The benefits of Magnesium

Magnesium (Chemical Element)

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body and the second most common intracellular cation (positively charged ion) after potassium, magnesium is required for the healthy function of most cells in your body, especially your heart, kidneys and muscles.

Magnesium’s benefits can include reduced symptoms from conditions such as chronic pain, fatigue and insomnia. Magnesium may also provide protection from a number of chronic diseases, especially those associated with aging and stress.

Essential to life, necessary for good health, and a vital component within our cells, magnesium’s benefits help our bodies maintain balance, avoid illness, perform well under stress, and maintain a general state of good health.

What conditions can benefit from Magnesium?
Magnesium is known to reduce muscle tension, lessen pain associated with migraine headaches, improve sleep, and address neurological disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Conditions linked to magnesium levels include:

Pain:

  • Headaches;
  • Muscle cramps and spasms.

Mental health and sleep:

  • Anxiety;
  • Depression;
  • Autism and ADHD;
  • Restless Leg Syndrome;
  • Insomnia.

Other conditions:

  • Psoriasis, Acne and Eczema;
  • Asthma;
  • Hypertension (elevated blood pressure);
  • Diabetes;
  • Osteoporosis.

Magnesium works within our cells. The powerhouses, factories and regulators of the body’s systems.

Because it is a necessary part of hundreds of biochemical reactions occurring constantly inside our cells, magnesium’s presence or absence affects the brain, the muscles, and the heart and blood vessels.

The importance of Magnesium?
There are fifteen essential minerals required by our bodies to function properly. These can be divided into trace minerals, those required in very small amounts, and major minerals, those required in larger amounts.

The six major minerals required in excess of 250 mg per day include:

  • Calcium;
  • Magnesium;
  • Potassium;
  • Phosphorus;
  • Sodium;
  • Chloride.

Magnesium impacts nearly all of systems of the body due to its cellular and molecular function. It has vital role as a co-factor to over 300 enzyme functions.

Not only one of the most vital and essential enzyme co-factors, regulating more reactions than any other mineral, but magnesium is also responsible for two of the most important cellular functions: energy production and cellular reproduction.

Magnesium and heart health
Insufficient magnesium tends to trigger muscle spasms, and this has consequences for your heart in particular. This is especially true if you also have excessive calcium, as calcium causes muscle contractions.

Magnesium also functions as an electrolyte, which is crucial for all electrical activity in your body. Without electrolytes such as magnesium, potassium and sodium, electrical signals cannot be sent or received, and without these signals, your heart cannot pump blood and your brain cannot function properly.

The heart has the highest magnesium requirement of any organ, specifically your left ventricle. With insufficient amounts of magnesium, the heart simply cannot function properly. Elevated blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and sudden cardiac death are all potential effects of magnesium deficiency and/or a lopsided magnesium to calcium ratio.

This systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2013,  concluded that circulating and dietary magnesium are inversely associated with CVD risk. Simply put, this means the lower your magnesium intake (and the lower the circulating magnesium in your body), the higher your risk for CVD.

Other notable effects include:

  • Is an important factor in muscle relaxation and heart health;
  • Creating energy in your body by activating adenosine triphosphate (ATP);
  • Allows nerves to send messages in the brain and nervous system;
  • Aids and regulates the body’s use of calcium and other minerals;
  • Assists in bone and teeth formation;
  • Regulates the metabolism of nutrients such as protein, nucleic acids, fats and carbohydrates;
  • Regulates cholesterol production and helps modulate insulin sensitivity;
  • Assists in energy production, DNA transcription and protein synthesis;
  • Maintains the structural health of cell membranes throughout the body.

Foods high in Magnesium
Magnesium in food sources were once commonly consumed, but have diminished in the last century due to industrialized agriculture and a shifting to more modern westernized diets. Below is a list of foods that are high in dietary magnesium:

  • Pumpkin Seeds;
  • Spinach;
  • Swiss Chard;
  • Dark Cocoa Powder;
  • Almonds;
  • Coffee.

Who should supplement with Magnesium?
Magnesium has been linked to reduced incidence of common conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome in large peer-reviewed, long-term studies.

Studies today focus on whether active magnesium supplementation may be one of the missing links to preventing these diseases, as well as several disorders affecting the brain, muscles and skin.

The good news is that magnesium supplementation is a safe and effective way for most people to ensure they are getting enough magnesium to stay healthy, before deficiencies arise.

How much Magnesium to supplement
While the RDI for magnesium is around 310 to 420 mg per day depending on your age and sex, many experts believe you may need around 600 to 900 mg per day.

The 10,000 swing workout

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In a nutshell

  • Challenge yourself with four weeks or five of intensive kettlebell swinging to test your grit and improve body composition;
  • At the completion of the program, you will have done 10,000 kettlebell swings dispersed throughout 20 workouts. You’ll do 500 swings per workout;
  • Between sets of kettlebell swings, do one of the following: chin-ups, goblet squats, dips, or overhead presses;
  • Master your kettlebell swing pattern. It’s not a squat. It’s a hip hinge and a hip snap. Your arms should not travel above your shoulders.

Making progress with training
As humans, we thrive when we push our boundaries, reach goals, and beat our personal records. If we’re performing faster, fitter and stronger, we tend to feel more alive.

So, if you want to improve, you have to seek out new challenges, struggle, adapt and overcome.

