Oil & Vinegar: More Nutrition Nonsense

Is there anything that apple cider vinegar and coconut oil can’t do?!

After a long break to move and take care of my newborn, I’m back with more tips and trick to help you out! And today is a fun look at what coconut oil and apple cider vinegar are doing for you. So let’s dive right into the science and science fiction.
The Claims
Here’s the deal with many of the latest fads and crazes. Marketers take some basic science (stuff done in a petri dish) and extrapolate it out to having actual effects in humans. Often times it makes sense on paper but doesn’t work out when it’s actually tested. So what are some of the highly touted test tube trappings of success for oil and vinegar? Well according to some, it’s great for helping prevent heart disease, weight loss, immunity, digestion, dental care, candida (yeast), organ health, and they even have the audacity to say it’s beneficial for those with HIV and cancer. The latter claims are absolutely disgusting to me because these “tips” can not only be harmful, but deadly.
Apple cider vinegar can apparently help you body maintain an alkaline PH level, regulate blood sugar, lower blood pressure, improve heart health, “detox” you from something, prevent candida overgrowth, ease digestive ailments, help with weight loss, prevent osteoporosis, slow the aging process… somehow, and fight free radical damage. Is there anything that apple cider vinegar and coconut oil can’t do?! Well, the fact that there are so many health claims is the first sign that something fishy is going on.
 
