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.

The game changer: loaded carries

Trying to find that right movement that will radically change your body.

Find that missing ingredient to your training programming that will help you build muscle faster, drop fat quicker, along with dominate on any field of play. For most of us it’s as simple as this.

The loaded carry.

Strength coach Dan John states that the loaded carry does more to expand athletic qualities than anything else out there. Because of their versatility, loaded carries can be used by anyone, anywhere. It doesn’t matter if your goal in to get stronger, build muscle, improve overall posture or even lose some body fat.

Loaded carries are very functional. Loaded carries basically work every muscle in the body. Shoulders and upper back, arms, core, and even your legs. By doing them you can improve your strength, stability, and conditioning all at once.

Some variations

Single-handed carries

  • Waiters walk. The weight is held with a straight arm overhead like a European waiter in a café. This is usually the lightest of the carries and does wonders for shoulders.
  • Suitcase walk. Grab the weight in one hand like a suitcase and walk. The obliques on the other side of the weight will want to have a discussion with you the next day.
  • Rack walk. Usually done with kettlebells, hold the ‘bell in the racked position, which is the weight on the chest, like a clean. This is a fairly remedial move but it can teach an athlete about how the abs work.

Two-handed carries

  • Press walk. This is simply a double waiter’s walk but the weights come alive as you move. Lighter weights are recommended.
  • Farmers walk. The King of Carries. Go as heavy as you can with ‘bells in both hands, just like in a Strongman competition. This can be done really heavy for short distances or lighter for great distances. My favorite variation is really heavy for great distances.
  • Double rack walk. Same as above but with two kettlebells. Again, a learning move, but it’s a great way to teach the athlete to breathe under stress.
  • Cross walk. Waiter’s walk in one hand while doing the farmers walk in the other. It’s a very interesting way to teach the athlete to lock down the midsection during movement.

Sandbags, sleds, packs and vests

  • Sandbags are a great training tool. Bear hugs and shoulder carries are common variations. Just pick the sandbag up and carry it.
  • Sleds. Nothing crazy here, just add weight, attach a rope or harness and push, pull, drag, etc.
  • Packs and vests is just adding weight to a pack or vest and moving. Pretty simple stuff. My preference is to throw on a pack and get outdoors for a hike.

How often
Do some kind of loaded carry three times a week. Farmers walks and sled push / pulls are my personal favorite moves and tend to be some of the best bang-for-the-buck choices.

Final thoughts
I’ve used many of the variations listed above with success. I’ve found that they have contributed to building muscle, improve posture and body composition and have also helped with overall physical conditioning. As a result, loaded carries regularly find their way into my programming.

A month is all it takes. Try it and get back to me. Three times a week for a month. Obviously, your grip will be better. Your legs will be stronger. You’ll discover that the weight room isn’t that tough any more. You’ll look leaner, but be bigger.

A real game changer.

Evolutionary Fitness

Eat fresh wholefoods that we were evolved to eat. Usually three times a day but occasionally skip a meal, let hunger dictate your meals. Workout with short and intense resistance sessions a few times a week. Walk, play and stay active.

– Arthur De Vany, Ph.D.

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Arthur De Vany, Ph.D. In his 70’s, is 6ft 1in, weighs approx 190lbs and has about 10% body fat.

Arthur De Vany believes that we have virtually the same genetic makeup as our Paleolithic ancestors who lived 40,000 years ago. The problem, he and many others believe, is that our environment has changed dramatically.

De Vany contends that we would be healthier, fitter, and live longer if we adopted a modern version of the Paleolithic lifestyle. Having spent more than 30 years studying and practicing how to do that, he is regarded by many as the “grandfather” of the Paleo movement.

In this post I am going to sum up some of his basic principles and show you how to get started working out and eating how we evolved to for optimal health.

Nutritional Philosophy

To call a [low-carb] diet on which humans lived for millennia a fad is just ignorant. In fact, it is the modern fad of eating a high carb, high grain, high sugar diet that is harmful.

Arthur De Vany, Ph.D.

Cook by colour and texture so that meals look beautiful. If busy, skip meals with little worry. You don’t have to have three square meals a day. Snack on nuts or celery. Drink plenty of water. Also drink tea, coffee and a little wine.

Basically, eat animal proteins, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Full fat diary is fine if tolerated.

