Training Specificity

Training Specificity

“Great results comes from great focus and specificity, not only great variety.”

My earlier days of training were riddled with trail and error periods where I experimented with different movements, rep schemes, and loads. Initially I wasn’t entirely sure what my goal was but after becoming more comfortable with mechanics I decided that growing my glutes and legs was a top priority. With that in mind I would go in the gym and start my workout with a random warm-up without activation. Then I would jump into eight different lower body workouts thinking that as long as I hit all of them, my glutes were bound to grow. At first there were some noticeable changes but before I knew it I was plateauing and simply wasn’t happy with the results. I slowly began to realize that my training sessions lacked two key principles required to grow muscle: progressive overload and specificity. It wasn’t so much about the quantity of exercises I was doing , but slowly figuring out exercises that best targeted my glutes and then getting stronger within those exercises. In addition to that, I realized my warm-up had to align with my training goals which also meant activating the desired muscle group prior to going into my main exercises.

Progressive overload simply means doing more over time. In order for muscle to grow and strength to increase, the body must be forced to adapt to tension that is above what it previously experienced. This type of demand placed on your body dictates the type of adaption that will occur. However, these adaptions will never be linear, and that is okay and part of the process. It’s more about making personal progression in the long haul and being ruthlessly consistent. This is what eventually leads to an overall progression of strength, body composition and aesthetics.

Specificity, is my personal favorite principle to optimize growth, and in my opinion is not addressed enough. The term speaks for itself meaning that for training to be effective it must be specific and targeted towards what you are trying to achieve. Randomized programming, sensationalized exercises, and training a specific region once every few weeks will only frustrate you and make it difficult to reach your goal. Specific demand placed on a specific body part dictates the adaption that will occur. In summary, you must make sure your training matches your goals, period. However, the focus can vary based on personal goals and the degree to which you isolate that specific muscle group also depends on personal preference.

Ladies, in short, if your looking to make changes to your body composition be extremely specific towards what you want to achieve. Focus on getting stronger and progressing in those movements. The truth is, for most people the more they focus on getting stronger and improving athletisism, the faster they end up losing fat, building muscle, and loving their body. Do not steer away from fundamental principles that work. Simplify, train with intent, be patient, and above all, stay consistent!

I’ll be going into more details on exactly how to structure your sessions for optimal growth and progression, stayed tuned.

Cognitive Fatigue

Cognitive Fatigue

Cognitive fatigue (i.e mental tiredness, mental fatigue, mental exhaustion) is severe mental tiredness caused by tightly focused attention to detail, an over-stimulation of your brain which decreases cognitive resources, all independent of sleepiness. The signs of mental fatigue include drop in effectiveness, lack of motivation, cynicism with arise in irritability. To put it simply – severe increased mental effort needed to sustain focus depletes glucose needed to feed your neural energy. It’s more common to recognize physical fatigue, but knowing when you’re mentally fatigued can be much more difficult to detect. There are differences between cognitive fatigue and physical fatigue, but cognitive fatigue does have potential to impact physical endurance. Your mind and body don’t exist independently of each other, and the importance of the mind-body connection shouldn’t be disregarded. What is good for one is often good for the other.

My job requires an insane amount of focus on detail, a matter of determining a minuscule difference in human body tissue, at times more prevalent than others (depending on the severity of pathology) so physicians can make a proper diagnosis. By doing this several times a day in different organs and tissue textures, this leaves me extremely mentally fatigued and cognitively taxed. Comparable to when leg muscles are over worked they feel sore, making it difficult to walk. When your mind is similarly over worked, it becomes impossible to complete other tasks, resulting in a general loss of productivity and effectiveness, what I like to call “zombie like behavior”.

Cognitive fatigue is pervasive and has great potential to affect you in ways more than your mental state. In my opinion, your bodies way of saving itself. It’s vital to shift your focus towards restorative methods for your mind, clearing your mind of all distraction so you can refocus on what actually counts. Recognizing when we need a mental break and shifting your focus from a hyper focused sympathetic state to a parasympathetic state. This restoration occurs when we switch that effortful attention, when the mind needs to suppress distractions, to letting go and allowing our attention to capture what presents itself. Like most medical conditions, management and prevention are possible and necessary. Also speaking up is also important, setting boundaries for your work environment and also for yourself.

