Sunday, July 9, 2017

Providing a Measurement for Aging Well

How are you Aging?

It's not often a question you hear, but at a certain age, you will begin to think about it if you haven't already.  I've often heard the quote, "You are as old as your joint's feel."  I've often joked my back feels 50, my elbows feels 80, my neck is 20 but my right ankle is 16, so I'm not to bad when you average it all out.  Joking aside, feelings are subjective.  At the clinic, I try to promote objective measures to know if we are doing better and making progress.  A poor question is how did your back feel this morning.  A good question is, were you able to sleep though the night without the back waking you up.  The first is subjective and the later is objective.  One gives clear information that can't be misinterpreted.  If the past week has been waking up twice a night with lower back pain and last night you were able to sleep through the night, progress is being made.

How do we measure Aging?



How do we go about answering the question, are you Aging well?  I think the best way is to scour the literature and put together some agreed upon measures that have shown a correlation with all cause mortality.  Essentially, researchers go over a bunch of studies and correlate stuff.  For example, this group ate 5 fruits and vegetables every day for 15 years and they had a 38% less chance of dying from heart disease.  So, in no particular order, here are a few things to start doing and tracking.

1.  Drink coffee.  Hooray.  2-5 cups of coffee have shown to be brain protective.  This means you are less likely to derive Alzheimers and Parkinsons if you drink caffeinated coffee every day.  It has shown to perhaps be a protector of stroke in women.  This is straight black caffeinated coffee.  Leave the spoonfuls of sugar.  In two very large meta-analysis studies Parkinsons was decreased by up to 31 %.  Coffee and Parkinsons.  There are also some strong correlations with drinking coffee and keeping Alzheimers at bay.  They believe the caffeine and the antioxidants in coffee play a protective roll of some kind.

2.  Get Up!  The simple get down and get back up test has some strong corrections with lifespan as it challenges a few important things, strength, balance and flexibility.  Simply sit down on the floor without your hands or knees and get back up without your hands or knees.  If you need to use an elbow or a hand you subtract a point.  Each point subtracted corresponds to less life span.  This article explains the point system.  Sitting Test.  I think it's a nice marker.  Everyday you do it and if for some reason it starts to get hard, you figure out why.  Every day, get on the floor and get up.  Practice different ways of getting up.

3.  Grip It.  Grip is a surprising thing that has a very strong correlation with health and life.  The loss of it has been shown to be even a better predictor of all cause mortality then even systolic blood pressure.  In these studies a hand dynamometer was used and for every 5KG loss, cardio vascular, Myocardial Infarction and non CV mortality went up.  Averaging 51kg per squeeze for men and 31 for females, both around 40 years old in this STUDY.  There was a corresponding decline as we age. This was one of the few studies I found that gave data.  Now this is great, but I'm the only one of my friends with a Dynamometer.  Two suggestions.  Hang from a pull up bar and time it.  That becomes your marker.  If every couple months you time it you will have a measurement of your grip.  2nd option is purchase a 20 dollar Iron Mind Captains of Crush gripper.  If you close the "trainer" that is 60lbs of pressure.  Count how many times you can close it.  If you can get 10.  There you go, you have your data to measure against.  (Cool thing, training your grip can lower your blood pressure as well)

(84 year old Canadian man deadlifted 440LB...more then me.)

4.  Be a Stork.  Can you stand on one leg?  When I first started looking into this I thought this would be more for the risk of falls.  Falling and fracturing a hip results in 1 out of 5 dying within one year.  But this study showed that the ability to stand on one leg with your eyes closed for less then two seconds to be more of a brain health marker.  Those that couldn't after repeated trying showed a correlation with small "Silent Strokes"  View eyes closed as more of brain marker and eyes open as balance and muscle coordination marker.  Shooting for 20 seconds eyes open and more then 5 with eyes closed.

5.  Chair Squats.  Stand up and sit down 35x in a minute.  This makes sense as it takes a lot of strength and endurance to do it.  The test was done on 53 years and older.  Those that could only do the test 22x or less in the minute were twice as likely to die in the next 13 years.  If you fail it, work on getting stronger.

6.  Walk On.  Walking may be the most underrated health and fitness activity you can do.  With the plethora of pedometers and fitness trackers available these days, there is no excuse to not know how many steps you get in.  If you need some extra motivation, adopt a dog, then you have to walk him 2x a day!  The research has almost shown a linear relationship to mortality,  The more you walk the less chance you have of dying.  But, when you get over 10,000 steps a day there is a jump and you have 40% decrease in mortality.  I read an article earlier this year that showed that 15,000 steps had an amazingly correlation with health.