The 10,000 kettlebell swing workout is a challenge that will rapidly transform your overall body composition in just four or five weeks.

 

The Program
In four or five weeks, the athlete is going to perform 10,000 proper kettlebell swings. These will be split over 20 workouts. That is 500 swings per workout.

Between sets of swings, the athlete performs a low volume, strength movement. Training either four or five days per week. Training two days on, one day off, then repeat.

  • Men should use a 24kg kettlebell;
  • Women should use a 16kg kettlebell.

Breaking it down. Swing clusters, sets and repetitions
Following this repetition scheme to reach 500 total swings per workout:

  • Set 1: 10 swings;
  • Set 2: 15 swings;
  • Set 3: 25 swings;
  • Set 4: 50 swings.

That is 100 swings completed, or one cluster. Repeat the cluster another four times and you will have completed you’re daily total of 500 swings. Between sets is where more conditioned or experience athletes can add a low volume strength movement.

The strength movements
Use a strength movement with low volume between sets of swings. Some of the best movements are:

  • Overhead Press;
  • Dips;
  • Goblet Squat;
  • Chin-up.

Other movements to consider could be a front squat, weighted pull-ups or even muscle-ups. This is where you can really personalise your program. I would stay with presses or pulls. It is fair to say that after 500 swings per day, you probably won’t feel like adding any extra hip hinge work.

Use a 1-2-3 repetition scheme for most movements. Here is an example using the overhead press:

  • 10 swings
  • 1 press
  • 15 swings
  • 2 press
  • 25 swings
  • 3 press
  • 50 swings
  • Rest for 60 sec.

For the strength movements, use your five repetition max weight. If you’re conducting dips, use a 2-3-5 repetition scheme.

If you choose to lift five days in a week, conduct strength movement on four of the days and pick a day where you will only conduct the swings.

You can use a different strength movement each workout, rotating through the movements mentioned earlier. My preference is to use two days of both overhead presses and pull-ups.

Only use a single strength movement each workout.

Rest
After each set of 10, 15 and 25 repetitions, rest for 60 seconds. After each set of 50 repetitions, extend your rest to three minutes. During this longer rest period, perform some corrective work. Conduct stretches as required, such as in the hips, or lower back. Add in some mobility movements to keep your body loose.

Here is what a sample week could look like:

Day 1

  • 10 Swings
  • Press 1 rep
  • 15 Swings
  • Press 2 reps
  • 25 Swings
  • Press 3 reps
  • 50 Swings
  • Rest 30-60 seconds; repeat 4 more times.

By the end of the workout, you’ll have completed 500 swings and 30 presses.

Day 2

  • 10 Swings
  • Chin-up 1 rep
  • 15 Swings
  • Chin-up 2 reps
  • 25 Swings
  • Chin-up 3 reps
  • 50 Swings
  • Rest 30-60 seconds; repeat 4 more times.

By the end of the workout, you’ll have completed 500 swings and 30 chin-ups.

Day 3 – Rest

Day 4

  • 10 Swings
  • Press 1 rep
  • 15 Swings
  • Press 2 reps
  • 25 Swings
  • Press 3 reps
  • 50 Swings
  • Rest 30-60 seconds; repeat 4 more times.

By the end of the workout, you’ll have completed 500 swings and 30 presses.

Day 5

  • 10 Swings
  • Chin-up 1 rep
  • 15 Swings
  • Chin-up 2 reps
  • 25 Swings
  • Chin-up 3 reps
  • 50 Swings
  • Rest 30-60 seconds; repeat 4 more times.

By the end of the workout, you’ll have completed 500 swings and 30 chin-ups.

Day 6 – Rest

Day 7 – Rest, or begin the cycle again

Swing Technique
There are several variations to complete the kettlebell swing. The two main variations being the American Swing, as seen in Crossfit workouts, and the Russian Swing.

The major difference between the two variations is that the Russian Swing is primarily a hip hinge movement with the kettlebell reaching to roughly chest height, and that the American Swing there is a secondary movement where the kettlebell is pulled overhead.

While there are uses for both variations of kettlebell swings, we will focus on the Russian Swing for this program.

The condition:

Swing the kettlebell between your legs and then in front of you up to chest level for repetitions.

The swing standard:

  • Maintain the box-squat alignment during swings and when picking up or setting down the kettlebell:
    • Keep your head up;
    • Keep a straight – not to be confused with “upright” – back;
    • Sit back, rather than dip down.
  • Extend the hips and knees fully on the top: the body must form a straight line;
  • The kettlebell must form an extension of the straight and loose arm(s) on the top of the swing.

What is next?
Firstly, congratulate yourself for completing this program. If done correctly, it can be  quite the challenge. Well done.

You’ll most likely be in much better shape than you were four or five weeks ago and you should be ready for the next challenge.

Keep swinging.

Natural ways to your lower blood pressure

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Your blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). There are two numbers involved in the measurement:

  • Systolic blood pressure. The top number represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats.
  • Diastolic blood pressure. The bottom number represents the pressure in your blood vessels between beats, when your heart is resting.

Your blood pressure depends on how much blood your heart is pumping, and how much resistance there is to blood flow in your arteries. The narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.

Blood pressure that is measured lower than 120/80 mm Hg is considered normal.

