Ah the holidays. A happy time filled with family, watching ‘Home Alone’ while sipping hot cocoa on your couch. It’s also a time that can be stressful. Frantically running from store to store, finding last minute ingredients to prepare meals for your family gatherings. Or maybe you’re traveling so you have to deal with getting to and from the airport, avoiding traffic, and figuring out what to pack. And diet and exercise? Forget about it! Those things are your last priorities right? Well time to pump the brakes. Those things should actually be at the top of your priority list! If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of anyone else? I know, I’m preaching to the choir. But instead of ignoring these issues or throwing a pity party, let’s be proactive and figure out how to equip you with the tools you need. Use the strategies below to maintain sanity, health, and guilt-free living during the holiday season.
Finding ways to incorporate exercise into your life, is as crucial as anything else especially during the holidays. It will help lower stress levels, and subsequently levels of cortisol (which break down your muscle, and can weaken your immune system), help you burn off some of those calories, but most of all keep you motivated!
You can come up with an excuse like “oh the gym closed early today” or the infamous “I don’t have time.” But that won’t fly here. Something as simple as a few 10-20 minute walks can make the world of a difference, especially if used strategically.
Has been shown to decrease post-prandial blood glucose, meaning that it can help you avoid that debilitating food coma that renders us useless for the day. Try a 10 minute walk before or after a big meal.
also makes us more insulin sensitive which can help shuttle a large bolus of glucose into our muscle cells, instead of fat cells. I enjoy doing a short bout of exercise prior to my Thanksgiving meal, key word being “enjoy.” I don’t encourage using exercise as a punishment or reward per se, but knowing the physiological effects from exercise can serve as a bonus. As for the time or gym thing, you can do a simple 20-30 minute bout from the comfort of your home, using only your bodyweight, or if you have any hand held weights all the better! Give the routine down below a shot.
I’m sure you’ve heard of intermittent fasting (IF) by now. Time-restricted feeding and IF are sometimes used interchangeably, but it’s the concept of reducing your feeding window throughout the day. Instead of just eating at will, you choose a starting point and an end point.
This helps you prevent uncontrolled eating. Start with a 12-hour window. If you consume your first calories of the day at 8am, you have until 8pm to consume your last. Shortening the window seems to reap more benefits, so you can also try 8 and 10-hour windows.
The science surrounding this method of eating is still emerging, but you don’t need to know all the physiology to utilize this simple and effective strategy.
Exercising and practicing time-restricted feeding are great strategies for combating that holiday weight gain, but that doesn’t mean you are free to binge on snickerdoodles, brownies, and pumpkin pie. Focus on consuming high quality foods MOST of your meals, and avoid snacking on these treats throughout the day. Start your meals off with nutrient-dense foods such as the ones below. These will fill you up, which will make you less inclined to overeat those nutrient-poor, calorie-rich foods.
Consume foods high in protein: grass-fed beef, free range chicken, free range eggs, greek yogurt, hemp hearts, pea protein
Consuming cinnamon and/or apple cider vinegar prior to a meal, can help normalize blood glucose levels after a meal and reduce large insulin spikes.
Cinnamon, particularly of the Ceylon variety, has even been shown to:
Increase cognitive function
Decrease cardiovascular disease by lowering LDL levels in blood
Apple cider vinegar
Can help curb your hunger
4. Stress and Sleep
We often think of these as separate entities, but they actually affect each other so much. The more stressed you are, the lower quality of sleep you’ll have. The less you sleep or the lower quality your sleep, the more stressed you’ll be.
I just wrote an article about the gut microbiome, and not only can stress make us eat more, it can actually alter our microbiome which can affect our metabolism, difficulty of weight loss, and squander our efforts to avoid the holiday weight gain.
Again the holidays are a fun time, and one or two days of going to bed late might not make too big of a difference, but try to keep a regular schedule.
Avoid sleeping in too long, as this can throw off your circadian rhythm
Avoid eating large meals too late at night
Take short naps 20-30 minutes if you didn’t get great sleep the night prior
Avoid consuming excessive amounts of alcohol at night
Exercise (reduces stress AND increases sleep quality)
Mindfulness and Gratitude
Enjoy the moment. Enjoy your food. But most of all enjoy your company. Food is amazing not only because of how they make us feel, but also because they bring people together. Focus on good conversation, and making memories with your loved ones as opposed to how many plates you can put away. Appreciate your food, savor each bite, and give gratitude for being able to share those moments in the comfort of your home with the ones you love.
Enjoy the holiday season
You don’t have to spend hours in the gym. You don’t have to sacrifice eating your Aunt’s famous double fudge brownies, peach cobbler, or whatever other food-coma inducing goodness will be thrown your way. And you don’t necessarily have to maintain a strict diet during the holidays.
However, you have to do SOMETHING. Keep moving, try an intermittent fast, get more sleep, go for a walk or two outside. Instead of letting your health slide for the last two months of the year, then starting back up with a New Year’s resolution, we can stay on top of our game and THRIVE.
I’m also running a Holiday Fitness challenge helping you stay on track with your goals, and avoid the holiday weight gain. Message me if you’re interested, but otherwise thanks for reading and feel free to share this if you think it’ll help someone else.
Our bones, hair, skin, muscle, and all other components of the human body are made up of about 10 trillion cells. The amount of bacteria that live within us? 100 Trillion. TRILLIONS I SAY! We’re technically more bacteria than we are human, which basically means we are all aliens, but I digress.
Seriously though, that’s pretty significant. Have you ever had a “gut feeling”? Well that can actually be explained because our gut hosts the majority of these critters (note we also have bacteria on our skin). Scientists have also now identified a “Gut-Brain axis” which is a communication pathway between the brain and our gut microbiome. Some even refer to our gut as our “second brain” although some may even go as far as saying our brains are our second brains, and our gut is our real brain. The majority of the serotonin we produce in our bodies, is made in the gut. Nutrients like vitamin K, and vitamin B12 are also made in the gut.
Our gut microbiome, or the community of bacteria that live within us, have been found to regulate not only our digestion, but also our immunity, stress, mood, cognition, and a host of other things. That’s right, these microscopic busy bodies are not just along for the ride. Alternatively, dysregulation of our microbiome has been linked to things like irritable bowel syndrome, weight gain, diabetes, and even disorders like depression, Alzheimers, dementia, and schizophrenia.
While some of these disorders or conditions are influenced by our genetics, epigenetics also play a large role in their prevention or in delaying them. Factors such as diet, stress, and lifestyle factors are known to affect whether or not certain genes are expressed. Meaning even if you’re predisposed to having high cholesterol or high blood pressure for example, if you manage your diet properly, and exercise, these diseases may never manifest. You know what else these factors affect? You guessed it, your gut microbiome!
This leads me to wonder. Why do we resort to drugs or pharmaceuticals as our first line of defense against disease? In America we spend TRILLIONS of dollars on healthcare. In 2014, the U.S. spent $2.6 trillion, and in 2015 we spent $3.2 trillion . The pharmaceutical industry is also a trillion dollar industry, and the supplement industry, is a billion dollar industry. We spend more money than any other country on health, yet our rates of chronic disease, mental health disorders, infant mortality, and life expectancy are staggering. We give no regard to what we put in our bodies, and what we expose ourselves to, but rather try to mask our symptoms with more drugs. So are we doomed? No. But to start healing, we have to do so from the inside out. With your microbiome.