  • Imperfection. This goes towards your work and outside of that. Motivation to make the most perfect decisions can result in decision paralysis and is actually counterproductive towards being effective. Perfectionism is a double edge sword, by being our most perfect self sets president there is no room for error which error and failure is not bad, it leads to growth. Trying to be perfect is self sabotage. This is mentally taxing and creates more stress and mental fatigue. 
  • Take frequent mental breaks, not less. Working harder and longer is not necessarily better. Extreme focus, trying to get so much done with no breaks actually does more harm than good. It’s counterproductive. Taking frequent breaks actually improves mental clarity, and actually increases focus during times you need it. 
  • Staying organized. Disorganization and clutter believe it or not triggers cortisol (the stress hormone). The more cluttered your physical surroundings the more stressed you will be, often unknowing. Streamlined spaces have a direct correlation to increased mental clarity.
  • Sleep. Sleep deprivation can make your mind foggy from weariness, adversely affecting your mood, focus, alertness and productivity. When you have deadlines and obligations, tightly focused attention on work or tasks prioritizing sleep is the last thing on your mind . But by prioritizing sleep does the the opposite of what you might think your body needs sleep more than ever. It may feel like your getting more done by decreasing sleep, but more likely you are not being as efficient when you are not getting adequate rest. In addition to that more quality z’s are proven time and time again towards brain rejuvenation and improved mental health. 
  • Stress reducing activities. Meditation, and even a long walk does wonders. There is a direct link between long walks and creativity, walking leads to more creative thinking than a stagnant break.
  • Rest & Reset. The good old American “work-to-live” mentality is not sustainable. This mentality is not conducive towards health or productivity in the long run. Taking significant time off work and prioritizing a vacation period is not a luxury, it is a necessity, for both your mental and physical well being. A proper vacation/break helps shift priorities, replenish mental resources and be more efficient in your vision and tasks.

Women’s Health

Women’s Health

Women’s health is so important but what’s more important is normalizing the conversation about it. The single largest barrier regarding woman’s health is simply that these conversations are not socially accepted in most circles. We’re conditioned to keep womanly aches, pains and symptoms under a scope of mystery. Yet when we are experiencing pain or conflict in other regions of our bodies it’s socially acceptable to be vocal about it.

Women have been chronically understudied in science and medicine, there has been entire bodies of research that do not include woman at all. To be fair the bar is a lot higher when it comes to woman, we are complicated and complex both anatomically and emotionally, so the language we use is more complex, but that should never be a barrier to having these essential conversations about woman’s health. We do know a woman’s life expectancy has improved drastically, but this only became possible by eradicating the old-world way of thinking, separating a woman’s anatomical and biological need as there own. Shifting towards a female-focus approach to medical care that makes sex, periods, and hormonal issues regular territory and individualized.

Women’s health doesn’t only refer to her physical condition but to her total whole being. It is not solely biological factors but also the effects of her workload, career, nutrition and overall stress. By nature woman are often focused on the health and care of those around them, while at times neglecting there own needs. It is imperative for woman to take the time to maintain good health for themselves. There is a wealth of knowledge out there that is only growing and becoming more familiar, but it’s important to vet sources and make sure information is credible. In addition to that not being afraid to ask questions about your health when something doesn’t feel right and being consistent through preventative evaluation. Some of the most harmful conditions to a woman’s health are often preventable conditions that can be managed by recommended screenings. While you can’t eliminate risk factors associated with genetics and family history, there are specific lifestyles guidelines to follow and assist good health overall.

I talk with women daily about women’s health issues and symptoms they experience. To me, it is absolutely normal, and in all honesty, it’s one my favorite topics to talk about. One out of every five woman have specific symptoms (amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, hirsutism, menorrhagia) pertaining to a specific health conditions that need to be maintained and managed throughout there lifespan. The conditions vary based on severity, some managed through diet and lifestyle changes, others through trial and error periods of medications, or a combination of both. Specific diagnosis that comes with these dreaded symptoms include but are not limited to – PCOS, endometriosis, uterine fibroid’s, infertility, ovarian cysts (not related to PCOS). The goal is to get to a point where we are all able to talk about sex, pregnancy, and periods as regular health concepts versus stigmatized words. This only opens the door for preventative measures and management through modifiable lifestyle changes and treatment.

Being a woman is powerful and absolutely incredible. We literally grow human life, that’s amazing. But with this superpower but the biological biological trade off of is we take on a chance of developing a woman’s health condition. 

It’s time for us to truly change the way we talk about our health and sexuality. Seek out and support individuals that are making an impact. Learn how to talk about your experience. Connect and share with others. It will only open the doors for more education on prevention, overall health and eliminate stigma. If we do that, we’ll change the face of women’s health.

