Saturday, December 29, 2018

How to Make sure you keep your New Year’s Resolution

As the saying goes “Talk is cheap”, and most New Year’s Resolutions end up not happening.    So here are some tips on how to make sure you actually follow through on your resolutions!   

Write Down your goal – the act of writing goals is a concrete action and makes you more likely to follow through in taking action to achieve the goal.  Use the SMART goal format:

Specific – vague goals are dreams and dreams never happen.
Measurable – being able to measure progress and success are key for something to be true goal.
Achievable – do not set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals.
Relevant – make sure the goal is something that is important to you.
Timebound – you must set a deadline for achieving the goal – because without a deadline you are just day-dreaming.

Focus on one goal at a time – science has proven that we only have so much willpower and if we set to many goals we run out of steam.    Focusing on one goal at a time allows you to conserve your willpower and discipline enhancing your chance of reaching your goal.

Create habits that lead to your goal – when something becomes a habit it takes a lot less mental energy and willpower to complete it.   So start with small, easy to achieve habits that help you move towards your goal.   For example committing yourself to a 5 minute walk each morning or evening is a simple and relatively easy commitment.     Then when you follow through and start to do it each day you create a habit.    

Plan Your Work then Work Your Plan - science also shows that people who create a plan are much more likely to achieve their goal.  Part of your plan should be becoming aware of the triggers of your bad habits and planning on avoiding them.   For example, if you are trying to quit smoking and you know that going to a coffee shop is a trigger for lighting up – plan on avoiding coffee shops.   Many bad habits are associated with specific locations.

Share your goal with others - sharing your goals with friends, family or co-workers can help provide support.   Studies have shown that people who share weight loss goals with family are 22% more likely to succeed.

Plan on Mistakes and focus on progress instead of perfection - we all make mistakes, but just because we make a single error of judgement or have a short lapse in willpower does not mean we need to give up on a goal!    If you make a mistake, such as having a high calorie meal while trying to lose weight, do not give up on the whole effort.    Acknowledge the lapse – and get back on the horse!

By focusing on progress, you put mistakes in context.   For example, if your goal is weight loss and you have a week with 6 days of following your plan perfectly but ha
ve one bad meal – realize that overall you are doing well!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Holiday Gifts for Fitness Enthusiasts

There is still time to order from Amazon and get a delivery in time for Christmas!    So what should order for the fitness enthusiast in your life?     Fortunately, there are some fantastic products to allow you to get a great workout at home or on the road when you cannot get to the gym. 

Quiet Punch – a simple to set-up and use device that you mount in between just about any standard door.     Once it is set-up it provides a square punching surface mounted between two poles that go across the door frame and is suspended by bungee cords from the poles.      You can really get after it and get a fantastic boxing workout that is does not shake the house down!    The app comes with great workouts and the system has a cell phone holder so you can watch and follow one of the many boxing/fitness videos available through the app.        You can purchase from Amazon or directly at At $125 Quiet Punch is not cheap but not that expensive and is really a fun workout for those who enjoy boxing.

Floor Dolly Systems – there are several great floor dolly systems that allow you to get a fantastic core workout and work the rest of your body at the same time.   These products emphasize the eccentric or muscle lengthening portion of an exercise in a simple but profound way and there are endless exercises you can do in a small area.    Get ready for some big time soreness if you go after it hard the first time since these products place a strong emphasis on the muscle lengthening phase of each exercise since you have to control your movement.    Harder surfaces tend to greatly magnify the challenge wihile carpeted surfaces create more resistance.  Great products in this category include:

Core Flyte by Flight Fitness which provides two small hand/foot dollies with three ball rollers with a sealed bearing system.       Although they are small they work on many different surfaces.   Since they provide two units you can put both hands or both feet or both knees on them which allows many exercise variations to allow you to effectively overload every muscle group in the body.     Core flytes can be purchased on Amazon or directly from and are reasonably priced at $85.

Core Coaster is another dolly device at a much lower price point.   It has larger wheels rather than using the balls like Core Flyte.    If you are going to use on carpets this product should allow smoother movement because of the larger wheels and the platforms are also much larger than Core Flyte.    The three wheels are mounted in a swiveling carriage mounted to bottom of the platform which allows 360 movement just like the Core Flyte.     At $39 these are a steal!  You can purchase directly from Amazon.

Elastic Resistance – are a fantastic way to provide a full body workout that can be done in a very small space and virtually anywhere.    There are two main types of elastic resistance:

Circular Tubing that usually has handles attached – can purchase many different types directly from Amazon

Flat Circular or directly from Amazon
If you also include a door anchor which typically is placed through the inside edge of the door jam while door.   Then you close the door and there is usually a loop or other way to attach tubing to this anchor so that you can push and pull against the tubing.