Factors to Consider for Gut Health
I don’t necessarily believe in “good” or “bad” bacteria. I’m sure you’ve seen things like E. Coli outbreaks on the news or people dying from drinking water contaminated with certain bacterial strains. Those are very real things, and I definitely advise caution when consuming certain foods or liquids. For example, drinking water from streams can be dangerous because of animal fecal matter contaminating the source which can be very deadly. Although I call B.S on raw cookie dough being harmful…But in actuality, some of those dangerous bacteria reside in our guts, and are necessary to maintain our health. However, our health issues are exacerbated when these bacteria overpopulate our gut, when we have a deficiency in beneficial bacteria, or more commonly when we harm our gut. Below are some commonplace influences on our microbiome, that we give little thought to, but should actually rethink.
No I’m not advising you not to use soap. However, using excessive amounts of anti-microbial or anti-bacterial soaps damages our microbiome, while making potentially harmful strains more resilient. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are in accordance that “there isn’t enough science to show that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water” . And what makes the matter worse, is that many of these soaps contain chemicals such as Triclosan, which is labeled as a pesticide by the EPA. According to the FDA, “laboratory studies have raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Some data shows this resistance may have a significant impact on the effectiveness of medical treatments, such as antibiotics. Keep it simple, use normal hand soap, or liquid soap free of any harsh chemicals. I like the brands Mrs. Meyers, Dr. Bronner’s, and Alaffia.
This can be a controversial topic, but simply stating the facts, antibiotics are made to kill bacteria. They essentially wipe out all bacteria in your gut, both “good” and “bad.” In certain instances, antibiotics are absolutely necessary, however I believe they are overused. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “antibiotics save lives, but any time antibiotics are used, they can cause side effects and lead to antibiotic resistance. About 30 percent of antibiotics, or 47 million prescriptions, are prescribed unnecessarily in doctors’ offices and emergency departments in the United States” . If you do end up using antibiotics, it would probably be beneficial to use pre/pro-biotics afterward to help re-establish a healthy gut microbiome.
Optimizing Gut Health through Nutrition
With newfound research bringing gut health to light, I’m sure you’ve also seen the word probiotic around. Probiotics are strains of beneficial bacteria that populate your gut. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, and yogurt are rich sources of probiotic bacteria that can help increase your gut health. Probiotic supplements introduce certain beneficial strains to your gut, claiming that they will populate your gut.
My qualm with probiotic supplements, is that it’s not guaranteed that these particular strains are beneficial to everyone. Certain strains may be good for one person, but not for someone else. Moreover, how do we know what quantity we need? Do we want to overpopulate with certain strains? Do we even know what strains already exist in our gut microbiome? Many of these supplements also contain strains that aren’t even alive, which defeats the purpose. And if they are alive, these probiotics are susceptible to dying due to heat, enzymes, and stomach acid long before they reach their destination. Instead of reaching for a probiotic supplement right away, I advise obtaining your probiotics through whole foods sources, and varying them often.
These are foods that feed your microbiome. Think of them as fertilizer for beneficial bacteria. They are nutrients that allow these bacteria to grow and thrive. They often come in the form of fiber, from sources such as green (unripe) bananas, apples, etc. Prebiotics are more resilient than probiotics in the sense that they aren’t affect by heat, stomach acid, or enzymes to the same extent. Consuming a combination of prebiotics and probiotics is a good strategy to employ in increasing overall health.
Go with your Gut
Science surrounding these fascinating critters is constantly emerging, and there are even health protocols you can utilize to evaluate your gut. Companies like Viome can even evaluate your gut microbiome are revolutionizing the field. We cannot truly say we fully understand everything there is to know about bacteria and the microbiome, but I truly believe that this will be the future of the health field. We evolved to have a mutualistic relationship between bacteria. They were around long before we were, and they’ll probably be around long after. But while our microbiome is hard at work protecting our bodies, it seems like we are hard at work suppressing their ability to do so optimally. The science surrounding the links between health, chronic illness, and our microbiome is still nebulous, and this blog only scratches the surface on what there is to be said about the microbiome. But there’s one thing that’s certain, a healthy microbiome is essential for a healthy body. Take care of your microbiome and it will take care of you.
 “Health, United States, 2015” (PDF). www.cdc.gov. November 14th, 2018.
Open up your Instagram account, and it’s not uncommon to see someone posting the amazing donuts they just had (*cough cough, me). But it’s okay because it fit my macros. Well what about the person eating grass-fed butter, avocados, nuts, and claims that keto is the best way to go because excess sugar consumption can lead to obesity and diabetes? How about someone eating only what our ancestors did, no processed foods, grains, or dairy. Surely paleo is the best right? There is a constant barrage of information regarding diet. So who is right and how do we choose which diet is best!?
First let’s talk about the human body. The human body is not a machine. It’s a very complex system with complex systems working within complex systems. Catch my drift? Hormone release, cell signaling, cellular respiration, metabolic flexibility, gene expression, your gut microbiome, there are countless of factors and processes going on every millisecond at all times. What works for someone might not work for you, and there most definitely isn’t one best way to diet. Here I’ll break down some of today’s most popular and trending diets, their pros and cons, and help you determine whether or not they’re right for you.
If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM)
Now if you know me personally, you know I have a sweet tooth. It’s not uncommon to find me at the local froyo place on any given night of the week. Heck I’ll even eat a whole pizza on occasion. But the key here, is that these meals are more or less programmed into my diet. Thank you flexible dieting. Just because one food might be very calorie dense, i.e. a pizza, doesn’t mean that if you eat one it’ll necessarily screw up your diet. By calculating the macronutrients of the pizza, and your daily required macronutrient intake (calculate your BMR first, you can do so here https://www.iifym.com/bmr-calculator/ ) you can breakdown what each of your meals will consist of. This is where iifym really shines, with careful planning, it allows the incorporation of any type of foods into your diet, on any given day.
Example: Say you calculated your daily caloric need, and it was 2000 calories. Fats have 9 calories/gram, Protein has 4 calories/gram, and Carbohydrates have 4 calories/gram. Knowing that, you would simply find a combination of macros (that works best for your goals) that equated to 2000 calories. Then you can find a combination of foods that fall within that range. That allows you to not exceed your caloric intake for the day. This is more or less the basis for IIFYM (if it fits your macros).
Sample Macronutrient Breakdown:
100 grams of protein (400 kcals), 300 grams of carbohydrates (1200 kcals), 44 grams of Fat (400 kcals)= 2000 kcals
My biggest qualm with IIFYM, is that most people correlate body weight, to health. This is not always the case. You can be shredded, and have nice abs while having very poor health. Likewise, you can be a little more fluffy, and have optimal health. So just because you can eat donuts and oreos and pizza while still losing weight, doesn’t mean you should! That said, IIFYM may be right for you if you can hold yourself accountable for what foods your body NEEDS, and are disciplined enough to abide by your calculated macronutrient intake. I recommend it for those more experienced with maintaining an adequate nutrition regime.
Intermittent fasting (I.F) has been another popular method of eating or dieting that has been brought to the spotlight. There are many types of fasting. However there are 2 popular forms of Intermittent fasting. There’s eating on a 5:2 schedule in which you eat normally for 5 days, and severely restrict calories for 2 days. For example you could eat 2,000 calories/day, Monday through Friday, and Saturday and Sunday you would eat 500 calories each day. There’s also time restricted eating, which is more common, in which you only eat during a specific window of time (6-8 hours) and fast for the remainder of the day (16-18 hours).
