Why you should be eating kale

kale-green

Why it’s a superfood?

  • High in vitamins A and K, folate, sulforaphane and other antioxidants;
  • Good source of fiber, vitamin C, manganese, potasssium, copper and calcium.

Healthy evidence
Kale’s high levels of antioxidants make it effective in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer. High concentrations of of lutein and zeaxanthin in particular may help prevent degenerative eye diseases such as cataract, macular degeneration and glaucoma. In addition, kale also contains high amounts of sulforaphane, a compound that studies have shown to be a potent anticancer agent.

Making the most of Kale
Boiling kale decreases the level of sulforaphane. However, steaming, microwaving or stir frying does not result in any significant loss.

Cooking kale with butter activates the vitamin K content making it more bio-available to the body.

Kale has been found to contain a group of resins known as bile acid sequestrants, which have been shown to lower cholesterol and decrease absorption of dietary fat. Steaming significantly increases these bile acid binding properties.

Adding kale to your diet can be easy. It can be added to salads and smoothies in order to boost the nutritional value.

Another popular snack is kale chips, where you drizzle some olive oil on your kale, add some salt, then bake until dry and crispy.

My training at 38-ish

So another year has gone by and I’m another year older. Here is a current update on my training, nutrition and other key happenings in life. If you’re interested, links to my previous annual updates can be found here: 36-ish and 37-ish.

Context and Goals
38-year-old. 180cm. 74kg.

I want to be fit enough, fast enough and strong enough to get through the daily challenges of life. With continued learning and adaptation, living healthy and well into old age.

Oh, and add a little more lean muscle too.

Once again, the caveat is that this is what has worked for me so far…

Food
What do I eat? You could call it some sort of ancestral or paleo type diet, but it’s basically a whole foods diet. It’s evolved over the years and I have reintroduced certain foods into the daily rotation like butter, cheese and the occasional slice of sourdough bread at breakfast.

For the most part, I just try to reduce or eliminate highly processed fast foods, crappy vegetable oils and added sugars as much as practicable.

On most days I’ll eat 2 meals with a snack, with at least 5 or 6 hours between meals, which allows the digestive system to have adequate time to do its job and metabolise nutrients to properly fuel the body.

As a general rule, my macronutrient breakdown would average out to be in the ballpark of:

  • 40-50% fats and oils;
  • 30% protein;
  • 20% carbohydrate.

More recently, I have been trying to add more carbohydrate into my diet to help facilitate lean muscle growth.

It’s definitely not keto which has become quite popular these days, but it’s still a fairly low carbohydrate diet and I would definitely be cycling in and out of ketosis on a weekly basis. I’ve done some occasional ketone testing and usually score between 0.5 to 0.8 mmol/L, which is considered nutritional ketosis. If you’re within this range you’re generally thought to be metabolically healthy, meaning that you’re able to switch between glucose (sugar) and ketones (a byproduct from the breakdown of fatty acids) as an energy source efficiently.

What does this actually look like on a plate? Well… quality sources of protein first, such as pasture raised beef, chicken, pork or some sustainably sourced fish. Then, a variety of leafy greens and root vegetables, and finally some good fats like avocado, butter, ghee, coconut or olive oil. Add some cheese like Gouda or Provolone to close out the meal and you’re done.

I eat plenty of eggs, bone broths and fermented foods, like kimchi and yoghurt. I drink a lot of mineral water and my coffee is almost always black. A glass of red wine, specifically a pinot noir or a classic gin martini is always welcome to round out the weekend.

I normally train in a fasted state, or after a cup of black coffee with some MCT oil. During periods of more intense training, I’ll have a serve of WPC prior to my workout, in order to help prevent the breakdown of lean muscle.

Contrary to what a lot of people think is best practice for weight management, most of my calories are usually consumed in the final meal of the day. I find that eating meals higher in carbohydrates at the end of the day allows me to replenish depleted glycogen stores, and preparing my body to train early the following day. I also have more time available in the evening to get creative and prepare larger meals.

This has worked well for me for the last 12-18 months, I’ve been able to maintain my weight and body composition easily and have had fairly consistent energy levels throughout the day.

I’ll stress this again, this has worked well for me.

Adding some additional weight to this argument is that I’m human, and I’m more likely to be sharing a meal in the evening after work with friends or family. This was the case until recently. The global COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent societal lockdowns have greatly restricted what individuals or groups of people are able to do in public. But more on that later…

Intermittent fasting and time-restricted feeding. There is a difference. As mentioned earlier, I generally eat two main meals per day. One meal post workout and one at the end of the day. I would argue that this is called time-restricted feeding, with all meals being consumed within a predetermined window of time, for example between 12pm and 8pm on a regular basis.

Intermittent fasting is exactly that. Intermittent, meaning occasional. Humans have evolved over time to thrive through seasonal periods of both excess and limited food availabilities. This is why the body can switch and use both ketones and glucose as an effective energy source.

How do I fast? Depending on the day, lets say a typical day where I do a strength workout, I might only have a 10-12 hour overnight fast while on other days I can stretch it out to 16-18 hours with ease. Occasionally on a low tempo day, I would dabble in a longer fast of up to 24-32 hours. This wasn’t very regular, Maybe only 3 or 4 times over the last 12 months.

Eating out. It’s 2020 and eating out is a part of modern life. Well it was until recently. The global COVID-19 outbreak has placed the community on lockdown which has greatly restricted people from eating out. In fact, eating out is dead, for now. A lot of restaurants have had to resort to takeout or delivery options just to continue daily operations. Many places have closed indefinitely. Hopefully in the near future some restaurants will be able to reopen, even if it means limiting the amount of customers dining at any given time.

Lucky I know a little bit about nutrition and how to cook.

Supplements
I don’t take a lot of supplements on a daily basis. I try to get all of my nutrient requirements through diet alone, with the addition of some Cod Liver Oil during the winter months to boost vitamins A and D, which among things, support optimal immune system function.

As mentioned earlier, my pre-workout is typically a cup of black coffee with some MCT oil, and I’ll occasionally use a whey protein powder pre or post workout.

