Is juicing healthy?

juicing-benefits

Until recently, fresh fruit or vegetable juice has had an untarnished reputation. After all, what could be unhealthy about drinking down all the nutrients contained in the healthiest foods known to man? But that’s just it, when we drink juice, we aren’t really getting all the nutrients those fruits and vegetables have to offer. And that’s where the opponents of juicing come in — juicing skeptics claim that since we’re missing a few of the nutrients contained in fruits and vegetables, juicing isn’t a healthy option. So what’s the verdict? Should we completely give up fresh juice just because it doesn’t contain all the components contained in whole fruits and vegetables? Here’s how we weigh in:

Some juices aren’t as healthy as others: Opponents of juicing makes some good points, fruit and vegetables juices are missing a lot of fiber, and they can also be high in sugary calories. Fiber is a crucial part of the diet — it provides roughage to ensure proper digestion and stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria. The fiber contained in fruits and vegetables also acts as an anecdote to the high amount of sugar found in many fruits. Fiber actually prevents the absorption of fructose, while effectively carrying it out of the digestive tract. 

But here’s the thing, not all juices contain a ton of sugar, and just because you’re not getting all the fiber doesn’t mean that you aren’t getting a ton of other important nutrients.  It is, however, probably a good idea to avoid juicing fruits that are high in fructose, like oranges and apples. While these juices can still provide some wonderful nutrients, they supply a high amount of fructose. Too much fructose in one serving can cause fructose malabsorption and the growth of harmful bacteria. If you’re watching your body fat, fruit juices can also pack a significant amount of sugary, fat-depositing calories. 

Fruit and vegetable juices demonstrate a number of researched health benefits: The research backing up the health benefits provided by fruit and vegetable juices (especially vegetables juices) is impressive. Juicing provides a convenient way to consume an immense amount of vitamin, minerals, and phytonutrients. These nutrients are responsible for giving beet juice its cardiovascular, endurance, and anti-cancer benefits, carrot juice its anti-colon cancer and eye-health promoting properties, and leafy green juices their ability to improve sugar metabolism.  

We prefer to view vegetable and fruit juice as a supplement to a healthy diet: Since vegetable and fruits juices provide so many amazing nutrients and health benefits, it makes sense to include them in your diet. Imagine if you ate a healthy whole food diet, with plenty of fiber, plus you supplemented your daily diet with a glass of freshly juiced greens and carrot juice. You’d be giving your body a great big hug, providing it with the nutrients that can actually help optimize your DNA! Most of us are short on some vitamin and minerals — juicing is an easy way to boost nutrient and anti-oxidant intake with the complex forms found in nature.

Make juices healthier by using them with healthy fats or in smoothies: Some of the most important vitamins vegetables contain are various forms of fat-soluble carotenoids. Since juice doesn’t have any fat in it, your body won’t be able to absorb the fat soluble vitamins very well unless you eat a little fat at the same time. When you juice vegetables, be sure to drink the juice with a meal or eat a little healthy fat, like a tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil or a few capsules of fish oil, at the same time. Also, since you’re missing out on most of the fiber, try adding your vegetable juice to a smoothie that contains a cup or two of whole fruits and vegetables like frozen berries, whole spinach, or romaine lettuce.  

A few other considerations when juicing: Some of the best fruits and vegetables for juicing also tend to be the ones that contain the highest amounts of pesticides. Be sure to only use leafy greens that are certified organic, and wash all root vegetables or fruits that have edible skins thoroughly before juicing. Finally, in order to prevent fructose malabsorption, limit the amount of fruits you juice, and try to emphasize leafy greens and other vegetables.

References: “Effects of carrot and tomato juice consumption on colon carcinogenesis in humans,” Journal of Nutrition; “Inorganic nitrate and beetroot juice supplementation reduces blood pressure in adults,” Journal of Nutrition; “The effect of lutein- and zeaxanthin-rich foods v. supplements on macular pigment levels,” Journal of Nutrition; “Mitigation of starch and glucose-induced postprandial glycemic excursion in rats by antioxidant-rich green-leafy vegetables’ juice,” Pharmacognosy Magazine.