7.  Know Your Numbers.  High blood pressure of 140/90 is considered high.  Dropping each by 5 points correlates to 7% less mortality.  Vitamin D levels below 20nG/ML  were associated with 2.37 increased mortality rate.  Resting heart rate is another easy measurement that has some correlation with increased mortality.  After 90 beats per minute, the risk for CVD is significant.  Shoot for 70 or less.

8.  Sleep Zone.  When it comes to sleep, Goldilocks had it right, not to little, and not to much.  Under 6 hours and over 9 hours were both predictors of death.  If either is in your life, get some help to figure out why.

9.  Make Some Friends In Your Community.  One of the best and healthy things a human can do is be involved in their community.  What that means to each individual will be highly different.  Whether it is church, a gym, a bike club, a book club or anything were you get involved and share some type of bond has proven to be a highly healthy trait that is ingrained in the human soul.  It has as much evidence for lifespan as quitting smoking.  I recently just finished Sebastion Jungers great book "Tribes," in it he describes why we gravitate towards things like Crossfit gyms and why we are the most content after natural disasters when we are forced to band together to endure hardships.  In fact, during wars, mental depression and suicide go down.

10.  Keep Your Joints Healthy.  Does your shoulder move in 360 degrees of motion?  Does your hip act like a hip?  Can you laterally bend your spine?  Joints are designed for motion.  If they can't, you tend to not move as much.  As you can see, a lot of these healthy aging markers will be improved if you can keep moving.  Functional Range Conditioning was designed to keep your joints acting like joints.  Every morning moving your joints and explore their motion, this is called your Daily CARS.  Controlled Articular Rotations.  Your asking each joint, hey can you move in a circle without much discomfort.  If not, figure out why.

All these ten steps give you markers to check in on.  Some daily, some weekly some every few months.  But, like any athlete, they give you guidelines on what to work on, what to put in maintenance and what to make a high priority.  

For those over 65, I wouldn't let anything go more then a month without getting actual help. Don't let a painful knee or hip stay painful 3-4 months.  That's a significant amount of time to lose conditioning  and lose valuable muscle mass and fitness.  In fact, it is worthwhile to check in with a quality Chiropractor, PT or Strength Coach to get what legendary track coach Dan Pfaff calls a Plan B.  If an athlete is injured they don't sit it out, they work just as hard on whats called Plan B to keep them in shape and ready to compete when they are ready to return to sport.  While you work on what is bothering you with your therapist, you work on Aging well with your plan B.

In a society that seems to fear aging, perhaps it's because we have looked around and seen so many older individuals struggling with any of the dementia's, the fragility of their bodies and the inability to care for themselves.  Perhaps it is because we have been told we have the "genetics" for certain ailments.  Perhaps it's because we have this fear we will become a burden for those we love.  At the end of the day our choices our some of the main factors we have that help with these fears.  I see it every day in the clinic, vibrant 80 year olds, hanging out with their grand kids and struggling 60 years old that fear what the future holds.

These 10 choices will give you an outline or map to help bring about measurable change.  So when someone asks how you are doing you can say, "I'm aging well my friend."

PS.  Please pass this along if you know someone you want to Age Well.  Thanks!

Friday, May 12, 2017

20 Tips for After the Big Race

For many people in Grand Rapids, the Riverbank is either a yearly tradition or a one time bucket list, check that box type of race.

The 25k is a unique race in that it iss 2 miles longer then the 1/2 marathon.  On paper, that doesn’t seem like a lot, but I’m guessing come mile 13, 2 miles and some change seems significant.  This race often represents a first time dipping the toes in this long of races for many people .    Hopefully, it all went well.  This is about the aftermath.  

NOW WHAT?

The last few years I’ve seen some pretty banged up people that all started with finishing the Riverbank.  They either jumped back to quick or didn’t address some issues that cropped up during the race.  Here are some guidelines to navigate the next two weeks following you crossing that finish line.

1.  Congrats you made it.  Hug the people that mean something, slap some high fives and get something to drink.  Try to walk a bit.  Resist the urge to just collapse and not move for 30 min.  Your job right now if you don’t need the medical tent is some movement.  You don’t want to go from racing to sitting.  You might not have the energy to do a “proper cool down” but even walking will have some big time benefits to help flush the body from racing to recovery.  