Some things you can do naturally to maintain woman’s health:

  • Elimination of tobacco. There is a correlation between nicotine and increased androgenic activity (male sex hormones). Woman who smoke tobacco excessively increase potential to impact reproductive health.
  • Track your menses/understanding your body. Your menstrual cycle can you tell you a lot more than whether your pregnant or not. It can be a vital signal to what is going on in your body. Hormone health regulates much of your body function. So identifying an irregularities tied to your menstruation can offer insight about health beyond your reproductive system. I highly suggest tracking it consistently. There are many free apps on your phone or you can use the Health app which comes standard on all iPhone’s.
  • Nutritional intake. Maintain a diet high in micronutrients, limiting simple carbs and refined sugar which helps maintain balance and inflammation. Woman also specifically need to pay attention to calcium, iron and folic acid intake.
  • Movement. Commitment to physical activity can do wonders alone. In conjunction with a movement, healthy intake, limiting tobacco and alcohol than even better. 
  • Stress Managment. Stress can literally steal hormones. Cortisol, which is the main stress hormone, works in balance with your estrogen. So if cortisol goes up due to stress, your estrogen production goes down, and visa versa. That’s important not just for hormonal health but also brain health.
  • Annual gynecology visits. Even if you are asymptomatic annual gynecology screenings are very important. If you are conscious of your individual risk, you can make adjustments to affect it.

Key Concepts To Optimize Fitness/Strength Progression

Key Concepts To Optimize Fitness/Strength Progression

Ultimately, creating a resistance program is a very individualized process. The needs and goals of the individual are paramount to how you go about your training. There is also somewhat of a trial and error period in terms of figuring out what works best for each individual. There are also outside factors that play a part in reaching your goals as well – training experience, health status, time available to train and special needs a person may need (i.e. injury, mobility, etc).

However, I have discovered there are concepts that you can apply to reach your desired results and make things more simple. Being mindful and conscious of what specifically you want to address is huge in making sure your training matches your goals. Structuring your sessions accordingly to get there is also important. Throughout my personal trial and error period, I have found there seems a lot of commonality on how to go about your training and to your surprise it may be more simple than you think:

1 . Specificity

Your training must be relevant to what you are trying to achieve. It’s really that simple don’t over complicate it. For training to be effective you must be specific and target the regions you wish to improve, consistently. Demand placed on a specific region once every few weeks will only frustrate you and make it difficult to reach your goal. Specific demand placed on a specific body part dictates the adaption that will occur, period.

2. Less is more

If your new to resistance training start small by slowly building strength, in a simple yet effective manner. It starts by getting comfortable with moving a barbell &/or dumbbells through the fundamentals and basics movements – squat, dead lift, lunge, press, etc. By using these fundamentals and simultaneously focusing on strength progression, this prevails over doing 101 exercises with no purpose. There has been countless backed evidence and studies solely focused on fundamentals and strength. Progressing with these methods allows you to get stronger, leaner and improve athleticism. I will add, however, different methods work for different people. It is imperative to adapt methods to fit individuals needs.

3. Simplify

Randomized programming, sensationalized exercises, “fun” movements will only make it difficult to reach your goals. This will leave you stagnant, and is not sustainable for many reasons; stamina, recovery, growth and even metabolism. Your metabolism needs time to recover and it will not have the chance to properly fuel your muscles if it is constantly taxed. Incorporating variations is important for specific reasons but again, simplify, train with intent and purpose.

4. Consistency trumps intensity

Intensity only increases the chances of physical stagnation, increased risk of injury, burnout and the dreaded plateau. The purpose of training is to force the body to adapt to added resistance and then optimize itself to that resistance. If your constantly forcing intensity, pushing past fatigue you body begins to feel stressed and begins to release cortisol for more energy. Focusing on gradually improving strength and finding individualized methods that work for you will not only lead to physical changes but ultimately make you keep coming back.

5. Prioritize outside habits

It’s not only the training that gets you to where you want to be, it’s evaluating your lifestyle needs outside of gym. The main goal is to get your desired results, but in a way that feels good and means long term lifestyle changes. By establishing smaller habits outside of the gym, you will feel more confident that you can succeed long term. This also allows for you to reflect on how exercise and nutrition changes are affecting your life aside from weight loss. Evaluate and assess your outside habits first and foremost. Prioritizing sleep, staying hydrated, decreasing stress and focusing on a well-balanced nutritional intake. These should be more important than weight loss, because once you shift that focus weight loss WILL happen when you continue to make positive changes to your lifestyle.

As you can see there is a lot of similarities between these concepts. I’ve discovered that it isn’t always about the time spent training or the quantity of exercises performed. It’s through purpose driven training tailored to specific goals. In other words, working smarter and not harder by structuring your sessions accordingly and being specific towards what you are trying to achieve. Although challenging yourself and working out consistently are important to your overall fitness, simplifying your approach is a key component. This is not to be confused with lack of focus or intensity. Dedication to your training is a valuable asset that requires your time and your energy. Train at a high level of intensity with minimum amount of stimulation to yield an adaptive response, then complement that with adequate rest and recovery.