Going Nuts For Coconuts
Lame puns aside, there is a lot of fiction and some truth to the health benefits of coconut oil (CO). First of all, mice aren’t humans and making medical comparisons is not only futile but potentially dangerous (1). That being said, claims that rely on health benefits being seen in mice but not tested in humans (i.e. improvements in heart health) can be tossed out for now (2). Also, because we know that CO is very high in saturated fat, which we know, at least for now, is linked to heart disease (3). As far as weight loss goes, CO consumption isn’t very helpful, to begin with, and isn’t as effective as using olive oil (4). CO is also touted for its MCT’s (medium chain triglycerides) which are supposed to all sorts of health benefit. However, CO only contains 4% MCT’s which means that the majority of its fat content will have a major impact on cholesterol status (5). Finally, CO may actually have negative effects on immune function and may cause abdominal distress and diarrhea is some (6).
The news isn’t all bad. CO is delicious, although it has a low smoking point which can be hazardous for us less skilled fry cooks (7). It may also help prevent cavities (8), it’s good for your hair (9), helps with skin health (10), and help prevent dermatitis (11). Finally, CO is expensive. So you may be better off sticking with olive oil if your budget is tight.
Salty About Vinegar
I think someone found an Olympic sized pool of apple cider vinegar (ACV) and decided to invent reasons for people to buy it. Because really, who drinks vinegar?! In any case, ACV is useful in some ways but disgusting for most. First of all, ACV doesn’t help with making your body more alkaline. If it did, you would die! Your body needs to stay between 7.35 and 7.45 pH for your organs to function (12). So as far as the alkaline diet goes, it’s as useful as hot garbage soup. When it comes to weight loss, ACV may actually help! But that might actually be due to nausea caused by vinegar consumption (13). ACV hasn’t been shown to be particularly useful for lowering blood lipid levels and has never been shown to reduce heart disease in humans (14). It’s not helpful when it comes to cancer (15), wound/skin care (16), it’s bad for your teeth (17), no data to support its use as an anti-inflammatory agent, and detoxes are scams so it’s not helpful in that area (18). The good news is that ACV can help with blood glucose control in diabetics (19), but does nothing for your blood sugar in those who are healthy (20).
Oil and Vinegar Have Their Place
When it comes to CO and ACV, their roll in your health is limited and possibly detrimental. A lot of marketing and great salesmanship may have you thinking otherwise, but when it comes to real benefits, the evidence has been found wanting. So when it comes to oil and vinegar, it’s healthiest when accompanying a salad.
As always, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on this week’s subject. If you have any questions or tips related to the post or suggestions for future topics, feel free to contact me anytime.
 original-logos-2016-Apr-4550-5700451f09d39
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Resources
1. Zaragoza, C., Gomez-Guerrero, C., Martin-Ventura, J. L., Blanco-Colio, L., Lavin, B., Mallavia, B., … & Egido, J. (2011). Animal models of cardiovascular diseases. BioMed Research International, 2011.
2. Glukhov, A. V., Flagg, T. P., Fedorov, V. V., Efimov, I. R., & Nichols, C. G. (2010). Differential K ATP channel pharmacology in intact mouse heart. Journal of molecular and cellular cardiology, 48(1), 152-160.
3. Zong, G., Li, Y., Wanders, A. J., Alssema, M., Zock, P. L., Willett, W. C., … & Sun, Q. (2016). Intake of individual saturated fatty acids and risk of coronary heart disease in US men and women: two prospective longitudinal cohort studies. bmj, 355, i5796.
4. Valente, F. X., Cândido, F. G., Lopes, L. L., Dias, D. M., Carvalho, S. D. L., Pereira, P. F., & Bressan, J. (2017). Effects of coconut oil consumption on energy metabolism, cardiometabolic risk markers, and appetitive responses in women with excess body fat. European Journal of Nutrition, 1-11.
5. Karupaiah, T., Tan, C. H., Chinna, K., & Sundram, K. (2011). The chain length of dietary saturated fatty acids affects human postprandial lipemia. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 30(6), 511-521.
6. Wanten, G. J., & Naber, A. H. (2004). Cellular and physiological effects of medium-chain triglycerides. Mini reviews in medicinal chemistry, 4(8), 847-857.
7. Boateng, L., Ansong, R., Owusu, W., & Steiner-Asiedu, M. (2016). Coconut oil and palm oil’s role in nutrition, health and national development: A review. Ghana medical journal, 50(3), 189-196.
8. Peedikayil, F. C., Remy, V., John, S., Chandru, T. P., Sreenivasan, P., & Bijapur, G. A. (2016). Comparison of antibacterial efficacy of coconut oil and chlorhexidine on Streptococcus mutans: An in vivo study. Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry, 6(5), 447.
9. Rele, A. S., & Mohile, R. B. (2003). Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. Journal of cosmetic science, 54(2), 175-192.
10. Agero, A. L., & Verallo‐Rowell, V. (2004). P15 A randomized double‐blind controlled trial comparing extra‐virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis. Contact Dermatitis, 50(3), 183-183.
11. Verallo-Rowell, V. M., Dillague, K. M., & Syah-Tjundawan, B. S. (2008). Novel antibacterial and emollient effects of coconut and virgin olive oils in adult atopic dermatitis. Dermatitis, 19(6), 308-315.
12. Bonjour, J. P. (2013). Nutritional disturbance in acid–base balance and osteoporosis: a hypothesis that disregards the essential homeostatic role of the kidney. British Journal of Nutrition, 110(7), 1168-1177.
13. Darzi, J., Frost, G. S., Montaser, R., Yap, J., & Robertson, M. D. (2014). Influence of the tolerability of vinegar as an oral source of short-chain fatty acids on appetite control and food intake. International Journal of Obesity, 38(5), 675.
14. Panetta, C. J., Jonk, Y. C., & Shapiro, A. C. (2013). Prospective randomized clinical trial evaluating the impact of vinegar on lipids in non-diabetics. World Journal of Cardiovascular Diseases, 3(02), 191.
15. Radosavljević, V., Janković, S., Marinković, J., & Dokić, M. (2003). Non-occupational risk factors for bladder cancer: a case-control study. Tumori, 90(2), 175-180.
16. Rund, C. R. (1996). Non-conventional topical therapies for wound care. Ostomy/wound management, 42(5), 18-20.
17. Willershausen, I., Weyer, V., Schulte, D., Lampe, F., Buhre, S., & Willershausen, B. (2014). In vitro study on dental erosion caused by different vinegar varieties using an electron microprobe. Clinical laboratory, 60(5), 783-790.
18. Klein, A. V., & Kiat, H. (2015). Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. Journal of human nutrition and dietetics, 28(6), 675-686.
19. Johnston, C. S., White, A. M., & Kent, S. M. (2009). Preliminary evidence that regular vinegar ingestion favorably influences hemoglobin A1c values in individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Diabetes research and clinical practice, 84(2), e15-e17.
20. Panetta, C. J., Jonk, Y. C., & Shapiro, A. C. (2013). Prospective randomized clinical trial evaluating the impact of vinegar on lipids in non-diabetics. World Journal of Cardiovascular Diseases, 3(02), 191.

Quickie About The Little Things

How making a small change to your life can generate big results.

Today’s post discusses how making a small change to your life can generate big results. Doing simple things like walking a little bit extra each day, cutting out one sugary drink per day, eating out one fewer time per week, or even setting out healthy fruits to snack on instead of looking in the cupboard for a quick (and usually unhealthy) snack can generate tremendous changes in a gradual and maintainable way. Health and wellness are a life long journey, there’s no need to make a dramatic unsustainable change for a short term gain.

I’m Secretly a Sith Lord, And So Are You!

Despite our best efforts, we can all have moments where we think irrationally, abandon critical thinking skills, and fail to be a balanced accurate viewer of what is going on around us.

It has been said that “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” If you don’t know what a Sith is, then shame on you. Stop reading and go watch the Star Wars movies! For everyone else, let’s talk about why I am secretly a Sith lord, and why you probably are too. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we are all evil people who are drawn by the dark side. What I am saying is that despite our best efforts, we can all have moments where we think irrationally, abandon critical thinking skills, and fail to be a balanced accurate viewer of what is going on around us. We like to have black and white answers to questions about shades of gray. Whether it’s politics, sports, or health and fitness, we all are looking for something that doesn’t exist: The right answer.
 