Blood pressure that’s 130/80 mm Hg or more is considered high. If your numbers are above normal but under 130/80 mm Hg, you fall into the category of elevated blood pressure. 

In 2012-13, 6 million (about 34%) Australians, aged 18 years and over had hypertension, defined by having blood pressure ≥140/90 mm Hg, or were taking an antihypertensive medication.

The good news about elevated blood pressure is that lifestyle changes can significantly reduce your numbers and lower your risk. Without the requirement for medications.

Here a several ways to naturally lower your blood pressure:

Losing some extra weight (if overweight)
If you’re overweight, even dropping a few kilograms can reduce your blood pressure. You will feel better and you’ll also be reducing your risks from other medical problems.

This meta-analysis in 2016 reported that diets resulting in weight loss lowered blood pressure by an average 4.5 mm Hg systolic and 3.2 mmHg diastolic.

Exercise and physical activity 

temo-run-exercise
There is strong epidemiological evidence that regular physical activity and moderate to high levels of cardio-respiratory fitness provide protection against hypertension and all-cause mortality in both normal and hypertensive individuals.

Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure by up to 3.2 mm Hg and 2.7 mm Hg, respectively.

This doesn’t always mean that you have to go out and run marathons or spend over 15 hours in the gym per week. An increase in physical activity can be a combination of common activities such as running or weight training. It just as easily be adding incidental physical activity to your daily routine, such as:

  • Taking the stairs instead of the lift;
  • Walking over driving;
  • Playing with a child or pet.

Adding 30 minutes per day is all that is required to make a difference.

Dietary modification
Making smart changes to your diet such as cutting back on sugars and refined carbohydrates can help you both lose weight and lower blood pressure.

This 2012 analysis of low carbohydrate diets and heart disease risks found that these diets lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 4.81 mm Hg and 3.10 mm Hg respectively.

Another benefit of lower carbohydrate diets are that you generally feel fuller for longer as you’re eating more dietary protein and fats.

Eating a diet high in dietary carbohydrate from processed or refined sources without adequate physical activity can lead to unwanted weight gain, elevated blood glucose and higher blood pressure scores.

Modern diets have increased most people’s sodium intake, while decreasing overall potassium intake. Eating more potassium rich foods such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, tomatoes, bananas and rock melon can help lower blood pressure by normalizing the sodium/potassium ratio of the body.

Eat some dark chocolate

How-to-Enjoy-Dark-Chocolate-in-a-Diabetes-Diet-1440x810
Dark chocolate (at least 70%) has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Eating about 45 g per day may help lower your risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and inflammation.

Supplement your diet
Adding these dietary supplements can assist in lowering your blood pressure:

  • Omega-3 fish oils;
  • Whey protein (from grass-fed cows);
  • Magnesium;
  • CoEnzyme Q10;
  • Citrulline.

Quit smoking
Despite the smoking rate in Australia decreasing over the past two decades, 14% of Australians aged 15 and over are still daily smokers.

On average, a smoker’s life expectancy is up to 10 years less than non-smokers, and 60% of long-term smokers will die prematurely from a smoking-related disease. Giving up smoking has been shown to reduce blood pressure and overall heart disease risk.

Reduce alcohol consumption
Alcohol should always be looked at as a moderation food. It can elevate blood pressure in healthy individuals. Alcohol can raise your blood pressure by about 1.5 mm Hg for each standard drink.

Moderate drinking is considered to be no more than two standard drinks per day.

Cutting back on life stressors

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Modern westernised society is full of external stressors. Family, financial, social and workplace demands are just some of the factors contributing to elevated stress levels. Finding ways to reduce your stress is equally important to your overall health as it is to your blood pressure.

There are many ways to reduce stress, all you need to do is find which methods work best for you. Here are just a few ways:

  • Meditation and yoga;
  • Practice deep breathing;
  • Spending time in the sauna;
  • Reading a book;
  • Taking a walk;
  • Watching a comedy;
  • Listening to music.

Quality sleep
Blood pressure will naturally lower while you’re sleeping. If you’re not getting quality sleep, it can affect your blood pressure. People of experience sleep deprivation, especially those in middle-age, can be at an increased risk of elevated blood pressure.

Not everybody is able to get a good nights sleep with ease. However, there are ways that can help set you up for some restful sleep. A regular sleep schedule (going to bed and waking up at similar times daily), less time on electronic devices in the evening, exercising during the day and making your bedroom dark at night can help improve your sleep quality.

Many experts suggest that the sweet spot for optimal sleep is somewhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.

Final thoughts
If you do suffer from hypertension, some of these strategies can be of benefit. However, talk with your doctor about possible solutions to might work best for you to reduce your blood pressure without the use of medications.

What is Overtraining?

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Recovery is one of the key components to high performance in sports but is rarely appreciated by most athletes ranging from the weekend shuffler to the elite level endurance athlete. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the road to success is hard workouts, and the more the better.

A highly motivated athlete, no matter how elite, who has placed recovery on the back burner, will soon enough experience total fatigue. Waking up in the morning tired, unable to complete the easiest of training sessions. This can go on for days, weeks or even months. You’re overtrained.

