Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Motivation: Live Your Dream

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Guts to the Brain is a Two Way Street

I was sitting on my coach feeling good one Saturday, over the course of a half hour, feeling good changes dramatically.  Next thing I know, my brain, via the Vagus nerve,  is telling my 2nd brain, the guts, to expel everything.  I mean EVERYTHING.  Found a dangerous intruder, get it out any way possible.  (there are only two ways people)

It keeps coming back to the gut, technically considered the mouth to the anus.  More neurons in the gut then the rest of the nervous system.  The Vagus nerve is the connection from the gut to the brain.  90% more signals pass from the gut to the brain, then the brain to the gut. Yes, the gut gives more information to the brain, not the other way around.  95% of Serotonin is produced in the gut.  Treating depression with drugs to upload more serotonin, not fixing the problem per say.

 More bacteria in the gut then cells in your body. 100 trillion.  500 different kinds.  Yes, there are more then just L. acidophilus.  Good and bad should be a ratio of 85-15.  If you take an antibiotic, it can't tell the difference between the two and kills them both.  Always resupply with a probiotic. Get rid of the antibiotic soap.  Just use soap.

It's not a coincidence that allergies and asthma are on the rise in today's kids.  Cesareans are partially to blame as they are on a dramatic upswing.  As the baby passes through the birth canal it takes with it some of the moms good bacteria.  Without the natural child birth, this process doesn't happen.

80% of your immunity is in your gut.  Stressed out gut.  Stressed out immune system.  Bad bacteria feast on processed foods, pasteurized foods even.  Sugar, white flour, alcohol, all stress the gut out.

One study showed that swapping gut microbes from one mouse to the next made those mice lose weight.  Gut Microbe Swap Helps Mice Shed Weight.  Don't get to excited about this yet though, It will be years before you just have to upload good bacteria to lose weight.

Another study showed that a calorie restricted diet can have a very positive effect on longevity and in changing the gut to more favorable bacteria.  This was in mice.  The calories were restricted to 30%.  That's quite drastic.  Fasting for a Healthier Gut.  Potential use for humans?  Maybe a 24 hour fast every now an then, or try Intermittent Fasting for a few months and see how your body does.

What you eat influences how you feel.  I know pretty obvious, eat lots of crap and an hour later you are sleeping or feel like junk.  But, there is also more subtle ways as well.  Eat fatty acids and your brain is wired from the gut to feel less sad.  Perhaps this is why fatty foods are a comfort food?  Fatty-Acid Induced Signals.

More research is being done on how possibly the guts microbes influence some of the brain degeneration diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.  This brings us to this article and study. Changing Gut Bacteria Through Diet Affects Brain Function.

In this study basically the women that ate probiotics showed communication from the gut to the brain and under fMRI showed cognitive changes.  This opens up doors for research into fields like chronic pain, mental and digestive disorders.

It also raises a very interesting point that if probiotics affect the brain can antibiotics do the same?  Should we be more careful in putting kids through as many antibiotics as we do if we know that its effects could be felt in the brain?

Gut flora research is still in the infancy, but already, new and exciting research is being done.  Until then,  keep that two way street between the gut and the brain working as efficiently as possible.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why Western Marathon Times are not Improving

Reading through the book "The Sports Gene" by David Epstein, one of the points that has really stood out to me were some of the statistics about the marathon.  Going back just 50 years, the United States, England and Finland were the major long distance powers.

Presently, you would be hard pressed to find a great marathon time not run by someone from Kenya or Ethiopia.  Its as if these two countries just decided to dominate one day.  No doubt they are very talented to run the times they run for the marathon, but consider these statistics.

1983-1998 the number of US athletes that run under 2:20 marathon decreased from 227 to 35.
England dropped from 137 to 17.  Finland was a powerhouse of distance running during both World Wars and didn't qualify a single marathon athlete in the 2000 Olympics.

Now consider the same time period,  Kenya had one sub 2:20 in 1986 to 541 in 2006.

The age old debate of nature/nurture and talent/hard work comes back to rear its head.  Where do you look for answers, which is what I find very intriguing about this book.

It's hard not to make some conclusions when you see some statistics like this.  Perhaps as the rise of talent in Kenya/Ethiopia that the other countries athletes tend to pursue other events or decide not to compete at all.

That the talent for long distance dried up in these three countries.

These countries athletes got fatter and didn't want to put in the work to be an elite distance runner.

An amalgam of all three.

Negative feedback loops are a deadly thing.  A makes B worse, B makes C worse, C makes A worse.  It's a cycle.  You can try to get at one of them, but they all have to be addressed.

Perhaps that is where are distance situation is at.  As affluence improved in the US, England and Finland so did our physical weight perhaps.  The hunger and desire to put yourself through the rigors of that type of training decreased.  Other sports become better options.  You fall prey to the notion that the Kenyans and Ethiopians are way more talented, so why try.  You look around and your notions are proved correct.  You don't see anyone coming close to competitive times.  The cycle keeps repeating itself every generation to a greater extent.