Context
There is often times no right answer because the question at hand is not framed within a reasonable context. What’s the best exercise? What are healthy foods? Should I be “eating clean”, or avoiding gluten, dairy, and GMO’s? How do I fix my back pain? Who’s the best boy band of all time? Hint: none of the questions can  be even remotely answered without more context. Everyone has extenuating circumstances surrounding him or her, and there can be no right answer without digging a little deeper.
Duck Soup
“Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” This Marx Brothers quote from the movie Duck Soup reigns supreme when it comes to our perceptions of reality. We all look for patterns in our daily lives to explain the world around us. It’s why Airborne, vitamin C, and chicken noodle soup are thought to cure common colds. In reality, these interventions don’t do anything at all to help you heal up (1). But, at some point, I’m sure we have all fallen for the Airborne scam of taking a product, feeling better, and thanking that product for making us feel better. Here’s the dirty little secret… you would have felt better anyway because that’s how colds work. This same principle can be applied to many aspects of our lives. Ever hear someone say, “if I eat this ice cream, it will go straight to my hips!” Well, that’s not how the body works. If you’re not in a caloric surplus, then you won’t put on weight. But we see patterns and tend to blame one thing or another. Whether it’s weight gain, muscle building, or aches and pains, there is no one single reason for their occurrence. It is a spectrum of hundreds of factors that play into our health and well-being.
Avoiding The Dark Side
To avoid the dark side and being a Sith lord, try to think in relative terms. So instead of thinking that taking vitamin C will cure no disease, try thinking that vitamin C may help me if I am deficient and therefore could help my body operate more efficiently. This same reasoning can be used with eating organic. Will eating organic foods make you any healthier? Probably not alone, but it may inspire you to eat more fruits and vegetables in general which will make you healthier. Will avoiding chemicals make you healthier? No, but it may inspire you to learn about what’s actually in the food you’re eating.
Inline image 1
Should I be on a low carb, low fat diet, or will a Keto diet be best? Should I be taking probiotics? Will these supplements help me lose weight? Who should be telling me what to eat? What exercises should I be doing?
None of these questions matter in isolation, and none of these questions have a right or wrong answer. The answer will almost always be “maybe. It depends.” Don’t take answers at face value because no one source will have all the information. Don’t assign causation or blame because a myriad of factors will play into your results. Don’t simply put all your eggs into one basket. Our perception stinks. We, as humans, have a hard time sorting out reality. We try to use our past experiences to figure out the present, and this leads to all sorts of misguided judgments even in the face of contradicting evidence (2). Don’t dig in and defend these poor decisions once you have made them. Try to keep an open mind, learn as much as you can, and be willing to change as needed.
References
1. Hemilä, H., & Chalker, E. (2013). Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (1), CD000980.
2. Fazio, L. K., Brashier, N. M., Payne, B. K., & Marsh, E. J. (2015). Knowledge does not protect against illusory truth. Journal of Experimental Psychology. General, 144(5), 993-1002. doi:10.1037/xge0000098

Thoughts For Food

The “why” behind our food choices.

Today’s post is short and sweet. It comes from an article by the Health Science Academy about factors influencing our food choices. This fantastic review takes an in depth look at the “why” behind our food choices. Although we may think that it’s a simple decision, there are actually a lot of things that we can do to positively influence our decision making. Here are a few tips on how to make great nutrition choices!
1. Get enough sleep
2. Get a lot of exercise, especially when you’re stressed
3. Learn to say “no” to extra work or social events that will do nothing but add stress to your day
4. Hug Someone! This simple step can decrease stress hormones and positively influence your food choices
5. Control your environment by making healthy decisions easily seen and accessible

Feet On The Ground – Balance Training

Staying on your feet and keeping balance is crucial for staying healthy throughout your life.

Do you know what the leading cause of death is for those over 55? It’s not heart disease, cancer, or spouses. It’s actually complications due to falls! Staying on your feet and keeping balance is crucial for staying healthy throughout your life, even more so as you age. That’s why today I am going to go over some strategies to keep your feet on the ground and your butt out of the hospital!
 
The Major Issues
There are several key factors to think about when considering a balance and stability training program. Muscle weakness, especially in the lower body, and problems in the feet such as foot pain, loss of sensation, or even improper footwear (slippers without traction, high heeled shoes, etc.) are at the top of the list (1). Additionally, medications and their side affects, declines in vision, and environmental factors like clutter or unsecured throw rugs can play a roll in falls. Today, we are going to focus on the former topics. Of primary interest, the strength of the lower body is paramount. Focusing on strengthening the lower body not only builds up the ability to resist gravity, but it also enhances our ability to know where our body’s at in space (proprioception).
 