Magnesium. This is probably one of the most important supplements for me. Mostly taken post workout in the warmer months or in the evenings prior to sleep. Magnesium is vitally important to over 300 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 some elevated stress or workloads, and your requirement increases.

Additionally, over the last 12 months I have added Olive Leaf Extract during the standard cold and flu season to help strengthen the immune system.

Training
Strength and conditioning. During the last 12 months I’ve focused on two training protocols. The first being mostly completing the bigger compound lifts first, then finish up with some accessory exercises and a finisher.

That means, deadlifts, power cleans, weighted pull-ups, horizontal and vertical presses. Followed by some accessory work like push-ups, dips, cable rows, split squats and ab rollouts.

Sets and repetitions will vary from workout to workout, but generally I’ll aim for about 12-20 repetitions in total for each movement. How many sets it takes reach that total will depend on how I’m feeling on the day.

My other strength and conditioning focus has been the kettlebell lifts. These can be more dynamic and can develop strength and conditioning when implemented in circuit style training. I’ve found that I can get a higher volume in lifts during my kettlebell training phases, not to mention a good sweat.

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

These three exercises are so good for you that you could almost base your entire strength and conditioning program around them and you’re likely to see consistent progression throughout the year.

Really simple. But simple works. I can also finish most workouts in about 30 or 40 minutes.

I’m not breaking any strength records, but I’m tracking pretty good for a guy who is nearly 40 years old. I’m athletic, generally in good health and rarely injured, meaning that I have the ability to be consistent. This allows me to be active just about any day that I choose, which is most.

Running. It’s been mostly interval work and 5km racing. Occasionally, I’ll run longer distances out to about 8km. For the most part however, it’s just the shorter, more intense runs that I feel the most benefit from.

In the last twelve months I have competed in the following events:

  • Mothers Day Classic, 4k (18:22min) (11th in category)
  • Run Melbourne, 5.2k (22:40min) (18th in category)
  • Melbourne Marathon, 5k (21:23min) (3rd in category)
  • Portsea Twilight, 4k (DNS)

I suffered severe muscular spasms in my back several days prior to the Portsea Twilight 4k which forced me not to start the event. It was a bit of a setback, and it took several weeks to recover and resume training at lighter loads which caused me to miss some of the summer circuit before the COVID-19 restrictions suspended all races.

I also competed in five virtual races with the New York Road Runners (NYRR), where you track a run locally and upload it to a global leaderboard.

Virtual Races:

  • NYRR Global Running Day Virtual, 1.6k (6:55min)
  • NYRR World Championship Virtual, 5k (22:36min)
  • NYRR TCS NYC Marathon Virtual, 5k (22:31min)
  • NYRR Resolution Run Virtual, 5k (22:34min)
  • NYRR Virtual, 5k (21:44min)

Basketball. Last year I started playing basketball again. Both socially and competitively. It’s a sport I’ve played since I was 12 years old. The only time away from the sport was from 2006-2013, when my military career took priority and I was unable to commit to the sport due to the amount of time I was away from home.

I was fortunate enough to play for Victoria in 2019 Defence Force National Basketball Championship. It was extremely competitive level of basketball and a lot of fun. It had been a while since I had played at such a high level of sport.

With other quality offensive players on the team, I didn’t shoot or score in the volume that I am normally required to do when I’m on the court, but it was great to play a lot of effective minutes and contribute to the team, especially in some of the closer contests.

The Men’s title was won by New South Wales and the women’s title went to Queensland.

Overall, I’m having a lot of fun playing sport again. I just love competing. Each night I’m matching up against players half my age so it’s a good feeling to be competitive and even beat most of my opponents on a nightly basis.

Right now my training consists of three days of strength and conditioning combined with two or three days of running (mostly easy/mid level efforts and some sprint work). Each workout will last about 30 minutes.

On the days I haven’t run, I usually go for an evening walk around the river for about an hour. I’ve found it a great way to stay mobile, relax and keep up-to-date on listening to some informative podcasts.

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March 2020. The final week before gyms were forced to close due to COVID-19.

COVID-19. With the government imposed community lockdowns in an attempt to “flatten the curve” during the global COVID-19 outbreak, I’ve had to make fairly significant changes to how I train. Firstly, the gyms are closed until further notice.

Personally, I feel that this has been a great opportunity to explore other areas of fitness. I’m fortunate enough to have spent the last 17 years in the military and have a solid understanding of “real” functional fitness. With gyms closed people have had to get creative with their workouts.

I have started to incorporate more circuit type workouts into my programming where I’ll run for 10 to 15 minutes, then conduct a series of bodyweight movements like push-ups, pull-ups, air-squats and mountain climbers then run the return leg.

Alternatively, I have a few training aids at home including some kettlebells, a sandbag, a sledgehammer, a deadball and an ab wheel that I can incorporate into home workouts.

Probably not too bad a set up for general fitness and conditioning training. Most strength based workouts are combining a variation of an overhead press with some pull-ups and goblet squats, then finishing with either high volume sledgehammering or swings.

Add in the occasional sprint workout, hike or loaded lift and carry and you’re set.

A final point. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

Lifestyle
I’m living in Melbourne, Australia. It’s my fourth year at home and I’m loving it. Being around family and friends definitely makes life more enjoyable. The importance of good social connections is often overlooked when it comes to optimising ones health and how they perform on a daily basis.

I love a cup of coffee and can be always found at cafe on the weekend post workout catching up with friends. I also don’t mind entertaining friends with the occasional get together at my apartment. The annual Hot Cider and Christmas Cocktail nights were a lot of fun and both had good turn outs.

A key point to note here is having flexibility. No-one is perfect and it’s fine to make mistakes. The important thing is to learn from these experiences. Everyone is human, and we all have to live in the present day. I make mistakes, just like everybody else. I always try to seek constructive criticism so I can make a better, more informed decision the next time a particular event crosses my path.

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Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown. At about 1450m elevation, on the way to roughly 1700m.