Carbohydrates

Avoid bread, muffins, bagels, pasta, white potatoes, cereals, vegetable oils, beans or anything in a package.

These foods are empty, high-calorie foods that are not only detrimental to your health, but are of no dietary requirement to the body.

Fats, Herbs and Spices for Flavour

Spice up your food with fresh ingredients such as basil, cayenne, garlic, parsley, rosemary, spring onions or tumeric.

Avocados, nuts and seeds, and use oils, such as coconut, macadamia and olive oil, for flavor.

Celery adds texture (and is good for testosterone too).

Fruits

Fresh fruits and berries of all sorts are good; They are good source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. De Vany focuses on melon and red grapes. Fruit juice is out.

I personally have one or two pieces of fruit most days. Mostly bananas or apples, as they’re readily available to me. I do rotate as different fruits and berries come in and out of season.

Fruits are one of the best ways for quick fresh energy.

Vegetables

Eat lots of fresh raw, steamed, sauteed or grilled vegetables. Try not to use frozen, canned or packaged vegetables, although they are generally better than no vegetables.

Protein

Eat plenty of meat, such as ribs, steak, bacon, pork loin, turkey and chicken, but trim excess fat from the edges. Fish, seafood and eggs are also excellent choices. Don’t forget your organ meats, liver is one of the most nutrient dense foods available.

Try to have protein with most meals as it will improve satiety and keep you feeling fuller longer.

Intermittent Fasting

Our ancestors lived with feast and famine. Research indicates that chronic or intermittent fasting improves health. I do it the easy way. Never chronically; your mind and body will not accept it. And you will lose vital lean body mass; muscle and organ mass. Easy intermittent fasting is skipping meals randomly and eating to fill later.

Don’t be afraid to skip a meal and prolong your overnight fasts, I often workout first thing in the morning totally fasted (maybe a cup of coffee and some BCAA’s) and do not eat for up to  an hour afterwards.

This is great for Growth Hormone release and will boost lean muscle growth and accelerate fat loss.

Training Philosophy

Physically and genetically, we are built to run fast and climb trees easily. But few of us over the age of 11 do so. Which is why we’re now at the gym.

– Arthur De Vany, Ph.D.

DeVany is an advocate of intense intermittent training, keeping your workouts short and simple training with weights for no more that a couple 20-30 minute short intense sessions a week. He has based his training model on Power Law Training. You can read De Vany’s paper titled Evolutionary Fitness here.

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The Rules

Follow the “15-8-4″ routine:

  • Do a set of 15, a set of 8, and a set of 4 repetitions for each exercise using progressively more weight on the latter two sets if you can.

Keep moving:

  • Do not rest between sets or exercises. Try to average 10-15 seconds (or as long as it takes to set up the next exercise) in between sets.

Keep your workouts very short and intense:

  • Get in and out of the gym in 45 minutes or less.

Work out no more than once or twice a week:

  • Pick a random day and don’t do it on the same day always.

Exercise the major muscle groups:

  • Conduct exercises such as the dead lift, squat, bench press, bent over row, upright row, overhead press and farmer’s walks.
  • Body weight exercises like the pushup and pullup.
  • Do free body exercises at a fairly fast pace during the concentric phase and a rather slower pace during the eccentric phase.

Protect your heart:

  • Do not grip things too hard and stay loose so the blood flow is not constricted by clenched hands and teeth.
  • Don’t hold your breath, and be sure to exhale as you push or pull the weight.

Protect your spine:

  • Do the abdominal brace, contracting the erectors of the back and pushing the abdominal muscles out a bit and contracting them.
  • Maintain the curvature of your spine and pivot from the hips rather than bending the spine.
  • Use your legs versus your back when lifting and don’t be afraid to use lower weights – especially with dead-lifts.

Hanging Ab Sets:

  • Find a pull up bar and hang from it with your knees at waist level. Hold as long as you can. Repeat 2 more times.

Standing Crane:

  • A yoga balance-building move where you stand on one leg, stretch the other leg out behind you, and position your body parallel to the floor.

De Vany doesn’t believe in long cardio work like mid level intensity jogging and prefers to walk, hike and play sports to keep that side of fitness in check.

He also recommends high intensity, short duration sprint work on occasion to add variation to your training. This will promote specific hormone drives that quench hyperinsulinemia and build muscle and bone density that keep you young and lean.