The Exercises
No matter what your age or skill level is, there are exercises you should be doing to enhance your natural abilities. Today, I will be breaking things down into a beginner and advanced category.
Beginner
These exercise can be done by just about anyone. You can choose to do them standing, with assistance, or even seated if needed.
Hip extensions (back leg raise) – This exercise builds strength in the hamstring and hip. Perform this by slowly lifting one leg straight back without bending your knee or pointing your toes. Try not to lean forward. The leg you are standing on should be slightly bent.
Side Leg Raise – This glute exercise is a standby for seniors and professional athletes alike. Perform by slowly lifting one leg out to the side. Keep your back straight and your toes facing forward. The leg you are standing on should be slightly bent.
Knee Curl – This hamstring exercise is a classic. Perform by slowly bringing your heel up toward your buttocks as far as possible. Bend only from your knee, and keep your hips still. The leg you are standing on should be slightly bent.
Calf Raise – This calf exercise can be done just about anywhere and any time. Perform by slowly standing on tiptoes, as high as possible.
 
Advanced
Plank for core stabilization
Bird dog (Quadruped arm raise) for core, hip, and rotator cuff strength
Floor bridges for glute strength
Floor bridges with march for hip strength and balance
Medicine ball slams for hamstring and abdominal strength

Finally, working on activities that include some form of agility should be done. Dancing, playing with pets, or even simply doing yard work are great ways to build strength. 

Balance Training
Balance specific training is different from exercising to build strength. Like any other skill acquisition, it takes patience. However, we know that the best outcomes are when balance training is used in combination with strengthening exercises (2). You can enhance your balance by using a progression of challenges to enhance the difficulty of your exercises. Try the following progression of challenges:
Start by holding on to a sturdy chair with both hands for support.
When you are able, try holding on to the chair with only one hand.
With time, hold on with only one finger, then with no hands at all.
If you are really steady on your feet, try doing the balance exercises with your eyes closed.
Finally, when you have mastered all the previous steps, you can try standing on unstable surfaces like foam pads, BOSU ball, or even pillows
You can also work on other exercises specifically for balance. For instance, you can try simply standing on one footwalking heel to toe, and walking in a straight line. In other words, perform a sobriety test. In the end, anything you can do to challenge yourself while on your feet will help (3). The moral of the story is if you never stop moving, you won’t end up on the ground.
References
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Important facts about falls. Accessed online September 20, 2016. http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html
2. Penzer, F., Duchateau, J., & Baudry, S. (2015). Effects of short-term training combining strength and balance exercises on maximal strength and upright standing steadiness in elderly adults. Experimental Gerontology, 61, 38-46. doi:10.1016/j.exger.2014.11.013
3. Baudry, S., (2016). Aging Changes the Contribution of Spinal and Corticospinal Pathways to Control Balance. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, Vol. 44 – Issue 3: p 104–109

Hip Pain Part 2 – Fixing The Problem

Hip new ideas on dealing with that pain in the butt.

As we found out last week, lots can go wrong within the hips. And while figuring out the problem can be difficult, finding the right solution may be a little bit more simple. For many of the issues that we have discussed the solution may ultimately be a surgical or pharmacological intervention. However, today I wanted to go over some exercise interventions that may be worth a try. So let’s dive into some hip new ideas on dealing with that pain in the butt.
The Big Three
There are three main domains that are thought to lead to hip pain including sitting, muscular imbalances, and skeletal imbalances. Sitting for long periods of time can lead to the latter two issues, but in a more direct sense, it can cause problems all on its own. Primarily, sitting causes compression within the hip joint itself and can, in a sense, squish the muscles, nerves, and blood flow. If you have ever had a “dead leg” from sitting on your wallet too long or one leg crossed over the other then you will know how troublesome sitting can be. Muscular imbalances can be described as building strength in some muscles while neglecting others resulting in an unnatural amount of strain on particular muscles. Runners, for example, often ignore the muscles used to move the body from side to side. Finally, skeletal imbalances are the uneven stature or movement patterns that many individuals have due to things like genetic bone differences, old injuries, and leg-length discrepancies.
 
What Should You Do?
Every person and every issue is unique and deserves a unique solution. This is due to the fact that pain is complicated. Pain can be caused by the various tissues (sprains and strains), by the nerves (sciatica), and other issues that aren’t understood yet (fibromyalgia, chronic low back pain). More often than not, however, movement is paramount to success. So let’s take a look at what you need to do for the specific issues discussed in last week’s post!
Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) – FAI is unique because it is a combination of bone structure problems and hip tissue problems (1). These issues are far from uniform so the specifics of what needs to be done to fix the problem will change from person to person. However, some keys to success include hip-specific function and lower limb strengthening, core stability and postural balance exercises (2).
Inline image 1
Piriformis Syndrome, Trochanteric Bursitis/Snapping Hip – These issues are common among runner, and as you can guess, are generally thought to be caused by muscular imbalances. You can try to alleviate these problems by foam rolling the piriformis, quadriceps and IT-Band, statically stretching the piriformis, biceps femoris and hip flexors, and performing exercises such as leg slidesfloor bridgelateral tube walking and ball squats.
 