Travel. Last June I was fortunate enough to travel to the southern island of New Zealand for two weeks. It was my first time visiting. I spent time in Christchurch, Mount Cook, Lake Tekapo, Wanaka, Queenstown and Dunedin. During that time I was able to conduct multiple hikes saw some amazing country. I was also able to catch up with a good friend towards the end of my trip in Dunedin.

As usual, I also spent some time at the family holiday home on Mornington Peninsula. Always a great option for a lazy weekend getaway and some valuable beach time.

My studies. In December 2019, I completed a Diploma level qualification in Nutrition. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, my graduation ceremony was postponed indefinitely. I have since received my qualification in the mail.

The global COVID-19 outbreak. As I mentioned earlier, the COVID-19 outbreak has forced the government to lockdown the community in an attempt to slow the infection rate to reduce the burden on the medical system. It’s a global problem. Almost everybody has been effected in one way or another.

I’m lucky enough to still be employed and have some sort of normal daily structure. Defence provides a critical role within many areas for the nation from national security to logistical and medical support. Many industries however, are not as fortunate and many people have been out of work for several months now.

The lockdown has changed the modern way of life as we know it. No travel. International travel has stopped. Gyms, social sports, cinemas, cafes, restaurants, bars are all closed… and the list goes on.

Forced social distancing means less face-to-face human interaction and more online interactions through social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Zoom.

The thing here is that humans are innately social creatures. Telling people to stay away and isolate from each other during an incredible stressful time is kind of counter intuitive. People generally want to help each other and offer support where they can to benefit those in need, but in this case, the message has been to stay home and isolate. I haven’t seen the statistics, but it’s safe to say there will be an increase in mental health conditions relating to extended social isolation.

Some really good lifestyle tips that I’ve picked up from other people much smarter than me on keeping both mentally and physically healthy that can be applied during the lockdown and other periods of isolation:

  • create daily structure with regards to time management;
  • get daily sun exposure;
  • daily physical activity;
  • eat nutrient dense foods;
  • read more;
  • build a consistent sleeping pattern;
  • keep up social connectivity, face-to-face or via video conferencing.

Who knows what the next 12 months will bring? Hopefully, the world has found a way to better manage the whole COVID-19 situation and we’re all out and about again returning to somewhat of a normal life. One thing is for sure, society will be different in 12 months time.

Until then… Live well. Train hard. Enjoy life.

Why you should be eating bell peppers

bell peppersBell peppers belong to the nightshade (Solanaceae) family of plants, along with eggplant, tomatoes and white potatoes (but not sweet potatoes). Although most people have no problems with nightshades, they can have negative health effects for people struggling with inflammatory bowel disease or an autoimmune disease, such as celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

However, more research is needed before definitive claims can be made.

Why it’s a superfood?

  • High in vitamins A, C and B6 along with fiber and folate;
  • Good source of vitamins E and K, manganese, potassium and several antioxidants and phytonutrients.

Healthy evidence
Bell peppers are one of the highest sources of vitamin C and a single cup can provide over 200% of the recommended daily intake of this important nutrient. Bell peppers are also an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids).

Both of these nutrients are critical for proper immune function.

What is the difference in bell pepper colours
Most varieties of bell peppers start off green in color and undergo color changes during the process of maturation. These colour changes can range from yellow, oranges to reds and even purples.

My training at 37-ish

Goals
Fitter. Faster. Stronger. Wiser.
With continued learning and adaptation. Always tinkering.

Context: 37-year-old. 180cm. 75kg. Soldier. Student.

Basically, I want live well into old age, being able to contribute to society and avoid chronic disease (for as long as possible).

How do we do this?

As a start point, using the basic human evolutionary blueprint and applying it to the modern environment, I have found that for me, it has allowed me to look, feel and perform to a pretty good standard without too much compromise.

Simply put, try to keep my metabolism as healthy as possible (by eating whole foods), keep enough muscle mass and remain as mobile (by being 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.

Once again, the caveat is that this is what has worked for me so far…

Food
For those who don’t know me, I have been following Paleo type nutrition for nearly seven years now. For the most part it’s just eating whole foods as often as possible, and cutting out highly processed vegetable oils and sugars as much as practicable.

I rarely count calories and eat when I’m hungry. On occasion, I’ll track using a smartphone application to get a ballpark estimate of how balanced my food intake is. Generally, I’d say my macronutrient breakdown would be roughly:

  • 50-60% fat;
  • 20-25% protein;
  • 15-20% carbohydrate.

Is that keto? Technically, no. It would be pretty close and there would definitely be times through out the year that I would naturally cycle into ketosis.

I normally train in a fasted state, or after a cup of black coffee with some MCT oil and collagen.

My basic plate is a piece of animal protein with a bunch of vegetables and/or salad topped off with some butter or olive oil and sea salt. I eat plenty of eggs and I enjoy full-fat cheeses and dark chocolate (85% min). Mineral water, black coffee and red wine, specifically pinot noir are my drinks of choice.

Mostly I’m eating two meals per day, usually after I have trained. Most of my calories would usually be consumed in the final meal of the day. Mostly because I have more time available in the evening to prepare larger meals.

Another reason would be that I’m more likely to be sharing a meal after work with friends or family and sometimes it’s just easier. Being flexible and understanding the process is key here. There’s nothing worse than being “that guy or girl” who doesn’t eat at a group meal because it’s five minutes into a proposed fasting window.

Finally, when you’re a person who is generally a eating low-carbohydrate diet, getting all of your carbohydrates in the evening can replenish glycogen stores (energy stored in the muscles), and the elevated insulin response helps produce more tryptophan, which allows the process of converting serotonin into melatonin, leading to a more restful sleep.

On occasion, I will eat a third meal, typically if I’m doing a bit more physically at work, if I’m planning an evening workout or if I’m hungry. Super simple.

Intermittent fasting and time-restricted feeding. There is a difference. As mentioned earlier, I mostly eat two meals per day. One meal post workout and one at the end of the day. This is called time-restricted feeding. All foods are consumed within a window of time, for example between 12pm and 8pm.