Originally posted 2013-10-28 15:14:40.

Uses for Coconut Oil

uses for coconut oil

Consider the coconut. Crack open this fuzzy, hard-shelled tropical fruit and you get a nutrient-rich feast with a host of health benefits. Indeed, the coconut has long been acclaimed not just for its vitalizing water or its sweet kernel, but also for its edible and surprisingly versatile oil. Coconut oil, which is extracted from the fruit’s kernel, is a pretty hot topic these days. The proven benefits from coconut oil, in both food and medicinal applications, almost seem to make the news daily. Consider these uses for coconut oil the next time you’re cooking pastry, searching for a good repellent, moisturizing your skin and more!

Coconut oil increases “good” HDL (high-density lipoprotein): Coconut oil is rich in fat. More than 50 percent of this fat comes from lauric acid, a type of fatty acid that can have a more positive effect on serum lipoprotein levels (comprised of the cholesterol and triglyceride levels in your blood) than other oils. “Good” HDL can mean better cardiovascular health.            

Coconut oil for cooking: Coconut oil’s sweet flavor makes it a perfect medium for roasting, frying or sautéing a wide variety of meats and vegetables. It also provides a great flavor-and smell!-enhancing ingredient when added to cakes and other baked confections. Anyone with dietary restrictions (such as vegans) or with dairy-related allergies can substitute melted coconut oil for butter, or room temperature coconut oil for shortening.

Coconut oil as a stain remover: The next time you have a greasy stain, try combining 1 part coconut oil to 8 parts of cleaning solvent (dry) and then dry spotting the stain to help remove it.

Coconut oil for moisturizing skin: The botanical (plant-derived) ingredients in coconut oil helps to preserve your skin’s outer layer, and keep your skin moisturized and firm.

Coconut oil treats atopic dermatitis: One study suggests that applying virgin coconut oil topically can improve the symptoms of atopic dermatitis (eczema), a chronic condition resulting in inflamed, itchy areas of skin.

Coconut oil for preterm baby health: One study suggests that a coconut oil massage can improve growth and help expedite weight gain in preterm babies.

Coconut oil promotes hair health: Coconut oil, when applied to the hair, helps to moisturize hair follicles and protect them from damage caused by combing.

Coconut oil as a mite repellent: Coconut oil, when combined with jojoba, has been shown to help repel scabies mites, or tiny insects that tunnel beneath the skin, breed and then hatch their eggs, which then results in scabies, or a highly contagious rash.

Coconut oil for soap: The high lauric acid content of coconut oil makes it an ideal ingredient for bar soap. Lauric acid contains antibacterial properties, increases soap lather and enhances the hardness of the soap bar.

The applications for coconut oil are many. Whether you use it in a cake, in your hair or to treat a bad case of eczema, you’re sure to benefit from this amazing, sweet smelling tropical oil.           

 

References: http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Health_Letter/2011/May/coconut-oilhttp://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/articles/Do_skin_creams_deliver.htmhttp://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=630167http://www.uvm.edu/~edstudio/Information/april10/products/soapmaking.pdf (lauric acid research), http://www.pjm.microbiology.pl/archive/vol5812009043.pdf (lauric acid research), http://www.human.cornell.edu/fsad/outreach/upload/removingstains.pdf  (stain removal)

Originally posted 2013-10-17 15:55:52.

The Health Research on Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle has enjoyed a long history (dating as far back as 2,000 years) of use by health practitioners to treat liver ailments, gall bladder disorders, peritonitis, allergies and other conditions. Milk thistle has even recently been suggested as a possible treatment for cancer. But is there real medicinal value to this old herbal remedy? Research confirms that milk thistle indeed has some health benefits due to the antioxidant compounds found in its ripe seeds. These compounds: silychristin, isosilybin, silybin, and silydianin, make up the flavanoid referred to as silymarin. According to current research, thanks to its silymarin content, milk thistle provide a number of bonified health benefits.