In a Nutshell

  • Eat fresh wholefoods that we were evolved to eat (Art is not a believer in starchy foods);
  • Usually three times a day but occasionally skip a meal, let hunger dictate your meals;
  • Workout with short and intense resistance sessions a few times a week;
  • Walk, play and stay active.

The beauty of the Evolutionary Fitness model that De Vany has created is that it seems so simple but it allows so much room for adaptation to your own needs. This article is a very basic summing up of the principles and there is a lot more to it and a lot more one can learn.

You can check out his book, The De Vany Diet here.

Apple Cider Vinegar

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What is apple cider vinegar?
People have used apple cider vinegar (ACV) for thousands of years. Everyone from the ancient Babylonians to the Greeks used it as a cure-all for all kinds of health ailments.

Like coconut oil and grass-fed butter, ACV is enjoying a comeback among people who care about their health.

Vinegars are a product of fermentation. This is a process in which sugars in a food are broken down by bacteria and yeast. In the first stage of fermentation, the sugars are turned into alcohol. Then, if the alcohol ferments further, you get vinegar. ACV comes from pulverized apples.

ACV contains is acetic acid, which helps get rid of harmful bacteria and fungi in the gastrointestinal tract. This helps the digestion and absorption of nutrients from food in the intestines.

10 reasons to use apple cider vinegar

  1. It helps the body maintain a healthy pH level. You would think it would be acidic but in fact it helps bring your body into a more alkaline state;
  2. The alkaline effect of ACV also helps detoxify the liver, which makes it a great tonic when detoxing;
  3. It can help you lose weight. ACV works by correcting acid issues. It acts as a buffer in the body – the acetic acid reacts with base or acid compounds to form an acetate, therefore rendering them chemically bioavailable for the body’s utilization;
  4. It’s great for your lymphatic system. It helps break down mucus throughout the body and cleanse the lymph nodes. This also means it’s great when fighting a blocked nose or sinus infection;
  5. It helps improve gut flora and aids digestion. It is also said to clear up chronic acid reflux when taken with each meal;
  6. ACV is full enzymes that can help rid your body of Candida due to the malic acid and acetic acid (mentioned above);
  7. It makes a wonderful tonic for bad breath (halitosis). Dilute in warm water and gargle it morning and night;
  8. It boosts your immune system due to its antibacterial properties;
  9. It is great for your skin. Apply it topically for immediate benefits: dilute ACV with water and using a cotton pad apply as a toner or dab directly onto blemishes to dry them out; and
  10. Thickens your hair and makes it shine: Fill an old shampoo bottle with 1/2 a tablespoon of ACV and a cup of cold water. Pour the solution through your hair after shampooing several times a week.

Hot tip
Heartburn and digestive issues are two of the most common health complaints today. They are some of the standard symptoms that result from the modern westernised diet, which can result in not enough stomach acids being produced by the body (ie: hydrochloric acid).

By adding raw ACV to your diet, you can help your stomach create enough acid to start the digestion process and kill off harmful microbes.

Giving your digestion a boost is easy. Just add ACV to your salad dressings or drink some raw, unfiltered ACV diluted with water about 20 minutes prior to meals.

Why you should be eating cauliflower

Cauliflower

Cauliflower, like broccoli is a member of the cruciferous family, contains an impressive array of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other phytochemicals.

Antioxidants are nature’s way of providing your cells with an adequate defense against attack by excessive amounts of reactive oxygen species. Without an adequate supply of antioxidants to help suppress excess free radicals you raise your risk of oxidative stress, which leads to accelerated tissue and organ damage.

Why it’s a superfood?

  • High in Vitamins C and K;
  • Good source of Vitamin B6, folate, fiber, manganese, potassium, sulforaphane and omega-3 fatty acids.

Healthy evidence
Numerous studies have linked sulforaphane to reduced cancer rates in humans. A study in the Journal of Nutrition reported that treating liver cells with compounds contained in cauliflower reduced the production of lipids that increase heart disease risk when present in high levels in the blood. Other studies have reported that high intake of cauliflower was associated with a lower risk of an aggressive form of prostate cancer.

Here are some of the science backed health benefits of cauliflower:

  • Fights cancer;
  • Heart health;
  • Lowers inflammation;
  • Supports detoxification;
  • Improves digestion.