An example of this would be eating your last meal of the day at 8pm, waking up, forgoing breakfast, and eating your first meal at noon. This would be 16 hour fast, but the duration is up to you.
Studies have not shown intermittent fasting to be superior to any other diet,for weight loss, when calories are equated. Usually people find success with I.F because they simply can’t eat as much as they normally would. If you’re someone who finds themselves not eating breakfast because you’re rushed in the morning to go to work, this may fit your lifestyle. On days where I’m not exercising, or maybe I’m doing lighter exercise, I may I.F or do a full fast. This is not an everyday thing though, so build yourself up slowly. I would recommend doing one or two intermittent fasts per week, of varying durations on less active days, to get a feel for what works best for you, and going from there.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting:
Can aid in weight loss
Increase tolerance to hunger
Facilitates entering ketosis
Increase in BDNF (strengthens neural connections)
More ideal eating schedule for some
Potential Downsides of Intermittent Fasting:
The calorie restriction, particularly in 5:2 can be a bit extreme
People tend to binge during the feeding window, eating more processed and calorie-dense foods than normal
No definitive research saying its better for weight loss than any other diet
The Ketogenic Diet
Going “keto” consists of a diet high in fat, limiting protein and cutting out basically all carbs. When your body is deprived of glucose for long enough, you enter ketosis during which your liver produces ketone bodies (made from fat) which become the primary source of energy. Ketones are also a great fuel source for your brain. In fact, your brain uses either glucose or ketones as energy, and some studies have shown that ketones are preferred by our brain. If you enjoy eating foods like grass-fed butter, bacon, coconut oil, dark chocolate, and nuts, then you’re in luck. The fattier the better! Now it is important to note that you must keep a low protein intake. Eating high amounts of protein while trying to enter ketosis, is counter-intuitive because your body can actually convert protein to sugar through something called gluconeogenesis. But won’t your muscle waste away if you do this? Supposedly no. According to advocates such as Dr. Dom D’Agostino, your body will not break down its own muscle for fuel, since it will be predominantly tapping into your fat stores. Preserve your muscle, and burn fat for fuel? Sounds fantastic!
Now while going keto has become popular as of late, is it right for you? It depends on your goals. Once again, a ketogenic diet has not been shown to be superior than any other diet in terms of weight loss, when calories are equated. However, it does have other health benefits. The ketogenic diet has been shown to be beneficial in those with insulin resistance and/or Type II diabetes, obesity, as well as epilepsy. Personally, I have tried keto for short spurts of time (1-4 weeks) and have felt an increase in energy, focus, fat loss, and less cravings for sweets.
However, I don’t necessarily believe it to be superior to any other diet, nor do I recommend it long term. Especially if you’re an athlete, you NEED carbohydrates! Your muscles can utilize fat for fuel at low intensities such as walking or maybe a long slow run, but your fast-twitch muscle fibers (the ones used for sprinting, jumping, cutting, pushing, etc) run exclusively on glucose, aka carbs. If you want to try out keto, make sure you’re consuming high quality products. Extra virgin coconut oil, organic nut butters, grass fed butter, ghee, wild-caught fatty fish like salmon, etc. Again try a couple days of eating keto before fully diving in. When you’re ready to fully commit, it usually takes a few days to reap the benefits of ketosis, so keep that in mind (you can determine if you’re in ketosis with a blood monitor, or pee strips).
Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet:
Can aid in weight loss due to restricting carbohydrates which can include many processed foods
Can help increase hunger tolerance
Can help reduce cravings for sugar
Produces ketones which are a great fuel source for the brain
Aids in insulin sensitivity regulation
Has shown promising results in reducing symptoms in those with Epilepsy and Type II Diabetes
Potential Downsides of the Ketogenic Diet:
Long term adherence to the ketogenic diet has been shown to INCREASE glucose intolerance, and Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in mice
Adherence can be difficult based on food restrictions
Can induce ketoacidosis which is detrimental for those with Type I Diabetes
Performance can be altered in athletes
The Paleo Diet
If you lived in the Paleolithic era, you would hunt, fish, and forage for food daily. Hailed as the “primal” diet, this is theoretically how you would eat if you were a hunter-gatherer. This means no GMO’s, no artificial sweeteners, processed foods, and no soy milk in your latte. By eating how our ancestors ate, and eliminating “unnatural” foods, we can optimize our health and quality of life. They claim that we can obliterate chronic/cardiovascular disease, by eating a diet full of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and high quality meat. In principle this line of thinking seems sound. However, proponents of the diet are a little more stringent.
Paleo followers abstain from eating any kind of food unavailable to the stone age hunter–gatherers. This includes calcium-rich dairy, grains which are full of B-vitamins, and legumes which contain fiber and protein. Their reasoning is that these foods were not consumed by our ancestors, so as humans we didn’t evolve to consume them. This is just wrong. Actually researchers have discovered that some of these foods were not only consumed during the paleolithic era, but even prior to it!
Another reason the paleo diet omits grains and legumes is due to their “anti-nutrient” content. Legumes contain lectins, and some grains contain phytic acid, which in a nutshell can be toxic if eaten in high concentrations (like most things), and/or inhibit the absorption of other nutrients. Well when cooked, these properties are actually reduced and can even become beneficial.
Our society is much different today than that of our pre-historic predecessors. We are sedentary, we exercise by choice not necessity, we can take a trip down to the local Trader Joe’s whenever we’re hungry. The food we eat, the soil our food is grown in, and the cultivation of different foods, are simply much different. And while I don’t believe eating organic, grass-fed, free-range, and non-GMO foods is a bad thing, it’s not always practical to do so. All in all, I think adopting a paleo-like lifestyle, would be an upgrade to that of the typical American’s. Maybe we don’t have to chase around rabbits so we can eat, or run from saber-tooth tigers, but incorporating daily exercise and being more mindful of what we’re consuming, while eating more foods in their natural forms, probably wouldn’t hurt.
Benefits of the Paleo Diet:
Restricts consumption of processed foods which can have favorable outcomes for health and weight loss
Increases likelihood of meeting general micronutrient intake
Can help increase mindfulness of source of food
Potential Downsides of the Paleo Diet:
Restriction of certain foods that are nutrient-dense (legumes, dairy, etc)
Can create obsessive and/or negative association with certain foods
Can be costly
Unnecessary omission of certain foods
The Carnivore Diet
As of late, there has been a lot of buzz around this diet, in which meat, and other animal products are the predominant foods are eaten. It also advocates not eating ANY fruits or vegetables. Blasphemy right!? It must just be another fad diet, greens are crucial for health! Or so we’ve been told. Now personally I have not tried this diet, but it does intrigue me.
Proponents of this diet (which include some medical doctors such as Dr. Shawn Baker) claim that fruits and vegetables are not necessary because you can obtain all the macro and micronutrients you need from animal products. Does this hold any truth? Well liver, an animal product, is actually one of the most nutrient-rich foods you can have, period. Eggs contain many nutrients, including choline which is important for brain development, liver health, nerve impulse transmission, and many other bodily functions.
Then comes the issue of protein. Those who abstain from eating animal products claim that plant protein can be a great alternative to animal protein. And while you can obtain protein from plants, there are very few plant sources that contain complete proteins.