Intermittent fasting is exactly that. Intermittent, meaning occasional. I am metabolically flexible, meaning that I am well adapted to using fats or ketones as an energy source, allowing me to go longer periods of time without feeling hungry or craving food. Occasionally on a low tempo day, I would dabble in a longer fast of up to 24-32 hours. This wasn’t very regular, maybe once every 8 to 10 weeks.

Most weeks I eat out with my team mates on a Friday morning at a local cafe, and with friends one night which would usually lead me to the local Vietnamese Pho restaurant.

Supplements
I generally don’t take a lot of supplements on a daily basis. I really try to get everything through whole food nutrition. My pre-workout is usually just a cup of black coffee and I randomly use a whey protein powder post workout. Outside of that, it’s only occasional cycles of fish oil, cod liver oil and magnesium.

Magnesium. This is probably one of the most important supplements for me. Mostly taken post workout or in the evenings prior to sleep. Magnesium is vitally important to over 300 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.

During the winter months I spend a bit more time indoors and get a little less sun exposure, so I add about a 10ml of Nordic Naturals Cod Liver Oil every other day. The Cod Liver Oil is a good source of DHA along with Vitamins A and D, which have a variety of health related benefits.

Training
Strength and conditioning. The last 12 months I’ve focused on compound movements for general strength and conditioning such as deadlifts, power cleans and overhead presses. The break down of sets has varied, with a focus of no more than 10-15 working repetitions per movement.

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

These three exercises are so good for you that you could almost base your entire strength and conditioning program around them and constantly see improvements throughout the year.

More recently, I have broken down my workouts into the following workout template:

  • Vertical press/pull, hinge and loaded carry;
  • Horizontal press/pull, hinge and loaded carry.

Really simple. But I’m finding that keeping it simple is working well for me. I can also finish most workouts in about 30 or 40 minutes.

I’m not setting any world records with my weight training but I’m fairly strong and athletic for a nearly 40 year old, 75kg guy. I’m rarely injured and generally have the energy to perform every day. Oh, I can also run reasonably quick.

Running. It’s been mostly interval work and 5km racing. Occasionally, I’ll run a longer distance out to about 8km, but the days of longer endurance distance running are in the past. For me, its too taxing on the body, and just takes up too much of my time. My preference lately has been to run 50m to 400m intervals and every now and then I just get out and run around for 20 or 30 minutes.

I’ve enjoyed running some of the major running events throughout the year. Firstly, it’s nice to have short term training goals, but I believe that it can give you a pretty good snapshot of how you compare physically (at least when it comes to running) across society in general.

In the last twelve months I have competed in the following events:

  • Mothers Day Classic, 4k (17:43min)
  • Run Melbourne, 5.2k (23:09min)
  • YMCA Fathers Day Run, 5k (23:37min)
  • Melbourne Marathon, 5k (24:14min)
  • Portsea Twilight, 4k (17:43min)
  • Sole Motive Sunset Series Zoo Run, 5k (22:47min)
  • Sole Motive Sunset Series The Tan, 4k (17:20min)
  • Run for the Kids, 5.2k (23:48min)

I also competed in two virtual races with the New York Road Runners (NYRR), where you track a run locally and upload it to a global leaderboard.

  • NYRR Valentines Day Virtual, 5k (23:02min)
  • NYRR NYC Half Virtual, 5k (22:25min)

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Right now my training consists of three days of strength and conditioning combined with two or three days of running (mostly easy/mid level efforts and some sprint work). Each workout lasts about 30 or 40 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 to enjoy some of the other things in life, such as coffee and hanging out with friends and family.

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Lifestyle
Living in Melbourne, Australia. This is home. Most likely for another 2 years. Being around family and friends definitely makes life a little easier. The importance of good social connections is often overlooked when it comes to optimising ones health and performance.

A key point to note here is flexibility. No-one is perfect and you’re aloud to make mistakes. Everyone is human, and we all have to live in the present day. I love a cup of coffee and can be always found at cafe on the weekend post workout catching up with friends. I have my nights out which will almost always end up at a local wine bar.

Sleep. This is really important if you want to be at your best. I’ve tried really hard to get as close to 8 hours a night of solid sleep. Having a cool and dark place to sleep is a good start, combined with a fairly standard daily wake time (ie: fairly close to sunrise) will set you up for success. There is whole post here to flesh out this topic alone.

Sleep quality will impact your energy levels, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, body composition, overall immunity, heart disease risk. The list goes on… It’s the closest thing to the mythical “magic bullet” for health and performance.

This year will be my 16th as a soldier. Almost a lifetime. Whilst I don’t do too much soldiering these days due to my current role and position, I think it’s still important to keep those skills refined.

While it isn’t soldiering, I do like hiking and camping. Being outdoors is a pretty good escape. I try to get out every now and then for an overnight hike with friends, just to take some time out from the plethora of electronic devices and social media platforms that seem to take up so much of our lives today.

I was lucky enough to get away in January for a 3 week vacation to New York City. This was my fifth visit and it never ceases to amaze. I did a bit of sight seeing, revisiting some favourites, saw a show on Broadway, got to an NBA game and got to see my team win. Had the opportunity to meet new people and catch up with some old friends. I also drank a fair bit of coffee during the day and hot apple cider in the evenings.

Later this month I’m heading to the South Island of New Zealand for 10 days. I’ve never been and it’s something I’ve been looking forward to for sometime. I’m hoping to get a glimpse of the Southern Lights and maybe a bit of alpine hiking.

My parents have a holiday house on the Mornington Peninsula which I try to get away to every couple of months for a weekend. I’ve been going there my whole life and there is just something about coastal communities that is just relaxing.

My studies. This year I will complete a Diploma level qualification as part of a Bachelor of Nutrition. Doing this via correspondence which has it’s own unique set of challenges but overall I am enjoying it.

I don’t know what the next 12 months will bring, but I’m going to keep on tinkering and fine-tune ways to optimise health and performance as I move forward into the future.

