Josh Bowen: Sleep – the Ultimate Fat Killer

joshOn the paradigm of “fat less” principles we often focus on nutrition and exercise as the most important. However, we often forget about the recovering aspect, more specifically sleep and its important on muscle growth, fat loss and overall health. In fact, 30% of Americans sleep less than the recommended amount (7-9 hours). Pair that statistic with the obesity rate of 35.7% and you have something worth looking at.

A study done by Brigham Young University found a trend between amount of hours slept and body fat percentages with females. The study found that having too little sleep, 6.5 hours on average per night and having inconsistent sleep/wake times contributed to higher body fat percentages than those you slept 8 hours per night on average and had consistent wake/sleep times. Conclusion of the study, which you can read here http://www.ajhpcontents.com/doi/abs/10.4278/ajhp.121012-QUAN-500 found that quality sleep and consistency of sleep contributed to lower body fat percentages in women. I imagine the same would be for men.

So why does sleep matter when it comes to our body fat percentages? Here is how:

Growth Hormone

Sleep is important because of the recovery aspect of it. When you work all day and workout 2-6 days per week you must have sound nutrition and sleep to repair the damage done. If not, your body fights you by breaking down and becoming injured. While you sleep your body releases growth hormone from the pituitary gland to help repair you muscles so they grow and it also helps in breaking down fat stores and releasing them into your system to be metabolized. Essentially growth hormone reduces your body fat percentage by growing your muscles and breaking down your body fat. If you didn’t sleep adequately, this process would be interrupted and could actually back fire on you.

Cortisol

I have talked about cortisol many times, as it does the exact opposite of what testosterone and growth hormone do. It stores body fat because the body becomes overstressed (increased training, life stress, lack of rest) and increases your body fat percentage. If you don’t sleep this guy kicks in, instead of growth hormone and your body fat percentage goes up and you wake up tired and groggy.

Cumulative Effect

Our lives are busy and it is not feasible to get the required amount of sleep EVERY night. However, as with most things, it is a cumulative effect over several weeks, months, years that has the most effect on our bodies. By trying to be consistent every night and getting adequate rest and sleep we can see a dramatic difference in our bodies. This is a must!

What can I do if I didn’t get enough sleep?


Naps are great for getting in extra sleep you may have missed. Even if it is a short 20 minute nap on the couch at your lunch break, anything to increase the amount of rest you get is important to your physical goals.

This topic deserves multiple entries as I believe it is that important. Even thought I do not have statistical data to prove my claim, I would say the best results I get with clients are due to them being able to control stressors of life and getting adequate rest. I would also like to add reducing the amount of alcohol in the diet does impact sleep patterns and helps reduce body fat. Moral of the story is sleep lots and drink alcohol sparingly if at all.

Josh Bowen: Stop Comparing Yourself

joshJudging by the title, you may not think this will not be a fitness or nutrition related post. I, however, believe fitness is 100% tied to our self esteem and how we feel about ourselves rather than actually picking up weights or doing cardio. We exercise to feel better about ourselves and ultimately give ourselves more self esteem and confidence. Why do you think so many people take gym selfies? Let’s be honest, its not a workout if you don’t record it right? I’m being sarcastic…obviously.

BUT…I am serious about fitness tying into our psyche. As our bodies improve our self esteem should improve as well, right? If you only compared yourself to yourself you would find  that you would be happier with your results and feel the momentum swing of results (no matter how big or small). The unfortunate part, as a general rule, we don’t compare ourselves to ourselves, we compare ourselves to society norms (whatever that is) and/or other people. This is a recipe for disaster not only in our results but also how we perceive our results. I truly believe this derails people from achieving their personal Mount Everest.

So many times, as a trainer, I am inundated with this:

“I want Jennifer Lopez’s butt”

“I want the Rock’s shoulders”

“How come my arms don’t look like some of your other clients”

I am just as guilty. I fully admit it. I often have to stop myself from looking at the Rock or some other athlete and thinking, “Damn I’m working hard but these guys are bigger and leaner than I am.” This thinking is futile. This thinking is a waste of time. This thinking will derail you off YOUR goals.

I feel bad for women in this scenario because of all the media messages and marketing that is thrown their way. The magazine stand with the perfect model on it can get in your head and think you are less than what your are. The Victoria’s Secret fashion show with the twigs walking around with no muscle puts a stigma in people’s head, that this is how you are suppose to look. It’s all bulls**t. YOU and you alone define what you want to look like, not society, not Vogue magazine, not Sports Illustrated and sure as not Hollywood.