There are literally hundreds of highly effective exercises than can be done with elastic resistance, and for less than $100 you can buy several different sizes/strengths and sizes of bands along with a door anchor and take them anywhere!   Resistance bands can be purchased directly from Amazon and great brands include Lifeline Fitness and for flat circular bands.

Suspension Trainers – the most well-known is TRX, but there are quite a few high-quality options.   Suspension Trainers use straps with handles and by adjusting your hand and foot position relative to the straps and where they anchored you can do hundreds of exercises and work your body head to toe.   These systems are light and very easy to transport.     Most come with some type of door or universal mounting system to allow you to use them in many places from a hotel room to a playground to a gym.

High quality Suspension Trainers include:

TRX – the most well know product on the market and it is available from TRX available on Amazon for $149.    Or buy directly from TRX at

Lifeline Jungle Gym XT – another fantastic product with a split anchor design which allows you to precisely target certain muscles better such as chest doing chest flys.   At $99.99 this is a great value and a virtually indestructible product.   This product can be purchased from Amazon or at

Cross-Core 180 – if you want the Cadillac of Suspension Trainers this is probably your pick!     By far the most versatile in the category, virtually indestructible, and most importantly allow a unique rotation anchor system that provides an adjustable level of extra instability and movement that can take your workouts to a whole new level.    The handle and adjustment systems are also the best and allow many more types of exercises than any other product in this category.    At $249.95 on Amazon its not cheap but you do get what you pay for here!    Also available at

Sunday, December 9, 2018

How to Handle Holiday Stress

Although the holidays are a fun time of year they are also a very stressful time of year!   45 percent of Americans say they would prefer skipping the entire season because of financial pressure.     Most Americans feel that the stress really starts to build around December 13th, grows worse through the 18th and peaks on Christmas Day.

This holiday stress can be highly detrimental to your health, and it is sad but true that many take their lives during this season.    The physiological impact of this stress manifests as increased cortisol which boosts blood sugar levels, helps drive weight gain, and breaks down muscle.

Here are some tried and true ways to combat the holiday stress syndrome:

Get your workouts in!  Now is NOT the time to skip workouts – even a short one can have an immediate and lasting effect in reducing your mental and physiological stress response.    A quick high intensity workout - just three 20 second sprints with one – four minutes of active recovery – is proven to help maintain fitness and immediately improve mood while lowering blood pressure, mental stress and appetite.

Get your Sleep!   Easier said than done, but focusing on when you eat, go to bed and wake up can keep your body in a good rhythm.      A simple way to do this is get up and go to bed at the same time every single day regardless of the day of the week – do NOT change your schedule on weekends.  

Keep your food and beverage intake (except for water) within a 12-hour window so that you are NOT eating or drinking anything (except for water) for 12 hours each night.   For example, if you wake up at 6am and drink a cup of coffee at 7am (the clock has started at 7am).   That means you want to take in your last food or beverage no later than 7pm.     

      So, if you know you are going to go out to parties try to take in your first non water food or beverage at 8am to give you until 8pm to finish all food and beverage intake.   By keeping your sleep/wake cycle consistent along with your eating and not-eating schedule you allow your body to recover better

When going to parties start early and leave early or just start drinking water and nothing else once you hit the end of your 12 hour window.

Food intake along with sunlight and dark are key tools to set your body's circadian rhythm which is critical for minimizing the impact of stress and enhancing recovery.

 Set an alcohol budget – and switch to water after you hit it.     Doing this along with scheduling your wake/sleep cycle and food intake cycle can prevent a lot of issues while allowing you to have a great time!

Do not overbook yourself or your family – plan on downtime and keep it simple.     Less is often more in life the holidays are no exception!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Quick Workouts for Holiday Travel

It is easy to get out of your regular exercise habit during the holidays – particularly if you must travel a lot!    The good news is with a little preparation it is easy to get in an effective workout anywhere.
Here are a couple of ideas for getting your workouts in anywhere, anytime:
Get yourself a set of resistance bands with door holder like these: 

Resistance Bands - - everything you need to perform a safe and effective total body strength training routine that can be done anywhere including a hotel room.    Check out the site for some great free workout programs.

Core Flytes - Inexpensive and great for travel Core Flytes allow a highly effective full-body workout just about anywhere and at any ability level.    Their website and youtube channel provide lots of workouts and exercises.

TRX Suspension Training - - The TRX Home System provides another great travel workout option including a great app that shows you exactly what to do!