 Milk thistle protects your liver: Silymarin, due to its antioxidant properties, has been shown to inhibit oxidation in the liver. Oxidation can lead to damaged liver cells, which in turn can seriously impact your liver’s health function. Studies have also shown that silymarin has anti-inflammatory properties that help keep liver cells and tissue healthy. Research also suggests that silymarin can block toxins and/or remove toxins from liver cells, thereby helping to detoxify the liver.

 Milk Thistle may offer allergy relief: Some research suggests that combining extract of milk thistle with an antihistamine may offer greater symptom relief compared to taking antihistamine alone.

Milk Thistle may help protect against some types of cancer: Some preliminary lab studies suggest that milk thistle may help protect against skin cell damage resulting from exposure to ultraviolent radiation (from sunlight) and environmental carcinogens, both of which may contribute to skin cancer. Some clinical trials also suggest that the silymarin in milk thistle may directly inhibit the growth of other cancerous cells, such as breast cancer cells, cervical cancer cells, colorectal cells and prostate cancer cells.

Milk thistle may improve the effectiveness of certain types of chemotherapy drugs: Some lab trials have demonstrated that administering silybin, a chemical compound in silymarin, during chemotherapy treatment may improve the treatment’s effectiveness in reducing the growth of breast cancer cells and ovarian cancer cells.

Research is still underway as to the full extent of milk thistle’s efficacy, but the results point to positive health benefits for the human body. Milk thistle may help fight certain cancers, improve the effectiveness of some types of chemotherapy drugs and help relieve allergy symptoms. Plus, milk thistle’s antioxidant properties spell better health for your cells-and healthy cells mean a healthier you!

References: Cancer.govCancer.orgMedlinePlus 

Originally posted 2013-10-15 10:31:00.

The Social and Health Benefits of Reading Literary Fiction

Some people absolutely love reading fiction. Whether they enjoy popular page turners or works of literary fiction, you’ll rarely find such bookworms without a good book in hand. Yet, if you’re like me, a love for novels isn’t so natural or passionate. Personally, I’ve always preferred works of non-fiction: history, culture, sociology, theology, and the like. One of the reasons for my preference for non-fiction was that I didn’t see the value of literary fiction. I assumed reading fiction was just about entertainment and had little value beyond improving my vocabulary or language skills.  

Recently, however, I’ve discovered a plethora of benefits that can be derived from reading literary fiction. My first revelation came from reading a few books by Rene Girard, a literary critic and professor at Stanford University. His amazing insights about the truths that can be acquired from reading stories opened up a whole new world for me. Since then, I’ve discovered that reading literary fiction can provide numerous benefits, ranging from improved social skills to better mental health.

Before I get into the benefits that can be gained from reading fiction, I just need to distinguish popular fiction from literary fiction. While the differences are often subtle, they’re important. Works that qualify as literary fiction tend to revolve around the inner-working and thoughts of complex characters, rather than primarily around an exciting plot (as in popular fiction). The characters in popular fiction tend to be fairly simple and easy to predict. While popular fiction tends to be more entertaining and does provide some benefits, works of literary fiction more fully engage the imagination and critical thinking skills of the reader. The complex characters in literary fiction tend to force the reader to conjecture, imagine, and predict the thoughts and actions of the characters– skills that have application in real life.  To find good examples of literary fiction, explore the classics section at your local bookstore or look for National Book Award finalists.

Reading Literary Fiction Helps Improve Social Skills

A recent study by Professor of Psychology Emanuele Castano, from the The New School for Social Research in New York, found that when test subjects read literary fiction their social skills improved. Compared to people who didn’t read and people assigned to read a passage from a popular fiction novel, those assigned to read a passage from a work of literary fiction demonstrated an improved ability to “read people’s thoughts.” They were better able to interpret what people were thinking and expressing through body language and speech. Therefore, it’s believed that the practice provided by literary fiction in interpreting personalities and intents of characters carries over to the real world.  