So what do we do to stop this wasteful process? I have a few ideas;

Compare Yourself to Yourself

We are all born unique and different from everyone else. Therefore we should celebrate our individuality and not worry about what any one else is doing or looks like. Your journey is your journey, not the person next to you. Not what you see on television It is personal to you. It is futile for me to compare myself to the Rock. He has different genetics, different circumstances, different behavior patterns. We are no the same. We may train the same, but we are not the same. The same goes for you. Be different. Be you.

Skews your Judgement

The quest for the perfect body can often lead to extreme measures. Supplements, weight loss diets, extreme fitness routines, everything underneath the sun to be “perfect.” Well there is no such thing. This attempt can skew your judgement and start trying and doing things you often wouldn’t. Put the diet pills down, they are only hurting you. Eat real food and pick up heavy things, it works.

Psychologically Damaging

How we feel about ourselves is all we have. Our confidence in ourselves and our bodies is vitally important. When we follow the status quo we lose our identity and thus lose our precious form of self. Believe in yourself. Get 1% better everyday and let that carry you to your goals.

I realize this piece is all over the board and may not be for everyone. I also realize that most of us can be more happier with ourselves if we just stop comparing ourselves to others. Take this article to heart and maybe share with others.

Josh Bowen: What is Causing Your Headaches?

joshHope everyone had a great weekend and is ready to attack Monday like nobody’s business. The year is flying by and the holidays will be here before you know. The time to be consistent and focused is important. What you do now, will effect what you do later.

We have all had headaches at some point or another in our lives. Some literal and some figuratively (haha). But what is a headache? And more importantly, what causes a headache?

A headache is not actually a pain within the brain, or the brain does not have pain sensors. The pain is caused by a disturbance to pain sensitive tissues around the brain. Nine areas around the head and neck have these pain sensors (cranium, muscles around the neck, eyes, ears etc.). There are also 200 different classifications for headaches but they fall into one of two categories; primary vs. secondary.

Primary headaches are benign, reoccurring headaches not caused by disease or structural problems. Secondary headaches are caused by underlying disease such as; colds, ear infections, tumors etc.).

The causes of headaches is not 100% known but there are some research studies to suggest that your nutrition has a vital role in: determining how often you get headaches, how severe the pain is and how long they last. Here are 4 common nutritional deficiencies that may be causing your headaches:

Magnesium and Folate

If you do not get the recommended 320 to 420 mg of magnesium per day, it could lead to migraine like symptoms. Magnesium helps the release of several neurotransmitters (ACH, dopamine) that are vital to movement and stress reduction. You can boost magnesium in your diet by eating more green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds. Although it is rare, a deficiency in folate can lead to headaches as well. Unless pregnant or nursing, you should be getting 400 micrograms per day. Sources of folate are eggs, nuts, beans, and seafood.

Going Low Carb

We could argue at length about carbohydrates but going to too low carb for too long can lead to headaches. 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day is considered “low carb” and can significantly increase the likelihood of getting headaches because the brain is not getting its preferred fuel source, glucose.

Vitamin A and Zinc Toxicity

Too much of any thing is a bad thing. Especially Vitamin A and Zinc. Vitamin A a fat soluble vitamin that if taken above the recommended levels can cause health concerns. 10,000 IUs per day is above the recommended dosages for Vitamin A, this can lead to headaches. Too much Zinc, 40 mg per day can also lead to headaches. Usually this is from over dosing on supplementation rather than from food sources.

Food Allergies

Being allergic to something can cause mild to severe headaches. Wheat, dairy, nuts, eggs etc. can cause severe headaches if eaten by someone with an allergy. Proper allergy testing would be recommended if headaches are a constant to see what you were allergic too and possibly taking it out of your diet.

Bonus!

Dehydration 

Becoming dehydrated can lead to severe headaches in people. It  is a way of your body telling you to drink water. Making sure you are getting over 100 ounces of water per day will keep you from being dehydrated especially in the hot sun.

Headaches are your body’s way of telling you that something isn’t right. Look to your nutrition for the clues.

Josh Bowen: 4 Reasons Why Building Muscle Should be Your Top Priority

Summer has flown by and by the time we know it, it will be Christmas time again. I digress, however. Here is to a great week and continued great month of July.

Onto the topic at hands…muscle.