2.  Get some calories in you.  Often times your stomach is still jostling around so something heavy like a cheeseburger probably won’t be the best idea, but something simple like a banana might seem delicious.  

3.  Get more calories in you.  An hour to two hours later, you might get struck with a famished feeling.  Eat what you want, after you choose some high quality protein.  Protein helps the body recover, let’s start right off the bat.  30-50 grams.  That usually means something the size of your palm. Then eat what you want.  :)

4.  Contrast shower. You can switch 3 or 4 if you want to shower before you eat lunch.  It’s permitted.  Warm/hot shower for a minute, colder shower for as long as you can (cooler will work).  Try to go back and forth a few cycles.  This is to help speed up some flushing of your system and promote a more parasympathetic state.

5. Take a nap.  

6.  Wake up and eat some more protein and drink some more water.  

7.  Bust out that foam roller and do some rolling.  Cap it at 5 minutes.  Work the quads, hips, and calves.  Roll the bottom of the feet with a lacrosse ball.  

8.  Before bed do some gentle stretching with a rope or towel.  The purpose of this is more for relaxation then actually stretching to improve range of motion.  Something just nice and easy and focus on your breathing.  Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth.

9.  Sleep an extra hour if you can.  Sleep is our biggest recovery option available.  

10.  Wake up and drink some extra coffee.  I’m biased, but I think it helps.  

11.  The day after is 10 min of elevated heart rate that isn’t on your feet.  This can be a bike, a pool, weight lifting or even rolling on the ground with your foam roller.  Just get some blood moving.  No more then 20 minutes.  Nothing that makes you lose your breath.

12.  Keep on top of protein and hydration the next few days.  

13.  Hang out.  Literally.  Hang from a pull up bar or a tree branch for as long as you can.  Try to do this 2-3x a day.  If you don’t have access, hanging from a study door with feet on the floor can work.  Here were bringing in some traction to the lower back.  If you go to the gym, hang off the back extension machine for about 20 sec a repetition.  Hanging this way you need to be careful for eye pressure.  

14.  3 days later your going to foam roll for 10 minutes focusing on quads, hips, calves and feet.  Then follow that with a 15 min walk.  We are looking for an asymmetrical soreness.  For example, your left knee or left quad was the only thing that hurt more then the right.  It’s OK to be sore, we are looking for one thing that is more sore then the others.  

15.  Treat yourself to a massage.  I’d suggest at least 4 days post race.  

16.  During day 3-6 you can add 10 min a day to activity.  So day 6 you can be at an hour of pretty light to medium activity.  Again, nothing that is strenuous and nothing on your feet.  

17.  Keep checking in with your body through foam rolling the key areas and walking.  Paying a little more attention to the areas that remain sore that is asymmetrical.  

18.  No running for 7 days post race.  First runs between week 1-2 post race are kept under 5-6 miles.  This is only cleared when there is no asymmetrical soreness, for example, I feel real good except for my left foot, that still hurts.  Figure it out before you jump the gun.  

19.  Get help from a professional is your asymmetrical soreness doesn’t go away in 7-10 days.

20.  20 deep breaths before you go to bed every night starting day one.  Inhale through the nose.  Gentle long exhale.  Repeat and make this a habit.  

Congrats, you made it 10 days since your big race.  You should feel like your old self again.  Time to choose your next goal and start pursuing it.  


This is designed for the person that is doing a one time race.  You trained specifically for this race and not using this race as just a long run for a later race such as Bayshore marathon.  There is a huge difference in racing and running.  This is also guidelines for someone that is new to this distance.  This is the first time hitting these long runs.  With that said, hope it helps you recover and not become that person on my table that regretted their race.  

Monday, May 1, 2017

Nutrition From a Programming Perspective

Sticking to the theme of things I've changed my mind about, nutrition is one of them.  I was a big believer in the following statement, if it can't be sustained, it is not a real solution.  It is not healthy.
A respected coach posted something about how humans are supposed to be an undulating organism.  To say this one way is how you eat for the rest of your life is silly.  It  made me rethink and admit my thinking was a little short sighted.