The imagined world of “getting into characters heads” may also improve empathy, the ability to feel and relate with the emotions of others. Empathy is of key importance for building healthy relationships and forming cooperative partnerships. And, as discussed in the “Creation-Based Keys to Longevity,” healthy relationships ultimately reinforce good physical health.

Reading Literary Fiction Develops Creativity and Imagination 

Unlike television, reading activates the imagination. In other words, your mind has to create all of the images. This is an excellent exercise for the mind, that has consequence for health and daily life.  When the mind is active it is more likely to stay healthy into old age. Studies have shown that brain exercises like reading can help reduce the risks of Alzheimer’s.

Creativity is also a crucial part of coming up with new ideas, discoveries, and strategies for success in relationships and business. Popular fiction novels are definitely better than television in promoting creativity, but literary fiction can help you take your imagination skills to the next level. In great works of fiction, authors reveal their ability to create the illusion of great detail but often leave much to the mind for imagination. These gaps in detail force the mind to spontaneously create rich images and interpretations of the characters’ intents and future actions.

Literary Fiction can Reveal New Ideas and Truths

Probably my favorite benefit of fiction is that it can be a rich source of deep truths and new ideas. Good authors are usually good philosophers too, with significant insights into human nature, theology, or philosophy. Authors of literary fiction posses the unique ability to penetrate and reveal nuanced truths through the dialogues and thoughts of their characters. Take for example The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky — in this classic novel Dostoyevsky reveals stunning insights into human nature and the ability of Christ’s sacrificial love to overcome selfish delusion.

The Take Away: Far from being a luxurious waste of time, reading great works of literary fiction can improve your social skills, develop your creativity, and improve your mental and physical health! So what are you waiting for? Pick up a great book and find a park bench or pull up a seat at your local coffee shop.

What are some of your favorite works of literary fiction and why? 

What are you reading now?

References and Recommended Reading: Want To Read Others’ Thoughts? Try Reading Literary Fiction, NPR; Desire, Deceit, and the Novel by Rene Girard; The Humiliation of the Word by Jacques Ellul; The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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Originally posted 2013-10-09 15:25:16.

Tips for Healthier Baking

healthier baking tips6 Ways to Make Treats Healthier

I am an avid baker. I grew up helping my mom create her famous chocolate chip cookies and even had the recipe memorized at one point in time. Since then I’ve loved experimenting with different flavors and combinations of cookies, muffins and breads.

What’s really fun though is experimenting with healthier substitutions. Try to use one of the following in your next baking excursion.

1. Beans.

Yep, beans in your baked goods. Puree some beans to sneak in some extra fiber and protein into your treats. Black bean brownies go over quite well in my experience. You will want to make sure if you are using beans from a can that you drain and rinse them well in order to better disguise these legumes in your recipe.

2. Whole wheat flour.

Whole wheat is the less processed version of white flour. The general consensus is that the less processed foods are, the better they are for you since they retain much of the original nutrients. Try substituting half of the white flour with whole wheat flour. The flavor and consistency will change if you substitute all whole wheat because of the higher amount of gluten that forms. The higher the gluten that forms, the tougher the product will be so use caution when subbing whole wheat flour.

3. Bananas.

This potassium-packed fruit can be substituted for the butter in a recipe. About one pureed banana per stick of butter or ½ cup of oil. You can also use a little less sugar since bananas are naturally sweet. Just don’t omit the sugar completely since it has a scientific purpose in the recipe. The resulting baked good will have a fluffier consistency, so keep that in mind when substituting in a cookie recipe. I’ve made banana cookies before that were really more similar to muffin tops. I didn’t hear a single complaint though!

4. Applesauce.

Applesauce is very similar to bananas in substitution except for the flavor. It can be substituted for the fat and you can also reduce the sugar due to the natural sweetness of the apples.