I posted the above picture this week on both my personal Facebook page and the Aspire page, to great feedback. It essentially shows six different bodies, who all weigh the exact same and are the same height. But how could that be? How could the same person weigh the same, be the same height and look completely different? Answer….MUSCLE. Muscle is the reason for the discrepancy in aesthetics. So muscle weighs more than fat? No. And every time someone says that it makes me cringe. One pound of fat and muscle weigh the same, as do one pound of rocks and feathers. Difference is, it takes more muscle and feathers to weigh a pound. Muscle takes up less space, therefore you can weigh the same and look dramatically different. You also carry less water when you have more muscle.

So does that mean the scale is lying to me? Probably. Your scale is not accounting for the amount of muscle you have on your body which can make the number on the scale irrelevant. In fact, just today I had a client text me that they had gained 12 pounds from when they started but dropped 9% bodyfat, making for a dramatic difference in physique. My question is always which would you rather have; less weight or better looking body? You know the answer to that.

So why is muscle so important and should be a top priority for everyone?

Muscle Fights Obesity

Less muscle equals more body fat. More body fat leads to insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity leads to diabetes. Both are inflammatory. Both will cause you to eat your muscle tissue up. Muscle increases your insulin sensitivity, keeps your body fat low and helps fight off diseases.

Muscle Fights the Aging Process

After the age of 25, in untrained individuals, you can lose up to 10% of your muscle tissue every decade. This will help lead to obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis and many other diseases. Essentially without building muscle, you will end up fat and weak by the time you are 70-80 years old. Quality of life will be low and disease will be high. Correct that by adding quality muscle to your frame and keep doing it year after year.

Muscle Boosts Your Metabolism

The age old saying of “muscle burns 50 calories at rest for each pound versus fat.” is false. However, the more muscle you have on your body the more your body will need oxygen to recover from your workout, thus burning more body fat and upping your metabolism. This is called Excessive Post Oxygen Consumption or EPOC. This is the “after burn” after your workout that helps boosts your metabolism and decrease your body fat.

Side note: No one and I mean no one can survive, long term, on a diet of 1200 calories or less. Not a woman and not a man. It is a recipe for metabolic destruction and long term issues. DON’T do it! Eat to lose people, eat to lose.

Muscle Looks Good

Everyone wants to look good, period end of story. That is why we are here, to look good. Sure there are other reasons but ultimately we want to feel good and look good. Muscle looks good on everyone, literally everyone. No one has ever said that muscle looked bad on someone. Sure those freaky bodybuilders may have too much muscle but they look better than having too much body fat. Men, women whoever, all look great with muscle. Just how much is a personal decision. Muscle is sexy, period.

I joke all the time in the studio saying, “if you don’t have muscle, you don’t have sh*t.” It is a joke but there is a lot of truth in jest from time to time. Muscle is the driving force in our everyday lives from the time we get out of bed until the time we go to bed, muscle is involved. We must grow it an take care of it.

Josh Bowen: Metabolism

joshOur topic for this week: metabolism. And more importantly how do we increase it. But first we must cover what metabolism actually is. Scientifically, metabolism is the amount of calories you burn everyday without doing anything. This is referred to as resting metabolic rate or basal metabolic rate (BMR). So essentially, it is the amount of calories you would burn while laying in bed for 24 hours. It is impacted heavily on the following: the size of the individual, the amount of muscle on the individual, hormonal factors such as T3 and T4 conversion and amount of testosterone and growth hormone release, also environmental factors such as sleep, foods we eat and alcohol we drink. Some of these you can control (amount of toxins you put in your body and sleep you get) and some you cannot (hormone factors).  So how do I increase my metabolism?  Eat more When someone wants to lose weight, the first thing you try to do is cut their calories. Unfortunately,this can back fire and crush your metabolism. For women, eating less than 1200 calories a day will kill your metabolism. It will put your body into a state of shock and at some point, everything you eat will be converted to storage because your body thinks it is starving. I’d say 1800-2000 calories for men is a baseline. If you are eating smart and eating the right whole foods, this will increase your metabolism and have a dramatic effect on your body fat.  Drink Water Researches have found that drinking water (at least 64 ounces a day) can help boost the metabolism to burn at least 50 more calories a day. That is 5lbs per year. I advise everyone to drink as much water as they can, at least 100 ounces per day, everyday.  Eat Breakfast Women who skip breakfast are 4 1/2 times more likely to be obese. That in itself is a reason to eat breakfast, everyday.  Eat Fiber Research has shown that eating at least 25 grams of fiber a day can increase the metabolic rate as much as 30%. Pick foods that are green vegetables like broccoli and kale over whole grain and wheat. Quest bars also have a ton of fiber in them.  Eat Organic Food