Lets take biking as an example.  People that bike enjoy biking. They may bike everyday.  Then they decide to enter a 200 mile gravel race like the Dirty Kanza.  They are going to have to do some serious specialized training.  When the race is done, they won't sustain the volume and intensity of biking they needed to prepare for the race.  It is also doubtful that they will say, well I did the race, I'm done biking.  They are still going to ride.  A few months pass and they decide to do a mountain bike time trial.  A 60 min all out redline zone 5 race.  It's going to require much different preparation then the 200 mile race.  They train for that race and when its done they aren't going to keep the same training even though they will still ride their bike.

This is an analogy for nutrition. While there are some basics, it's going to come down to personal goals as well.  If you are trying to lose weight, attacking that goal for 3 months and then taking some time off (a set time) and not being as strict.  You are still going to eat well,  (your still riding your bike) but not as intensely.  Then go at it again with renewed discipline but also with a metabolism that isn't ground to a halt. 

Taking it a little deeper into the periodized analogy.  Humans that are healthiest have the greatest variability in their physiology.  The HRV is a score of your heart rate variability.  It is the healthiest when it's the most variable.  Most peoples joints are healthiest when they have the greatest motion that they can control.  Varying your caloric needs, varying your macro nutrition all can be healthy and help break through psychological barriers that may come from feeling you are depriving yourself of something.  

My thinking is that do the basics well consistently.  Protein, veggies, water.   Ride that bike.  Then attack something aggressively.  Most people lose weight if they cut all sugar/breads/dairy.  I think most people can do this with a lot of discipline for like 4-6 weeks.  Train hard for that crazy bike race.  Then I'd back off to not limiting stuff and going back to making sure you got the basics covered.  Go back to riding that bike.  During that 4-6 weeks phase I'd have days of low calories and day of higher calories. 

Variability in the human has been shown to be healthy, I'm starting to think nutrition is no different.  When you want a change, attack it aggressively and then return to moderation.  Keep doing this.  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Plan for Addressing High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure is called the silent killer because one can have a high blood pressure and lead a pretty normal life, it doesn't have great warning signs.  For this reason, everyone should have their blood pressure checked regularly.  Most grocery stores now offer a little station you can sit, relax and get it read.  Try to do it at the same time of day every time.  Don't do it after strenuous workout out or with caffeine in your system.

Blood pressure is the measure of systolic pressure and diastolic pressure.  Systolic is how much pressure it takes to pump the blood when the heart muscle contracts.  Diastolic is how much pressure is present when the heart is relaxed.  Generally speaking 120/80 is considered normal.  130/90 is prehypertensive and 140/100 or higher is Hypertensive.

Hypertension can lead to a lot of different issue so it's very important to get this addressed.  One is essentially asked the heart to work harder all the time.  This can lead to a heart attack.  You are pushing it harder through vessels, the vessels essentially are not as pliable.  This can lead to strokes or aneurisms.  Other organs are also at risk.  One that is commonly damaged with uncontrolled HBP is the kidneys.  The kidneys filter the blood through lots of small arteries that lead to the nephron.  These arteries can became narrow, harden and weaken.  This becomes a negative feedback loop and this will cause an increase in BP as well.

1. Start getting a few relaxing walks in per day.  Then shoot for a minimum of 20 minutes.  Heart rate should be elevated but you should be able to hold a conversation without losing breath.

1a.  Once walking has been established, start going slightly more brisk walk for a goal of 30 minutes. Stairs make an excellent choice for training the bigger leg muscles.  Biking is excellent low impact choice.  Weights can be beneficial, just don't hold the breath.  The ultimate goal is 150 min of exercise a week.  It takes 1-3 months to drop systolic pressure up to 10 points.  It only lasts for as long as exercise stays apart of your daily life.

2. Work your grip strength.  This has been shown to be a really cool exercise with proven results.  It was discovered by fighter pilots in the 60's.  Those that gripped the control the strongest pumped more blood to the brain and passed out less during high G forces.   Find a gripper that you can grip that you would consider medium in difficulty.  You want to be able to hold the grip in the closed position for 5 seconds. Relax for 10 seconds.  Get as many reps as you can for 2 minutes.  Repeat the other hand.  It has been shown to drop the diastolic by up to 15 points.  (quite large)  It seems to work because it makes the walls of the carotid artery and other blood vessels more pliable.

3.  Electrolyte balance.  I would recommend getting blood work done to see your potassium and sodium balance.  The standard advice of lowering sodium is not a given.  It is known now that it is the balance of sodium/potasium that is crucial to heart health.  Most sodium isn't from table salt added to food but is snuck in prepackaged foods.  Most potassium comes from fresh fruits and vegetables, so the advice of cut out food that comes in a box or package and eat more fruits and vegetable is good advice.