“But Jules I heard you can get more protein from broccoli than from steak!” This is a misconception. Plants just don’t have the same amino acid profile as meat. A 4 ounce steak contains about 30 grams of protein with all the essential amino acids necessary (essential amino acids need to be obtained from an outside source). To obtain the same amount of amino acids, you’ll need to about 500 grams of broccoli, or 5 cups. Totally doable, if you want an urgent trip to le toilet. The same can be said for certain nutrients. For example, we know that many people who don’t eat meat are often iron deficient. Why would this be the case if iron can be found in some vegetables? It’s because that type of iron is called non-heme iron, which is not easily absorbed by the human body. Iron is not a stand-alone case, there are many nutrients that are not easily absorbed in plant form. Not to mention, there are certain essential nutrients that are ONLY found in meat such as creatine, carnosine, and vitamin B12. And while you can choose the supplement route, many nutrients are not always very bio-available when taken in this form.
Meat has gotten a bad rap, with some claims saying it will increase your cholesterol levels, and some studies even show a correlation between eating meat and getting cancer. The problem with these studies is that for one eating meat is not the only variable influencing the outcome. A typical American that eats a lot of red meat, will probably not be eating high quality sources of meat. They’ll probably eat lot sugar and processed foods along with this meat. And if that’s what their diet is like, well what’s their general lifestyle like? Probably sedentary, and if you throw in smoking or drinking alcohol well yeah getting cancer is not too farfetched. Again, I love fruit and a good salad, so I probably won’t go full carnivore anytime soon, but I think it’s asinine to say meat or red meat at that, is bad for you.
Benefits of the Carnivore Diet:
Easy to prepare
Meat is generally easy to digest
High quality animal products are nutrient dense
Nutrients from animal products are generally more bioavailable than those from plants
Increase in testosterone
Improved cholesterol levels seen in some
Potential Downsides of the Carnivore Diet:
Lack of fiber
Long-term effects on gut microbiome unknown
Long-term effects on health unknown
Lack of antioxidants and phytonutrients
For a quick synopsis on what I think about Veganism, Carnivorism, and all “isms” check out the video below, and feel free to subscribe to my youtube channel
Don’t be so quick to Jump on the Fad Diet Bandwagon
Bottom line is find what works best for you, but don’t be afraid to try new things! People tend to be drawn to fad diets based on what they hear, hoping that they may be the silver bullet to all their problems. “My friend lost 20 lbs going keto!” or “Paleo is the way to go my skin is looking better than ever” are things we’ve all heard, and whether they’re true or not, what works for them might not work for you. Remember that we evolved because our flexibility and adaptability, not because we were stubborn and decided we were only going to eat 5 different food choices for the rest of our lives. Remember, you can also develop an intolerance to foods by eating them too frequently. Get an ancestry test done to see what kind of diet best matches your genetics, get a food sensitivity test, get blood work, test your gut microbiome! Skip the dogma, and put in the work to find the optimal diet, or better yet lifestyle for YOU, but most importantly, keep an open mind.
We hear it all the time. “I’m so stressed out.” “Yeah it’s been a stressful day.” “That’s stressing me out.”
Well how often do you actively do something to get rid of that stress?
Stress carries a negative connotation, but actually some stress is good! That’s how your body adapts to things. Want to build more muscle? Your body needs a stressor, ie lifting weights. Want to learn more? Your brain needs a stressor, such as reading.
However, the other thing about stress, is that it’s cumulative. Meaning that your body can’t necessarily distinguish being a “good” stress, and a “bad” stress. After a certain point all the stress you’ve placed on your body can affect your sleep, your mood, even weight loss!
The list below is not by any means all inclusive, but it is geared at optimizing not only your mental well-being, but your emotional well-being as well. If at any point you think to yourself, “hmm, I don’t know about this Jules, that’s weird.” It’s okay, you’re outside of your comfort zone. Which is the best place to learn, and grow.
Work on your Breathing
There’s a reason why I listed breathing first. Breathing is so underrated, and underappreciated, yet it is such a crucial factor in everything we do. Want to run for longer? Learn how to breathe. Want to lift heavier weights? Learn how to breathe. Want to destress after a long day? Learn how to breathe. I could write an entire post on breathing (and probably will in the future), but here are a few breathing techniques appropriate for various situations.
To get rid of tiredness or sluggishness:
Breathe in through nose for 4 seconds feeling your stomach expand, breathe out forcefully through your mouth. Your exhale should imitate blowing out a candle. Do this 10-15 times
In moments of high stress or anxiety:
Inhale for 6 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, and slowly exhale for 10 seconds.
Breathe through your nose, into your stomach, feeling your belly expand like a balloon. Also exhale through nose. If you put your hands on your belly you should feel it rise and fall with your breath. Do this for 10-15 breaths.
These are just two of many different breathing techniques that could serve you in life. In general, try breathing through your nose as often as you can, there are many benefits to doing so. The book “The Oxygen Advantage” by Patrick McKeown is a great read that dives deeply into optimal breathing for sports performance, as well health.
Doing yoga, qi gong, or tai chi, are other great options as they typically are very focused on being mindful of your breathing.
Chronic stress is rampant in our society. Our minds are constantly racing. Worried about what’s going on tomorrow, the day after, the email you sent to your boss, the text you sent to your significant other, the bills that are due at the end of the month, there no end to the barrage. Now I know meditation has certain connotations. I’m not asking you to become a Buddhist monk, there are many types of meditation. It can be as simple taking a minute or two before going to bed, to just unwind. It can be difficult to just sit in silence and NOT think. But there are many benefits to doing so.
The benefits of meditation include:
Those are just skimming the surface. One study even found that meditating helped reduce sensation of pain!
By the way if you’re an athlete, what usually prevents you from pushing harder? Pain!
Still not convinced? Phil Jackson, one of the greatest coaches of all time, coached Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Ever heard of them? He’s also coached teams to eleven championships. ELEVEN. Surely this man must be extremely high strung right? Actually one of his nicknames, is the “Zen master.” He was known for leading group meditations, as well as his devotion to Zen Buddhism.
Alright so you’re ready to give it a shot now right? Try this:
Close your eyes, and get in comfortable position. Bring awareness to your breath and breathing patterns. Now inhale slowly through your nose for 8 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, and exhale slowly through your nose for 12 seconds. Once again you should be breathing into your stomach, feeling it rise and fall with each breath. Focus on clearing your mind (I know ironic), and let go of any thought that enters your mind.
A simple google search can lead you to all types of meditation practices. In the picture above, I am wearing special headphones from a company called MUSE. The headphones provide neurofeedback by reading your brain waves, in order to help you meditate. You’ll hear a certain sound if you are in a meditative state, and a different sound if you are losing focus. Pretty neat, but also expensive. You can also try the “Headspace” or “Calm” apps which are free guided meditations that you can download to your phone.
Keep a Journal
Similar to meditation, journaling has numerous benefits. Hey fellas, I know your scoffing over there, but this is especially useful for us. Society has conditioned us to think being in touch with our emotions isn’t a masculine trait, but we really have to get over that notion. Emotional intelligence is increasingly becoming regarded as crucial to becoming a leader, more so than your typical IQ in some cases. Journaling can be an outlet for unaddressed emotions, as well as help you get more in tune with your state of mind. Journaling can also help reduce stress, anxiety, and even help you become a better writer!
No matter what you write, you don’t have to share it with the world. Journaling is a great way to reflect, and unwind after a long day.