Canadian researchers report that dieters with the most organochlorines (pollutants from pesticides, which are stored in fat cells) experience a greater than normal dip in metabolism as they lose weight, perhaps because the toxins interfere with the energy-burning process. Other research hints that pesticides can trigger weight gain. Always choose organic when buying peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, imported grapes, and pears; non-organic versions tend to have the highest levels of pesticides. * From Prevention Magazine

Eat Protein in Every Meal Protein increases metabolism because it takes longer to digest (in most cases). Researchers have found that eating protein can increase post meal calorie burn by 35%.  Lift Heavy Things Best way to boost your metabolism is picking up heavy sh*t. Men and women should both be doing more lifting and spending less time on cardio machines. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, so therefore the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism is. You don’t build muscle tissue from the elliptical. Lift heavy things.

Bonus! Cut out the alcohol Alcohol KILLS your metabolism! When you drink you burn less fat and more slowly than normal, not matter how hard you workout or focus on weight loss. You can’t train hard and drink and expect to lose weight, your body won’t let it happen. Drinking the equivalent to two martinis you can decrease your metabolism by 73%. Something to think about here.

John Y. Brown, III: Fancy Farm in the Cultural Crosshairs: The War on Fancy Farm

JYB3This year, ironically, it was Fancy Farm itself that was the recipient of some of the most potent barbs from the speaking dais.

The annual Fancy Farm picnic is famous for hosting an annual platform for face-to-face political zingers, barbs and put-downs. It is unique to the nation and perhaps the last living remnant of the historic stump speaking tradition of political campaigns that preceded modern media and the current TV/Internet/Social Media dominance of political campaign messaging.

The old-fashioned way of political campaigning on display at Fancy Farm is, some are now arguing, a useless and corrosive relic that needs to be politely euthanized.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin began his speech by questioning the value of what he characterized as the mean-spirited vacuity of Fancy Farm rhetoric. “We are celebrating our divisions, and we’re doing it in the childish way that frankly does not resolve any of the issues we face.” Bevin then zigged and zagged with several variations of what strove to be a statesman-like speech, including the Pledge of Allegiance, but instead came off as more of a politically tone deaf misfire for what is expected at Fancy Farm.

The insurgent Republican nominee for governor, Matt Bevin, has already defined himself as a successful critic of Kentucky political traditions. Bevin’s first major political pronouncement after winning the Republican primary was that the statue of Jefferson Davis in the state Capitol Rotunda, where it had been on display for over 50 years, needed to go because it was offensive and out of step with modern values. And Bevin’s leadership stock soared as most other Kentucky politicians –from both political parties –quickly agreed and also called for the removal of the Davis statue from the Capitol rotunda. Will Bevin’s declarations against Fancy Farm, the 135 year old political stump speaking picnic, meet with similar success or be viewed as an overreach? That is the question playing out now as the Fancy Farm relevancy discussion intensifies.

After Bevin’s speech some commentators seemed sympathetic to Bevin’s questioning of the modern value of Fancy Farm. They asked, What value is there, really, from candidates running for high political office congregating in deep Western Kentucky for one weekend in August each year to simply throw hard political punches and cutting verbal jabs at their opponents?

Fancy Farm seems to invite and even celebrate the most frivolous of political maneuverings and machinations. Observers cheer and jeer their candidates and political party –often jeering more than cheering. The criticisms being leveled at Fancy Farm are largely high-minded appeals that liken Fancy Farm to a political form of Internet bullying or vicious Twitter insults, which likewise have no role in our public discourse and shouldn’t be tolerated or encouraged.

Certainly, there would be value in better ensuring that the speaking and politicking at Fancy Farm more closely honor the historic practices Fancy Farm seeks to celebrate. It’s hard to disagree that, at times, Fancy Farm rhetoric and activities get derailed into something more akin to a vaudeville act than old-timey political stump speaking. I’m not suggesting a sanitized version of Fancy Farm. That would miss the point. One of the great values of Fancy Farm is that it provides a political forum that is unsanitized, as political commentator Scott Jennings aptly put it.