4.  Drink lots of water, hydrate like it's medicine.  Dehydration can raise high blood pressure.  Your body will hold onto sodium more.  If you find you are never thirsty for your bodyweight, perhaps upping your protein will be of value.  Shooting for a minimum of 1/2 your bodyweight in ounces.

5.  Maximize Nitric Oxide.   NO is a key signaling molecule throughout the body.  It is produced by the endothelial cells in the arteries and acts to relax the arterial walls.  It is produced when we exercise.  (Step 1)  It is only available for a few seconds after it is produced, so we are constantly making it.  Exercise/Food/Supplement for Nitric oxide production.

6.  Supplement.  Garlic and Other Nitric Oxide supplements.  Garlic has a strong backing as a viable option for reducing HBP up to 10%.  Not eating it raw but supplementing it.  You need the allicin in the garlic.  It seems to work by stimulating the production of NO.  Some companies are making specific NO supplements.  I'm currently testing out the APEX Nitric Oxide and will report on it in a few months.

7.  Add specific foods to your diet.  The amino acids L- arginine and L-citruline are crucial in the formation of Nitric Oxide.   Turkey and pumpkin seeds are two of the highest suggest sources of arginine.  Walnuts are an excellent source for arginine and has been studied on its own to lower blood pressure.  Watermelon, cucumber and other melons are great sources of citruline.   Beets are being studied a ton lately for its high level of nitrate.  Seems to be enough research to suggest adding them to the diet will be of benefit.   Beet, Watermelon, cucumber, walnut, honey (a little research for HBP) sounds like a nice NO shake to me!

7.  Be around animals.  Going to zoos or being around dogs, petting dogs.  It seems odd, but they have measured BP in zoos and it's lower.  Then have measured it petting dogs and it's lower.  We are meant to be around animals in my opinion.

8.  Volunteer.  People that volunteer tend to have a LBP then those that don't.  Feel good perhaps?  I'd bet volunteering at an animal shelter would be quite beneficial for BP.

9.  Become a Nasal Breather.  By breathing through the nose you are able to capture more Nitric Oxide with each breath from the sinus cavities.   Breathing through the mouth doesn't do this.  It takes dedicated practice and it can be used as almost a meditative practice.  Which coincidentally, also has been shown to lower blood pressure.  Taking a few minutes a few times a day and practice nasal breathing.  I think walking is a great place to do this.  It keeps the walk at an aerobic level and you get to practice only inhaling through the nose.

10. Drink less alcohol and don't smoke.  The uptake of one glass for women and 2 for men seem to raise the blood pressure slightly.  Smoking is just bad for everything related to health.  

All of these options will have individual results.  Not one by itself will probably bring you down into the normal range, but all of them combined and working them into your lifestyle will go a big way  into helping control them and perhaps need less medication or perhaps get off or not get on any.  Always have a way to monitor your blood pressure if you are on a medication and start to implement these lifestyle changes as it will hopefully require different dosages.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Random Spring Review Thoughts

A lot of thinking has been going on in this head of mind the last few months.  The old saying is if want to know what you think, write it out.

I'm excited to continue to learn more and more about reading and interpreting blood work.  From a personal curiosity for my own health questions to taking the Apex Mastering Functional Blood Chemistry and a bunch of books in between.  It's been an exciting chance to delve back into pure learning mode.  I've already started to work with a few patients on the lifestyle, food and supplementation strategies to start changing their health.

One of the most fun and aha moments I have is when two somewhat separate events/ideas cross over and you are able to see the connection.  I've been on a year long mission to understand the aspects of breathing and performance.  It started a few years ago in taking the PRI courses and realizing the importance of the diaphragm.  It escalated with Wim Hoff and continues with some more of the acute training affects with books like "The Oxygen Advantage," by Patrick McKeown.  Delving into the Buteyko breathing and hearing the CO2 and breath hold techniques from Kasper van der Meulen for increasing athletic ability.

From this information you learn how Co2 can have an effect on something called the Anion Gap.  Anion Gap is the difference in the measurement of cations Sodium/potassium (+) and the anions Chloride and bicarbonate (-) in your body.   Learning about the importance of the anion gap from the blood work perspective and having functional medicine say that brain injuries have a much harder time healing when the gap is 22 or larger.  For the healthy, you would want to be under 15.  With simple strategies to decrease this from breath holding and from nutrition/supplementation.