5. Greek yogurt.

Adding Greek yogurt to your baking treats will add protein as well as calcium. I have directly substituted plain or vanilla Greek yogurt in cake and muffin recipes, but the texture was a little sticky. Luckily, Chobani sent me an infographic to show how to substitute Greek yogurt for the fats or oils in a dessert. For every cup of oil in the recipe, substitute ¾ cup of Greek yogurt. For every cup of butter, keep ½ cup of the butter and add ¼ cup Greek yogurt.

6. Chia seeds.

These nutrient-packed seeds can be substituted for the eggs in a recipe by creating a chia gel. Simply mix 1 TBS chia seeds with 2 TBS warm water per egg in a bowl and let set for a couple of minutes. The chia seeds will absorb the water and create a thick gel that will bind your ingredients together like the eggs would.  Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. They’re also a great a good choice for making vegan recipes.

So what do you say? Is it time to have some fun in the kitchen and make your desserts a little healthier? Try not telling people your treats are healthy and watching as they scarf down your creation. Then tell them how it’s actually semi-healthy and watch their amazement. Happy Baking!

Let’s discuss:

Do you substitute in your baking? What do you use?

Sources:

How to Bake with Chobani Greek Yogurt + Infographic

Originally posted 2013-10-08 11:36:32.

It's getting colder, which means more snuggling and… better heart health!

Hugs, snuggle, heart health and oxytocinFall might mean more rain and less outdoor exercise, but it doesn’t have to mean poor health. For those of you who usually turn to running or other outdoor activities for stress relief, you might want to take up snuggling with your loved ones, or at least try getting in as many hugs from friends and family as you can. There’s a hormone called oxytocin that the body releases when it’s under stress, and it actually causes the body to crave physical touch and social interaction. Oxytocin is like God’s way of hardwiring us for community. When we’re under stress, our hormones automatically encourage us to seek out the presence of others.

The cool thing is that while stress causes an initial release of oxytocin, physical touch causes the release of even more, reinforcing feelings of love and well-being. But the benefits don’t stop there–oxytocin is also good for the heart. The heart is covered with oxytocin receptors, and when there’s oxytocin present, the heart rate goes down which is just what’s needed when experiencing threat-type stress.

You ever wonder why children intuitively seek to be held when they’re afraid or worried? It’s all beginning to make sense! Physical touch, specifically hugs, can also have a blood-pressure lowering effect. I doubt you needed another reason to hug a friend, snuggle with your spouse, or cozy up with your kids to read a book, but now you’ve got one!

References: “The Upside of Stress, Kelly McGonigal at TEDGlobal 2013;”“More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women,” Biological Psychology; “Oxytocin exerts protective effects on in vitro myocardial injury induced by ischemia and reperfusion,” Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology
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Originally posted 2013-10-03 16:11:09.

Re-Perceive Stress to Lower Risk of Disease and Death

The Perception of Stress as a Factor of Disease

perception of stress disease factor mortality cuaseIncorrect knowledge is often worse than no-knowledge at all, but it’s the risk we take in the pursuit of better living. This axiom couldn’t be more clearly demonstrated than by the insight I’ve recently gained that’s completely changed my way of thinking about stress and how it affects the human body. You see, I bought into the mainstream idea that mental stress is inherently unhealthy for the body. Well, I didn’t think mental stress was completely bad, all the time (I recognized it serves a purpose and is a normal part of life), but I was convinced that good health depends on eliminating as much stress as possible. I was shocked to learn that current research strongly indicates that it’s precisely the belief that stress is unhealthy for the body that makes stress so unhealthy!

Two Types of Responses to Stress: Threat or Challenge

Here I’ve been trying to be part of the solution to disease by telling people that stress causes disease (and therefore it should be avoided), but this advice was most likely just making things worse. It turns out, stress, in and of itself, isn’t harmful to our bodies. There are two primary ways that we can experience stress physiologically — psychologist call these two responses, threat or challenge responses. While there are overlaps in the way our body responds to what we perceive as a threat or challenge, there are also significant differences that can have a direct impact on our health.  