Bodyweight Routine - - this Men’s Fitness Bodyweight Routine provides several options that require zero equipment.

3 Best Bodyweight Exercises - - a simple, yet highly effective workout check out these three bodyweight moves that can be done anywhere.

Walking or Running can be done in many locations, and with proper clothing you can go for a walk or a run even during cold weather.     In addition, cold weather workouts provide the added benefit of revving up your metabolism (cold exposure is a proven way to boost metabolic rate).

Stairs can be found almost everywhere and walking or running up and down stairs provides a fantastic interval based cardio challenge while also challenging lower body and core strength.

Yoga Routine – Yoga can be performed anywhere and there are many great online videos including this one from Pop-Sugar:

So instead of letting your holiday travel hijack your workout programs – plan and prepare to workout on the road.    With a little planning you can keep your workout routine on track during Holiday Travel.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

How to Enjoy Alcoholic Beverages Without Getting Fat During the Holidays!

The holidays are a time of celebration, and assuming you do NOT have a problem with alcohol and can drink responsibly, it is okay to imbibe!    The key to not getting fat from alcohol is to understand the calorie and carb content of alcoholic beverages and plan your intake ahead of time in terms of exactly what you chose to drink and how much you have.   

All alcoholic beverages tend to drive insulin production so they are a big no, no for diabetics and other people taking certain medications.   ALWAYS check for drug and alcohol interactions before drinking any alcoholic beverage.

It is also important to understand that in addition to the alcohol content itself alcoholic beverages are often full of sugar which further drives insulin and fat production.    The good news is that there ARE alcoholic beverages that are much lower in sugar/carb and calories.


One of the best deals for a low carb holiday beverage is champagne!   Champagnes have the lowest carb and calorie content of any wine so are a great choice – particularly dryer champagnes.   A 4-ounce serving contains just 1.6 grams of carb and only 84 calories making Champagne the best choice for holiday cheer!

Common White Wines

After Champagnes the next best choice is white wines (NOT including ANY dessert wines!)

Per 5 Ounce Serving Size:

Chardonnay -   120 calories and 3.43 grams of carb
Sauvignon Blanc – 120 calories and 3 grams of carb
Reisling – 120 calories and 5.54 grams of carb
Pinot Grigio – 122 calories and 3 grams of carb

Common Red Wines

Merlot – 118 calories and 3.8 grams of carb
Cabernet Sauvignon – 130 calories and 3.82 grams of carb
Burgundy – 122 calories and 5.46 grams of carb
Pinot Noir – 116 calories and 4 grams of carb
Shiraz – 116 calories and 3.79 grams of carb

Low Carb Beers

Bud Select 55 – 55 calories with only 1.9 grams of carb
Miller64 – 64 calories with 2.4 grams of carb
Michelob Ultra – 95 calories with 2.62 grams of carb
Becks Premier Light – 64 Calories with 3.2 grams of carb
Miller Light – 96 calories with 3.2 grams of carb
Amstel Light – 95 calories with 5 grams of carb
Coors Light – 102 calories with 5 grams of carb
Bud Light – 110 calories with 6.6 grams of carb

Mixed Drinks

Liquor such as gin, vodka, scotch and rum, but are full of calories and to some extent act as a “super” carb driving insulin and hunger.    That being said they do not contain any carb whatsoever so as long as you mix them with no sugar/calorie mixers you can keep your carb and calorie intake somewhat under control.

One of the best choices is Vodka and Soda Water with Lime or Lemon coming in with zero carbs and about 100 calories!   Other examples are whiskey and diet coke, Seagrams 7 and Diet 7-up, Rum and diet cola, or Spiced Rum and Diet Ginger Ale.

What to avoid!

Watch those mixers when it comes to mixed drinks – most standard mixers such as all sodas, fruit juices, and tonic are full of sugar unless you use the diet versions.      All your Caribbean and Tropical drinks such as Pina Coladas, Daquireis, Mai Tai’s, and Margaritas, etc are chock full of sugar and calories.

Set a Budget for Your Intake!

Set a budget on your intake of alcoholic beverages and actually keep track as you drink them making a point of knowing how much you have had each hour.     Remember each beer, glass of wine, and mixed drink takes one hour to process for the average male (and longer for females) so anything above 1 per hour is getting you inebriated at some level.   

In addition to budgeting your intake drink a glass of non-alcoholic, no calorie beverage such as water or club soda for each drink/beer/glass of wine you have to slow yourself down and stay hydrated.

If you want to catch a buzz drink your limit and switch to all non-alcoholic beverages for 2 – 4 hours before driving.     