Why you should be eating cinnamon

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What is called cinnamon in most western countries is usually called cinnamon cassia, which comes from an evergreen tree native to China, Bangladesh, India and Vietnam. It is closely related to true cinnamon, cinnamomum verum, also known as ceylon cinnamon.

Cinnamon has been an important spice for thousands of years, and was once even more valuable than gold. It is often ground into a fine powder and used as a flavouring for desserts, curries and in baking. It is also used in some religious rights and even medicinally.

Why it’s a superfood?

  • High in fiber and mangansese;
  • Good source of calcium and iron;
  • Contains antioxidant anthocyanidins and chalcone polymers.

Healthy evidence
This study from 2009 reported that cinnamon was effective in the treatment of diabetes. In patients with diabetes, taking 1 gram of cinnamon daily for 90 days significantly lowered an important blood marker for blood glucose control, HbA1C. Researchers concluded that cinnamon could be useful to regulate blood glucose.

Cinnamon stimulates insulin-like activity. It can reduce insulin resistance in the body. This helps glucose to metabolise within the liver and lower the amount remaining in the blood. This meta analysis conducted in 2015 reported that taking doses of 120 mg/day for approximately 4 months resulted in a decrease in fasting blood glucose and an improved lipid profile.

Making the most of cinnamon
The consumption of roughly 1 tablespoon of cinnamon daily can be beneficial to health. Mix cinnamon in yoghurt, or alternatively add cinnamon to your hot drinks, such as coffee, tea or cocoa.

I regularly add some cinnamon to my morning coffee. Give it a try, and let me know what you think?

The evolution of the human diet

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The human diet has changed quite dramatically throughout our history. From opportunistic scavengers, to traditional hunter-gatherers to the postindustrial age.

There have been obvious advantages with the evolution of modern society, however the majority of changes in the human diet that accompanied both the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions, affected the general health of modern humans, and not always in a good way.

Let’s have a look.

The Paleolithic era (2.6 million years ago – 10,000 years ago)
As hunter-gatherers, the general diet was varied due to differences in geographical location and season, however they all consisted of wild animal and plant sources.

Macronutrient distribution was approximately:

  • Protein: 19-35%
  • Fat: 28-58%
  • Carbohydrate: 22-40%

Other characteristics of hunter-gatherer diets included:

  • Low glycemic load;
  • High antioxidant capacity;
  • High micronutrient density;
  • Equal Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio;
  • Close to equal Sodium to Potassium ratio.

Did hunter-gatherers eat grains and grasses? Probably. Did they eat them often? Unlikely. The effort required to consume unprepared grains or grasses would have been too taxing on the digestive system, which would have likely led to decreased performance and not enough of an energy return to warrant regular consumption.

As a result, hunter-gatherers were generally lean and strong, with dense bones and broad dental arches. Health biomarkers such as blood pressure and cholesterol were generally normal into advanced age.

Evidence suggests that the incidence of diet related disease was low.

The Agricultural Revolution (about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago)
Archaeological data indicates that the domestication of various types of plants and animals started happening in separate locations worldwide around 12,000 years ago.

The transition from a lifestyle of hunting and gathering to one of agriculture and settlement, made larger populations possible. This however, greatly narrowed the diversity of foods available, resulting in a downturn in human nutrition.

Grains and dairy products from sheep started to become dietary staples at the expense of larger wild animals.

As a result, common characteristics of early agricultural diets, compared to hunter-gatherer diets included:

  • Higher carbohydrate, diary fats, milk sugars and alcohol;
  • A decrease in protein intake;
  • A decrease in Omega-3
  • A decrease in antioxidants and micronutrients;
  • Higher overall caloric density;
  • Higher glycemic loading;
  • Higher sodium to potassium ratios.

The transition to an agricultural dietary pattern led to a decrease in lifespan, a reduction in height, an increase in dental health problems, iron deficiency anemia, and several bone mineral disorders.

These health issues can be still seen today in hunter-gather communities that have only recently been exposed to post-agricultural diets.

The Industrial Revolution (about 250 years ago) and Modern era (the last 50 years)
The introduction of novel foods with the industrial revolution altered several nutritional characteristics of human diets, which has had far-reaching adverse effects on human health.

Extensive evidence shows that the consumption of westernized modern era diets adversely affects gene expression, immunity, gut microbiota and increases the risks of developing cancer, heart disease, obesity, type-2 diabetes, and a plethora of other chronic health conditions.

Common characteristics of industrial and modern era diets, compared to hunter-gatherer diets include:

  • Higher carbohydrate, alcohol, trans-fats, sodium & omega-6;
  • Lower in fiber, antioxidants, protein and omega-3;
  • Higher glycemic load;
  • Higher energy density;
  • Lower micronutrient density;
  • Higher sodium to potassium ratio.

Even with the advances in medicine and technology, it has been estimated that the next generation will be the first in over one thousand years to actually have a shorter lifespan average than the current generation.

Many of the diet related diseases of the modern era can be reversed by increasing daily physical activity and modifying diet by eliminating known inflammatory foods. The issue however, is figuring out how to implement these changes at population-wide levels.

Using almonds for recovery

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About Recovery
Recovery nutrition encompasses a range of physiological processes that include:

  • Replacing the muscle and liver glycogen (carbohydrate) stores;
  • Replacing fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat;
  • Manufacturing new muscle protein a d cellular components that are part of the repair and adaptation to exercise;
  • Enabling the immune system to face the challenges caused by exercise.

 

Almonds for Sport
Almonds provide a wide range nutrients that help to keep the body healthy for sports and performance. A single handful per day will help meet your needs. Almonds provide protein, as well as monounsaturated fats, including the antioxidant vitamin E. They also include other important vitamins and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin B2.

Refuelling
During the immediate post exercise window (0-30 minutes), athletes should consume a meal consisting of both carbohydrate and protein in a 4-5:1 ratio. This is important as the rate of glycogen synthesis is at its greatest. This is of even greater importance if the next training session or competition in within the 8 hours.