Sciatica – Because sciatica can be caused by at least 6 underlying issues, there really is no one true way to best treat it (3). For best results, skip the exercise and talk to your doctor about medication options (4).
Strains – When it comes to strains of the groin and/or hip flexor, the general recommendation is to regain full range of motion, and restore full muscle strength, endurance, and coordination. You can prevent these injuries by doing programs similar to the one seen bellow (5).
Inline image 2
Summary
One of the best ways to avoid injuries of the hips is to strengthen the hips. Because we sit on our butts all day long, we tend to lose the ability to use our glutes. This can lead to all sorts of problems in the long run. This is why I recommend you start by strengthening the glute muscles. Here is a great resource for learning how to strengthen the glutes. If you’re looking for pain relief, your best chance of seeing results quickly is to consult your doctor.
References
1. The Warwick Agreement on femoroacetabular impingement syndrome (FAI syndrome): an international consensus statement
Br. J. Sports. Med. 2016;50:19 1169-1176
2. Wall, P., Dickenson, E., Robinson, D., Hughes, I., Realpe, A., Hobson, R., Griffen, D., Foster, N. (2016). Personalised Hip Therapy: development of a non-operative protocol to treat femoroacetabular impingement syndrome in the FASHIoN randomised controlled trial. Br J Sports Med, 50:1217-1223 doi:10.1136/bjsports-2016-096368
3. Verwoerd, A. J. H., Luijsterburg, P. A. J., Lin, C. W. C., Jacobs, W. C. H., Koes, B. W., & Verhagen, A. P. (2013). Systematic review of prognostic factors predicting outcome in non-surgically treated patients with sciatica. European Journal of Pain (London, England), 17(8), 1126.
4. Lewis, R. A., Williams, N. H., Sutton, A. J., Burton, K., Din, N. U., Matar, H. E., . . . Wilkinson, C. (2015). Comparative clinical effectiveness of management strategies for sciatica: Systematic review and network meta-analyses. The Spine Journal : Official Journal of the North American Spine Society, 15(6), 1461-1477. doi:10.1016/j.spinee.2013.08.049
5. Tyler, T. F., Silvers, H. J., Gerhardt, M. B., & Nicholas, S. J. (2010). Groin injuries in sports medicine. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach, 2(3), 231-236. doi:10.1177/1941738110366820

Getting Grilled

“5 reasons why grilling will kill you”… What?

Some time back I stumbled upon a blog condemning the grill saying something along the lines of “5 reasons why grilling will kill you”. Naturally my mind went to using too much lighter fluid causing an explosion so I clicked the link to see what fun ways I could hurt myself this weekend. However, to my dismay the article was about how grilling can cause cancer, and that anyone who uses a grill is at harm and would be better off throwing out their cooking device.
Well I can say that as a lifelong lover of anything bacon, steak, and BBQ related I quickly made it my mission to find out if I should consult an oncologist, or if Memorial Day weekend plans were safe (grilling, home made beer, and Frisbee btw). Well I can safely say that I will be spending my afternoon savoring the sweet sweet smell of venison and Mae farm pork sausage.
I found most of the information on the subject in peer reviewed literature, but today’s post mostly comes from the fine folks at Precision Nutrition. Here is what you need to know:
– Grilling meat does produce a couple of chemicals that may increase risk of cancer (HCA & PAH
– Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) form when meat is overcooked or charbroiled
-Four factors influence HCA formation: 1. Type of food 2. How it’s cooked 3. Temperature 4. How long it’s cooked
– Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) form when meat is charred or blackened, or when fat from the meat drips onto the hot surface of the grill.
– PAH creation is influenced by: 1. Temperature of cooking 2. How long food is cooked 3. Type of fuel used in heating 4. Distance from heat source 5. Fat content of the food
– How to make grilling healthier: 
1. Use herbs and spices
2. Acid-based marinades Beer marinades work, too!!!
3. Don’t overcook HCAs and PAHs depend on temperature plus time.
4. Choose meat wisely. Highly-processed meats have a much stronger link to cancer than less-processed meats.
5. Include lots of fruits and veggies
6. Strategize while cooking i.e. Cut your meat into smaller pieces, Flip meat frequently, Cook meat on medium to medium-high heat, Cover the grill with foil.
7. And my FAVORITE drinking a beer with your grilled meat can significantly lower the mutagenic activity of the HCAs that formed.
The author of the PN article, Brian St. Pierre, sums things up extremely well when he says “Keep the risks in perspective. Overall, HCAs and PAHs make a minor contribution to your cancer risk. Being sedentary, having excess body fat, and eating a diet rich in highly processed foods are much greater risk factors. If you have some slow-cooked, pit-roasted ribs in your life once in a while, you’ll probably survive. (And likely be happier overall. Don’t be afraid of your food.)” Have a fun and safe holiday weekend, and say a prayer (or take a moment of silence) in remembrance of those who have fallen for our nation.