Vitamins & Mineral Supplements

Vitamins & Mineral Supplements

Vitamins and minerals (i.e micronutrients) play a wide-reaching role in different processes of the body. But the question is, do we need to supplement vitamins and minerals? Simple answer, not really.

In the past, vitamins and mineral supplements were used to cure deficiency diseases. Supplementation nowadays are primarily used with the aim of reducing the risk of chronic diseases and increasing overall health and longevity. Although deficiencies are still prevalent, inadequate nutrient absorption is marked by an overconsumption of bad quality foods resulting in chronic inflammation. The matter of which this originates is more complex than previous years, but the level of importance is equivalent. Contrary to popular belief within the United States and other developed countries nutrient deficiencies aren’t as common as you think. The biggest issue is the lack of importance on lifestyle changes and quality nutrition.

Primarily our focus should be seeking the majority of our nutrients through a well-varied diet, low in anti-inflammatory properties, then seek supplementation for areas that may be lacking. Even then, supplementation might be tertiary dependent on the individuals lifestyle.

I see a lot of people talking about specific supplements and the benefits they provide. That is all good and well, however, our nutrient needs change throughout our lives and we need to constantly readjust these needs to the current state we are in. In order for our bodies to obtain the benefits of these supplements we shouldn’t assume factors outside of that are good and well. An overall shift in lifestyle behaviors and emphasis on nutrition alone will allow us reach optimal health potential. This starts with building a nutritional foundation and focusing on nutrient-dense foods. Consistent with this, reducing stress, adequate water intake, movement and time in nature are of equal value. Our society has steered away from these simple things our body needs to reach optimal health potential. It is all in the name of inspiring better habits and understanding how outside sources are impacting us first. Healthy living has gotten a little overcomplicated, the reality is if you are living a moderately healthy lifestyle chances are you’re getting sufficient nutrients. The thing is, you do not need excess amounts in order to reach optimal health, you simply need enough. However, this is not to be confused with lack of attention on nutrient contents. A required dedication to your lifestyle and nutrient needs is necessary and does require some time and energy.

I consider myself a pretty active person, that being said, my sole use for taking vitamin and mineral supplements is to ensure all my bases are covered. I can’t afford any gaps in between my career workload and activity level that could interfere with my recovery, performance and overall stamina. If I am not able to reap the benefits of my nutritional intake I take supplements solely as a precautionary method. Although some research suggests high activity levels in active individuals may increase their vitamin needs, there is still no official guidelines for vitamin recommendations. I simply want to make sure no stone is unturned and use them as a tertiary method by simply supporting and maintaining my intake.

In some cases there may be specific needs and requirements dependent on outside factors (dietary preference, genetics, age). Even then, creating better nutritional habits should be our primary focus. What each individual requires is different but there is a general guideline of what the majority of us are lacking in our modern world. These are the supplements I currently take:

Vitamin C – May be self explanatory but Vitamin C doesn’t just aid in increasing/maintaining immunity. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that fights free radicals in the body and is beneficial for tissue formation. If your highly active, Vitamin C can help repair from your workouts and can help stabilize your cortisol levels. 

Vitamin D – Vitamin D is the perfect example of a nutrient the majority of us are lacking (up to 80% of people are Vitamin D deficient). Vitamin D is a necessary supplement because first off, it is not present in most foods we eat. Aside from that factors like pollution, climate and even sunscreen (which is good!) it makes it harder for the body to receive via sunlight. It is absolutely crucial in keeping your bones strong, your immunity function high, and essential for growth and development.

Magnesium Glycinate – Not only does Magnesium assist in the absorption of calcium but its a key supplement in bone maintenance and development. Above that, magnesium helps in cell division and muscle health. On a chemical level, it can aid by activating the parasympathetic nervous system – responsible for getting you calm and relaxed.

Vitamin B12 – Cobalamin deficiency (Vitamin B12 deficiency) is more common than one might realize (up to 40%, but more so in elderly) Vitamin B12 is another vitamin (like vitamin d) where its possible you are not able to get enough from your diet or absorbs enough from your diet. Vitamin B12 is essential to make red blood cells, nerves, DNA and carry out other essential functions. Again, your body does not make Vitamin B12, therefore its important to ingest foods that are high in Vitamin B12.  

Primrose Oil – One of the benefits of taking Primrose Oil is the decrease in premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, more specifically, mastalgia (breast pain & hormone changes during menstruation). Arguably, Primrose Oil is a “fluff” vitamin and may or may be necessary, depending on the person. There hasn’t been enough scientific studies done to show any significant evidence. But, one of the largest studies conducted on Primrose Oil was specifically looking at mastalgia which showed an average of 35% reduction in breast pain after the consumption of primrose oil. Personally, I have really bad mastalgia and was suggested by my OB/GYN physician to take it to see if it made a difference in my symptoms. Another thing to keep in mind, evening primrose oil contains a high proportion of essential fatty acids and is valued for this specific reason. The benefits may coincide with the same benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids, that being said it may be used for the same reasons – skin, heart health, and specific inflammatory diseases.