Even better – get a designated driver or use Uber or Lyft for travel to and from Holiday Parties!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

How much exercise does it take to burn off Thanksgiving Foods?

To put this in perspective it is very easy to eat upwards of 4,500 calories if you really go crazy and pay no attention to portion size, how many portions you are eating, and what you are eating.      Given that the average person burns somewhere around 2,000 calories per day it means that you would have to fast for more than two days to get rid of this entire holiday binge!

On the other hand, let’s take a look at a more restrained (yet enjoyable) Thanksgiving Meal by looking at everything you would eat, how many calories each item contains, and how long it would take to burn off with specific exercises.

3 pigs in a blanket – 150 calories – 15 minutes – walking at a moderate speed for 15 – 20 minutes

1oz brie cheese – 95 calories – Ice skating continuously for 12 minutes

4oz Sweet Potato – 187 calories – 45 minutes of weight lifting

½ cup Green Bean Casserole – 227 calories – 18 minutes of jumping rope

1 glass of wine – 125 calories – 10 minutes of burpees

¼ cup cranberry sauce – 102 calories – 20 minutes of cycling outside

3.5 oz white meat turkey with skin – 177 calories – 20 minutes of touch football

½ cup gravy – 25 calories – 3 minutes of jumping jacks

½ cup stuffing – 195 calories – 25 minutes of swimming

1 cup mashed potatoes – 237 calories – 1 hour of canoeing

3 by 3 inch square cornbread – 198 calories – 25 minutes of stair climbing

Green Bean Casserole – 227 calories – 30 minutes of walking at a moderate pace

Pecan Pie Slive (1/8 of pie) = 500 calories – 1 hour of ice skating

Monday, November 12, 2018

How to Eat Healthy While Travelling Over the Holidays

‘Tis the season again – we are entering that infamous Thanksgiving through New Years stretch where the average American will gain 8 – 12lbs!    One of the main reasons for this is that we get out of our normal routines for both exercise and diet.     It is even more challenging if you are travelling during this season because you are out of your home and have less control over your exercise and eating habits.

However, where there is a will there is a way.      Here are some key tips to prevent weight gain during travel:

1.      Plan your meals and your exercise.    This is probably the most important tip because with a little planning you CAN eat healthy and get in your exercise.

2.     Start by looking at your travel schedule and planning your meals during travel.     We all know how lousy the food is on an airline so instead of being subjected to the lousy and unhealthy food bring your own.     In many airports today, there are plenty of healthy options that you can purchase and carry on the plane.     Great options include:

a.       Nuts – see below

b.       Ready to drink shakes like Muscle Milk (even starting to see this in an organic option in airports!).

c.       Nutrition bars – see below

d.       Hard boiled eggs

e.       Salads with chicken

3.      Even better buy non-perishable food before you leave home.      Excellent choices for meals and snacks that are easy to travel with include:

a.       Nuts – come in cans and pouches with smaller packages being ideal because while nuts are healthy they are high in fats and even healthy fats have lots of calories!    No honey glazed and if you need to be concerned about salt stick with unsalted, roasted nuts.    Best choices include pecans and walnuts and brazil nuts followed by almonds, then peanuts and cashews in terms of sugar content.

b.       Nutrition bars – there are a ton of healthier bar choices now, and they have actually figured out how to make a healthy bar that tastes pretty darned good without a ton of sugar that have high levels of fiber, healthy fats, and protein.      Several variety of Kind bars fit this bill including Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt; Caramel Almond and Sea Salt; and Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan.    These bars taste great and will satisfy you and travel well.

c.       Ready to mix shakes – there are many great options for shakes that are low in sugar and high in protein that taste great and come in packets that are easy to mix in a plastic shake bottle after you add water.   Gone are the days where these options must be blended in a blender.   Experiment a bit and you can find shakes that come in single serve packets that mix quite well in a plastic shaker bottle.

d.      If you are driving, consider bringing some pre-made meals in a cooler that are either ready to eat cold or can easily be microwave or baked when you arrive.     When you bring some of your own food and healthy desserts you know you will have good options!

4.      Focus on a great breakfast because you can get eggs in every town in America both at restaurants and in people’s homes.  Eggs are fantastic nutrition that really satisfies, and they can be prepared in many different ways.  Starting the day off with 2 – 3 whole eggs along with some sautéed vegetables, some cheese and some berries will keep your hunger at bay and provide a healthy meal that is easy to come by!