Citizens and voters today are bone weary of the modern consultant-controlled and remote TV/Internet/Social Media political campaigns. More than bone-weary, they are starving for authenticity and spontaneity. Something extinguished by the modern political campaign machines. Fancy Farm offers a glimpse, even if only a crude and momentary one, to voters seeking genuine human contact and real unscripted interaction with political candidates. The opportunity for that kind of “old fashioned” political interaction is rare and seemingly on the cusp of extinction. Fancy Farm, in it’s own rambunctious, rakish and rube-like ways is trying to fan that flame before it gets extinguished entirely.

At bottom, Fancy Farm may be a brutish attempt at trying to preserve something noble in politics: the genuine human element. An attempt, by the way, that all well-mannered and high-brow efforts to retain have failed to preserve. And, oddly, the raw carnival nature of the way Fancy Farm captures this voter-to-candidate connectedness may be what helps it succeed.

The chief complaint from Fancy Farm critics seems to be that the weekend picnic late each summer brings out the worst in our political instincts by encouraging candidates to say harsh, personally cruel and caricature-ish things about one another that demeans and diminishes our political process and needs to be eliminated rather than celebrated.

Ironically, the harshest barbs hurled against gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin weren’t originated at Fancy Farm but were quoted directly from television, internet and radio ads (our more modern campaign tools) by Senator Mitch McConnell when Bevin challenged Senator McConnell in the Senate primary last year. And the same can be said for much of the harshest Fancy Farm rhetoric—it is merely a repetition of what has been (or will be) run for months as paid political advertisements on television, radio and the Internet.

Ironically, then, what really makes Fancy Farm appear so crude and cruel isn’t what is actually said or done from the dais. Rather, it is simply because it is being said face-to-face rather than said more palatably by an actor in a soft voice-over for a paid political television advertisement.

Perhaps, what is truly shocking about Fancy Farm is that it reminds us of just how uncivilized, coarse, bizarre and ridiculous our “modern” political campaigning methods have become. And how it is actually these modern political campaign tactics that may be the real relics that are corroding our political process and need to be politely euthanized.

I believe Fancy Farm is a jarring reminder of that fact. But understanding the bigger problem requires looking beyond Fancy Farm and connecting dots that are much bigger and much more worrisome than a little picnic in the recesses of western Kentucky. Eliminating Fancy Farm won’t eliminate coarse political insults from the political process. It will only relieve candidates from ever having to say it to their opponent’s face.

This doesn’t justify the excesses of Fancy Farm but does help put them into a more honest perspective.

We should all work to find ways to provide authentic political events that better provide a vehicle for citizens to interact face-to-face with their political candidates. Any move away from the “modern” political campaigning practices of spending billions of dollars annually (that’s right, billions) for paid political advertisements featuring sanitized viciousness and nonsensical blather should be encouraged.

Crude and unsavory political insults should never be the bread and butter of our modern political discourse, but until we as a society are ready to have a serious discussion about really changing that very serious and chronic malignancy in our body politic, it’s hard to take seriously those focusing in on a once-a-year annual picnic that, at worst, merely caricatures in a fun and festive way –and allows us to laugh at it— the kind of political debate that we as citizens and voters have to endure remotely and pretend to take seriously as “real political campaigning” the rest of the year.

Eli Mitchell: Harvard Football Doesn’t Stop

eli mitchellHarvard’s football players have been challenged for over 100 years to balance not only academic excellence, but excellence on the field as well. Even during the summer, over 40 players stay in Cambridge to work out and either attend summer school or work a full-time job.

“There’s something special about the history of playing for Harvard football, it’s one of the first college football teams to ever exist, to think about the guys to come before you, who put in the same kind of hard work and dedication,” said senior defensive back Sean Ahern. “It’s nice to see the rewards of that when you win a big game and the fans are pumped up.”

Most upperclassmen are working a 9 to 5 job during the summer, while underclassmen take summer courses to help ease the load during the school year.

“You have to be better at time management during the season, because you have all this time that is technically free but it’s really not,” Ahern said.

Weekdays begin at 5:15 am with workouts run by Strength and Conditioning Coach James Frazier and the training staff, according to Ahern. These workouts include a lift, agilities, and conditioning exercises.  Head Coach Tim Murphy and all of the position coaches are not allowed to be at summer workouts due to NCAA rules.