What can be a negative feedback loop can also be positive.  Just flip the coin.  I have talent, look where I'm from.  My brother, friend, friend of a friend is doing it, I can do it as well.  Work extremely hard because of the belief and are rewarded.  The next generation does the same.

Both fulfill a type of self prophecy.

If 100 kids come out to race and 10 are talented and one is very talented we would say there is a 1% chance that we will find a champion.  If that champion becomes famous perhaps the next years race draws 150 kids.  Now we find 15 talented kids.  Now kids see these talented kids competing and a culture of racing becomes a new norm.  Next year 300 kids come out and we have kids that have been training for the race.  Without training, we would find 30 talented kids, perhaps with training we find 50-60.  5 kids that can become champions.  The culture of racing exists and just keeps perpetuating itself.

On the flip side, if only 50 kids come out we find 5 kids with talent.  Perhaps we don't find the champion because he just didn't show up.  Next year, you get 30 kids.  Depleted resources and enthusiasm.  The culture of racing is dying.  It keeps perpetuating itself.

Belief in both systems perpetuates the system.  My thoughts only.   Thoughts on my thoughts?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Master the Basics and Do it Every Day

I'm a huge fan of Dan John.  He's a strength coach that has the ability to boil down the fluff and periphery to get to the important, central stuff.  Own the principles, not the methods.  Dan has many books, articles, videos, a lot for free,  all over the Internet.  I would suggest anyone interested in health and strength to take an hour or two and read his stuff and watch his videos.

One of the things that has always stuck with me is Dan's approach to the basics.  Don't get crazy reaching for the top of the pyramid if your base is not there.  The other point comes from legendary coach Dan Gable who Dan often quotes.  "If it's important, do it every day."

With that template, master the basics and if it's important, do it every day, here is my list in no particular order.

1.  Drink water.  Half your body weight in ounces.  Sport drinks don't count, tea doesn't count.  Water.  If you drink coffee or pop add another 8 ounces of water.

2.  Don't drink pop.

3.  Walk.  Try to get 15 minutes a day. Minimum.

4.  Get sunshine.  Have the actual suns rays touch your skin.

5. Get your Vitamin D levels checked twice a year.  Keep your level above 50.  1000 IU for every 25lb of body weight when supplementing.

6.  Lift weights.  Find something you like and do it 2x a week.  I don't care if it kettle bells, cross fit, powerlifting, bodybuilding or what ever is next around the corner.  The more muscle mass you carry as you age, the more healthy you will be.  Guaranteed.  Carry something, push something, pick something off the floor, pull yourself up.  (colored dumbbells do not count though.)

7.  Floss.  There is a lot of evidence for the health of your gums and the health of your heart.

8.  Wear your seat belt.  ( I stole 7,8,9 from Dan John himself)

9.  Take fish oil.  3-5 grams a day.

10.  Get rid of polyunsaturated oils.  I think this is why most people that adapt a paleo or primal or low carb diet see such improvements.  Unhealthy oils destroy your body.

11.  Be grateful.  Make a mental list or a physical one.

12.  Breath well.  Inhale with the diaphragm.  Exhale.  The ribs should move, not your shoulders.

13.  Stretch the hip flexor and then pair it with a glute activation exercise.  Your lumbar spine will thank you.

14.  Get down on the floor on your back and get back up.  Several times a day.  No particular technique needed.  I've lost track of how many patients tell me they fear getting down on the floor for how hard it will be for them to get back up.  Don't let that happen in the first place.  If you don't make it a priority, it can be weeks before you have to actually do it.  Think about that for a second.

15.  Eat some vegetables.  Think Rainbow.

16.  Master the hip hinge.  Use it.  When you bend at the hips not the back, you save your back abuse.

17.  Read.  The person that doesn't read and the person that doesn't know how, not much difference.

18.  Roll the bottoms of your feet with golf balls.  A lot of fascial lines evolve or cross the bottoms of the feet.  Next time your tired at work or after work, take a few minutes to do this and feel your energy return.

19.  Focus on getting some good fat in your diet.  MCT oil, coconut oil, grass fed butter, olive oil, fish oil, avocado, red palm oil, to name a few.

20.  Drink Green Tea.  On top of the water you are going to drink.  It's like amazing for you.

21.  Laugh.

22.  Sleep.  7-8 hours a night.  There is a lot out there these days about how to get by on less, but science doesn't seem to support that.

23.  Your own personal physical/personal goal.  Find a way to work at it every day.  If you want to write, write at least one sentence.  If you want more mobile hips, do 5 min a day of hip mobility work.  Striving towards something you want every day, builds strength and character.  Lay some ground work every day, it's the consistency that counts and makes real changes.

This is my list, I think it's hard to argue with any of them.  What do you want to add?