At the end of your day before going to bed, write a brief summary of anything notable that happened throughout your day. Start with a short paragraph, increasing the length and detail over time. At the end of your entry, write down one thing you learned that day, and one thing you’re grateful for.
Proper Nutrition and Supplementation
I’ve talked about adaptogens in a previous post (see Mushrooms). Adaptogens are natural or herbal foods that are energizing and contain stress reducing properties. In certain cases adaptogens can be appropriate in supplementing your diet. Keyword, SUPPLEMENTING. Meaning that a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, greens, and proper macronutrients is necessary in optimizing health. That said, the compounds below are among popular and efficacious adaptogens. These can help bring energy up if its too low, or if you’re too stressed, helps bring that back down. Adaptogens can also help regulate sleep cycle, and support your nervous system.
Rhodiola- Reduces cortisol, reduces fatigue, fights depression, increases energy
L-Theanine– (found in green tea) helps with focus, stress, increases alpha brain waves
Think of 5 things you’re grateful for. Now think of 5 things that annoy you. Which list filled faster?
The fact is, we go through our days and we forget to appreciate the small intricacies of life. We start taking things for granted. Now imagine if those things that annoy you didn’t have the impact on your life anymore. How much happier would you be? Giving gratitude can have a major effect on our lives. Here are a few of the benefits.
Improved mental health
Reduced anxiety, stress, and depression
Increase in dopamine
Increased determination and enthusiasm
This might be the easiest of all to incorporate into your daily regime. Literally all it takes is a thought. You can do this as soon as you wake up, before you go to bed, or even throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be something profound either. You can be grateful for the ice cream cone you ate, or for getting a good grade on a test.
Try this: While journaling, think of 2-3 things you’re grateful for and write them down. Alternatively, you can think of something you’re grateful for as soon as you wake up.
Just as running, or lifting weights, or riding a bike improves our physical health, there are exercises we can utilize to improve our mental health. By now I’m sure you see a trend in all the aforementioned topics. You don’t need to adopt all of them, and maybe you feel like you’re doing fine without any of them. Whatever the case, do what makes you happy. Get a massage, do some yoga, watch Rick & Morty for a couple hours. Nourish the mind, and the body will be grateful in return.
If you’re familiar with the world of strength training. You know who the Godfather of powerlifting, Louie Simmons is. Aside from producing 1,000 lb squatters and 500+ lb benchers, Louie is also known for popularizing the use of bands and chains in training. These tools allow for a vast increase in strength and explosiveness through an “accommodating resistance.” Now you may be thinking, I’m no athlete, what use are bands and chains to me? Well they can also be utilized to increase hypertrophy, stability, as well as many other variables. They are incredibly versatile tools that can help facilitate your exercise and performance goals.
Increasing Strength and Power
If bands and chains increase resistance, why not just put more weight on the bar? Standard bar weight or dumbbell weight is fine. They allow you to overload a muscle in a linear fashion. However, bands and chains allow you to overload muscles in specific positions, while deloading muscles in others. At the bottom of a lift, the band is not stretched, or the chain is resting on the floor so the weight feels normal. At the top of a life where we are normally stronger, there is an increased load from the chain being lifted off the ground, or the band being stretched. In addition, normally at the end range of a lift we decelerate so we can reverse the motion. In a sense, this reduces our force output. With accommodating resistance the band or chain forces us to keep accelerating and thus keep our force output high.
In sports we often see high forces being produced at high velocities, i.e sprinting, jumping, etc. And who are the best athletes we see? The ones who can produce more force, more quickly than others. They are the ones who get to the ball more quickly, get up higher for that rebound, can dive for a ground ball get up and laser it to first base for the out. Bands and chains are best utilized in a “dynamic” fashion to develop these qualities. Lower percentages of your one rep max (1RM) anywhere from 50-70% are used depending on the goal. Proper programming and periodization can allow for the best utilization of these tools.
Bands and Chains for Hypertrophy
Typical programming for size and muscle growth involves using high repetition schemes, and progressive overload. As we now know (and as I’ll post about later), muscle growth is more dependent on overall volume as opposed to repetition scheme. Meaning you can theoretically achieve the same amount of growth using sets of 3-5 repetitions as you would using sets of 15-20, as long as the volume was equated. That said, there are other factors such as load, time under tension, and mechanical stress that also affect hypertrophy. As such, bands and chains are great additions to your arsenal if you want to bust through a plateau or simply increase size! I’ve already talked about accommodating resistance, so we know we can overload and deload certain positions of our lift. This can be advantageous in certain exercises where we might not feel as much activation.
In the video I posted I demonstrate using chains for chest fly’s. This is a perfect example as we often see shoulder issues trying to increase range of motion and bringing are hands closer to the ground. But if we can’t go low enough then we’re sacrificing range of motion, or must reduce weight which in turns reduces volume. With the chains, we can get a bigger stretch because the chains are deloaded when you bring your arms down, but when you lift them up you start loading your pecs again while they’re in a more advantageous position. So essentially, you’re to go through the entire range of motion without cheating, and you’re increasing the weight which increases force production and volume while reducing chance of injury.
Like chains, bands make it harder to go through the entire range of motion and thus stressing the muscle to a larger degree. Bands do something chains don’t though. Once a chain is off the ground, the force you’re producing is enough to counteract the weight and the amount gravity is pulling on that weight. It’s basically as if you were just holding a weight in your hand. With a band though, the elastic component is continuously pulling down, on top of gravity. And as you start to reverse the motion, your muscles start being to be overloaded eccentrically which can induce greater muscle damage and thus greater gains. Think about doing bicep curls, many people often don’t fully extend their arms since this bottom position is hard to bust through, and then at the top they tend to almost rest. The band will cause you to contract through the entire range of motion.
You can also just use bands without a weight or barbell. For example do your set of whichever exercise lets say squats, then step on the band with both feet and lift the top of the band up over your shoulders and do a drop-set. This will intensify a simple bodyweight squat to a much larger degree. The possibilities are endless!
Try this with your exercise of choice:
3 sets with a band added to your weight
After your last rep of your last set, remove the band, do another set with the same weight
Do one more set with just the band. You can hate me now but you’ll thank me later.
Increase your stability
Bad news first, I’m not talking about financial stability. The good news, you’ll learn how to strengthen your joints and reduce injury. What you’ll notice is that as you move through the range of motion, the weight starts shaking. Due to the oscillations caused by the band, your body must stabilize rapidly to control that motion. It’s important to use proper body mechanics and aim to put yourself in a stable position while controlling the oscillations. These are great exercises to do while you’re fresh and can serve as a warmup and/or an injury prevention tool before your main lift.