How Overtraining can occur
Below is a list of just some of the reasons an athlete could become overtrained:

  • Inadequate recovery between training sessions;
  • Too much high intensity training, typically for too long;
  • Sudden drastic increases in distance, length, or intensity of exercise routine;
  • Daily intense weightlifting;
  • High volumes of endurance training;
  • No vacations, breaks, or off-seasons;
  • For athletes, excessive competition at high levels (i.e. trying to win every race);
  • Inadequate nutrition, typically in the form of caloric and carbohydrate/fat restriction;
  • Insufficient sleep;
  • High amounts of stress and anxiety.

Common Symptoms of Overtraining
There are many symptoms of overtraining, ranging from physiological to biochemical or even a compromised immune system. Here are some of the more common signs and symptoms of overtraining.

Physiological and Psychological

  • Decreased performance;
  • Decreased strength;
  • Decreased work capacity;
  • Changes in heart rate at rest, exercise and recovery;
  • Increased frequency of breathing;
  • Insomnia;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Increased aches and pains;
  • Chronic fatigue;
  • Depression;
  • Apathy;
  • Decreased self-esteem;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Irritability.

Immunological

  • Susceptibility to illness;
  • Slow healing of minor scratches;
  • Swollen lymph nodes.

Biochemical

  • Negative nitrogen balance;
  • Flat glucose tolerance curves;
  • Reduced muscle glycogen concentration;
  • Decreased hemoglobin;
  • Decreased iron serum;
  • Mineral depletion;
  • Elevated cortisol levels;
  • Low free testosterone.

Overcoming Overtraining
The only way to overcome overtraining is adequate rest along with sound nutrition. Overtraining usually results from training mistakes, most commonly is an imbalance between stress and rest. This usually occurs as an athlete suddenly increases their training workload in either volume or intensity, sometimes both.

Overtraining can be avoided by following a long-term, structured training program that has scheduled rest and recovery days. A reduction in workload for a single training week, every 6-8 weeks is also very beneficial. Taking the time out to reduce both mental and physical stressors of the modern world can help with recovery.

Training programs should be unique to the individual athlete, taking into consideration, age, experience, susceptibility to illness and injury, along with any personal goals.

Iliotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome – Is your ITB killing you?

If you’re an active person, and especially if you’re a runner, Iliotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome is one of the most common overuse injuries that can sideline you. Though many people suffer from ITB Syndrome, few understand what it is and how to treat it.

If you’ve ever had ITB Syndrome, then you know how much it can hurt, and how it feels like it’s never going to go away.

It’s one of those pains in your knee or the outside of your leg where you go out for a run or a ride, and have to limp home. Many suffer with this injury for months. It’s like a knife digging into the side of your leg or knee. The ITB is an extension of a short muscle on the side of your hip called the Tensor Fascia Lata (TFL) as well as your gluteus maximus (glute max) muscle, (that’s your behind). The ITB extends from the TFL and glut max down to the outside of your knee.

iliotibial-band-syndrome

Symptoms
Pain occurs anywhere along the ITB, usually at the insertion (by the knee) or somewhere in the middle. You’ll have pain running, riding or walking [usually down] stairs, and anytime you try to bend your leg, especially after keeping it straight for a while.

Sometimes, even waking up in the morning will be like an ice-pick in your leg. If you’ve ever had an ITB problem, you probably went through a whole slew of treatments and still had it for 3-6 months; that is very common and no fun.

Causes
ITB Syndrome occurs typically from the following reasons:

  • Often there is an actual weakness of the TFL or glute max itself. 75% of the ITB is made up of  the glute max – the major muscle you use to jump, climb, squat, run, ride your bike, and even just to get out of a chair;
  • A muscular imbalance between the inside and the outside of the leg;
  • One or both of those muscles could have fatigued from wearing the wrong type of shoes or orthotics;
  • An old injury that is still haunting you, but you don’t know it because the pain is gone, but your body has compensated;
  • An insulin issue from eating too many carbohydrates creating a gait disturbance, or even from a digestive problem, (gut inflammation can inflame the ITB);
  • Overtraining.

Treatment
Once you notice ITB pain, the best way to get rid of it is to rest immediately. That means fewer miles, or no running at all. While you’re backing off on your mileage, you can cross-train. Swimming, pool running, cycling, and rowing are all fine. If you diagnose an ITB problem early enough treatment can be as simple as rest, massage and stretching.

Medical treatment is cortisone shots and NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for inflammation and if that doesn’t help, then surgery can be recommended to cut and release the band (in severe cases).

Other keys to treating ITB and speeding a healthy return to the track are as follows:

  • Stop running. It’s simple – if it hurts to run, don’t run.
  • Increase strength. Simple exercises to strengthen the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and core muscles can aid a speedy return to the track.
  • Massage the injured area. Using a foam roller and/or a tennis ball to work out tightness in my glutes, quadriceps, ITB, hamstrings and hips.
  • Better quality sleep. Most recovery and healing happens when you’re asleep. Aim for 8 or 9 hours minimum of quality, unbroken sleep.

How baking soda can improve athletic performance

SodiumBicarbonate

Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) otherwise known as NaHCO₃, is a popular chemical compound. It is a salt composed of sodium ions and bicarbonate ions. Sodium bicarbonate is a white solid that is crystalline but often appears as a fine powder. It is found dissolved in many mineral springs.

Baking soda is a low-cost natural product that can be found in most supermarkets.

How does sodium bicarbonate work
To understand how baking soda works, it is helpful to first understand the concept of pH.