5.      Get your exercise in!    Plan before you leave – worst case you can use resistance bands and get a great workout in a very small physical space such as a hotel room.     You can also do highly effective body weight workouts while on the go and another fantastic choice for travel exercise is a suspension trainer like TRX or Core Flytes - 

      For resistance bands and workouts with them check out For a great bodyweight workout try this one:

6.      Go for a walk and check out the neighborhood or go see some nearby sites.     Sitting on your butt all day while food is being prepared all around you is asking for trouble!   Get up and get out and active for part of the day or offer to do some shopping for the group or pitch in with some of the physical chores if you are staying at someone’s home.

      So while it is easy to gain weight during travel over the holidays – with a little planning you can come through with little to no weight gain or even lose a pounds or two over the holidays!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

How to Adjust to the Fall Time Change

It’s that time of year again – time to fall back and set our clocks back one hour.      Resetting clocks in devices is simple.    Unfortunately, your body clock is not nearly as easy to reprogram.    This comes with some serious health consequences.  An hour time shift does not seem like a lot, but your body runs on a tight schedule and this one-hour change throws us off.
Scientists have documented that the shift to daylight saving time in the spring, when we lose an hour of sleep, is linked to an a much higher rate of attacks and car accidents.  Although we gain an hour to sleep in the fall – the change throws off the sleep cycle and that is where all the problems come from.

Over the last 20 years, scientists have documented that, in addition to the master clock in our brains, every cell in our body has a circadian rhythm and time-keeping mechanism. The body and cell’s circadian rhythm help regulate important functions such as sleep and metabolism. And increasingly, there's evidence that when our habits — such as when we eat and sleep — are out of sync with our internal clocks, it can harm us.

When we disrupt our routines with erratic sleep or eating habits, it can increase the risk of metabolic disease. For instance, overnight shift workers are at much higher risk of developing diabetes and obesity. Research also shows that kids who don't have set bedtimes and mealtimes are also more likely to become overweight.

As days get shorter with less daylight, it's easy to fall into bad habits, and light exposure is key to regulating circadian rhythm.     It is the primary signal to turn on the body’s metabolic processes for sleep and rest to active and alert.

How to prepare for the dark days

Go to bed an hour or so earlier and get up 8 hours later. Maximize your exposure to daylight in the morning hours, since it gets dark so early in the evening.

Minimize Nighttime light

Exposure to light and electromagnetic fields from computers, phones, tablets, and T.V.’s all act as a stimulant, so it is important to minimize nighttime light exposure and blue light exposure in particular.  Blue light comes from artificial lighting.   Blue wavelengths – which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood – are disruptive at night.   Energy efficient lighting is packed with blue light as our electronics.

So try to turn off lights and if you must use a computer get a blue light filtering program that will adjust the amount of blue light emitted by your computer, phone, and tablets such as flux – and the Twilight app for your phone.   Both allow you to set times and adjust blue light output of your devices automatically based on time of day!  You can also buy blue blocking glasses to use in the evening.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

How Much Exercise Does It Take to Burn Off Halloween Candy?

In the big picture of weight loss it is not what we do on the occasional holiday that really determines our weight it is the week in week out eating and drinking habits that determine our weight.   That being said if you are not careful you can eat/drink a ton of calories in one day which then turns into weeks of too many calories during the holidays starting with Halloween.

The key is to plan and know what you are eating!   Candy can be confusing because of all the different snack sizes that are so prevalent during Halloween.      It is very easy to assume because you are eating snack size candy that it is not that bad, and this is true if you are not eating too many pieces!    Before you eat candy see how many calories you are eating – it takes less than a minute to google calorie, sugar, and fat content for just about any common Halloween Candy.

Here are some examples:

Nestle’s Crunch Bar (60 calories)               6 minutes of brisk aerobic exercise to burn off!

Kit Kat Bar (70 calories)                             8 minutes of brisk aerobic exercise to burn off!

4 Snickers Mini Bar (170 calories)             18 minutes of high intensity exercise to burn off!

Full Size Twix Bar (80 calories)                 6 minutes of continuous kettlebell swings to burn off!

4.2 Oz Candy Corn (450 calories)              4 – 5 miles of walking to burn off!

2 Peanut Butter Cups (210 Calories)          2 miles of running to burn off!

So eating a little candy is no big deal, BUT if you are not watching how many pieces/containers you eat you can quickly rack up a ton of calories that would take more than an hour of vigorous exercise to burn off!

Plan your candy intake and know what you are going to eat and enjoy it!   The other key is have candy after a meal so you are not really hungry – candy and hunger make for a really bad combination!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Your Genes are NOT your Destiny!

We all see and experience the reality of  how genes from our parents produce specific characteristics such as eye color, hair color, height, weight, etc.     Based on this experience most of us conclude that our genes determine our destiny, but is that really true?    The short answer is an emphatic NO.      While there are genetically determine characteristics that not alterable and fixed from birth, gene expression is actually quite variable and changes based on your lifestyle.