Ahern said that he thinks “it’s a good thing; whatever we want to put in is what we are going to get out. We usually put in a lot of work.” The team’s senior leaders additionally organize workouts in the afternoon. Ahern said he believes that the work being put in now will pay off come September 19th, when Harvard will begin their season playing the University of Rhode Island.

The summer is not much different when you’re not on campus as a Harvard football player, with working and working out still a player’s top priorities. Jacob Mayes, a sophomore linebacker from Memphis, Tennessee stayed at home for the summer session. His days are spent much like they would be if he was at Harvard, working out and working a full time job.

Mayes has focused his time on recovering from a back injury, with a goal of being healthy when the players are expected to report back on August 19. Mayes looks forward to reuniting with his teammates in Cambridge. “All the times in the locker room are just the best, being around everyone,” he said.

Ahern will be looking to replicate his standout junior season, although he didn’t set any specific goals for the summer other than “getting in the best shape possible.” He was awarded first team all Ivy League for his play during Harvard’s undefeated 2014 season, along with 37 solo tackles and with two pass breakups.

“There’s nothing more special than Harvard-Yale especially last year, with college gameday, that was the pinnacle of my football career,” he said.

“There’s something special about the history of playing for Harvard football, it’s one of the first college football teams to ever exist, to think about the guys to come before you, who put in the same kind of hard work and dedication. It’s nice to see the rewards of that when you win a big game and the fans are pumped up.”

Josh Bowen: How to Really Read a Food Label

joshA couple of years ago it became crystal clear to me. A concept that I had taken for granted for so many years as a trainer. It was not until I sat down at my parents’ dinner table, with the intention to discuss nutritional habits and my mother (who has been a nurse for like 90 years) drops a bomb on me. “I have no idea what the labels that are on the back of foods, no clue what it means.” WHAT! “You don’t know how to read a food label?” “You are a nurse!” Now before all the nurses out there decide to bomb my house, I am in no way saying that nurses lack knowledge in any way. What I am saying is, in general, most people do not know how to read food labels. Thus, not understanding what and how much of the foods we are eating. This is a big problem. But, this is a problem I intend to solve with today’s entry! Yes, JB to the rescue!


OK. Let’s start simple. Take a look at the food label above. We will start at the top; Serving size. This generally references how many servings are contained and what the size of each serving is. This is where some people go wrong because they will see the total calorie amount and tend to overeat because they consume too many servings. Regardless of what the food is, keep mindful of how much of it you are eating by keeping track of the serving size.

Now lets look at the calories per serving. So regardless of the serving size this will tell you how many calories per each serving. So if something is 100 calories per serving and you eat 2 servings, that’s 200 calories (and yes I am a University of Kentucky graduate.) To the right you will see calories from fat. To attain this number you take the total number of fat grams and multiply it by 9 (fat is 9 calories per gram). Now be careful here, fat is not the enemy. These food labels give you the impression that fat is the enemy, it is not. Avocados will have a lot of fat calories but they are good for you!

Now lets take a look a little lower. Fat is the red headed step child of the 3 macronutrients but I digress. The top line will show you the total fat grams and then its broken down into Saturated fat, Unsaturated Fat and Trans Fat. In some foods you will see unsaturated fat broken down into polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Each will have the total number of grams and a percentage. That percentage is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. This may or may not apply to you. If you are eating less calories, the percentage would be less and vice versa.

Going on down the list you will see sodium, potassium (sometimes) and cholesterol. As I have said in past blogs, choosing foods with more potassium than sodium is always a great idea. This will help with the reduction of water retention.

Now onto carbohydrates. Pay close attention to this one because it can get confusing. Underneath carbohydrates is Dietary Fiber and Sugar. Dietary fiber blunts the effects of insulin so you want a decent amount of fiber in your foods. From time to time you will see the phrase “net carbs” this refers to taking the total amount of sugar and subtracting the total amount of fiber from it. Hence the term “net carbs.” Pay attention to something interesting, on every nutrient you will see a % daily value compared to a 2000 calorie diet, with the exception of sugar. There is no recommended daily consumption of sugar. This is because we shouldn’t be eating SUGAR!!!!

The last nutrient is protein. Again, the same drill for fat and carbs, total number of grams. As a review, fat is 9 calories per gram, protein and carbs are 4 calories per gram respectively.

Most foods will list Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron. The percentages are based upon RDI (recommended daily intake) for these nutrients. The percentages are per serving how much of these nutrients you are getting based upon a 2000 calorie diet.