How pH affects athletic performance
In chemistry, pH is a scale used to grade how acidic or alkaline (basic) a solution is.

A pH of 7.0 is considered neutral. Anything lower than 7.0 is acidic and anything above that is alkaline.

In a normally functioning, resting human being, arterial blood pH is approximately 7.4, slightly alkalotic, and usually around 7.0 in the muscle cells. You function best when your acid-alkaline balance remains close to this target, which is why your body has various ways to maintain these levels.

High-intensity exercise, also known as anaerobic exercise can disrupt this balance.

During anaerobic exercise, your body’s demand for oxygen exceeds the available supply. As a result, your muscles cannot rely on oxygen to produce energy. Instead, they must switch to a different pathway. The anaerobic pathway.

Creating energy through the anaerobic pathway produces lactic acid. Too much lactic acid decreases your muscle cells’ pH level to below the optimal 7.0.

How sodium bicarbonate helps maintain pH
Sodium bicarbonate has an alkaline pH of 8.4 and can therefore raise your blood pH slightly. Higher blood pH allows acid to move from muscle cells into the bloodstream, returning their pH to 7.0. This enables the muscles to continue contracting and producing energy.

Scientists believe this is the primary way that sodium bicarbonate can help you exercise harder, faster or for longer

Sodium bicarbonate and athletic performance
In short endurance events lasting approximately seven minutes or less, one of the greatest challenges faced by an athlete is the build-up of acidity related to acid production by the muscles (lactic acid). As the blood and fluids surrounding the muscle cells become more acidic, their ability to function effectively is greatly reduced.

Since the 1940s, sports scientists have been looking at baking soda, as a way of counteracting this acidity.

Baking soda has been shown to reduce blood and muscle acidity by neutralising hydrogen ions associated very high intensity efforts. A review of 29 studies examined the time to exhaustion in short duration events and found an average 27 percent increase in exercise duration with baking soda compared to placebo.

Although most studies investigating the effectiveness of supplementing with baking soda  for enhancing athletic performance have mainly been focused on physical activity lasting approximately seven minutes or less, there have been numerous studies focusing on more prolonged continuous exercise with similar outcomes.

How much to supplement 
If you compete in short races or conduct intensive interval training at or above your aerobic capacity, supplemental dosages of 200-300mg/kg (about 4 or 5 teaspoons) mixed into about 500ml of water have shown to be beneficial when used before exercise. Baking soda should be sipped over a few minutes approximately 60 minutes prior to the race or workout.

Health benefits
Other health benefits of supplementing with baking soda include:

  • Ease stomach and digestive troubles;
  • Reduce heartburn;
  • Boost kidney health;
  • Sunburn remedy;
  • Toothpaste and teeth whitener;
  • Relief from insect bites;
  • Help to clear/relieve cold and flu symptoms.

Adverse effects
Although consuming baking soda orally is safe, don’t exceed the recommended dosage. Too much baking soda can upset the body’s acid-base balance leading to nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Another reason not to overdo your consumption of baking soda is that it can increase potassium excretion which could lead to a potassium deficiency.

Baking soda is high in sodium, approximately 1,200 milligrams in one teaspoon. So higher doses may not safe, especially if you have elevated blood pressure.

You should always consult with your doctor prior to using a new supplement, especially if you are on medication.

Final thoughts
For such a low-cost, this is one really affordable natural supplement that could help enhance an athlete’s physical performance, especially in events lasting seven minutes or less.

In addition, baking soda has a variety of other health benefits. For example, it can help treat heartburn, ease digestive issues and even whiten your teeth.

My training at 36-ish

Goals
Fitter. Faster. Stronger.
Always learning.

Context: 36-year-old. 180cm. Soldier. Student.

My aim is to live as long as possible and as healthy and productive as possible. I’m not a father yet, but I would like to be a parent one day and see those children grow up.

Basically, I want live well and avoid chronic disease (for as long as possible). My grandfather lived to 84 years old, although his last decade was hampered by heart disease, elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

So, I plan to use some evolutionary wisdom and apply it to modern society. Simply put, keep my metabolism as healthy as possible (eat whole foods), keep enough muscle mass and remain as mobile (be active) as I can so that I can actually get around and do everything I want to do for as long as possible… and hopefully help a few people out along the way.

Caveat: This is what has worked for me so far…

Food
For those who don’t know me, I have been following Paleo or Primal type nutrition for about six years now. For the most part it’s just eating whole foods as often as possible. I do like my full fat dairy (like cheeses and some yogurt) and they don’t really affect me in a negative way unless I eat them in excess so with a bit of discipline I’m all good.

I’ve been trying to get about 125-150g of protein per day, with a lot of cooked veggies (for nutrient density) and some healthier fats like avocado and oils such as coconut, macadamia and olive. I must admit, I been fairly liberal with my use of butter and sea salt with my cooking. Not only are they a good source of vitamins and nutrients, but they taste really good.

I would usually split this over two or three meals depending on the day and what was going on during that day or week. The last two or three months I have been fairly low in dietary carbohydrate and have felt pretty good. I do have days where I really lift my carbohydrate intake but they have been fairly random and are usually after some intense training periods where I need a bit of a boost to aid in recovery.

I do a bit of intermittent fasting here and there. I am metabolically flexible, meaning I am well adapted to using fats or ketones as an energy source. Occasionally on a low tempo day, I would dabble in a longer fast of up to 24 hours This wasn’t very regular, maybe once every 6-8 weeks.