The process of gene expression is what determines which genes are actually expressed by cells in your body.     The key to gene expression is epigenetics which consists of physiological mechanisms that silence or activate genes, and encompasses process which alter gene function without changing the sequence of nucleotide base pairs of our DNA.       There are many such physiological processes which are activated by changes in our environment caused by many factors including exercise, diet, medications, sunlight, smoking, meditation, etc.  

All of your lifestyle choices play into your risk of disease through epigenetics.   Nearly all cancers, respiratory illnesses, autoimmune disorders, and cardiovascular disease are controlled through epigenetic changes.     Simply put – genes load the gun but the environment (your lifestyle) pulls the trigger!

Most disease-causing gene expression is activated by epigenetic factors meaning you CAN control it!   In fact, the Centers for Disease Control states that genetics account for only 10% of diseases.

Transgenerational Inheritance of Epigenetic Change

Amazingly epigenetic changes that occur in one generation can be passed down to future generations.     For example, it is known that changes in fertility initially causes by chemical exposure caused epigenetic changes can be handed down to the next generation.     This is also true of traumatic experiences.   

Characteristics of a parent’s sensory environment that occur before conception can remodel the sensory nervous system and neuroanatomy in future conceived generations.    An example of this is the fact that descendants of holocaust survivors show abnormal stress hormone levels which put them at greater risk for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Lifestyle Choices Count for you AND the next Generations

Realize that the air we breathe, the food we eat, the thoughts we allow, the toxins to which we are exposed, and the experiences we undergo may be passed on to our descendants.  Our genes are not our destiny – the choices we make are!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Fiber and Brain Health

Yep – you read that right – fiber intake can help improve brain health!   New research shows that consuming optimal amounts of fiber on a regular basis reduces inflammation.   As mammals age, brain immune cells known as microglia become chronically inflamed.   These cells then respond by producing chemicals that impair cognitive and motor functions.     

Fiber intake inhibits the production of these harmful chemicals.    This is thought to occur because when fiber gets into your intestines bacteria metabolize it and produce Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs) and in particular one called Butyrate which reduces inflammation of the microglia cells in the brain.

The key to reaping the benefits of optimal fiber intake is eating the right sources of fiber because not all fiber is created equal.   Great sources of fiber include organic whole husk psyllium, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds as well as broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes and sweet potatoes, and onions.   Other good sources including pears, prunes, dried figs and dates, almonds, and apples with the skin intake. 

Certain high fiber foods can cause some issues in certain people including beans and lentils that have high levels of lectins which are part of certain plants self-defense mechanisms.   It is also important to eat organic versions of fiber because many vegetables are sprayed with Round-up which is a known cancer-causing agent.   Round-up aka Glyphosate is heavily sprayed on all non-organic grains which means that unless you choose organic forms you are likely doing your brain as much harm as good because of the chemical load you are exposing it to when consuming non-organic grain products!

How much fiber should you be eating?

The RDA for fiber is 25 grams for woman and 38 grams per day for men with the vast majority of Americans eating less than half this amount!     When upping fiber intake do it gradually and remember to take in plenty of water with the fiber to prevent issues.   For most of us this level of intake will take a conscious effort to eat more high fiber foods and an organic psyllium supplement in your shake can be a great way to up your fiber intake.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Is Creatine Safe for your Kidneys?

If you are a regular gym-goer, chances are you have heard of creatine.    Creatine is one of a few supplements that have proven to improve your ability to lift weights and build and maintain muscle.  However, it does boost levels of creatinine which must be excreted by your kidneys.

To answer the question of whether or not creatine supplementation can damage kidneys let’s take a look at what creatine does in the body.    Your muscles, brain, heart, and many other tissues use creatine to regenerate Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) which is THE energy currency for ALL cells.   

Cells are constantly generating ATP because it cannot be stored, and there are several different cellular pathways used to insure there is a constant supply of ATP to keep the cell alive.   When you are doing any kind of resistance training and training to momentary muscular failure the muscle cells have to generate a lot of energy very quickly and they use creatine heavily to continue to generate ATP to do the work.

Having adequate creatine is crucial for resistance training and creatine supplementation has conclusively been shown to be HIGHLY effective for resistance training, increasing strength, and building muscle.

A by-product of creatine in the cell’s energy cycle is creatinine which must be excreted by the kidneys.  Creatinine levels are the most commonly used indicator of kidney function:  in general, if your levels are high – there is an issue with your kidney function.