Omega-3 – Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in health and again, are often under-consumed. Beyond supporting brain health, it supports heart health and vision. Most commonly found in fish, but fish actually accumulate those Omega-3s from microalgae. Meaning the original source is also vegan friendly. So when choosing your Omega-3s be on the lookout for Omega-3s that are sourced directly from micro algae.

Turmeric & Curcumin – If your not taking turmeric, what are you even doing? Turmeric may be the most effective nutritional supplement in existence. Numerous high-quality studies show it has major benefits on your body and brain. Turmeric contains bioactive compounds with medicinal properties, which has extremely powerful anti-inflammatory effects, and antioxidant properties. A lot of chronic inflammation contributes to many western diseases, so suppression of inflammation is important. Aside from it being a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant it may also benefit towards increased brain function, and even changes on a molecular level towards cancer prevention.

Folate – Folate is responsible for cell reproduction. It is most commonly prescribed for prenatal woman as it is extremely important during periods of rapid growth during pregnancy and essential to prevent against neural tube defects. Aside from that, folate is essential for the the maintenance of healthy cells and also helps regulate the concentration of an amino acid called homocysteine.

Power of Prevention

Power of Prevention

The US spends significantly more in health care than any other nation. On average each American spends $7,000 annually on medical expenses. Given this, you would assume the average American must be in excellent heath, right? Unfortunately the average life expectancy is far below other nations that spend less on health care. As a nation, more than 80% of our health care spending is on people with chronic health conditions. These conditions have drastically compromised overall quality of life and continue to climb as the nations leading cause of death and disability. Chronic disease are among the most common and costly of all health problems, but they are also among the most preventable.

Many chronic conditions are caused by a list of modifiable risk behaviors: lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, and poor oral hygiene. All of which can be changed through preventive measures to decrease probability.

Prevention needs to be pushed to the forefront for many. We must rethink our entire health care system by approaching health promotion activities that encourage healthy living while limiting the initial onset of chronic conditions. Not only does this reduce risk of these chronic conditions but it improves quality of life and longevity. Genetics and specific risk factors play a part in some of these conditions but the purpose is reducing risk and probability. It’s really easy to get caught up in being young when our general recovery process is more efficient and most of our internal organs and tissues are working at high capacity. To be most effective, this must occur in multiple areas of life and across an individuals lifespan. However, its never to late to make health a priority with modifiable health risk behaviors and lifestyle guidelines:

  • Physical Activity. Regular physical activity is one of the most important things a person can do. Physical activity increases longevity, assists with healthy weight management, improves insulin resistance, strengthens bones and increases dense muscle tissues. All of which reduce risk for chronic conditions.
  • Nutrition. It’s undeniable that a well-balanced diet goes hand in hand with a healthy lifestyle. A balanced diet, high in micronutrients helps prevent, delay and manage chronic disease. Aside from that, emphasis on good nutrition improves mood and reduces stress, which play a part in mental health and reducing inflammation. Nutrition is critical for reducing risk and increasing longevity .
  • Oral Health/Hygiene. Your mouth is a window into what’s going on in the rest of your body, often serving as a helpful vantage point for detecting the early signs of systemic disease and nutritional deficiencies. It also serves as the entry point to your digestive system, a part of the process in good digestive health. Your mouth contains hundreds of bacteria which help regulate a healthy environment. The bacteria from your mouth normally don’t enter your bloodstream. However, with an abnormal balance of bacteria it has potential to invade your bloodstream. If you have a healthy immune system, the presence of oral bacteria in your bloodstream causes no problems. However, if your immune system is weakened, because of a specific disease, oral bacteria in your bloodstream may cause you to develop issues in another part of the body. The connection between oral health and overall health and well-being cannot be ignored. Elimination risk can be as simple as prevention and maintenance of your oral habits. Daily brushing and flossing in conjunction with routine cleanings keep bad bacteria under control, allowing the body to use it’s natural defense efficiently.
  • Elimination of tobacco & alcohol. Both being key indicators of health outcomes. We know that excessive tobacco and alcohol, or a prolonged history of tobacco and alcohol use is associated with a wide range of health and social problems.
  • Sleep. Sleep is a vital life piece that is overlooked towards disease and prevention. Sleep is a recovery process. Consistent lack of sleep is directly associated with long term health consequences, including chronic medical conditions. In addition to that sleep is directly linked to increased stress, increased blood pressure and increased inflammation which is a key proponent in shortened life expectancy. Understanding how lack of sleep affects your health is crucial.
  • Stress Management. Long term activation of the stress response (i.e. chronic stress) results in overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones that eventually disrupt all your body’s processes and put you at risk for chronic diseases. Managing chronic stress is a key proponent to decreasing inflammation and eliminating risk. Learning to identify what your stressors are is the first step, then adjusting behaviors and navigating options that eliminate that. This can be accomplished through many things – emphasis on movement, good nutrition, meditation etc.
  • Know your family history. Understanding your family history and how it affects your risk for disease is an incredibly important way to protect your health. If you are conscious of your individual risk, you can make adjustments to affect it.