The Best Signs Of Progress Don’t Include Your Weight!

Physical and mental signs of improvement that make the scale irrelevant!

I can get anyone to lose 5 pounds with one simple trick. I put them in a steam room for an hour and don’t allow them to drink anything! But of course, for most people, that’s not  the point of losing weight. This simple fact begs the question, if losing water weight isn’t the end goal, then does what the scale says even matter? Our weight fluctuates to a dramatic degree throughout the day based on all sorts of things. Are you hydrated?  Did you use the bathroom recently? Have you eaten yet? Are you sick? Are you stressed? Even your sleep can play a roll in weight fluctuation. That’s why I want to talk about the physical and mental signs of improvement that make the scale irrelevant! 
 
First Things First
For the most part, people want to see two things happen. They want to see themselves lose fat, and gain muscle. But there are so many more benefits to exercise than that. So I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to write down exactly what their goals are. Once you have a goal/goals in mind, you can start to take action and monitor the outcomes of your efforts. I don’t want to get too side-tracked here, so here are some easy steps to start taking action today.
Write down one outcome you want. Don’t over-think it. Just name the desired outcome you want most right now.
Write down some of the skills you think you’ll need to get that outcome. If you’re just starting out, focus on foundation skills. What are the basics that make everything else possible? (For instance, if you want to manage your time, you need to learn to use a calendar.)
Related to each skill, write down a behavior or two you can do today that’ll help build those skills. This can be really easy, like walking through the gym doors or even packing your gym bag for tomorrow morning.
Do the behavior today, and tomorrow, and so on. And, keep in mind, if you don’t follow through on a given day, don’t let it derail you. Each day is a clean slate.
 
By The Numbers
Some of the best physical markers of success are easy to see, while others take some time and equipment to measure. So for each marker, I will give you the scientific way to go about reaching it, and the DIY version.
Body Composition – This is perhaps the most revealing assessment (1). Your body composition is the ration of fat mass to lean mass (muscle, bone, water, etc.). There are loads of ways to measure this marker from the gold standard Bod Pod and X-rays, to skin fold measures, to the less accurate bio-electrical impermanence (BIA). For all intents and purposes, the BIA does a good enough job for most people and is a cheep option via a smart scale or hand held device. Seeing your body fat percentage go down and muscle mass go up is always a great feeling!
Waist Line – Using a hip to waist ratio is an easy way to self assess your overall health (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/215214492). Seeing your waist line go down is an even easier way to see improvement because your clothes will begin to fit better! It’s hard not to take notice of improvement when you’re having to buy smaller pant sizes after all.
Labs – It will certainly make your doctor happy to see lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar. These measurements can assess risk for chronic illnesses like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer. For the most part, these need to be measured at your doctor’s office, but most pharmacies have free equipment for measuring blood pressure (3).
Heart Rate – This is a twofer because both your resting heart rate and working heart rate are important health markers. Watching your resting heart rate decrease over time means that you are becoming more cardio-vascularly fit (4). Having your heart rate stay stable while exercising means that your body is accustomed to doing work, which is a great sign! Testing this is simple. You can count how many times your heart beats in a minute by taking your pulse, or simply buy a heart rate monitor.
Better, Faster, Stronger – One of the most gratifying indicators of improvement is seeing your body change. You are able to see your muscles in the mirror and witness your strength increase. It always feels good to add an extra weight plate to your barbell!
State of Mind
Signs of progress also happen in the form of mental health. How you feel throughout the day and during a workout can be great indicators of improvement. So take mental note or keep a journal to document your improvement in these indicators of success.
Exercise Excitement – Okay, so not everyone enjoys exercising. In fact, most people loath going to the gym. But everyone can agree that we feel better after a workout. That’s why dreading going to the gym less and making exercise a part of your identity over time is a great indicator of improvement.
Energizer – While everyone has an off day here or there, having an off week or month can be downright frustrating. That’s why keeping note of your day-to-day energy & stress levels is an exhilarating way to experience positive changes from your efforts.
Zzzzzzz – Your sleep can be influenced by stress, aging, hormonal changes, being a new parent, getting too much light late at night, jet lag, and so on. But nutrition and exercise can play a role as well. A regular sleep schedule can be a great way to monitor your improvement as well as improve your performance at the gym and in life (5)!
Mood – Stability and improvement in your mood are also fun ways to mark your improvement. Feeling confident, clearer-headed, happier and more positive, motivated, and more open to trying new things can be subtle but very meaningful markers of improvement.
References
1. Gale, C. R., Martyn, C. N., Cooper, C., & Sayer, A. A. (2007;2006;). Grip strength, body composition, and mortality. International Journal of Epidemiology, 36(1), 228-235. doi:10.1093/ije/dyl224
2. Czernichow, S., Kengne, A. ‐., Stamatakis, E., Hamer, M., & Batty, G. D. (2011). Body mass index, waist circumference and waist–hip ratio: Which is the better discriminator of cardiovascular disease mortality risk? evidence from an individual‐participant meta‐analysis of 82 864 participants from nine cohort studies. Obesity Reviews, 12(9), 680-687. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00879.x
3. Nagaya, T., Yoshida, H., Takahashi, H., & Kawai, M. (2010). Resting heart rate and blood pressure, independent of each other, proportionally raise the risk for type-2 diabetes mellitus. International Journal of Epidemiology, 39(1), 215-222. doi:10.1093/ije/dyp229
4. Fox, K., Borer, J. S., Camm, A. J., Danchin, N., Ferrari, R., Lopez Sendon, J. L., . . . Heart Rate Working Group. (2007). Resting heart rate in cardiovascular disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 50(9), 823-830. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2007.04.079
5. JACKOWSKA, M., DOCKRAY, S., ENDRIGHI, R., HENDRICKX, H., & STEPTOE, A. (2012). Sleep problems and heart rate variability over the working day. Journal of Sleep Research, 21(4), 434-440. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2869.2012.00996.x