Muscles contain more than 90% of your creatine stores, so the more muscle you have, and the more you use that muscle, the more creatinine you produce.   And so it should not be too surprising that supplemental creatine increases your blood levels of creatinine beyond the normal range.

But does that fact that supplemental creatine increases creatinine mean it is causing damage to your kidneys?   The short answer is that in anyone with healthy kidneys the answer is a definitive NO!   Creatine supplementation has been studied both short and long and term and there is no evidence it will cause any harm in anyone with healthy kidneys, and evidence shows there is no adverse effects on kidneys.

Healthy people can get all the performance enhancing benefits of creatine with just 3 – 5 grams per day and there may be some benefit to taking up to 10 grams for short intervals.   However, this higher dose may cause false positive in creatinine blood tests.

For people with kidney issues it is best to avoid creatine supplements altogether to be on the safe side. 
Creatine and Vegetarians

Supplementing with creatine can be highly beneficial for vegetarians and vegans because the only way you obtain it through your diet is eating meat.   When a group of vegetarians supplemented with creatine for 8 weeks, they had a big increase in bench press strength and whole-body muscle mass!

Creatine and Improved Brain Function

Yes – you read that right!   Creatine supplementation can improve brain function.   

A 6-week placebo-controlled, cross-over trial concluded thatCreatine supplementation had a significant positive effect (p < 0.0001) on both working memory (backward digit span) and intelligence (Raven's Advanced Progressive Matrices), both tasks that require speed of processing. These findings underline a dynamic and significant role of brain energy capacity in influencing brain performance.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Bigger Muscles Build A Bigger Brain!

Most people know that aerobic exercise is good for you and good for your brain, but what about strength training for improved brain function?   A recent study looked at preventing cognitive decline and dementia in people aged 50 – 86.     

The study followed 100 people who did resistance training using 80% of the one repetition maximum resistance level.  They study measured the effects on their brains through tests and MRI’s.    After 6 months, participants showed improved cognitive function along with growth of key areas of their brain.

The key conclusion of the researchers was that everyone should do at least two strength training sessions per week to keep their mental function strong as they age, and that the strength training needs to be intense – using 80% of their maximum one repetition maximum or more.

As always maintain perfect form and move smoothly throughout each repetition of each exercise to keep the target muscles loaded throughout the entire exercise until you can not perform another repetition in good form. 

Instead of having to measure your one repetition maximum strength in each exercise (which can be dangerous unless you are working with a trainer) remember the 8 – 12 repetition rule.      If you cannot perform 8 repetitions in good form with smooth controlled movement and no momentum – lower your resistance.      Once you can complete 12 repetitions in good form increase your resistance slightly.    Do 1 – 3 sets of each exercise and each workout should consist of 8 – 12 exercises done at least 2 times per week.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

How Much Alcohol is Beneficial for Health?

One of the most controversial topics in wellness is the topic of alcoholic beverages and whether or not they can be helpful or harmful.     As with many things – the devil is in the details.    One thing is for sure – alcoholic beverages can be very harmful to your health if consumed in excess.      In fact, some researchers contend there is no safe level of alcohol intake.  So the big question is how much is too much? 

To answer that question let’s review what the research shows for alcohol intake and cardiovascular health.   

There is a considerable body of evidence showing that light to moderate drinking may help reduce the risk of coronary artery disease.     Now light to moderate means 1 – 2 drinks per day (1 – 2 beers, 1 – 2 glasses of wine, and best to stay completely clear of hard liquor!).       By the way a glass of wine means 5 ounces of wine and for stronger wines maybe more like 3 – 5 ounces.     Same deal with beer – it is all about alcohol content so for really high alcohol beers one is better than two!

According to a recent review light drinking as described above is associated with reduced risk of:

Coronary Artery Disease
Stroke caused by a reduction in blood supply
Heart Failure

Heavier drinking is associated with increased risk of:

High Blood Pressure
Coronary Artery Disease
Heart Rhythm Abnormalities
Brain bleeding type stroke

In this review authors speculated on several mechanisms that may be responsible for the benefits of light drinking:

Alcohol is known to raise HDL – good cholesterol

Low levels of alcohol reduce platelet aggravation meaning thinning the blood slightly.    This can help with coronary artery disease and stroke from loss of blood supply, but this can be very problematic if you are taking any medication to thin your blood like warfarin or coumarin.   Also, be aware that many dietary supplements also thin your blood slightly including, but not limited to, omega-3 fatty acids, many herbs and even vegetables like celery with higher intake.

The Authors also point out that low levels of alcohol intake are associated with decreased psychosocial stress.   This is all well and good, but we all need to keep in mind that it is very easy to develop a substance abuse problem with alcohol, so it is very important that certain people NOT drink at all.