Making the most of Cauliflower
The best way to eat cauliflower is raw in fresh salads, as this will retain the vitamin C and other water-soluble nutrients. Cauliflower can be used as a great substitute for potatoes in low carbohydrate nutrition plans.

Steaming cauliflower better preserves the anti-cancer compounds rather than boiling. Better again is a healthy saute. This is done by bring either some bone broth (beef or chicken) or water to boil in a pan then lightly saute the cauliflower florets for approximately five minutes.

Skinny Fat

Skinny Fat: A physique, while not overweight (and possibly underweight), lacks any visible lean, striated tissue.

– Definition, Urban Dictionary

Conventional wisdom would suggest that if you are overweight you are generally unhealthy, and if you are thin, you are healthy. However, new research points to just how dangerous being skinny can be. Well, if you are a “skinny fat” person, that is.

The medical term for this is metabolically obese normal weight (MONW), or skinny fat. Basically, this means that you are carrying too much body fat and not enough lean muscle (generally belly fat).

Women are more commonly to be hit with MONW syndrome or skinny fat than men. A common theory is that men usually aren’t afraid to lift weight in the gym (and, to be fair, men naturally have more lean muscle than women).

On the other hand, women generally have the misconception that lifting weights immediately makes you look big and bulky (which couldn’t any further from the truth) and prefer group fitness classes like as Zumba and/or Aerobics or spend all of their time on the treadmill, stairmaster or a spin bike, not to mention inventing a million bizarre weight loss diets (with equally bizarre names).

Simply dieting can eliminate weight, but it will not strengthen anything. Also, because of physiology unique to women, the fat cells in the lower body just happen to be world-class hoarders.

Starting at an early age
In America, studies on teenagers found that 37% of skinny children had one or more signs of pre-diabetes, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or high cholesterol. Yes. You read correctly. Almost 4 out of 10 normal-weight children are pre-diabetic!

Nearly one-third of children are overweight or obese in the America. However, it appears that only 20% are healthy. This means that 8 out of 10 children in America are either overweight or have pre-diabetes or type-2 diabetes. Countries like Australia aren’t that far behind.

Processed and fast foods, video games, social media sources, reduced sleep quality and inactivity are all causative factors in developing these conditions in children.

It probably isn’t helping that many of the role models in our society aren’t exactly the picture of health, ie: skinny runway models, or super skinny guys without an ounce of masculinity in them. Whatever happened to the track and field champions of past Olympic Games? Fast, fit, strong, conditioned men and women able to compete in multiple events.

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Health issues related to Skinny Fat Syndrome
A person who is skinny fat is susceptible to the following conditions (but not limited to):

  • Diabetes;
  • Cardiovascular disease;
  • Osteoporosis;
  • Fragile bones from calcium and other nutrient deficiencies;
  • Elevated blood pressure and cholesterol;
  • Chronically low energy levels; and
  • Infertility (both men and women).

How does a person become Skinny Fat?
In no particular order, these are several of the most common ways a person can become skinny fat:

  • Eat a vegetarian or vegan diet. If you don’t eat any meat, the body will eat itself instead;
  • Eating lots of Gluten. Lectins, phytates and other anti-nutrirents setting the stage for systemic inflammation that damages the digestive tract making it harder to utilize nutrients from the rest of your diet.
  • Excessive cardio. Training your body to be catabolic, breaking down muscle tissue and to store fat;
  • Fat burning pills. Potential short-term fat burners, but in the long run they are more muscle burners and long-term fat storers;
  • Not lifting weights… Ever. Do I even need to comment here?

How to turn it all around
Reversing the effects of skinny fat syndrome is very similar to that of someone who is overweight and pre-diabetic. Using the following steps one can easily turn it all around start improving their quality of life:

  • Eat a nutrient dense, low glycemic load diet (basically a whole food or Paleo type diet). Lean meats, seafood, eggs, fruits, vegetables, healthful oils, nuts and seeds;
  • Avoid flours and sugars. Including gluten-free flour products. Even whole grain flour acts like sugar in your body;
  • Don’t drink your calories. It’s always better to chew you calories. No soft drinks, juices, sweetened drinks. Reduce alcohol to no more than 2-4 glasses of wine per week;
  • Lift and move your body. A training routine that combines both strength and cardio is important;
  • Sleep well. Sleep deprivation alters the metabolism and increases cravings for carbohydrates and sugars. Aim for 7 or more hours per night; and
  • Did I say lift? I can’t stress this enough. A simple solution to many of the problems women face. Osteoporosis, the beach season, the belly fat that wont budge… weight-bearing physical activity is the answer.