These days I don’t count calories or worry too much about when I’m eating or not eating. Basically, I eat when I’m hungry and try to avoid processed foods when practicable.

Most weeks I eat out with friends one night which would usually lead me to the local Vietnamese Pho or Grill’d restaurants.

Supplements
I’ve been supplementing with Nordic Naturals Fish Oil. I think omega-3 supplementation is important for overall health and Nordic Naturals is basically the gold standard of omega-3 supplements.

Magnesium. This is probably one of the most important supplements for me. I generally take it post workout (especially in the warmer months) or in the evenings prior to sleep. Magnesium is vitally important to so many biological functions in the body and these days it’s not that easy to get enough from diet alone. Add in some intense training or workloads, and your requirement increases.

At the moment most of my work days are spent indoors so during the winter months I add 10g L-glutamine daily (in the morning) and about a 10ml of Nordic Naturals Cod Liver Oil every other day. The L-glutamine is got for overall health and recovery while the Cod Liver Oil is a good source of both Vitamins A and D. 

Training
There are several coaches that I go to for inspiration when it comes to my program design. They are Dan John, Pavel Tsatsoline and Ross Enimait. When it comes to strength, conditioning, combative and kettlebell training these guys have you covered. 

Over the last 12 months or so I have been playing with some basic strength and conditioning programs consisting of mostly compound movements such as deadlifts, squats, rows, bench and overhead presses. Most of the time being spent around the 3-6 repetition range.

Heavy Turkish getups (up to 50kg), kettlebell swings and farmers carries have also featured consistently in my programing. 

I had a good three or four month period where I added some decent metabolic conditioning (metcon) circuits a couple of times per week. I felt this was working quite well but I had to really ramp up my caloric intake as the metcon work really depletes the energy levels.

Running. It’s been mostly interval work and 5km racing. The days of running 10km to 21km are behind me. I just found them too taxing on the body as a whole. My preference lately has been to run 200m and 400m intervals and every now and then I just get out and run around for 4km or 6km.

I missed out on the usual Run for the Kids in 2017, but I did compete in the Run Melbourne (26:50 for 5.7km) and Melbourne Marathon (26:03 for 5.7km). This year I have run in the Sole Motive Zoo Run (25:25 for 5km), Run for the Kids (23:20 for 5.2km) and the Mother’s Day Classic (17:41 for 4km).

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Right now my training consists of three days of strength and conditioning, two days of running (easy run and some sprint work) and maybe a single boxing workout. Each workout lasts about 30-35 minutes with the exception of the boxing which usually lasts 60 minutes. This gives me a total of about three to four hours of dedicated training per week which allows me to have more free time in my week.

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Lifestyle
I’m back in Melbourne. Where I grew up. Around family and friends definitely makes life a little easier. The importance of good social connections is often overlooked when it comes to optimising health and performance.

The last twelve months have been kind of interesting for me. A lot has happened on a personal level. Some good, some not so good, but I believe overall that I have had a net win which is great.

This year will mark 15 years as a soldier. That’s basically a lifetime. Soldiering has taken me to some pretty interesting places around the world and it has given me the opportunity to learn and work alongside some professional people.

I mentioned earlier that I am once again a student. I am finally completing my studies in nutrition which I am excited about. I am doing this via correspondence which will take about two years to complete, then I’ll make a decision on where I go from there.

The big three movements

Deadlifts, overhead presses and farmer’s walks are the most important exercises. Here is why.

Barbells

If you care about being functionally strong then you must be competent at these basic movement patterns:

  1. Picking heavy stuff up off the ground;
  2. Lifting heavy stuff overhead; and
  3. Carrying heavy stuff for time or distance.

If your goal is strength and you’re not doing these, well, the best of luck with that. Yes, deadlifts, overhead presses, and farmer’s walks are really that important. Functionally, picking stuff off the ground, moving it overhead or carrying weight over  a given distance are some of the more common real world applications of strength. These movements are practiced almost daily by most people.

Additionally, I would add pull-ups, however the skillset for everybody to pull their own bodyweight over an obstacle is not commonly required these days as it was in previous generations.

Strength standards
Below are some functional strength standards that are highly achievable with some consistent strength training.

Men

  • Deadlift: 100-150% bodyweight
  • Single-arm overhead press: 50% bodyweight
  • Farmer’s carry: 100% bodyweight (total)
  • Pull-up: minimum 8 repetitions

Women

  • Deadlift: 100-125% bodyweight
  • Single-arm overhead press: 33% bodyweight
  • Farmer’s carry: 66% bodyweight (total)
  • Pull-up: 3 repetitions

Protein Powders: which are best?

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Protein powders are considered a staple of many person’s supplemental regimens, and for good reason too. Protein powders are cheap, simple, and effective. They can be used for fat loss, muscle-building, or for general health.

Recently, I have been asked about which protein powders are the best to use. I did a bit of research and have come up with the following information. Protein powders can fall under two main categories:

  • Animal-based proteins; and
  • Plant-based proteins.

There a many reasons to supplement with protein powders. Below is a list of situations where protein supplementation may be beneficial:

  • Post exercise recovery of muscle function and performance;
  • Increasing the duration or intensity of workouts;
  • Trying to gain weight or muscle mass;
  • Athletes participating in advance training;
  • Recovery from an injury or medical procedure;
  • Deciding to go vegetarian or vegan;
  • For the elderly.