The power of prevention should be our primary focus. If we shifted our efforts towards preventative measures, even slightly, the outcome is significant. We have all the evidence of the ‘power of prevention’ but despite this our health care system has primarily focused on discovering treatments and cures for disease, rather than prevention. We must be individually accountable for behaviors that put us at higher risk for these conditions. If we improve outcomes and increase life expectancy, it will be due to changing health and wellness behaviors, not from spending trillions of dollars on treating chronic diseases. The positive, you have control of it, prevention starts with you.

Coffee & Health

Coffee & Health

Never say never, but most likely never will I be giving up coffee, lol. Aside from the caffeine part, I genuinely just love the taste so much.

Caffeine window

That being said I want to explore into the effects and of what it can do for you. Is there a suggested window you should leave caffeine-free? Absolutely! Studies suggest the most optimal time for coffee consumption is from 9am-12pm, being the most needed and utilized by the body at the time. At the minimum, a general rule of thumb is no consumption of caffeine past 2pm.

So where does this play a part in terms of health? Sleep. You may be able to fall asleep easy and you no longer feel the effects of caffeine but consumption 3-6 hours before bed can result in disruptive effects on sleep, at times unknowingly.

Although you might feel like reaching for that additional boost of caffeine in the afternoon might be a good idea it may be doing more harm than good. Post lunch/after ingestion there is an influx of biochemical changes caused by digestion and as a response you can feel tired. The next logical move would be reaching for more caffeine. That caffeine you feel you need is counterproductive and you might find yourself seeking even more long term. Everything in moderation, but the goal is caffeine consumption should be used to boost productivity not sabotage it.

Personally, I like to cut off any consumption by 12-1pm, at the minimum. I’ve felt those exact effects of caffeine. I am able to fall asleep but notice I feel restless and wake up more frequently during the night. Sleep is on the top of my priority list for recovery, stress, hormone stabilization, cognitive clarity and much more – all things I want to optimize as much as possible.

Coffee, more than just a beverage

Coffee is a considered a drug, not just a beverage. More specifically a stimulant – a substance that can increase activity of the nervous system and body. Thus, it should be used sparingly and only for specific purposes to alter consciousness, consciously.

Without going into to much detail coffee falls within one of the six drug categories (stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, dissociative, opioids, inhalants and cannabis), being a stimulant. Simply put, when something falls into one of these categories it has the ability to effect the body if consumed, whether that being positive or negative. Drug categories are grouped according to their chemical activity, each having there own characteristics, effects, and side effects. However, in moderation there is positives from coffee and one cup in the morning has been proven to be beneficial and assist in regulating the circadian rhythm. But as I mentioned above the appropriate window for consumption should be avoided in late afternoon or evening. Typically, the general use is to combat fatigue, and should be used to boost productivity not sabotage it. Chronic caffeine use can secretly be sabotaging your health and can result in low-level fatigue and even moderate to severe adrenal fatigue. Adrenal glands regulate stress response, overstimulation becoming difficult to respond to stress because your ability to produce necessary hormones is impeded. When repeatedly stimulated they can become exhausted. This can lead to other health issues, stress problems, ulcers, headaches, hypertension.

It really comes down to how you use it and how much by observing when and why you need caffeine in the first place. By doing this it can be incredibly telling towards dependence and differentiating low-level fatigue versus chronic adrenal fatigue. The good news is a stimulant dependence can be reversed within a 3-4 week period (on average, this is dependent on individual severity). Natural remedies for increased energy can easily be achieved and it can be as simple as evaluating your day to day lifestyle. This can be stat with a caffeine detox, emphasis on a healthy diet, quality protein sources and movement. Do you need to eliminate caffeine completely? Absolutely not. This is just a matter of reaching a healthy consumption where the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

Basic Lifestyle Guidelines

Basic Lifestyle Guidelines

My personal health and fitness journey has been riddled with a lot of trial and error periods as I drew knowledge from different sources; whether it was someone that inspired me, different schools of thought, the general interwebs, or my personal reading and research. I slowly figured out key principles I could rely on no matter what my current goal was that lead to optimal health and wellness. While I think this process is educational in and of itself, looking back, it would have been nice to have a quick checklist of foundational guidelines that I could use as the basis for proactively living a healthy lifestyle. To add to the confusion, the fitness and health industry is constantly bombarding us with the latest trends advertising quick and easy results, or revolutionary new research that can change your life. It’s easy to get distracted and forget about the basics that make the biggest impact.