If the session is close to the next meal time this would be a part of the recovery process. Another meal following a similar ratio between carbohydrate and protein should be consumed. The type of food chosen would need to take into consideration the individual athletes daily caloric requirements, gastric comfort and food availability.

Rehydration
A fluid deficit incurred during training or competition has the potential to negatively impact on an athlete’s performance in future training or competition sessions.

To combat this, athletes should aim to consume 125-150% of their estimated fluid losses within the next 4-6 hours after a session. The addition of sodium, along with other electrolytes to a drink or with the post workout meal will reduce further fluid loss, therefore enhancing fluid balance and overall recovery.

Muscle Repair and Building
Both high intensity and endurance exercise cause a substantial breakdown of muscle protein. During the recovery phase there is decreased catabolism and a gradual increase in the anabolic processes of muscle tissue. Early intake of protein during the first hour after exercise promotes the increase of protein synthesis.

The quantity of protein needed to maximise this adaptation to physical activity is 15-25g of high quality protein. With the addition of carbohydrate to this meal, you will aid the body ability to transport the proteins into the muscles.

Immune System
The immune system is taxed by intensive physical activity. This may lead to athletes succumbing to viral infections during or after periods of intense training or competition.

Evidence indicates that the most promising nutritional immune protectors include adequate carbohydrate intake before, during and after high intensity or endurance exercise. Other nutrients that have been identified as immune protectors include Vitamins A, C, D, E, along with glutamine and zinc.

Including Almonds as part of Recovery
Here are some ways that you can use almonds to help you meet the goals of recovery:

  • Salted almonds and fluids enhancing hydration;
  • As part of a snack providing a source of protein to enhance muscle repair and building;
  • As a source of Vitamin E for the immune system.

Here are some examples of almonds being used in recovery meals

Breakfast:

  • Yoghurt with berries and chopped almonds or LSA mix;
  • Diced coconut, almonds, dates and apple.

Lunch:

  • Chicken and almond stir fry with root vegetables;
  • Lean meat, salad and a handful of almonds.

Dinner:

  • Chicken salad sprinkled with roasted almonds;
  • Red chicken, vegetable and almond curry with white rice (or cauliflower rice).

Snacks:

  • Almond bar;
  • Trail mix with dry roasted and salted almonds;
  • Yoghurt with chopped almonds.

 

Intermittent Fasting 101

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Intermittent Fasting (IF) is more of a dietary pattern than a diet. Simply put it is an eating pattern that cycles between feeding and fasting. Sounds simple?

There is no real specificity to which foods are to be eaten and which are to be avoided, with the focus being on when you eat your food. In this respect, it is more accurately described as an eating pattern.

Common methods of IF involve daily 16-hour fasts or fasting for 24 hours, once or twice per week.

Fasting has been a practice throughout human evolution. Our ancestors didn’t have access to supermarkets or fast food outlets, and at times food wasn’t even available for them to hunt or gather.

As a result, the human body was able to adapt to be able to function optimally bothe physically and cognitatively without food for extended periods of time.

In fact, sporadic periods of fasting is more natural than eating 3 or 4 meals per day.

Common methods of Intermittent Fasting
There are many ways to conduct a fast, all of which contain a period of eating and a period of fasting. During a period of a fast, you eat very little or nothing at all.

However, Paul Jaminet, the author of the Perfect Health Diet has a valid argument for the consumption of coconut oil and bone broth during a fast.

Here is a list of the most popular methods

  • The 16/8: Also known as the Leansgains protocol. It involves skipping breakfast and restricting your caloric intake to 8 hours, such as 12-8pm, then fast for 16 hours.
  • Eat. Stop. Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice per week.
  • The 5:2 diet: This method, you can consume up to 500 calories on two, non-consecutive days, then eat normally the other five days.

By reducing the total caloric intake over a period of time, all of these methods should lead to weight loss, so long as you’re not over compensating by overeating during your eating periods.

This can be avoided by eating natural whole foods such as, meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, with some fruits and nuts.

Most people find the 16/8 method the easiest, most sustainable method to adopt. It is also the most popular.

How intermittent fasting affects your cells and hormones
During periods of fasting, several things happen to your body on a cellular level. For example, your body adjusts hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible as an energy source.

At the cellular level, certain cells initiate important repair processes and change the expression of some genes.

Here are just some of the changes that occur in your body when you fast:

  • Human Growth Hormone (HGH): HGH levels increase up to 5 times, this provides benefits to both muscle growth and fat loss.
  • Insulin: Insulin sensitivity improves and levels of insulin drop dramatically. Lower insulin levels allow stored body fat to be more readily accessible.
  • Cell repair: When in a fasted state, cells initiate cellular repair processes. This includes autophagy, where cells digest and remove old dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells.
  • Gene expression: Certain changes occur in the function of genes in relation to longevity and protection against disease.

These changes in hormone levels, cell function and gene expression are responsible for many of the health benefits of intermittent fasting.

Health benefits
There is a lot of science backed evidence showing the health benefits related to optimising weight control, the health of your body and brain. There are even some studies that suggest it may help you live longer.

Intermittent fasting and weight loss
Conventional wisdom discourages skipping meals, which is often associated with eating disorders and unsustainable crash diets. However, deliberately practiced IF, can be a powerful tool for weight loss.

Fasting involves caloric restriction. Sometimes, it easier to fast than to count calories.

Hormonal changes involved in fasting also promote weight loss, even if you don’t restrict calories. Fasting lowers the body’s levels of insulin, a hormone that prevents the release of stored body fat. With lower insulin levels, your body turns to stored fat for energy.

Here are some of the health benefits to intermittent fasting:

  • Weight loss: As mentioned above, when performed correctly, it can be a healthy weight loss tool.
  • Insulin resistance: This study showed that IF can reduce insulin resistance,  which could prevent type 2 diabetes.
  • Reduced inflammation: A key driver of many chronic diseases.
  • Heart health: IF may reduce LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance. All risk factors for heart disease.
  • Brain health: IF may protect against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
  • Cancer. Animal studies suggest that IF may prevent certain cancers.
  • Anti-aging. Animal studies suggest that IF may extend lifespan.