Common Exercise Injuries To Look Out For

One of my passions lies in sports medicine, specifically Athletic Training (hence the ATC/L credentials).

Today’s post features a topic that is near and dear to my heart. This is because one of my passions lies in sports medicine, specifically Athletic Training (hence the ATC/L credentials). With that being said I want to remind everyone that I am not writing the content of these email, but merely sharing tips and tricks of the gym. So I feel I must say that what you are about to read is not intended to diagnose or treat anyone’s specific problem, and if you have any specific questions please visit your doctor 🙂
Okay lets get to the heart of this weeks topic EXERCISE INJURIES!!! Growing up without an ATC at any of my sporting event I had to do a lot of self assessment and treatment which is why I got my undergrad in Athletic Training. This post was written by Linda Melone on theprevention.com website, and features one of my favorite people to follow Dr. David Geier. It is very well written and features 8 injuries that I have seen/treated/experienced many times with excellent suggestions on how to avoid them.
1. Patella femoral overuse syndrome
Also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) and Runner Knee, this common problem manifests as pain under the kneecap that worsens when running, going down stairs, or sitting for long periods of time with knees bent. Tips to avoid this issue include strengthening the quadriceps muscles, as well as hamstrings and calves..
2. Rotator cuff tear
This injury involves damage to one of the four rotator cuff muscles that keeps your shoulder socket in place. Avoid repetitive overhead motions, and consider seeing a doctor if you modify your workout to minimize pain without improvement for a few days.
3. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear
This issue is more often than not a non-contact injury. It tends to happen when you land awkwardly from a jump, stop suddenly, change directions rapidly, and slowing down while running. There are many prevention programs, and bio-mechanics experts (cough cough) that can aid in preventing these injuries. However, preventative steps include always trying to land softly on your toes with your knees bent.
4. Boxer’s fracture
“Even if you’re not a fighter, participating in boxing classes or other training programs where you punch pads held by a trainer or you pummel a heavy bag can result in a boxer’s fracture.” I see these injuries more often in novice “punchers” and frustrated teenagers who punch the ground. Easy preventative steps include proper protection on your hands and again proper bio-mechanics.
5. Hamstring strain
Also known as a pulled muscle, these injuries can take as little as a few days or a week or two to heal or as much as six to eight weeks or even more! Prevention includes warming up thoroughly and knowing how/when to stretch.
6. Ankle fracture
These nasty injuries, along with ankle sprains, happen when you land awkwardly and invert or “twist” your ankle. Having proper proprioception (hand eye coordination) and making every effort to avoid landing on uneven surfaces are good strategies to avoid these problems.
7. Labral tear (shoulder)
I have had the unique pleasure of suffering, and getting surgery for, this injury myself! Although my injury was from a stiff arm during rugby, the author sums the core issue well as “Falling on an outstretched hand during a cardio class, a sudden pull trying to lift a heavy weight in CrossFit, or trying to stop yourself from falling can all result in this injury, defined as a tear of the cartilage bumper within the socket of the shoulder.” To avoid this injury, use a proper weight and, notice the common theme, use proper bio-mechanics.
8. Stress fracture
These tricky injuries also known as hairline fractures, often happen due to repetitive stress and usually take time to develop. Stress fractures are largely preventable if you stick to a plan that never increases your exercise by more than 10% per week and has varying routines.
I hope this post was informative, and if you want some more detail please read the article by clicking here.

About Cupping: Good For Your Health or Just a Hickey?

Let’s take a look at the history of poor decision making by Olympians, what cupping is and its supposed benefits, and what it actually does.