With all that in mind and through my personal discovery I have yet to come across a better summary of the basics than what Opex Fitness has created and coined as the Basic Lifestyle Guidelines. Below is a summary of what they’ve outlined for clients the prerequisites for leading a healthy lifestyle, and what to focus on improving prior to any complex training or diet regiment. 

As I briefly stated, I believe addressing basic lifestyle guidelines that often go unnoticed will have a more profound impact on optimal health and wellness. At the end of the day, it’s not only the training that gets you to where you want to be, it can be as simple as evaluating your basic lifestyle needs. You often see huge emphasis on what you need to do in the gym to reach your health goals but it’s often what you do outside of the gym that should be your number one priority. The rapid pace of our society takes our focus away from the simple things that our body appreciates and needs over anything. Don’t underestimate the importance of the basics when it comes to feeling your best.

1. Balance (work, play, rest, relationships/social connections) –

There are 24hrs in each day, its very important that we apply work and rest appropriately. It is very easy to work endless hours and lose balance (especially in the US with the outlook of live-to-work versus the work-to-live outlook). Regularly reminding yourself of your purpose and priorities is essential in optimization of your health. 

As we’ve been currently going through social isolation due to COVID-19. Social isolation in general is a major issue in today’s society. Advances in technology means that there is no real need for in person connection to carry our business. But sorry to say, social interaction via social media is not the same thing as social interaction in real life. As humans, we thrive with real life connection. Lack of meaningful relationships and connections adds legitimate stress to our bodies. Make time for those connections and important relationships, even if that only means once a month. Social interaction is proven to be extremely beneficial for your physical and mental health and community is one of the main pillars of health. 

2. Circadian Rhythm (Timings/Energy)

Circadian Rhythm is factual science – we cannot argue with it. We have evolved to wake with the sun, and begin to shut down ready for sleep as the sun goes down. Working against this, so shortening sleep (recovery process) means we wake with less energy (not to mention the hormonal imbalances it can possibly create). This downward spiral will continue as long as we continue to delay sleep; effectively us living in a jet lagged state. 

Increased ‘eveningness’ is directly associated with increase rise of wide variety of disease and disorders (in an extended period of time). Simply put, working against our natural rhythm and staying awake long into the night can results in preventable illness.  

3. Purpose (Priorities) –

It is easy to get wrapped up in our day-to-day; forgetting WHY we’re doing what we’re doing, and before we know it our days are filled with things that do not make us feel fulfilled, and don’t serve us in the long term. Unfortunately, they also effect our balance and rhythm in the short term, therefore, adding stress. Behavior drives priorities, period. Does what you are spending your time doing align with what you thought were priorities? 

4. Hydration –

Feel dehydrated? Well, to late – your body is already in a pretty dehydrated meaning it can take 24-48 hours from that point to get back to where you need to be in terms of hydration. Cellular hydration is a vitally important basic lifestyle piece; easily achieved but often overlooked. Hydration is an investment. Start drinking water more, like yesterday!

5. Blood Flow (i.e. Exercise) –

An overall good rule of thumb: Have enough energy to train, do not train FOR energy. I absolutely love this. In this instance exercises is having adverse effect – adding stress through an unnatural burst of cortisol. Select a time of the day that works for you to exercise, where natural energy and cortisol are sufficient to support it. Refer back to purpose, remember your “why”. Regular high intensity workouts aren’t as sufficient long term as you may think. Unsustainable methods, unsustainable results, period. Exercising with sustainable methods will allow you to thrive in every other part of life.

6. Digestion –

Your body in a relaxed state is required to digest food. Take the time to enjoy your food. Rushing and not thoroughly taking the time to chew is not optional for digestion. I worked for/with a Nutritionist for three years (Hi, Desi & Dr. Nazarian) and she used to say the average the recommendation for proper breakdown for more successful digestion is 20-30 chews.

Another note, the composition of your gut can change quickly with stress. Altering the gut composition alters the absorption of nutrients. You could be eating the most nutrient dense foods and have the most balanced diet in the world, but you cannot digest properly and efficiency if you don’t minimize stress, and take time chew your food it wont matter what you in it.

7. Sunlight (Nature) –

Sunlight is crucial for overall health. It protects against inflammation and improves brain function, just a couple benefits. Depending on where you live this can be more difficult but you’d be surprised even just an hour walk makes a big difference. Offset the lack of sunlight with Vitamin D supplementation.