Intermittent fasting and athletic performance
Initially, training in a fasted state might seem a bit contradictory. How can the body perform with fuel? Provided you’re not fasting for too great a period, IF can actually improve your athletic performance.

For endurance athletes, the benefits of fasting come from a two-pronged approach: training in the fasted state, and competing in the fed state. Fasted training can improve performance by forcing your body to adapt to lower glycogen stores and use glycogen more efficiently. Essentially, training in the fasted state adds another stressor, forcing your body to compensate and become stronger. This sets you up to get a huge boost from competing in the fed state.

Short-term fasting is also useful for power athletes. While fasting for several days at a time will hurt your progress, intermittent fasts less than 24 hours will not cause muscle loss or send your body into “starvation mode,” as long as you consume adequate calories and protein when you do eat.

On the contrary, when you lift in a fasted state, your body uses protein more efficiently afterwards, boosting muscle growth.

Weightlifters seeking to gain lean mass without also gaining fat should look into Martin Berkhan’s Leangains program, which specifies an eight-hour “feeding window” and a sixteen-hour fast every day.

Is intermittent fasting for everybody?
Like just about everything else in human nutrition, there is no one size fits all. This certainly applies to intermittent fasting.

For example, if you’re already underweight, pregnant, under heavy stress or have a history of eating disorders, a medical or health professional should be consulted prior to commencing a fast. In these scenarios, IF could actually have disastrous implications rather than be a benefit.

Some people just love food. There is nothing wrong with that. Enjoying traditional dishes from around the world can be a great experience. Bonus points if you’re sharing that experience with family and friends.

If you’re already eating a whole food diet, are generally more fat adapted, exercise moderately, have good sleep patterns, limit chronic stressors and are generally doing the things that make you happy then you’re probably in a good place to start playing with some fasts.

The bottom line
Basically, if you’re hungry, eat. Starving yourself only will cause additional stress.

If you’re already stressed, don’t IF. You don’t need another stressor.

If you’re completing high intensity training everyday, don’t IF. Unless you’re genetically gifted, you will need plenty of fuel to prevent overtraining.

If you’re not hungry, don’t eat.

Listen to your body. Try not to eat just because it’s midday and it is generally lunch time. At the same time, don’t feel guilty if you’re supposed to be in the middle of a fast and you’re reaching for a handful of macadamia nuts or some beef jerky. Try it out, skip a morning meal, sneak in a workout or go for a walk and see how you feel.

If you’re not ready, your body will tell you pretty quickly. Feeling lightheaded, reduced performance in workouts, cognitive decline or a general reduction in energy are all makers that you might need to fix a few things (food, sleep, stress, etc.) for a few weeks and try again.

In a perfect world, we’d all have an excellent metabolism, with a job we love and plenty of time to spend with friends and family. But unfortunately, it’s not and we don’t. We can, however, make the most of the world that we live in today.

Eat real food. Be active. Enjoy life.

The Turkish Get-Up

The one-arm get-up is general test of strength which had considerable appeal to most strongmen from yesteryear…

It has always made a hit with the theatrical public, for it was obvious to them that magnificent strength was being displayed when an athlete did a one-arm get-up with a heavy bell.

– Siegmund Klein (an American strength legend)

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The Turkish Get-up (TGU) is an outstanding exercise that develops strength, conditioning, mobility and stability throughout the entire body. It is both an excellent injury prevention and rehabilitation exercise for the shoulders. In fact, the TGU will give you shoulders that can take punishment, and dish it out.

It is a highly dynamic movement with enormous carryover to lifting heavy things. It does this by combining a series of movements from lying down to standing up with a heavy kettlebell overhead.

Many strong athletes have been humbled by the functional strength required to perform this movement, but mastering the TGU will make all overhead exercises safer and easier to perform.

A bit of history
The TGU was a staple exercise for the old-time strongmen and wrestlers. It has been said that this was the first and only exercise taught to many aspiring weightlifters to practice. The young athletes would have to master the TGU and be able to perform a TGU with 100 pound (45kg) weight with each hand.

When this goal had been achieved, the athlete was able to progress to the other lifts. There is some real wisdom behind that old-time methodology.

It takes tenacity and commitment to conquer this feat of strength. Secondly, it builds a solid foundation of strength that practically “injury proofs” the body, making it ready for more demanding training. It also significantly strengthens the major muscle groups, smaller stabilising muscles and the connective tissues.

Benefits of the Turkish Get-up

  • Promotes cross lateralization (getting the right brain to work with the left side, and vice versa);
  • Promotes upper body stability;
  • Promotes lower body stability;
  • Promotes reflexive stability of the trunk and extremities;
  • Ties the right arm to the left leg, and the left arm to the right leg;
  • Gets the upper extremities working reciprocally;
  • Stimulates the senses that contribute to balance;
  • Promotes spatial awareness;
  • Develops anterior/posterior weight shift;
  • Develops upper body strength, trunk strength, and hip strength.

How to perform a Turkish Get-Up
To keep it simple. The TGU can be broken down into three parts.

  • The half get-up;
  • The transition; and
  • The full get-up.

TGU: The starting position
Lying on your back, extend the arm holding the kettlebell in front of the chest with the arm locked out. If necessary, you can use your supporting arm to assist the initial lift or spot the weight. The goal is to get the weight into the locked-out position and not to build a big chest by pressing.

Post your left foot flat on the ground, with your heel close to your backside. This is the starting position. Remember to keep your eyes on the kettlebell throughout the exercise.

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TGU: The half get-up
From the starting position, with your supporting hand flat on the ground, roll slightly to your right side and sit up. Allowing the weight to drift forward slightly, then push off your posted foot to help you sit up.

It is acceptable to allow your free arm to assist slightly against the floor in sitting up. Finish with the left arm and kettlebell vertical (above your head), making sure the wrist is tight and elbow locked.

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TGU: The transition
In the transition, the athlete will move from the sitting to the kneeling position.