Young practitioners or students, start your day and finish your day with patients that you truly love working with.  It can change the whole outlook of your day or the next day, when you start and finish with someone that is truly fun to work with.  If you have ever been the first or last patient of mine...congrats...haha.

I was asked what are the biggest changes in my thought patterns for strength and conditioning I've had in the last few years.
1.  Aerobic training is highly beneficial when you are not an aerobic athlete and it has immediate effects on your health and isn't a downfall for pure strength.  Smart programming can keep your "gains."  Alex Viada from the Hybrid Athlete was the first to start to change my thinking.  I do recommend his eBook.  Biggest takeaway for me, I recover faster from training and from things like the common cold.
2.  Maximal strength isn't worth chasing at the expense of other strength choices.  I just don't see the payoff anymore in sports unless you are a powerlifter/oly lifter.  For track/field, field sports, health/performance I'm not seeing the carryover after a certain amount of strength.  Which leads to #3.
3.  Learning to integrate movements is more important.  Coordination. Isometrics.
4.  Hypertrophy as you age is important.  Don't knock machines or single joint activities.  Bodybuilding has a place.  My former self would have said they are useless.
5.  Abdominal work should have a direct place.  Deadlifts and squats are not enough.

I've been playing around with a few things in terms of nutrition and products the last 4-5 months.  I gave the nose pieces from Turbine a very fair go.  My wife said the sleep ones didn't help my snoring.  Fail on that.  The yellow performance ones,  I didn't notice an improvement in performance with a stated 38% increase in air flow.  Anyone that has been on a bike understands the term snot rocket.  With these in, it's impossible to do.  So you lose the 10 dollars nose piece.  Not worth it for me.

This has been my preride/ride/post ride combo.



I really enjoy the Organo Gold mushroom coffee before I ride.  It gets a bad rap for being MLM, but I  like it before riding and definitely with traveling.   UCAN is just legit.  Developed for people that have diabetes,  this is an outstanding product that has trickled down into the endurance world.  It's built for sustained energy and stable blood glucose levels.  I haven't bonked, just sustained energy.  No stomach issues.  The craziest thing post ride is normally I'd finish a big ride and have the appetite to crush a whole pizza, now I finish and I'm not famished.  Caloric intake after a big exertion is just normal.  

The hard thing about business is knowing when to spend money and when to just wait and figuring out which leads to growth and what and when to invest in the business.  They don't teach that in school.  Sometimes decisions are just as weird as I need two more parking spots.  Not something your thinking about studying for board exams.  

Health>Time>Money:  This has been an ongoing debate for sometime on Facebook with a friend of mine.  Which 3 do you value most.  The thinking is that if you had money you could have all the time in the world, but this just states you value time the most.  If you value time more then health, well you could be to sick to actually enjoy it.  If your sick you could be forced out of work, money.  Time is meaningless.  If your healthy, you have the ability to still enjoy everything.  So take the time and money and invest in your health.  By default you create time and money.  

Had my first DNA tests done.  Was pleasantly surprised how accurate it really seemed to be.  I was pretty much 70% fast twitch 30% slow twitch and advised me into sports like American football and weight lifting.  I'm glad I figured that out when I was like 10. haha.

Some more of the interesting was the lack of folic acid and poor absorption of B vitamins.  The B vitamins I had figured out in the last few months from blood work.  An interesting aside was that I lack a certain variant that helps you process alcohol.  (Bummer as I like craft beer and live in Beer City USA.)

I started to read stuff that has nothing to do with health, training or business again.  It always surprises me why I get out of that habit as I enjoy it so much.  It makes you wonder what else you forget to do for enjoyment simply because it doesn't fit into your work or practical column.  




Thursday, March 30, 2017

Book Review and Thoughts: Secret Life of Fat

The Secret Life of Fat is a book by Sylvia Tara.  Reading this book gave me a new understanding of this organ, yes organ, just like your liver.  It is much more then the blubber we think of when we pinch that inch.  It also gave me more empathy of the plight of someone that is "constantly" trying to lose weight.  Essentially, the body is rigged to prevent you from winning, and when you do think you won and let your guard down, it strikes again.  Fat is smart.  It can think.  Think about that for a bit.  I took copious amount of notes but I'll go through and highlight some important ones with recommendations on lifestyle to try to keep fat working for you instead of becoming a health risk. 

