in the water and getting back on the board is very easy!

SUP Technique Breakdown
Learning to SUP is easy but mastering the stroke and maximizing your speed takes a lot of practice. The first thing to focus on is NOT pulling the water!   Instead you want to plant the paddle in the water and pull yourself and the board up to the paddle blade.  Imagine that you are stabbing the paddle firmly into soft sand then pulling yourself and the board up to the paddle.   If you can clearly visualize the difference here it will go a long way to getting your stroke where it needs to be for optimum speed.    Think about grabbing the water NOT pulling the water by you!

Once you get a little feel for it start looking at how far you are reaching forward to put your paddle in the water.   You want to reach as far as possible each time you stroke, BUT there is a limit based on your particular anatomy, shoulder strength, and balance.   If you reach too far you can over-stress your low back, shoulder or just be off balance which is counter-productive.

This is where the blade of the paddle enters the water.  Make sure the entire blade enters the water before you begin to pull.  The catch should be as smooth and clean as possible with no splashing.

Now you are ready to apply power to the paddle.  Use your entire body for this part of the stroke.  It is NOT about using your arms.   Rather your arms merely connect you to the paddle through your hands and you use the rotation of your torso, hips, and shoulders to drive your paddle!  Try to relax your arms as much as possible to perfect this technique.   Do not pull too far back as this will actually slow you down.   Once the paddle passes your hips if you keep pulling you are actually pulling the paddle up as well as back meaning you are starting to pull the paddle board down and this only slows you down.

After the pull you need to release the paddle from the water.  Like the catch you want this movement to be quick, smooth, and with zero splashing.  Feathering the blade of the paddle creates a smooth release and set-up for the next catch.  You feather by dropping your top shoulder, and/or breaking your wrist inward, or a combination of both.

Once you release the paddle you are ready to set-up for the next catch and pull.   Try to relax during this phase - the key to optimum paddle technique is learning to set a rhythm between tension and relaxation and ultimately getting your breathing into a rhythm with the stroke.  The first time you feel this come together it is amazing - really zen!  So stay relaxed and let go of the tension you produced in the catch and pull smoothly then smoothly swing the paddle forward to prepare to drive the blade fully into the water for the next pull!

How many calories do you burn Paddle Boarding?
Obviously your actual calorie burn will depend on the intensity of effort you are putting into paddling along with your height, weight, and the wind and water conditions you are paddling in.   However here are some estimates based on people weighing between 165 and 200lbs.:

Casual Paddle Boarding - 300 - 430 calories per hour
Yoga on a Paddle Board - 416 - 540 calories per hour
Touring on a Paddle Board - 615 - 708 calories per hour
Surfing on a Paddle Board - 623 - 735 calories per hour
Racing a Paddle Board - 715 - 1,125 calories per hour

So if you have not taken the plunge yet - google "Stand-up Paddle Board Rental" and find a rental location and give it a whirl.  Rentals including paddle, board, and life-jacket are generally $25 - $35 per hour so get out there and give it a go!  

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Is Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Really Bad for you?

Dietary fat and cholesterol have long been demonized as being the cause of heart disease.   However the US recently changed its recommendations regarding the dietary intake of cholesterol.  The latest publication of "Dietary Guidelines for Americans," a federal publication that has far-reaching implications on what we eat – contained one very significant change.   Specifically it said “Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption."    The fact is that dietary intake of cholesterol has very little to do with circulating levels of cholesterol, and there is well done research showing that people who consume higher levels of cholesterol in food have lower levels of cholesterol and live longer than people who consume less!   The fact is that you cannot live without cholesterol, and it is so important that your body will manufacture it if you do not get any from your diet.  So this change in guidelines from the US Government is long overdue reflecting the fact that it takes a long, long time for unpopular scientific facts to be recognized.

Unfortunately the guidelines on Saturated Fat were not changed.     Like cholesterol saturated fat has long been demonized despite mounds of scientific evidence showing that saturated fat is not the bad guy.    One of the most important facts to understand about Saturated Fat being “bad” for you is that the human body turns excess calories into fat.    Not just any fat though – SATURATED FAT – that’s right – the ONLY type of fat that the body makes and stores is saturated fat.    So think about this for a second: humans have been on the earth and evolving for well over 600,000 years and the only type of fat that a human body makes is saturated fat and yet saturated fat is bad for you?     Just not true, and the saturated fat your body makes from any type of excess calories including carbohydrates is chemically identical to saturated fat from butter, eggs, and meat.    So these foods are not in and of themselves “bad” for you!

So where did all the fuss start about cholesterol and saturated fat?   The idea that cholesterol and saturated fat are bad for you was started by a researcher named Ancel Keys.    He hypothesized that saturated fat and cholesterol were bad for you and set out to prove it.    He did a famous “7 countries study” in 1958 and believed that saturated fat intake drove blood levels of cholesterol and heart disease.      The study proved his theory – but there was just one problem:  he omitted a lot of data from several countries because if he included it he would have disproved his theory.   So basically in laymen’s terms he lied!  And for years dietary policy in the US and many other countries has been completely misguided based on this study and other falsified data in other studies.

In what was probably the most significant and well done long term study on diet and heart disease – The Framingham Study – which followed the group of people for a very long term period of time just the opposite conclusion was proven!   Here is quote from the Director of the Framingham Heart Study Dr. William P. Castelli:  “Most of what we know about the effects of diet factors, particularly the saturation of fat and cholesterol , on serum lipid parameters derives from metabolic ward-type studies. Alas, such findings, within a cohort studied over time have been disappointing; indeed the findings have been contradictory. For example, in Framingham, Mass, the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the person’s serum cholesterol”.

So does this mean that you should eat more cholesterol and fat?  No.   The fact is that saturated fats like all fats are highly caloric – meaning you get a lot of calories in a little bit of fat.   So overeating fat of any kind is not a great idea because taking in too many calories from any source can make it impossible to maintain your weight or lose weight, and being significantly overweight IS a real risk factor for heart disease.

That being said fats have a place in your diet and saturated fats are not unhealthy.