Begin by pressing the shoulder of your supporting hand (the one on the ground) away from your ear. This is important, but often overlooked step. It puts the shoulder into a strong position. It keeps the shoulder “active”, by keeping it in the socket.

Simultaneously press off your hand and posted foot, lifting your hips off the floor, forming a glute bridge. This will create the space necessary to swing your (right) leg underneath you as you slowly move into a three-point kneeling position.

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TGU: The full get-up
Slowly straighten your torso and pull your right arm up off the ground so that you are in a two-point kneeling position. Keeping your eyes on the kettlebell, and actively pressing the kettlebell straight up toward the ceiling.

Keeping your leg vertical, load your weight onto the heel, contract the outer glute and stand up, pushing the kettlebell up overhead as you straighten.

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From here, pause for a few moments, then reverse the steps under control to lower yourself on to the floor and back into the starting position.

Remember, there is no rush in completing this movement, and at times speed will destroy the movement quality, leading to an even more challenging or even dangerous practice. You will benefit from time under tension. So take your time and get it right.

Finally, always keep your eye on the kettlebell whilst conducting the movement.

 

Final thoughts
Mastering the TGU is an excellent investment of your time and effort. The TGU can compliment a variety of workout programs giving you many transferable benefits. It is versatile enough to be used as an injury prevention or rehabilitation activity, to a warm-up or even the main lift of your workout.

Personally, it is one of my favourite exercises (in and out of the gym), and has been a staple movement in many of my strength and conditioning programs over the years.

All about Resistant Starch

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What is resistant starch?
Resistant starch (RS) is a type of starch that is not digested in the stomach or small intestine, reaching the colon intact.  Simply put, it “resists” digestion. This explains why we do not see spikes in either blood glucose or insulin after eating resistant starch, and why we do not obtain significant calories from resistant starch.

There are four types of resistant starch:

  • RS Type 1 – Is found in grains, seeds and legumes and resists digestion because it’s bound within the fibrous cell walls;
  • RS Type 2 – Is found in some starchy foods, including raw potatoes and green (unripe) bananas;
  • RS Type 3 – Is formed when certain starchy foods, including potatoes and rice, are cooked and then cooled. The cooling turns some of the digestible starches into resistant starches via retrogradation;
  • RS Type 4 – Is man-made and formed via a chemical process.

However, this classification is not so simple, as several different types of resistant starch can co-exist in the same food.

Depending on how foods are prepared, the amount of resistant starch changes. For example, allowing a banana to ripen (turn yellow) will degrade the resistant starches and turn them into regular starches.

Where to find resistant starch
Resistant starch occurs in a number of natural foods. Some legumes, many tubers such as potatoes, and many fruits, especially unripe bananas and plantains.

There are several supplementary sources such as raw potato starch, plantain flour and tapioca starch. Raw (not sprouted) mung beans are also a good source of resistant starch, so mung bean starch (found often in asian grocery stores) can also work.

Food for your gut
Just like anything other living organism, your gut bacteria requires a food source. They need to eat to survive, and certain food sources are better than others. Simply put, resistant starch is a high quality food for your gut bacteria. This is the very basic, but most important function of resistant starch.

How does it work?

A healthy human gut has hundreds of bacterial species, outnumbering all other cells approximately 10 to 1. The overall balance of these bacteria has an important effect on health and wellbeing. Resistant starch resists digestion until it reaches the colon where it feeds your good bacteria.

The good bacteria feeds on resistant starch and produce short chain fatty acids, with butyrate being the most significant due its beneficial effects on the colon and overall health.  Butyrate is the prefered energy source for the cells lining the colon, it also has a role in increasing metabolism and decreasing overall inflammation.

Below are just some of the health related benefits backed by science to consuming resistant starch.

Improve gut integrity and overall gut function
As mentioned earlier, resistant starch improves the overall quality and functionality of your gut bacteria. It also inhibits endotoxins from getting into circulation and can reduce leaky gut, which could have a positive effect with regards to allergies and autoimmune conditions.

Improved insulin sensitivity
Consuming Resistant starch improves insulin sensitivity, even in people with metabolic syndrome.

Lowers the blood glucose response to food
A popular reason people avoid even minimal amounts of  dietary carbohydrate is the blood glucose response. It’s too high. Resistant starch lowers blood glucose spike after meals. This reduction may carry over to subsequent meals.

Reduces fasting blood sugar
This is one of the most commonly mentioned benefits of resistant starch. With a reduction in blood sugar levels, resistant starch may help you avoid chronic disease and improve your quality of life.

Increases satiety
In a recent human study, a large dose of resistant starch increased satiety and decreased subsequent food intake.

Enhanced magnesium absorption
Most likely because resistant starch improves overall gut function and integrity, resistant starch increases dietary magnesium absorption.

Consuming resistant starch may also have the following benefits:

  • Improved body composition;
  • Improved thyroid function;
  • Improved sleep.

Adding resistant starch to your diet

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In a modern diet a person may only consume about 5g of resistant starch daily, compared to many traditional diets where 20g or 30g was consumed per day. You can add resistant starch to your diet by either consuming it from a food source or through supplementation.

Several commonly consumed foods are high in resistant starch. These foods include, raw potatoes, cooked and then cooled potatoes, yams, green bananas, various legumes, lentils and raw oats.

These foods are commonly high-carbohydrate foods, making them out of the question if you are following a low-carbohydrate nutrition plan. However, even if you are eating a low-carbohydrate diet, you can still see some benefit from consuming some resistant starch.

You can add resistant starch to your diet without adding any dietary carbohydrates. This is where our supplements, such as raw potato starch come in to the equation.

Raw potato starch contains approximately 8g of resistant starch per tablespoon and almost zero digestible carbohydrate.

It is cheap. It does have a fairly bland flavour, but it can be added into your diet in a variety of ways, such as by adding to foods, smoothies or mixing it with water.

Four tablespoons will give you about 32g of resistant starch. Like most supplements, it is important to build up, as too much too soon may have disastrous results.

There doesn’t seem to be any reason to consume much more than that anyway, as excess amounts seem to pass through your body when you reach about 50g per day.