Well, at my age…….

After a recent conversation with my mother it made me realize something. As a society we expect our health to decline as we age. My mom is the biggest propagator of this false wisdom, (sorry mom). She had made several comments about not remembering things “because she’s getting old”. In the same conversation she said, “ at my age I can’t do that!”. She was referring to my suggestion of riding a stationary bike for a little exercise. My mother then quickly reminded me that I am not getting any younger….

We pass this school of thought to our children as if it’s normal to have heart attacks and strokes by the age of 50. If the doctor prescribes high blood pressure meds or cholesterol meds at 40 or 50 its normal. Think about how many people you know currently taking a prescription for something that could be easily controlled with diet and exercise.

There have been recent studies pertaining to gluten intolerance and gastrointestinal symptoms, correlations with autism, diabetes and how the protein composite can be related to cognitive function. One study shows large changes in brain tissue, specifically, white matter, in those who are sensitive to gluten. White matter in the brain is actively involved in neurogenesis, or the growth of new neurons. If gluten is possibly disrupting this process, like chemotherapy has been studied to do, then its effects may not be just temporary and transient. Instead they may be both long lasting and potentially damaging. Also stress, sleep disruption, lack of exercise and inflammation have all been linked with regulating hippocampal neurogenesis and implicated in the pathophysiology of mood disorders. But can gluten be linked to mood disorders? The science says yes.

Age is often blamed for hormone imbalances but it’s important to remember that this balance directly correlates with diet. Insufficient consumption of dark leafy greens, brightly colored vegetables, lack of protein, persistent dehydration and stress can all be contributing factors. Hormones influence many bodily functions including metabolism, blood sugar balance, blood pressure, energy levels, kidney function, sleep patterns, aging, and appetite. Signs of imbalance in both sexes include the typical symptoms of fatigue, headaches, digestive complaints, poor sleeping, easy weight gain, increased signs of aging, depression, anxiety, and decreased sexual desire. Cholesterol is also crucial to our wellness and very instrumental in hormonal balance. Many of the most important hormones are actually made from cholesterol. It is the mother of all fat molecules in the body: a cornerstone of normal cell function and mood regulation. It is needed to maintain neurotransmitter and brain function, build brain and nerve tissue, and nourish the immune system. It provides the insulation around nerves that transmit electrical impulses and helps to digest fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. So if you are drinking “green smoothies” for health benefits, add some healthy fat to assist in the uptake of vitamins! My favorites are avocado and MCT oil.

Although much about getting older is controlled by food, exercise is also important. I can guarantee if you fuel your body with good food you will have the energy to move around and be active. None of this “I’m old and tired” crap. There’s no need to run marathons. A simple 20-30 minute walk after big meals is fantastic! Take the stairs, park far away, (unless its dark and not safe…), and go for a bike ride. Just keep moving.

Aging is only a number. If you sit around eating junk and expecting to have some catastrophic health event by a certain age because that’s just what happens, then you probably will. If you choose to eat smart, be active, and empower yourself by researching new health statistics and trends then you’ll be the inspiration a younger generation will want to become!
Soares FL, De oliveira matoso R, Teixeira LG, et al. Gluten-free diet reduces adiposity, inflammation and insulin resistance associated with the induction of PPAR-alpha and PPAR-gamma expression. J Nutr Biochem. 2013;24(6):1105-11.

Available at: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/gluten-free-diet-more-popular-than-ever-but-who-really-needs-it/. Accessed August 3, 2014.

Murray JA, Watson T, Clearman B, Mitros F. Effect of a gluten-free diet on gastrointestinal symptoms in celiac disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;79(4):669-73.

Buie T. The relationship of autism and gluten. Clin Ther. 2013;35(5):578-83.

Snacks 101

I’ve recently been a little (ok, a lot) irritated by the marketing of so-called “healthy” snacks. There is an incredible amount of information available about food choices and what you should eat, but most of it is straight-up propaganda just to sell a product. I’ve had several discussions with some very confused people about what they considered a healthy snack. The following are a few of the popular choices considered healthy, that really are not:

  1. Yogurt. Oh I know about the probiotics and protein certain companies push as healthy. However, they fail to mention the probiotic strain is usually only a single strain. This is a common strain, lactobacillus, found in most yogurt. If you eat a lot of this strain you could eventually develop an overgrowth. Why is this bad? Its bad because it “kills” off the other strains you need for your gut to function properly. You could develop gut dysbiosis. Gut dysbiosis manifests itself commonly as digestive symptoms, including (but not limited to) gas, bloating, heartburn /GERD, constipation, diarrhea, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and IBD (Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, among others). If that wasn’t enough check out the sugar content. Certain flavors of Dannon, Stoneyfield and Yoplait have 18 grams or more of sugar.
  2. Died Fruit. Yes its fruit. I am not a huge fruit fan simply because of the amount of sugar. But if its calories your worried about, dried fruit has 3 times the amount of calories as its fresh counter part!
  3. Reduced fat anything. Why would you take the fat out of something and add a chemical? First of all, the fat is what will satiate you longer. Fat is a good thing if its a healthy fat. Bacon, coconut oil, avocado….eat up! (That’s another discussion though). Reduced fat peanut butter is a go-to for some people. Here is what is in a jar of Jiff reduced fat:PEANUTS, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, SUGAR, PEA PROTEIN, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: SALT, FULLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OILS (RAPESEED AND SOYBEAN), MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, MOLASSES, MAGNESIUM OXIDE, NIACINAMIDE, FERRIC ORTHOPHOSPHATE, ZINC OXIDE, COPPER SULFATE, FOLIC ACID, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE. Seriously-this is not peanut butter…..
  4. Trail mix and granola. These aren’t the worst, but rarely does someone eat either of these without the added chocolate pieces, candied nuts or dried fruit (see above). Again, the calorie content in 1 cup is approximately 300-500 calories, which are mostly sugar. Your body burns through sugar faster than protein and fat. Hence, you will be hungry 30 minutes later…..

The next time you are overwhelmed with “healthy snack” advertisements and commercials stop and think, why are they pushing these things as healthy so desperately? Do some research, read the ingredients, and step away from the 100 calorie packs-of-crap!

Recovery is not just for addiction

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So I know everyone who read my last post rushed out and set up a workout routine (or at least thought about it). One of the most important factors when working out is an often misunderstood one….recovery.

Recovery is extremely important when exercising because that is when the body actually changes. Your body will go through EPOC ( excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). This is the replacement of ATP and muscle glycogen (fuel) used during your workout. Your oxygen levels and body temperature will restore and muscle tissue will be repaired. Exercise that uses more oxygen burns more calories! So think HIIT training or high intensity strength training, not running on the treadmill for hours and hours. EPOC is actually influenced by the intensity, not the duration of the workout.

If you strength train a muscle/muscle group, research has shown you need 48-72 hours before you train those muscles again. Age, intensity, experience, diet, stress and rest are all factors that work with or against your recovery period. Pay attention to your body during your training. Are you super tired all the time? Are you not sleeping at night? These are signs of over-training. Are you not gaining muscle or strength? You may need longer rest days between workouts or you may not be eating enough. Some people are influenced by the “more-is-better” belief. I’ve witnessed people injured, tired and sick dragging themselves to the gym because they truly believe if they miss a workout their routine will completely fall apart along with their body….seriously….I’m all for dedication, but if you are walking around like a grumpy zombie it’s no longer beneficial.

Sleep is very important for every fitness goal. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, run a marathon or gain some mass muscle, sleep is required. I’m not talking about a good 5 hours either. You ideally need 8-9 hours! A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people ate an average of nearly 300 fewer calories per day when they were well rested. A solid night of sleep may provide extra willpower to resist those cookies or chips. David M. Rapoport, MD, the director of the Sleep Medicine Program at NYU Langone Medical Center, has discovered a part of the brain that controls sleep also plays a role in appetite and metabolism. Rapoport says “when you skimp on your ZZZs, your body makes more ghrelin and less leptin. Ghrelin is a hunger hormone, and leptin is a hormone that tells you when you’re full”.

Last major topic for recovery is food. Your goals and how you feel are really going to dictate what you should be eating. Nutrition can be overwhelming and confusing with mass marketing and misinformation but there are ways to make things easier. First, eat real food. Real food does not have an ingredient label. Real food grows, walks or swims…..real food also doesn’t require pesticides or hormones. If you are putting time and effort into being fit please don’t ruin it with chemical additives. If there’s a bug in your lettuce think of it as a protein bonus! Second, pay attention to how you feel. If you are starving every morning you may have a hormone imbalance or be eating way too many carbs throughout the day. Last, you do not need workout supplements. Yes I’ve said it…..If you are working out to be fit and healthy and living a pretty normal life then you do not need a supply of mass marketed kidney killers. Real food will do everything you need it to without all the side effects.

So remember, breathe deep, sleep long and eat great.