Take a barbell, and use a band to hang a kettlebell or weight plate on the ends of it
Now take your pick of exercise to complete. Do a squat, an overhead press, a bench press, a row, again there are many possibilities
Start with a light weight, lighter than you normally would use for the exercise you chose
Go through the eccentric swiftly but with control, then pause for 1-2 seconds
Go through the concentric swiftly but with control and pause again for 1-2 seconds
Let’s be real, you won’t find chains in any Planet Fitness gym. And while doable, it may not be practical to lug your own chains into a gym either. Bands are a little more common, but even then most facilities won’t provide them for you. That said I believe it is a worthy investment to buy a pair of bands. They are lightweight, portable, and can intensify any weighted movement, or act as a stand-alone tool for exercise. A simple Amazon search will help you find companies such as SKLZ, Rogue Fitness, Perform Better, and countless others make that their own bands. These unconventional tools have a wide array of benefits, and are highly underutilized, so if you need to liven up your training, or bust through a plateau, incorporating these in your programming might be what you need.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Say what Jules, you do shrooms?! Yep that’s right, and I put them in my coffee too. Okay the word shrooms is a little misleading, I’m not talking about hallucinogenic mushrooms. I’m talking about mushrooms that will increase physical performance, strengthen your immune system, and even boost cognitive function. You may be asking, “well how come I haven’t heard of this before!?” Well, I’m not sure. But some of these particular mushrooms have been used for 1000’s of years. Some like to refer to them as adaptogens, which are basically any natural compound or herb that helps you adapt to certain stresses. The key is that they’re not exactly stimulants, such as caffeine. Often you can utilize adaptogens at either morning or night for your intended purpose. There are many types of mushrooms and adaptogens, but here I’ll talk about a few different one’s I’ve been trying and the benefits they induce.
Types of Mushrooms
Native to North America, Asia, and Europe, this powerful mushroom boasts it’s brain boosting, and overall health inducing abilities. Lion’s mane is often referred to as a nootropic, which is essentially a “smart drug” or something that helps boost focus, concentration, and learning. However Lion’s Mane isn’t a drug! It’s completely natural, and doesn’t have any psychedelic properties, or other side effects.
Lion’s mane is even believed to stimulate neurogenesis (neuron growth) which is remarkable since there aren’t many modalities that we know of that can do that (exercise is one)!  Researchers have taken it a step further and conducted studies using lion’s mane to test memory formation and retention. One study even showed that taking lion’s mane improved memory in rats with Alzheimer’s. And another study showed reduction in symptoms with those who have Parkinson’s disease.  While research hasn’t been conducted on a wide scale yet, the implications in curing or reversing certain neurodegenerative diseases is promising. Yay science!
I usually mix a packet of this stuff with some coffee while studying, or anything that requires me to get creative (such as writing my blogs), and have found my focus to be consistently dialed in. But while Lion’s Mane is mostly known for its effects on cognitive function, various studies have shown it to have anti-inflammatory effects, heart health benefits, cancer-preventing benefits, and many other effects. Talk about superfood am I right?
Now this is a fun one. In a nutshell, cordyceps were originally harvested, by monks in the Tibetan mountains, from fungi that grow atop of caterpillars. Spores would land on top of these caterpillars, then grow and consume its host until a fruiting body blossomed. Now, most of the cordyceps products that are available to the public don’t come from caterpillars, as the price tag for this specific strain is $20,000 per kilogram. There are other strains though that are just as efficacious.
Studies have shown that Cordyceps induce performance enhancing effects during exercise. ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is a molecule used by every single cell in our body. In each of these cells we have mitochondria, which produce energy to fuel all our bodily processes each and every second, we’re talking MILLIONS of ATP molecules per day. Studies have shown improvement in mitochondrial function by using Cordyceps, which led to up to an 18% increase in ATP production!  It has also been reported that cordyceps help increase lactate threshold, and delay the onset of fatigue . So you produce more energy, and get tired later on than you normally would? Sounds good to me!
Now if you’re like me, you’re always looking to improve. Certain supplements taken before your workout can aid you in your exercise efforts. Preworkout powders are concoctions of various nutrients designed to help you perform better. However, often times these powders are misused, and/or overused. We rely on them, so invariably, our tolerance to them increases, and then we go searching for the next mix to hit the market that will get us buzzing. Sound familiar? Not only that, most of these drinks contain 3-4 cups of coffee worth of caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and the newest most effective form of creatine or whatever random chemical that’s probably made up but sounds cool. Since finding out about cordyceps, I take one packet, mix it with a cup of coffee, and maybe a packet of lion’s mane. That’s it, 3 ingredients and let me tell you, I haven’t had better training sessions in my life.
Chaga has similar effects as lion’s mane, but more so revered for its medicinal and overall health benefits. Reduction in LDL or the so-called “bad cholesterol,” has been shown to occur while supplementing with chaga. Reduction in blood sugar has also been shown, which could possibly benefit those who are pre-diabetic. Chaga is extremely rich in vitamins and minerals such as zinc, magnesium, iron, selenium, B vitamins, vitamin D, as well as various antioxidants. Due to its antioxidant content, Chaga combats the free radicals that cause oxidative stress, and wreak havoc on your body. This nutrient dense mushroom has thus been linked to having anti-cancer effects. One study showed that supplementation slowed growth of various different cancers grown in a petri dish, as well as slowing of tumor growth in mice .
Where do I find these magical mushrooms?
Well I’m sure they are much more common in eastern countries as most their origins stem from there. If there are any holistic medicine suppliers near you, I’m sure they can also be found there. But unless you’re headed to China anytime soon, check out FourSigmatic. This company produces many different Mushroom extracts, as well as Mushroom extract and coffee blends, all which dissolve instantly in hot water, or in shaken cold water. I’ve personally tried the Cordyceps and Chaga coffee blend, Lion’s Mane extract, Cordyceps extract, and the Matcha Green Tea and Lion’s Mane blend, and the Superfood Blend. No I’m not sponsored by them, nor do I get any money for advertising their products, I genuinely enjoy their products and believe them to be high quality.
I will admit, the taste, takes getting used to…They don’t taste like mushrooms per se, but they also don’t taste like regular coffee. The great thing is that you can always mix it into whatever liquid you want to your liking. Almond milk, coffee with coconut milk, get creative. If you’re like me and drink your coffee black, well, you’ll get accustomed to the taste just like you did with coffee. They have many products on their website which I’m looking forward to trying, and other companies such as Onnit have also started producing mushroom supplements.
Are they right for me?
As with any food or supplement, taking a balanced approach is key. If you’re expecting something to change your life, but you only get 5 hours of sleep, or have a poor diet, you might not get the results you expect. But if you have everything in line and you want that extra push, to help support overall wellness and aid in performance, then give these shrooms a try. Once again, I’M NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL and I’m not here offering medical advice. But nonetheless the research surrounding these fascinating compounds and the health benefits they provide, is promising. I’ve only scratched the surface on the benefits of mushrooms, just as the research being done has only begun to uncover their capabilities. So what better duo than mushrooms and coffee? I don’t know but from the looks of it, Mario and Luigi were on to something. Mushrooms really do make you grow!
 Raman, Jegadeesh et al. “Neurite Outgrowth Stimulatory Effects of Myco Synthesized AuNPs from Hericium Erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. on Pheochromocytoma (PC-12) Cells.” International Journal of Nanomedicine 10 (2015): 5853–5863. PMC. Web. 23 Feb. 2018.
 Brandalise, Federico et al. “Dietary Supplementation Of Hericium ErinaceusIncreases Mossy Fiber-CA3 Hippocampal Neurotransmission and Recognition Memory in Wild-Type Mice.” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM 2017 (2017): 3864340. PMC. Web. 24 Feb. 2018.
 Ko KM, Leung HY. Enhancement of ATP generation capacity, antioxidant activity and immunomodulatory activities by Chinese Yang and Yin tonifying herbs. Chinese Medicine. 2007;2:3. doi:10.1186/1749-8546-2-3.