There are three types of fat.  White fat, brown fat, and beige fat.  White fat is what we usually think of, the stuff we are always trying to get rid of.  Brown fat is fairly new discovery in the last 10 or so years.  Brown fat actually raises metabolism and burns white fat.  Beige fat can become white or brown.  This will be influence by our environment and stressors.  Think exercise.

Here is an example of the FAT LOOP that we see all to often.  
1.  We eat to much
2.  Fat cells grow until they are overcrowded
3.  Send out signals to immune cells to send macrophages to engulf the fat cells. 
4.  Inflammation/chronic
5.  Fat no longer responds well to insulin
6.  Pancreas has to produce more insulin
7.  The loop of constantly needing more insulin as cells become more insulin resistant.
8.  Cells are not getting the sugar and fats from our blood and are starved for nutrients.
9.  This makes us hungrier.
10.  We eat more.  The loop starts again.

fruits-that-burn-fat.jpg

There are different types of white fat.  Subcutaneous (close to the surface)  Think of jiggly fat.  Visceral fat.  Deep and close to the organs.  Ever pat a beer belly and it's hard, that is visceral fat and that is dangerous.  It emits more hormones and cytokines (inflammations) and is correlated with diabetes, heart disease and even dementia.

The hormones to know. Adiponectin, this sensitizes the bodies response to insulin.  Guides sugar/fat out of our bloodstream and into subcutaneous fat.  It removes toxic lipids called ceramides.  We can increase adiponectin with vigorous exercise.  Leptin is a hormone that makes us feel full, it inhibits hunger.  Ghrelin is it's opposite, Ghrelin will make you feel hungry.  Lack of sleep produces a bad combo of low Leptin and high Ghrelin.  

How Your Set Up To Lose
You have lost fat, it's now harder to keep it off then someone that has never gained weight.  Losing weight makes you more responsive to food and less able to control intake.  It appears this doesn't go away.  The hormone levels appear to alter bodies that have lost weight to be hungrier then before they had lost weight.  Not only that, but the metabolism was lowered at the reduced fat.  You can see why it's called "yo-yo dieting."  What you ate to lose weight, will eventually become enough to make you gain that weight back.

The danger of this cycle is that often the subcutaneous fat that is lost comes back as visceral fat.  In liposuction, most ended up regaining the same percentage of fat, but in different areas with more visceral fat and with less healthy fat.  The one way this was stopped is when after liposuction the individual took up exercise.

Onto some of the craziness.  Virus can potentially be causing obesity.  The virus AD-36 has been shown to crossover from chicken to chicken.  Studies have confirmed this.  From an ethics stand point you can't really reproduce this in people.  One lead researcher in this believes 30% of all obese individuals have this virus in them.  (He states there is no cure at the moment, but what you eat and how you exercise is still up to you, you just may have to work harder)

Your gut biome is insanely important with fat gain.  Lean individuals have a more diverse gut bacteria.  In fact, as you lose fat you lose bacteria called Firmicutes and gain Bacteroidetes.   The gut bacteria influence the fat storage in a few ways.  The microbes have enzymes we don't carry and can thus digest parts of the plants that our own digestive system can't.  Ultimately, the bacteria change digestion in two ways, improving the ability of the gut to absorb food and increasing the amount of sugar extracted.  

When fat mice were given the gut flora of lean mice, they got lean.  When lean mice were given the fat mice gut flora they got fat. 

Genes influence our resting metabolism, fat percentage, abdominal visceral fat, triglycerides and cholesterol.  So it's not just lazy or lack of effort for weight gain.  This can take some stress away, but it doesn't mean losing fat can't be done and shouldn't be a goal.  Because, the trump card, is vigorous exercise.  It has shown to erase genetic variables.  If you are an individual that genes are against, it means you may not get a cheat day or cheat meal.  You will have to be more diligent.  We all know that guy that eats McDonalds and has a 6 pack without doing much.  The opposite is also true.  Accept it and move on.  

Women tend to store more fat then men in every culture across the world.  They also tend to have what is called a better compensating pattern after exercise then men.  This means that men in general underestimate what was burned and eat less to return to caloric neutral.  Women tend to do this better so they estimate what to eat more close to what they burned.  They think this is a biological pattern to ensure health.  