The primary difference between the two response types is that during a threat, the body begins to shutdown in order to protect itself: the blood vessels constrict, cutting off blood flow, and the heart becomes less efficient. By contrast, during a challenge response the blood vessels dilate, increasing blood flow to the brain and muscles. Whether the mind solicits a threat or challenge response is determined by one’s beliefs, experiences, and perceptions relative to a given situation. 

The Harvard Social Stress Test and the 30,000 Person National Health Interview Analysis

At this point you might be thinking, “What’s new? We already knew that perception affects stress.” The difference is that the effects of perception on stress were previously always studied in regards to external conditions, not to the perception of stress itself. Two recent studies provide compelling evidence that how we think about stress can cause an automatic trigger of the threat or challenge response, regardless of the external circumstances.

In 2011, researchers at Harvard and UC San Francisco performed a social stress test comparing a test group to a control group of volunteer participants. As part of the study, all of the participants in both groups were required to submit to a simulated stressful interview situation, in which they performed a 5-minute presentation while two evaluators provided negative feedback. After giving the presentation, participants were required to complete a series of analytical questions. Before the interview, the test group was told that stress was not harmful and that it would actually help them perform the presentation. The control group wasn’t given any instructions. When the mental and physical responses of both groups were assessed after the interview, the test group had a significantly healthier cardiovascular response and a more positive perception of their completion of their presentation than the control group.  

In another study, researchers analyzed survey answers and fatality rates from about 30,000 people over 8-years.  Unfortunately, stress had a significant affect on the health of a large percentage of the population but only for those who believed it would! The analysis found that those who experienced stress in the previous year and answered the questioned, “Do you believe stress has a negative impact on health?” with a “yes,” had a 43% increase in the risk for early mortality! By contrast, there was no correlation between stress levels and early mortality among those who did not believe that stress has a negative impact on health!

The Take Away: What we see from these studies is that believing stress is bad for health can promote an automatic physiological response that negatively affects cardiovascular health and can even lead to early death. While the implications of this study are tragic for many, they are also exciting. It’s amazing to see how well God designed our bodies. So much of the disease we face as humans is merely “user error.” Our bodies are designed with a built in mechanism to help us rise to the challenge and overcome difficult situations. If we maintain this positive, faith-filled attitude and believe that physiological stress can actually be a good thing, then many of us will be well on our way to better health!

References: “Mind Over Matter: Reappraising Arousal Improves Cardiovascular and
Cognitive Responses to Stress;”
Harvard University; Kelly McGonigal: “How to Make Stress Your Friend,” TedTalk; “Does the Perception that Stress Affects Health Matter? The Association with Health and Mortality,” Health Psychology; “The Upside of Stress,” Kelly McGonigal.
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Originally posted 2013-10-03 13:15:58.

Benefits of Ice Baths (Cold Water Immersion Therapy)

As a standard recovery technique used heavily by athletes the world over, the ice bath is regarded as an effective way to get the body ready for its next challenge. If you are like me, you may not be thrilled at the prospect of immersing your body in excruciatingly cold water. Wouldn’t a warm bath and a hot cup of coffee bring just as much benefit? Admittedly, it is easy to be reticent when considering the notion of generalized icing (as opposed to isolated icing – see my previous article on the Benefits of Icing). It certainly is not the most comfortable or convenient option. But the research indicates the body has a very specific response to cold water immersion and that ice baths may be beneficial.