 Chen S, Li Z, Krochmal R, Abrazado M, Kim W, Cooper CB. Effect of Cs-4®(Cordyceps sinensis) on Exercise Performance in Healthy Older Subjects: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2010;16(5):585-590. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0226
 Chung MJ, Chung CK, Jeong Y, Ham SS. Anticancer activity of subfractions containing pure compounds of Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) extract in human cancer cells and in Balbc/c mice bearing Sarcoma-180 cells. Nutr Res Pract. 2010 Jun;4(3):177-182. https://doi.org/10.4162/nrp.2010.4.3.177
So it’s the new year, and one of your resolutions is to get in the gym, lose some weight, and get that body you’ve always wanted. Or maybe the holidays haven’t been so forgiving, and your pants are a little more snug than you remember? Hey we’ve all been there, yes even me. So what’s next? Surely one of those diets everyone is doing will be the answer you’ve been looking for right? Low carb high fat, high protein low carb, fasting, no processed foods? Well which is best? In a future post I’ll delve deeper into those, but before then I think it’s important to lay a foundation for proper nutrition that can address some of the issues you may be having. I’ll be outlining some common mistakes people make, and what you can do to correct them. These are easy things you can implement TODAY, that can help you get on track to a healthier body, and one that you are happy with.
Below I posted my newest Vlog, which is also on the topic of diet and fat loss in case you’d rather watch, than read.
The amount of different diets, that have surfaced over the years can be dizzying. Keto, paleo, veganism, carnivorism, which is best!? Theoretically, none are superior in terms of weight loss if you equate the calories consumed in each. This is because in order to lose body fat, you must be in a caloric deficit. Your BMR or basal metabolic rate, is the amount of energy or calories your body needs daily to maintain normal function. For weight loss to occur, you must consume less calories than that amount. Personally I believe there are many other factors involved in weight loss, than just calories in vs. calories out, but that’s a good starting point. Start with a SMALL deficit at first, and you can increase that deficit over time. Using an app like myfitnesspal is a great way to track how much you’re eating, and what those meals consist of in terms of your macronutrients (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates).
More veggies and protein
Firstly, BMR or metabolism is directly correlated to lean body mass, i.e how much muscle you have. Protein is often lacking in people’s diets, you should aim for 0.5 grams-1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. This is usually around 20-30 grams per meal, depending on your frequency of eating.
Even if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important that protein consumption still remains relatively high. In order for your body to maintain it’s muscle tissue, a lot of energy is needed. And thus, lean muscle is usually the first to go when we subtract calories. However, some studies have shown that while in a calorie deficit, consuming higher amounts of protein than normal can help spare your precious muscle tissue.
Eating more vegetables should be self-explanatory. They are full of micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) that our body needs. They also have fiber which is beneficial for digestion, and colon health. AND they also make you feel fuller! When’s the last time you overate on broccoli or asparagus? Probably never. These foods are also very low calorie, and nutrient dense, it’s a win win! Now you don’t have to eat a specific vegetable if you don’t like it. I hate tomatoes and avocados (I know technically they’re fruits and I know you probably think I’m crazy for not liking them) so I don’t eat them. Simple.
Why do we snack? Often times it’s because we’re bored. We’re sitting in an office, just waiting until it’s lunch time. And the more you think about it, the more hungry you become so you say “oh some nuts won’t hurt” or “I’ll have some fruit or chips that’ll keep me satisfied until then.” But the fact is, you shouldn’t really be so hungry that you need to eat in between meals. If you are, that means something is probably lacking within those meals. Are you lacking greens? Protein? Fat?
In addition, by restraining yourself to eating only during certain periods of time you gain the benefit of a quasi-intermittent fasting effect. The spike in protein synthesis is much greater after 3-5 hours of not having eaten, as opposed to eating food every hour or two. Also, continuously spiking your insulin by eating food constantly probably isn’t the best thing. I’m not by any means saying don’t eat fruit or nuts, I’m just saying eat them as part of your meal to receive a better benefit. Besides, the more you eat in between meals means that you’re just taking in more calories.
Slow down and chew your food!
Now I’m not aware of any specific studies or research correlating how many times you chew your food, to bodyweight. BUT, how about you run an experiment on yourself? The next time you’re eating a big meal, count how many times you chew a spoonful of your food. If it takes you 10-20 chews for one bite, chances are you finish your meal pretty quickly. And I’m willing to wager that you probably aren’t full by the time you finish. So try this, aim for 40 or more chews PER BITE, your food should be the texture of mashed potatoes by the time you’re swallowing. Personally I take foreverrrr and a half to eat large meals. This could be a reason why it’s so hard for me to gain weight, again no data just an observation.
If you’re still on the fence about this, consider the benefits. For one you’ll savor your meals more. Eating shouldn’t be a race, take time to appreciate what you’re eating and the nutrients you’re consuming. Eating will take longer, and thus you’re less likely to overeat.
Another thing to consider is the types of foods you’re eating, foods high in protein, fiber, and other nutrients usually take longer to chew and breakdown. Try eating a steak and compare it to how long it takes you to eat a plate of pasta. Just something to consider.
Increase fat intake.
Now, our beloved fats. Fats are crucial for, well living. Healthy fats like nuts, avocados, coconut oil, ghee and even grass fed butter do wonders for the body.
They are extremely important for hormone function and production, energy metabolism, nutrient absorption, and nervous system function, Most the cell membranes in our body contain fat, and our brains, are the most fat dense organ in our body! How is it then that it has become so vilified? Without going too far down a rabbit hole, lets just say, back in the 70’s the sugar industry “influenced” (with their checkbooks) what certain research had to say about the link between sugar, fat, and heart disease. No I’m not a conspiracy theorist, and no I didn’t make that up. Here’s a link to an article highlighting the issue, but just google “sugar industry, harvard scientists” to find dozens of articles bringing this corruption to light.
But I digress..Bottom line, fats slow digestion, are necessary for our body, and they keep you full longer. Carbs tend to make us feel unsatisfied so we consume more of them. Eat more carbs around when you workout, and less so at other times of the day. Before and after your workout is the ideal time. This doesn’t mean throw common sense out the window and overindulge in fats, but again they have a place in most diets, and more often than not it’s appropriate to eat them.
Catch your Z’s
I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about how important sleep is. But the fact of the matter is that it is probably even more important than we know. I could write a book about how important sleep is, oh wait there are tons of books researching the importance of sleep!
Getting restful sleep is crucial for the body, and has MAJOR effects on weight loss, and metabolism. So I’ll just leave this here.
“Current data suggest the relationship between sleep restriction, weight gain and diabetes risk may involve at least three pathways: 1. alterations in glucose metabolism; 2. upregulation of appetite; 3. decreased energy expenditure” (Sleep Medicine Reviews Journal).
This means your body will alter the way it uses sugar, potentially through insulin desensitization. Isn’t diabetes when your body is desensitized to insulin? Hmm.. Also appetite will also increase, which can potentially lead to overeating. And what’s worse, a decreased energy expenditure means even if you have an intense workout, you’ll burn less calories than you would have while getting enough sleep.
The Almighty: Exercise
Let me be clear, exercise is not an option. It’s not a matter of wanting to lose weight or not, that’s just an added benefit. However if you want to live a healthy life now, and in the future, exercise should be a priority. Exercise daily for a minimum of 20 minutes. And a few days a week I would ideally increase the exercise to 45 minutes or an hour. Resistance exercise like lifting weights and high intensity intervals is ideal for fat burning and will also reap a plethora of benefits. Some of these benefits include: neurogenesis, better learning, better body composition, better mood, better sleep, increased longevity, increased libido, need I go on?