This is vital skill to learn and will keep you out of a calorie surplus because you understand how much per serving. Keep all of these in mind when you are choosing a food. Use these tips to help you decide on a food:

1. Pick foods that are low in sugar and high in fiber.
2. Pick foods that a nutrient dense and high in calcium.
3. Pick foods that have more potassium than sodium.
4. Typically, foods that do not have a food label (fresh vegetables and fruits) are better for you!

 

Josh Bowen: Death by Stress

joshStress kills, and here are the statistics from the American Institute of Stress:

Stress increases the risk of:

Heart disease 40%
Heart attack 25%
Stroke 50%

Also…

44% of overstressed people overeat and 44% lose sleep every night. Extreme stress events (i.e. divorce, jobs loss) reduces grey matter in regions tied to emotional and psychological functions leading future psychiatric problems.

And finally…stress causes up to 60% of all human diseases. Wow. Our stress is killing our bodies.

So lets look at the main culprit in our physiology that is causes havoc on our bodies, cortisol. Cortisol is the “stress” hormone. It is released during times of stress from our adrenal glands (glands that sit on top of your kidneys that also produce adrenaline amongst other hormones). Now mind you, our body looks at all stress the same, no matter if it is; psychological, physical or emotional stress. Either way the following happens:

1. An individual is faced with a stressor. 

2. A complex hormonal cascade ensues, and the adrenals secrete cortisol.

3. Cortisol prepares the body for a fight-or-flight response by flooding it with glucose, supplying an immediate energy source to large muscles.

4. Cortisol inhibits insulin production in an attempt to prevent glucose from being stored, favoring its immediate use.

5. Cortisol narrows the arteries while the epinephrine increases heart rate, both of which force blood to pump harder and faster.

6. The individual addresses and resolves the situation.

7. Hormone levels return to normal.

So what is the big deal? The environment of the typical American is such where we rarely take time off (raise my hand), are constantly moving without resting and have so much on our plate that we become overstressed and do not know how to manage it. Our bodies over produce cortisol and we are constantly in fight or flight. Put all that together with a lack of physical activity and poor nutrition and you have a recipe for disaster. Here are a few ways cortisol is destroying our bodies:

Weight Gain/Obesity

The repetition of cortisol release due to stress causes weight gain in many people, more specifically body fat retention. Cortisol can relocate stored triglycerides to visceral fat cells (deep and under the muscle tissue). This type of fat is what kills us. Cortisol also suppresses insulin release causing increased blood sugar levels leading to cells that are starved for glucose and signaling to the brain for the body to overeat and thus the unused glucose is stored as body fat.

Blood Sugar Imbalance and Protein Degradation 

Under stressful situations, cortisol provides the body with glucose by tapping into protein sources (dietary protein stored in the liver and muscle) and increasing blood sugar levels leading to diabetes. Cortisol essentially uses protein as fuel and can lead to burning up your muscle tissue.

Inflammation/Immune System Suppression

Cortisol functions to reduce inflammation in the body, which is good, but over time, these efforts to reduce inflammation also suppress the immune system. Chronic inflammation, caused by lifestyle factors such as poor diet and stress, helps to keep cortisol levels soaring, wreaking havoc on the immune system. An unchecked immune system responding to unabated inflammation can lead to myriad problems: an increased susceptibility to colds and other illnesses, an increased risk of cancer, the tendency to develop food allergies, an increased risk of an assortment of gastrointestinal issues (because a healthy intestine is dependent on a healthy immune system), and possibly an increased risk of autoimmune disease.

*****above taken from

4. Jones DS, Quinn S (eds). Textbook of Functional Medicine. Gig Harbor, Wash.: Institute for Functional Medicine; 2006.

5. Weinstein R. The Stress Effect. New York: Avery-Penguin Group; 2004.
So how do we combat this? Taking from my chapter in Jonathan Miller’s book, “12 Steps to Surviving a Crisis” http://therecoveringpolitician.com/12steps

Stress Reduction/Rest/Sleep

Sleep/rest can aid in the reduction of stress thus reducing your overall cortisol secretion. Taking a day off or taking a vacation, sleeping and learning to let go of things that do not matter will contribute to reducing your stress. Also, getting people out of your lives that cause you stress and incorporating those that have you back always are good ways to kill your stress.