Fat cells have receptors for hormones.  As we age, we are producing less hormones that tell us to burn fat, so we tend to gain fat.  At the same time we produce more hormones such as cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone correlated with abdominal fat.  Can you see another cycle?  


WHAT TO DO
The old saying in rehab is that the most likely injury is the one you already have had.  It's kind of a weak way of saying don't get hurt.  In fat loss, the best way is to not allow yourself to gain that extra 15 pounds, because there are metabolic consequences that come from this.  Now onto real advice.

1.  Shift the mindset from, I'll lose this 20 pounds and resume normal life, to I'm going to change my lifestyle and lose weight in the process.  The yo-yo weight gain will happen if you don't.  I've already told you this can lead to more dangerous fat levels.  In fact, I wouldn't start the process without this commitment.  

2.  Improve sleep.  Get this capstone in place.  You are fighting an uphill battle as it is, why push the stone up the hill in the process.  

3.  Weight loss has to come through nutrition.  Don't add exercise into the equation until you got the nutrition dialed in.  You should be able to lose weight without exercise.  Don't move to exercise until the nutrition is in place.  

4.  Nutrition should be focused on the gut biome.  Changes there will have bigger implications.  Soluble fibre is big.  Get 6-8 fist sized vegetables every day. 

5.  Vigorous exercise is now added.  30min 5x a week is a minimum.  In the book, this was defined by 4-6mph of running.  Biking at 12-14 miles per hour.  Lifting weights.  If you ran 20 miles a week at age 30, it will most likely take about 30 miles a week at age 40 to maintain that same metabolism.  

Genetics plays a huge role.  In the end, you are still in control of the process.  The process may be harder or easier, but it's still our each individual choice
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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Create The Environment For Success

"Environment is the invisible hand that shapes behavior. Creative manipulation is an underrated tool in affecting rate of skill acquisition."
Coach Stu McMillan

One of the things I've kept in the back of my head was the comment that you may think you have always known something when you hear it, because it seems like common sense, but yet it's actually a new concept for yourself when you stop to think about it. 

This was a light bulb moment when I saw the above quote by my friend, Stu McMillan, head sprint/power coach at Altis. Part of me has felt like I've always known it and have stumbled upon some success with using this method, but I believe it was with out fully realizing it.

Essentially, manipulate your environment to create an outcome that you desire. I'm looking at it more from a lifestyle design and therapy lens then sprinting or athletic technique, but principles stay the same.


I was trying to incorporate more aerobic work this winter. I came into the spring far behind my goals last year. This winter I got a trainer to ride at night after I put my kids to bed. I used it. When I left it up with bike attached I used it more. It became even easier to just head to the basement and jump on. Very little set up now. I was shaping a new behavior. A time, a place and a reminder to shape the acquisition that I wanted, aerobic fitness.

Often times, runners and bikers become quad dominate and lose hip strength. This can lead to the development of knee or hip pain. One of the goals is to introduce the athlete to new exercises that they incorporate several times a day. My favorite type of exercise is one where failure is helpful, the brain is challenged, the outcome (hip strength) will happen if effort is applied and doing the movement keeps the strong (overpowering) muscles out of the equation without the athlete having to "think about it." Just try. The outcome will happen. The exercise is the environment for the new behavior. I often have them do some rolling exercise that proceeds the training. I do believe this has some value in tension modulation and some core muscle stimulation, but I also want that physical reminder. I see the roller or ball. I remember to do it.

For people that stand at a desk or work at a counter. Having a 6" stool/block to rest a foot on will change how much fatigue will be in their low back. A simple environmental instrument to change how you move.

There have been books written about the subject that cover in more depth this topic, but I always read/perceived that it was just taking away temptation. I realize now, removing the temptation is environmental manipulation. Removing food you don't want to eat from your home, eliminates the late night temptation. Placing a remote control in a closet or room usually means less TV watching.

Look around and pay attention. It can be a negative influence. Try to see how the environment is being programmed to manipulate or influence your actions, behaviors and thoughts. There are specialists that are hired by stores and retail to show certain colors, certain music, what's eye level, were the lights are, all to manipulate your actions/thoughts without you realizing it. Did you know the color red tends to get you to buy more, whether in person or online.

Take a survey of what you want to accomplish. Brainstorm some simple ideas and then create simple changes to the environment that you live to accomplish the behaviors that you want. Use the invisible hand of environmental manipulation to your benefit.