Bio Availability (BV)
The BV is one way to measure a protein’s “usability”. The higher the BV, the greater the proportion of available protein that can be synthesized by the body’s cells. Note, BV scores are averages and does not refer to the amount of protein in the powder; it only refers to the usability of the protein in the powder.

 

Animal Based Proteins
Animal derived proteins are better overall than vegetarian derived. They are complete protein sources and are typically better absorbed and digested than their plant-based partners.

 

Whey (BV: 95-100)
The standard protein powder. Whey is derived from milk as the liquid component. It’s main benefits that make it stand apart from the rest are:

  • 25% branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) content by weight, approximately;
  • High cysteine and glutamine content, which aid in glutathione production and gut health; and
  • Fast absorption speed relative to other protein sources (1-3 hours).

Various forms exist, such as Whey Concentrate, Whey Isolate, and Hydrolyzed Whey (digested slowest to fastest).

Out of all protein sources, whey can also be seen as the “healthiest” due to it’s cysteine and glutamine content increasing levels of glutathione (an intrinsic anti-oxidant) in the body, and providing an abundance of glutamine for cells lining the gut.

The BCAA content is also notable as it is rich in the amino acid Leucine, which has many muscle-building properties in the body and is one of the most important amino acids to ingest in higher-than-normal doses with the goal of building muscle mass or retaining muscle mass when losing fat.

Casein (BV: 75-80)
The standard ‘slow release’ protein source. Casein is the curd (solid) portion of dairy protein. The typical benefits associated with casein supplementation are:

  • A very high insulin secretion value relative to other protein sources;
  • Slower absorption in the intestines;
  • Great evening protein source.

Casein is found in various forms such as Calcium Caseinate and Micellar Casein. These are generally slow digesting proteins (6-8 hours). These proteins are also a great source of dietary glutamine, which feed the cells lining the gut.

Casein is also a protein source that some people find difficult to digest. If you have any digestive issues with dairy products then I’d stay away from this.

Egg (BV: 100)
Egg protein is typically dehydrated egg white albumin. Egg’s main marketing points are:

  • An excellent bioavailability;
  • A balanced amino acid profile; and
  • Is a medium release protein source (3-6 hours).

Egg white protein is heat processed, so the biotin-binding compound called ‘Avidin’ (which may lead to biotin deficiency via consumption of raw egg whites) becomes a non-issue.

Collagen (BV: 90-95)
Collagen hydrolysate or Collagen Peptides are produced from collagen found in the bones, skin, and the connective tissue of animals. Collagen is the key structural protein that ensures the cohesion, elasticity, and regeneration of all of our connective tissues.

Supplementing collagen provides all the amino acids you need for connective tissue repair, and it thickens the skin for a more youthful appearance.

Some of the benefits of Collagen:

  • Gut bacteria turns collagen into butyric acid which is good for digestion;
  • Supports connective tissue repair;
  • Supports bone health;
  • Great protein source for people who can not tolerate dairy based proteins;
  • Has a high glycine content (an amino acid that increases Glutathione production which has been dubbed the master antioxidant).

 

Plant Based Proteins
Not as good as animal based protein powders. Various vegan options exist each with their own list of benefits and drawbacks. They generally do not have complete amino acid profiles and need to be paired with other sources to transform them into complete protein sources.

Soy (BV: 75-80)
Soy protein is a protein source based on soy beans. It’s main selling points are:

  • A complete vegan amino acid profile;
  • Hormonally active constituents that may benefit bone health and anti-cancer effects; and
  • Very high and diverse micronutrient profile.

Soy is a controversial topic. Soy itself in an unprocessed (food) and unfermented form has many noted downsides to it, including:

  • Protease and trypsin (intrinsic enzyme) inhibitors;
  • Disruptions to the estrogen / testosterone balance in the body (via phytoestrogens);
  • Disruptions to thyroid metabolism;
  • Lectin content;
  • Phytic acid and similar anti-nutrients.

The significance of these concerns are dependent on the form of the soy ingested (fermented, unfermented and raw, processed, etc), on the person ingesting it (post-menopausal women v. 20-year-old male) and in the dose consumed.

Rice (BV: 80-85)
Rice protein is a protein powder created from rice after the protein and carbohydrate sections have been separated by enzymatic treatment. Rice proteins main marketing points are:

  • Very easily digested (easy on the stomach);
  • Low allergen content.

It is usually paired with Pea / Gemma protein to get a more complete amino acid profile.

Pea / Gemma (BV: 70-75)
Can be seen as the ‘Whey’ of the vegan options. Pea protein is higher in the amino acids leucine, arginine, and glutamine. Pea protein’s main selling points are:

  • High leucine content;
  • High digestibility.

It is usually paired with rice protein in order to get a more complete amino acid profile.

Pea Proteins typically contain isoflavones, lectins and phytates and other anit-nutrients similar to soy.

Regarding Lectins, Phytates and similar anti-nutrients
Lectins are an extraordinarily sticky protein that particularly like carbohydrates (sugars). Once it enters into the small intestine, it has the tendency to stick to the intestinal epithelial cells, or as we’ve come to lovingly know them, the microvilli lining.