Alcohol and the Brain

There have been several recent and very extensive reviews on this important subject.    One of these studies did a comprehensive review of alcohol and brain health and disease risk.     The review shows that there is clearly a very distinct dose response to alcohol separating health benefits from increased health risks as pointed out above.   This is specifically true for alcohol and Alzheimer’s disease.    To quote the authors “Moderate drinking of 3 – 4 glases per day of red wine was associated with a fourfold lower risk of Alzheimer’s".    Despite this they made it clear that this is NOT a suggestion for people to start drinking wine!

Red wine is a unique beverage in that it contains many plant chemicals that are clearly beneficial to health including polyphenols which work to reduce free radicals and inflammation and also chelate excess iron from the body.

Negative impacts of Alcohol and Mental Health

Unfortunately, excess alcohol intake is very bad for the brain.   For anyone who is depressed or has a mental health disorder like being Bipolar – alcohol can literally kill them by exacerbating symptoms and mood swings.

Alcohol lowers inhibitions and clouds judgement which can dramatically increase risk taking behavior with all the associated consequences.

Heavier drinking shrinks the brain.

Excess alcohol intake depletes key vitamins and minerals including:

Folic Acid – this dramatiacally increase breast cancer risk in females and any woman who drinks regularly (even lightly) should consider supplementing with an active form of folic acid such as L-methylfolate (5-MTHF).   In fact alcohol depletes all b-vitamins which are crucial for mental and physical health!

Vitamin C



Iron - this depletion can be very problematic for woman who are mentruating and drink regularly and are also vegetarians since there iron intake from foods is almost non-existent in many cases.

Potassium - as with magensium depletion of this vital mineral helps drive the blood pressure increasing effects of excess alcohol intake.


Sunday, September 16, 2018

How Much Exercise Do you need to Improve Mental Health?

Everyone knows that exercise improves your physical health, but what is less well known is how powerful exercise can be to prevent and treat mental health issues.   Exercise can prevent depression and has been proven to be more effective than many leading anti-depressant medications in head to head studies comparing the two.    

But just how much exercise do you need to do?  A recent large study looked at 1.2 million people in the US and had participants report their activity levels for one month along with rating their mental health.    On average participants said they had 3.5 days of poor mental health during the month, but for exercisers it was only 2 days.

All types of exercise improved mental health including housework and formal exercise.  However three forms of exercise stood above the others:

Team Sports


Aerobic and Gym Activities

The social aspects of team sports may well be why they showed up at the top of the list.   For people in the study with known mental health issues exercise also helped.      Those who did not exercise had 11 days of poor mental health each month compared with just 7 for exercisers.

Too much exercise actually seems to worsen mental health problems.   In this study people who exercised more than 23 times a month or exercised for longer than 90 minutes per session tended to have worse mental health.     The sweet spot in this study was exercising for 45 minutes three to five days per week.

High Intensity vs Lower Intensity Exercise

ALL types of exercise have the ability to improve mental health and it is quite likely that whether high or lower intensity will benefit you most has to do with different types of mental health challenges.    It is clear that high intensity exercise can be a major mental health booster for many people because it radically and quickly changes your brain chemistry.

In a study, a group of researchers from the University of Texas investigated the effects of high-intensity exercise on a protein called BDNF, short for brain-derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF is involved in brain-cell survival and repair, mood regulation, and cognitive functions such as learning and memory; low levels of BDNF have been associated with depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. In the study subjects, all healthy young adults, a session of high-intensity exercise was linked to both higher BDNF levels and improvements in cognitive functioning.

In a similar study done in 2014, a group of middle-aged volunteers ran through a battery of mental tests before and after a high-intensity exercise session — and these subjects, too, saw their cognitive function improve. Notably, there was no such improvement after a session of low-intensity active stretching.

High Intensity Exercise and Anxiety

For those with anxiety disorders be careful with high intensity exercise because during a high intensity workout the sympathetic nervous system is highly activated. The sympathetic nervous system is the “fight or flight” mechanism and includes a major increase in norepinephrine and epinephrine (excitatory neurotransmitter and hormone respectively).   

These effects mimic the the physical experience of panic.  So high intensity exercise can provoke a panic attack.   On the other hand.  Easing into higher intensity exercise can help people desensitize to the physical symptoms of anxiety and panic.  In fact, the nervous system will “learn” how to become better at returning to normal and slowing itself down to balance out the excitatory burst of neurotransmitters.

The key as always is balance, and remember ALL exercise can and does help with mental health so get moving!