What is most alarming is that many people who think they get a pass because they are thin should actually be taking a second look at their health. It is possible to be skinny and sick and be metabolically obese, which is potentially even more dangerous.

The good news is that it is a solvable condition. By following the above points or speaking with your medical practitioner you will be well on the way to becoming a healthier person that is full of energy and has a much better overall body composition.

Why you should be eating broccoli

broccoli

Vegetables have an impressive way of offering a widespread benefits to your health. Broccoli is no exception. When you’re eating broccoli, you’re getting dozen, maybe even hundreds, of super-nutrients that support optimal health and performance.

Why it’s a superfood?

  • High in Vitamins A, C and K, along with fiber and folate;
  • Good source of magnesium, manganese, potassium, sulforaphane, quercetin and other antioxidants.

Healthy evidence

Broccoli contains phytochemicals. It is high is the flavonoid quercetin and in sulforaphane, both protect the body against cancer. Potassium and folate also help prevent cardiovascular disease. Other antioxidants provide anti-bactierial and anti-viral activity.

Here is a short list of some of the science backed health benefits of broccoli:

  • Arthritis;
  • Cancer;
  • Blood pressure and kidney disease;
  • Anti-aging and immune system health;
  • Heart health, especially for diabetics.

Making the most of Broccoli

Broccoli’s phytochemicals and heat sensitive nutrients such as folate are best retained by either not cooking, steaming or lightly sauteing.

Boiling Broccoli reduces the level of active anti-carcinogenic compounds, with losses of approx 20% after 5 min and 40% after 10 min.

Another way to enjoy the many health benefits of broccoli is by eating its sprouts. Fresh broccoli sprouts  are FAR more potent nutrient dense than mature broccoli. They have about 50 times the amount of cancer fighting power of mature broccoli. This means more bang for buck.

Broccoli sprouts can be grown at home quite easily. They don’t have to be cooked and can be added to salads.

broccoli-sprouts

An introduction into kettlebell training

What is a kettlebell?

It’s a cannonball with a handle. It’s an extreme handheld gym. It’s a great strength and conditioning tool.

The kettlebell can deliver high level all-around fitness. Functional strength. Staying power. Flexibility and mobility. Fat loss without the dishonor of an aerobics class. Kettlebells can be used virtually anywhere.

Kettlebells are traditionally measured in poods. An old Russian unit of measure, a single pood weighs 16 kilograms (kg).

The general rule of thumb is that men should start with a 16 kg kettlebell. An experienced athlete can start with a 24 kg kettlebell.

For women, it is suggested that they start with an 8 kg kettlebell and 12 kg if they’re an experienced athlete.

Kettlebell safety 101
Below is a short list of rules on how to use a kettlebell safely as stated in the book Enter the Kettlebell written by kettlebell master trainer Pavel Tsatsouline.

  • Check with you doctor before you start training;
  • Always be aware of your surroundings;
  • Wear flat shoes;
  • Never, never contest for space with a kettlebell;
  • Practice all safety measures at all times;
  • Keep moving once your heart rate is high;
  • Build up your training load gradually using common sense, and always listen to your body;
  • Instruction can not cover all contingencies, and there is no substitute for good judgement.

The kettlebell sumo deadlift
The first movement to master is the kettlebell sumo deadlift. This movement requires the athlete to safely pick up the kettlebell from the floor.

Taking a comfortable stance, with feet slightly turned out. Sit back as you would in a high chair, and pick up the kettlebell with both hands by extending your hips and knees.

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The checklist:

  • Your arms are straight; the legs are doing all the lifting.
  • Your knees are pointing in the same direction as your slightly turned-out feet.
  • Your heels are planted. You are sitting back, rather than dipping down or bending forward.
  • Your back stays straight throughout. Don’t confuse “straight” with “vertical”! “Straight” in this context means “not rounded.”
  • You are looking straight ahead, not up or down, at all times.

Once you have mastered this simple and functional movement you will be ready to progress on to more advance kettlebell movements such as:

  • The kettlebell swing;
  • The kettlebell get-up;
  • The kettlebell snatch.

I have personally used kettlebells with great success over the years and can attribute a large part of my own physical conditioning to the kettlebell.