The Body and Cold Water Immersion (CWI)

 An ice bath can help enhance the speed and comprehensiveness of your recovery. Consider the following post-workout benefits:

  • Facilitating Fluid Transport – The immediate effect of Cold Water Immersion on the body is vasoconstriction, or the shunting of blood flow from extremities to interior portions of the body. The fluid transported away from extremities includes left-over waste fluid, which left alone would fester in muscle tissue, slowing recovery and even causing muscle soreness. Immediately following Cold Water Immersion, fresh blood free of waste is circulated throughout the extremities, enhancing recovery and preventing delayed onset muscle soreness.
  • Aiding Nervous System Function – Intense physical activity disturbs the “rest and digest” component of the nervous system, also known at the Parasympathetic Nervous System. This disturbed function continues in the minutes immediately following a workout, creating an overall state of flux in the body’s systems. Studies show that Cold Water Immersion is a boon to to Parasympathetic function, acting as a kick-starter in the minutes following a workout. And since the Parasympathetic Nervous System controls the process of recovery, this speeds the body’s recuperation from intense activity.

Tips for Incorporating Cold Water Immersion (CWI)

Taking an ice bath is not something you would want to do every day, but it can be a great way to boost your readiness if you have two bouts of intense activity planned very close together. Below are some ideas for working an ice bath into your post-exercise routine.

  • Immediacy – For best results, you will want to take the bath while your body is still warm. If your body has already cooled, the benefits of CWI will be lost.
  • Brevity – While it may be uncomfortable to take an ice bath longer than 15 minutes, it can also be dangerous. Extended exposure to frigid water can increase chances of hypothermia and frostbite.

Ice baths can be helpful, depending on your fitness level and goals. It is recommended that you check with your doctor before trying this or other methods for post-workout recovery.

References: “Effect of cold water immersion on postexercise parasympathetic reactivation,” M. Buchheit , J. J. Peiffer , C. R. Abbiss , P. B. Laursen, American Journal of Physiology

Originally posted 2013-10-02 16:38:00.

Take Control of Your Weekends

Central Park

I’m sure everyone knows the 1981 song “Working for the Weekend” by the quintessential 80s band Lover Boy. This song outlines the lives of countless Americans: working hated jobs for five days straight, followed by two days of “new romance” and “second chance[s].” While most people simply view this song as a party joke and a common occurrence in movies and television, I view this song as a window into the detriment of many peoples’ lives.

While working at a physical therapy clinic in South Portland, Maine, I walked to the post office to send our patients’ progress notes to their primary care physicians. I walked passed two homeless men who asked me for money. The Portland area has a large homeless population for a small city, so I was used to saying, “Sorry; no cash,” and going on my way – Maine has the highest percentage of opiate addicts per population in the entire country. A couple hours later I walked down the same street to eat lunch and I saw those same two men reveling in the fruits of their labor: cheap 40 ounce bottles of beer, sharing a pack of cigarettes. They looked ecstatic. Through toothless smiles, they clinked their bottles and mumbled in strong northeast accents. I then realized, when I passed them in the morning they were “working,” now I was witnessing their “weekend.”

As I ate lunch I felt very disheartened. It was a harsh realization that most of the people I surrounded myself with day to day don’t act much differently than these two homeless men. They work for five days straight, followed by two days of drinking too much, eating terrible food and forgetting about their exercise programs; all in the name of “the weekend.” They have homes, jobs, 401Ks, goals and dreams, but still use they weekend as an excuse to act like a completely different people. Between Friday and Saturday night parties and Sunday afternoon football games, these upstanding citizens transform into lazy, self-indulgent people; a far cry from the hard working, focused coworkers I surround myself with the other five days out of the week.