Try this: Tabata sets are performed by doing an exercise for 20 seconds all out, resting for 20 seconds, then repeating 6-8 times. It could be a simple exercise like a squat, or a burpee, pick your poison.
Checkout my youtube page if you haven’t already, for free workouts I’ll be posting!
Key takeaways: Think of your diet as fuel for your body. No matter your profession, you’re all athletes, and you need to eat to perform. Whether it’s on a stage, on a court, or in an office, wherever your domain is, give yourself a leg up and give your body what it needs. Does this mean that you can’t eat anything that doesn’t fall within the parameters of nutrient dense, low calorie, vegan, keto, paleo, or “clean” foods? Hell no! Live your life, remember eat what you want, but first what you need.
Everyone wants a 6-pack. And even if you don’t, I think it’s safe to say most people wouldn’t mind losing a little fluff around the midsection. So how do you do it? Surely 100 sit-ups a day, or more will do the trick right? Unfortunately, doing that might be causing more harm than good.
The fact of the matter is whether or not your abs are visible, relies very little on how many ab exercises you do, and more so on your diet (My next post will be about how to lose body fat so keep an eye out for that!). Additionally, there is no such thing as spot-reduction. Meaning if you want to lose fat on your arms, doing more arm exercises won’t reduce the fat in that location specifically. Likewise, if you do a ridiculous amount of crunches and sit-ups, you won’t reduce your belly fat. Working your abdominals definitely has value, but there’s a better way to train your core, as well as get that definition in your stomach region that you want. But first, let’s define the core.
What is the Core?
Your core is comprised of various muscles. First, your rectus abdominis, or abs. That’s your 6-pack muscle.
We also have our obliques which are lateral to our abs, and extend from our lower ribs down to our hip bones. On each side we have external obliques, and internal obliques right underneath. And that’s usually the extent to which people train their “core.”
But you also have your transverse abdominis, which is a crucial and overlooked muscle. It lies underneath your abs, and wraps around to your back. Why is it so important you ask? Do you have lower back pain? If so, chances are this muscle is weak. Strengthening your TA is an easy way to address low back dysfunction, and it is key to maintaining a healthy body long-term.
Your core isn’t only on the front of your body. It also comprises of muscles on your backside. Your Quadratus Lumborum (QL), spinal erectors, and even your glutes can be considered part of your core!
Core Training Philosophy
While sometimes it is nice to feel a little burn at the end of a workout, there are more effective ways to train. Instead of thinking about how many repetitions of an exercise you can do, think about how long can you hold a position. How much force can your body resist, while in a disadvantageous position? And not only that, how long can you maintain good posture while doing it? I give crunches a bad rap, because it’s constant flexion and extension of your lower spine. Your lumbar spine isn’t necessarily meant to go through large ranges of motion, especially repetitively. Instead of creating movement like flexing, extending, and rotating your spine, try anti-rotation, or anti-flexion/extension.
A good place to start is checking out the video I made (down below). I filmed some simple but extremely effective exercises that challenge core strength and stability. This is just part one in a series of instructional videos I’ll be making, so be sure to subscribe to my youtube channel if you haven’t done so yet! Some common cues are keeping your stomach tight, and/or drawn in, while keeping your butt squeezed. Isometric holds (static holds), and eccentric lifts (slow and controlled descent) are great methods in challenging your core. You can also get creative with your foot positioning. The wider the stance, the more stability you’ll have, meaning the easier it’ll be. The closer the stance the harder. Then you can progress to a split stance, single-leg stance, eyes closed, etc. Possibilities are endless!
How to train your core, effectively!
Try this not that: How do YOU work your obliques? Often I see people doing side bends with weight. While this is one way of working them, your core muscles are MUSCLES. Doing repetitions contracting will cause them to grow. And if you already have some “love-handles”, doing side-bends will give you a thicker appearance in that area. Instead try some isometrics or static holds. Side planks are great, and there are many different variations to challenge you. Shoot for a minimum of 15 seconds!
Instead of a crunch, try a hollow body hold. Instead of a Russian twist, try a pallof press. If you experience back pain, Dead bugs, and bird dogs are very simple exercises that I would start incorporating.
Lastly, instead of a sit-up try a plank. Planks are simple, but when done correctly they’re a great exercise. I often hear people say they can hold a plank for more than a minute, but when I see them try, their butt and hips are high up in the air, they’re pushing their stomach out, and clasping their hands together for dear life. Try keeping your stomach sucked in, glutes squeezed, forearms parallel to each other. Resist gravity and maintain this posture while keeping your core engaged, and I promise that by the 30 second mark you’ll be challenged a whole lot more than by the 2 minutes of crappy planking you’ve been doing.
I hope this clarified some things concerning core training, the key takeaway here is to look beyond the conventional in order to build your core, and get that 6-pack you’ve always wanted. Of course, doing that through an eclectic approach! If you have any questions or want to request a video on any specific exercise, feel free to reach out or leave a comment! Thanks for reading, see you soon.
First of all, welcome! Again my vision for this website was to educate, and empower. My goal is to stay as objective as possible while providing valuable and hopefully lifechanging information. I don’t expect everyone to agree with everything I say, but as students, and learners it is your task to stay open-minded and say “hmm, yeah okay that makes sense let me try it out”, or “I see where he’s going with that let me think about it” Now whether you agree with the information or not, I hope i’m able to get some of those neurons firing.
The 5th Annual Bulletproof Biohacking Conference
About a month ago I had the amazing opportunity, of learning (yea i know nerd alert) from some of the world’s foremost experts in their respective fields, MD’s, PhD’s, billionaires, entrepreneurs, and transformational speakers alike shared their wisdom. Among those were entrepeneur and philanthropist Naveen Jain, relationship expert and psychotherapist Esther Perel, world renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin, and of course Mr. Bulletproof himself (no not 50 cent) Dave Asprey.
Biohacking and Bulletproof Coffee, say what?
Don’t get too hung up on the term biohacking, all that means is that we’re trying to “hack” our biology, or in other words work smarter and not harder to achieve the desired result. Whether that be faster learning, more muscle gain, more fat loss, etc.
I learned about hacking your mitochondria, nootropics, about optimizing sleep, stem cell therapy, issues in modern dating, your gut microbiome, and many other interesting topics. Also got the chance to check out sweet tech that had me feeling like Tony Stark. I’m talking bioinformatics apps, blue light filtering glasses, biofeedback sensors, infrared saunas, acupressure tools, hyperbaric chambers, and sensory deprivation pods to name a few. I even got to learn how to do the Haka! (Ancient Polynesian war chant). And of course, I got my fair share of collagen protein, brain octane oil, and grass fed butter, in my coffee. Yes in my coffee, and yes it tasted good.
What can you do today? Give Gratitude
I’ll delve into some of those topics in later posts, but my biggest takeaway from the conference, was having gratitude, and expressing it every day. This is a simple habit, that at the very least will put a smile on your face. It could take the form of stating that you are grateful for the loved ones in your life, or for the ice cream you had the night before. It can be as profound or as simple as you choose. No harm in trying it, but just an fyi some of the most successful people in the world have made a habit of doing this and even keeping a gratitude journal. And in case you still need convincing, There’s plenty of research that shows that giving gratitude can have mental, and physical benefits. This link has great info if you’re interested.