It’s here that the stage is set for yet another wonderful phenomenon known as leaky gut syndrome (I’ll save the rest for another post).

Much like lectins to carbohydrates, Phytates love to bind with calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc. The take-away here is that due to the high amount of Phytate (found in cereals, grains and legumes), vegetarian and vegan diets are almost certainly deficient in calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc.

This is the main reason why smart supplementation, and timing is required when following plant-based diets.

In summary
Use the above information as a guide only. While supplementing with protein powders can help you reach your goals, the best option is to get as much of your daily protein requirement from your diet by eating plenty of lean meats, seafood and eggs.

My personal preference is using Whey Protein Concentrate or Collagen. They have complete amino acid profiles and have excellent bioavailability.

Noting that not everyone can tolerate dairy and other animal based products, or choose not to consume them for other reasons, there are suitable plant-based proteins on the market to help you reach your daily requirement.

The choice is yours.

Ancestral tips to better sleep, health and performance during the cooler months

As we move into the cooler, darker and shorter days of winter it becomes more difficult to maintain energy levels, productivity and fight off nasty colds and flu. These common complaints become the “norm” as the seasons change and people are constantly searching for the “magic bullet” supplement to keep them running on all cylinders.

Recent studies on the daily patterns of modern hunter gatherer tribes around the world may hold a few clues in how to keep yourself health and productive throughout the winter months.

How much sleep did our ancestors get?
Did our hunter-gatherer ancestors really go to bed as the sun went down, sleeping through the night for 8-10 hours, waking up with the sun? They definitely did not have mobile phones, laptops, external light sources keeping awake all night.

In 2015, a study was conducted on several modern hunter-gatherer tribes. The San of southern Africa, the Tsimane in Bolivia, and the Hadza in Tanzania. The study found that they only slept an average of 5.7 to 7.1 hours per night. Surprised? Most sleep research today suggests that most people are sleep deprived, averaging about 6.5 hours per night. This is approximately 1-2 hours less sleep than our grandparents got two generations ago. Experts today believe the general population should be aiming for 7-9 hours sleep per night for better health.

Although very important, there is more at play than simply the amount of sleep you get. Here are some of the key factors that could help improve your overall sleep and optimise your health and wellbeing this winter.

Go to bed earlier in the winter months
Looking at the tribes mentioned earlier in the study, we’ll see that they went to bed earlier during the darker days of winter / wet season and later in the summer / dry season. The average bedtime was around 9pm in the winter months, compared to about 10:45pm in the summer.

Today a lot of people struggle to get to bed before midnight (laptops, mobile devices and TVs don’t help) and usually don’t get to bed any earlier in the winter months. This lack of sleep has been shown in research to suppress the immune system, putting you at greater risk of developing an infection such as colds and flu.

Wake up consistently with the morning sun
Most people would agree that hitting the snooze button on your smartphone in the morning and sleeping in for another few minutes feels pretty good, but is it what your body really needs? The tribal groups in the study woke up at similar time each day of the year with the morning sun.

If you have ever done any real camping you would be aware how quickly you naturally get tired once the sun has gone down. Even in front of an open fire, the body begins to wind down and processes for sleep activate naturally. Waking up is just as easy once the sun has risen and the amount of light and temperature begins to rise.

Several key hormones are produced during a natural daily pattern or circadian rhythm that new research shows gets disrupted if you constantly change your sleeping and waking time. Disrupted circadian patterns have been shown to leave you more prone to fatigue, inflammation, weight gain and even change the balance of “good” to “bad” bacteria in your gut.

If you struggle with fatigue, insomnia or frequent colds and flu, aim to have a consistent bedtime and waking time this winter. Go to bed earlier (and don’t sleep in longer in the mornings) to help kick your snooze button habit in the morning.

Exposure to a lot of morning sunlight
It’s difficult to wake in the morning and get outside during the cold days of winter. Fatigue, lack of time and general desire to stay warm keep you huddled up in your house, car, and office. However, not exposing yourself to natural light may be having a significant negative impact on your health.

Modern hunter-gatherer communities get up daily with the morning sun and engage in the vast majority of their physical activity in the morning hours exposed to natural light. In contrast, most people are indoors all morning throughout the winter. Commuting in cars and working in buildings. Not getting nearly enough exposure to natural light. Even on a cloudy day, the natural light outside provides a massive 100,000-lux, compared to only 5,000-lux in your office or home.

There is research showing that this light exposure is crucial for circadian hormone production and thus your energy levels, health and resiliency. Try to get outside to grab your morning coffee, walk a few blocks, or go outdoors in the morning for a light run/jog to start your day. You’ll feel much better for it!

The take away
Just because the modern-day hunter-gatherers studied only got about 6.5 hours sleep per night does not mean it is the optimal amount for everybody.

Traditional hunter-gatherers may require less sleep than most people in modern-day societies, due to the fact that they are not exposed to artificial lighting, mobile devices, junk food, and all of the other sleep-disrupting factors that are a part of life in modern society, and therefore experience better quality sleep than most people.

Getting quality light exposure early in the day is crucial for circadian rhythm and will optimise your energy, health and resiliency.

Your individual sleep needs may in large part be determined by your health condition and physical activity levels, as well as your evening routine and sleeping environment. If you are in great health and prioritize the quality of your sleep, you may require less than 8 hours of sleep every night.