I made a pact with myself that day that I would take control of my weekends; I would not work for the weekend. I would work for the love of work and serving others, and treat my weekends as sacred. Here are my top tips for taking control of your weekends:

  • Wake up around the same time. Your body’s biological clock does not understand a five day work week, weekend parties, and day light savings. It wants to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Don’t be an alarm clock admiral, but don’t sleep 3-4 hours later on Saturday than you did on Friday.
  • Explore new healthy meals. I love using the weekend as a time to try out new exotic meals. I’ve found that cooking something new can be too taxing during the week, but weekends offer extra time to hone new cooking skills. Make it a goal to try out one CBH recipe every weekend.
  • Set clear workout goals. Don’t set outrageous goals – that’s where most people go astray. It’s too easy to set lofty, unreachable goals. Start small, and work your way up. For example, if you’re new to taking control of  your weekends, set the goal of taking a walk Saturday or Sunday if the weather permits.
  • HAVE FUN! It’s the weekend! Don’t mope around and be a slave to your to-do list and BlackBerry… or iPhone… or whatever else we’re slaves to these days. Turn your phone off; it’s liberating. While you’re at it, have fun with your workouts too. Set a goal, but don’t have a plan. Tell yourself you will perform 20 sets; it can be two sets of 10 different exercises, five sets of four exercises, or five sets of four exercises. If it’s difficult, you’re doing it right!
  • Be quiet. Read. Pray. Meditate. Practice yoga. Go for a bike ride in the wilderness without any earphones. Do whatever necessary to reset your mind and soul; the following five days will be much easier and much more fulfilling.

Originally posted 2013-09-30 14:33:58.

The Benefits of Icing and Best Practices

the benefits of icing physiological techniques swelling injuries

Are those weekend bouts of exercise leaving your body with aches and pains? Are you taking any steps to prepare your body for your next workout session? Post-workout icing is an effective and under-utilized method for reducing inflammation, soreness, and enhancing the healing process. If you’re not consistently icing, take  time to consider your body’s positive response to and the overall benefits of icing. Then use the strategies at the end of this article to get the most from your icing practice.

 Physiological Response

How does the body react to temperature therapy at the cellular level?

  • Cellular Response – At a fundamental level, muscles exposed to high degrees of resistance and pressure will develop microtears, which is also called microtrauma. Severe muscle soreness and connective tissue strains can cause cellular damage. In this case, cell membranes are breached, leaving cells damaged and in need of recovery. Cellular function itself is inhibited, and fluids accumulate in the cell and surrounding tissue, further impeding the healing process. Reducing the cell temperature through ice application relieves the cell’s burden to process and eliminate fluid, thus promoting cellular efficiency and healing.
  • Reduction of Inflammation and Muscle Spasms – In a more general sense, larger injured areas receive an augmented flow of blood, which in turn can increase swelling and cause further inflammation. Nerves will also become increasingly sensitive, and thus increase the likelihood of painful spasms and contractions. Applying cold pressure to the injury site causes blood vessels surrounding the area to constrict, inhibiting the flow of fluid and lessening the inflammatory response, muscle sensitivity, and the potential exacerbation of the injury.

 Proper Methodology

We know that icing is beneficial. But how does one go about it most effectively? To maximize your benefit, consider creating a precise plan using timing, target, and duration.

  • Timing – When it comes to icing, time is of the essence. A crucial window of time is available immediately following an injury, when the area in question is especially prone to swelling and inflammation. It’s during this window that the area is particularly responsive to an immediate and direct application of ice. Injuries that are not treated soon will inflame and swell, further irritating the area and inhibiting the healing process. One crucial thing to remember is that icing should only be a post-workout treatment. Cooling and numbing your muscles prior to physical activity can increase the chances of injury.
  • Target Area – When it comes to icing, it’s best to concentrate on one area at a time. A specific application point will give the problem area the attention it needs, reducing swelling and contributing to healing.
  • Duration – Application of ice for a protracted period of time is not only unnecessary, but can actually reverse the intended benefit of reducing inflammation. A reduction of soft tissue temperature to a great degree for a prolonged period can trigger a bodily response of blood and fluid to the injured area. Though recommendations as to duration vary, most agree that it is acceptable to ice between 10 to 20 minutes. 

Reference: Soft tissue thermodynamics before, during, and after cold pack therapy. (Enwemeka CS, Allen C, Avila P, Bina J, Konrade J, Munns S.)

Originally posted 2013-09-18 13:04:02.