Nutrition

Same mentioned earlier, our hormones have a big impact on our bodies. Crisis and stress enhances that. Nutritionally we eat to survive but can also eat to thrive. Excessive cortisol production will cause our bodies to tear down muscle tissue and cause us to store unwanted body fat. It will also suppress our immune systems during times of stress. Not good. The American diet consists of too much processed foods, alcohol, wheat and sugar. Reducing these can help dramatically with your stress levels and body fat percentages. 

Foods shown to reduce cortisol production are eggs, lean beef, sweet potatoes, fruits, and lots of vegetables. Raw, organic vegetables are preferred because of the high amounts of vitamin C, a cortisol reducer and anti-inflammatory. Almost including foods high in fiber (not bread) will help level out blood sugar levels.

Resistance Training

The human body does not know the difference between “good” stress or “bad” stress. So any stress put upon it will cause hormone secretion. Resistance training (lifting weights) is a stress to the body, however it allows your body to strengthen and grow your muscles and strengthen your bones. Very important in times of crisis. Also, will allow you to blow off much needed steam.

If you are a beginner start with 3-4 days of resistance training. Make sure you give your body 48-72 hours between body parts before you hit them again. As you progress you can start incorporating Tabatas, plyometrics, cross training into your program. Make sure you get ample rest and nutrition, as this you will your recovery and reduce your stressful situation.

Conditioning

It is said that the heart is your most important muscle in your body. That is correct, without your heart most processes in the body could not take place. The heart transports blood, oxygen, and waste amongst other things. It cannot take heavy stress over a long period of time. Diet, exercise and reduced stress play an enormous part in the hearts health. In times of crisis the heart takes a pounding due to increased hormone secretion, high blood pressure and increased anxiety.

Strengthen your heart by training, not just cardio. Cardiovascular training will help increase the amount of blood pumped in a heart beat, thus making it more efficient. 3-4 days of vigorous activity is best. Beware, over doing cardio also causes stress to the body. Keep it simple in times of crisis.

Holistic Health

Taking into account more than just practical medicine, holistic health is a huge part of well being during a crisis. Here we will concentrate on herbs that will reduce cortisol production and holistically improve your body versus turning to practical medicines.

Black tea, green tea, ginkgo all have cortisol reducing properties. Implement them into your diet and watch your stress levels and cortisol production decrease.

Meditation

As discussed earlier rest and relaxation play as big a part of crisis control than fitness. Being able to relax and meditate will increase serotonin production to relax the body.

Take 15-30 minutes per day and shut out all the distractions and just let your mind/body relax. If need be get a massage!

Flexibility/Yoga

Yoga/meditation/massage all have similar outcomes on the brain. Allowing you to relax and shut out the worlds problems. Becoming more flexible will reduce the amount muscular stress on your body thus will help the overall stress.

Take a yoga class or just take time to do some dynamic movements like lunges or body weight squats will do wonders for your flexibility, joints, tissue strength and stress levels.

Fitness is the vehicle to get you to your goals. Use it wisely during times of crisis and stress.

Eli Mitchell: Patrick Towles – the Key to Kentucky’s Success

eli mitchellThroughout the year, Mark Stoops has been adamant that the quarterback competition is still ongoing. The competition features redshirt freshman Drew Barker and redshirt junior Patrick Towles. Throughout UK’s fifteen spring practices both quarterbacks took reps with the first and second teams. Coach Stoops has admitted that Towles has the advantage over Barker but would still not name him the starting quarterback. If Stoops wants to see improvement in SEC play, he needs to name Patrick Towles the starting quarterback.

Patrick Towles comes from legendary Highlands High School where he started for three years and won three state championships along with Mr. Football honors his senior year. During his freshman season at Kentucky he played in five games completing 19 of 40 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown. He had some impressive moments but when Stoops arrived in Lexington the following season Towles was redshirted. Towles was devastated like most people would be, but he decided to make the most of it. The following spring he showed the staff that he had developed into an SEC caliber quarterback. He was named the starter in fall camp over Reese Phillips and Drew Barker.

Towles had some impressive moments during Kentucky’s 2014 season, he threw for 2,718 yards and 14 touchdowns. He showed his leadership in big games against South Carolina and Mississippi State. Some of his decision making against Louisville was questionable but after another year of maturing, Towles is ready for the next step. With playmakers all around him, it should be easy for Towles to put up big numbers this season. Look for Garret Johnson, Dorian Baker, and Ryan Timmons to fill bigger roles. If Coach Stoops and staff want to improve their record from last year they need to rally around Patrick Towles because of his maturity and leadership.

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