If you have been watching the Olympics at all, you probably have noticed the results of cupping. And by that I mean the ridiculous red circles that can be found on many of the athletes. But, I mean if they’re doing it, it must work, right?!?! Well after some digging, I have the answer to that question. So let’s take a look at the history of poor decision making by Olympians, what cupping is and its supposed benefits, and what it actually does.
 
Pursuit Of Excellence 
Olympic athletes are not the same as you and I. They will do anything to get the gold. That’s why over the years they have been the test subjects for many ridiculous health practices. They are willing to try anything, even if it’s nonsense. Athletes can be very superstitious and often believe anything they hear. In the past, they have brought us money wasting scams like Energy Braceletsnegative ions or energy frequency therapies, and the every popular kinesio tape. None of these remedies have been shown to work, and they all have risen and abruptly fallen out of vogue as soon as the athletes get wise to it. But is cupping going to make a rapid disappearance, or is it here to stay?
What Is Cupping?
At its core, cupping is a form of bloodletting intended to remove stagnant blood, expel heat, and treat high fever, loss of consciousness, convulsions, and pain. The process of cupping involves taking cups, which are usually glass but can also be plastic, bamboo or anything, are placing them on the skin, and reducing the air pressure in them via pumps or by heating them and causing cooling contraction. The cups are placed according to traditional acupuncture points. After the cups are removed, bruises remain.
Inline image 1
Today, cupping is used for different purposes and advertised in ways that don’t involve the words “blood letting” for obvious purposes. Modern day cupping works by helping to align and relax qi. Back here on earth where reality is, cupping has been thought to draw blood to the affected area and produce hyperemia or hemostasis, which result in a therapeutic effect (1). Cupping can be sold to us by saying that the suction will remove undescribed and nonspecific “toxins” from the body, even though we don’t have toxin glands. And like other nonsense therapies, it has been claimed to treat and cure loads of ailments such as herpes, muscle strain, “meridian” diagnosis, as well as to increase blood flow, activate the immune system, cure back pain, and 999 other diseases (2).
Does It Work? You Better Believe It!
There is a ton of research on cupping. And out of all the ailments that it is reported to help, pain management is the only one that has a shred of evidence. A very tiny shred at that. Of course there is no credible evidence that it helps athletic performance, be it in swimming or any other sport. This is, in part, due to the fact that research into cupping is mostly negative or of poor quality and with high bias (3). But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a try! Even though currently, there is a lack of dosage guidelines or known effect which means practitioners are pretty much making it up as they go along doesn’t mean it won’t work. I mean, if pro athletes think it’s doing something even though it has no positive effect on the human body in regards to recovery or pain, then it must be working some other way right? If you’re asking that question, you would be right. The best explanation of how cupping works is through a psychological mechanism. In other words, cupping works because people think it works. The word placebo comes to mind. So even though the data says that it won’t work for anyone, if you believe hard enough it will work, great for you!
Inline image 2
Whats The Worst That Could Happen
Okay. You decided that I am full of crap and that the appeal to antiquity is too strong on this one not to give it a try. So what’s the worst that could happen, you get a few bruises? Well when it’s all said and done, you don’t want to be one of the unlucky ones. With any treatment, there are side effects. Cupping has some nasty ones. You could end up with large holes in your back, or a hemorrhaged artery (4) or maybe something less serious like a burn or infection. Wet cupping does draw blood after all, and our skin is never all that clean. Cupping is no different than acupuncture, bloodletting, phrenology, or any other medical pseudoscience. The treatment is based in pre-scientific superstitions, and has simply been re-branded in order to more effectively market the treatment to modern customers.
If you’re looking to recover quickly after exercise, or perhaps for some pain relief, I suggest you skip the cups and the bruises and just get a nice massage. A good massage is relaxing, which is something we all need at times. But on top of this, it can significantly improve the healing of muscle, reduce tissue inflammation, and promote cell regrowth (5). Now there’s something to get excited about!

 

References

  1. Cao, H., Li, X., & Liu, J. (2012). An updated review of the efficacy of cupping therapy. PloS One, 7(2), e31793.
  2. Bamfarahnak, H., Azizi, A., Noorafshan, A., & Mohagheghzadeh, A. (2014). A tale of persian cupping therapy: 1001 potential applications and avenues for research. Forschende Komplementärmedizin (2006), 21(1), 42.
  3. Lee, M. S., Kim, J., & Ernst, E. (2011). Is cupping an effective treatment? an overview of systematic reviews. Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, 4(1), 1.
  4. Interv Neuroradiol. 2016 Aug 1. pii: 1591019916659264. Extracranial vertebral artery rupture likely secondary to “cupping therapy” superimposed on spontaneous dissection.
  5. Crane, J. D., Ogborn, D. I., Cupido, C., Melov, S., Hubbard, A., Bourgeois, J. M., & Tarnopolsky, M. A. (2012). Massage therapy attenuates inflammatory signaling after exercise-induced muscle damage. Science Translational Medicine, 4(119), 119ra13.