8. Mindfulness –

Mindfulness is a state of active open attention on the present. When you are mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting life pass you by. Mindfulness means living in the moment to awaken the experience. Familiarize yourself with the present moment, so that you get to experience a greater sense of focus, calm and clarity.

9. Food Quality –

Generally, avoid processed foods, instead eat whole foods. Vary protein sources and make them locally sourced and high quality. Eat wide variety of vegetables, fruits and nutrient dense carb sources. Add in good fats such as nuts, seeds, oils, avocado etc. and most importantly as we’ve already touched on – limit stressors to keep gut healthy, hormones balanced for optimal absorption of all the goodness.

10. Sleep –

Last but not least, you’ll hear me talk about sleep and the circadian rhythm a lot, get ready. Simply put, sleep is a recovery process. Sleep is vital. We know it’s importance in the circadian rhythm. Optimal sleep time should be 7-9 hours of unbroken sleep. To get that we need to create an environment that is conducive – less blue light exposure, don’t eat too close to bed are just a couple things. 

Lack of sleep has serious detrimental effects:

  • Impair insulin sensitivity
  • Increase gut permeability – leaky gut, stomach ulcers.
  • Increase systematic inflammation
  • Imparts immune function
  • Alters anabolic hormones
  • Causes cravings through hormone imbalance
  • Cognitive impairment

As initially stated, evaluating your basic lifestyle needs should be your number one priority. Dig deep and ask yourself are you prioritizing theses lifestyle guidelines to improve your overall health. As I initially stated, addressing these alone will have a more profound impact than you might realize.

Collagen Benefits

Collagen Benefits

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’ve heard of collagen and the benefits it can provide. Collagen is an important protein that provides structure for many parts of the body. The human body creates collagen naturally but with assistance of proper nutrient absorption. With that, the foods and nutrients you eat can help your body make this protein. Although focusing on receiving your nutrients in a natural form through food ingestion should be your primary source for nutrient absorption, many people don’t get enough nutrients from diet alone. Overtime, however, the production of this proteins slows down significantly therefore, it is essential to use supplementation. 

Before we dive deeper into the specific benefits, it’s important to understand that your body is all interconnected. Often times a symptom or deficiency showing itself in one region doesn’t necessarily mean that is where the cause is (I also see this often in my job).

I like to focus on viewing optimal health and wellness by taking an “inside-out” approach. This approach addresses every aspect of health and beauty to form a thriving system. This is why collagen is one of the most important nutrients, it is responsible for not just one, but several biological functions.

BENEFITS 

  • Supports health skin, hair and nails. I like to view the skin as a window into the health of your body. It is very telling and it is sure sign that your organs and inner body systems are not working optimal. Also, the skin is your body largest organ, it should be on the forefront in terms of priorities. Collagen improves elasticity, hydration, and overall strength, prevents early signs of aging and hair loss.
  • Allows muscle growth and regeneration. Increase muscle strength, aids muscle regeneration.
  • Makes up joints, tendons, and ligaments. Maintains the integrity of tendons and ligaments. 
  • Promotion Gut Health. Heals intestinal barrier and prevents “leaky gut”.
  • Ensures Heart Health. Supports cardiac muscle cells, aids in blood pumping. 
  • Supports Brain Health. Fights neuronal oxidation, prevents neurodegeneration. 

COLLAGEN SUPPLEMENTATION FORMS

Many collagen supplements go through a process of hydrolization. All this means is that the manufacturer has broken the collagen in the supplements down into peptides, making it easier for the body to absorb and use. 

There are three forms of collagen supplementation: tablet, capsule, and powder. There is research debating these forms and absorption rates. My two sense: don’t overcomplicate it, everyone is different in how they absorb and process nutrients so it should come down to a matter of preference. If you prefer tablet vs. powder, or visa versa than choose the route you are most comfortable with.

Hip Mobility

Hip Mobility

It’s 2020 and our sedentary culture has lead to our society become physically inactive. The rise in popularity of the internet and smart phones has contributed to a round the clock lack of exercise in people everywhere. Sure, with major technological advancements and direct access to anything we want we certainly more ‘mobile’ in our freedom. We can talk about how heart disease is the current number one causes of death, and the obesity epidemic is still thriving. But one thing that has the power to change how we move, feel and increase life expectancy is mobility, hip mobility and all that it entails.

Joint Mobility

Everyone at any age or fitness level needs to be able to move their limbs and joints through their full range of motion. This goes for fitness enthusiasts, geriatrics and the younger generation. Emphasis on mobility allows us to move comfortably without a second thought. With that, you are able to perform day to day tasks like walk up the stairs, or pick up groceries. In terms of reaching your fitness goals increasing mobility is even more important, allowing you to properly use weight (or yourself) with proper form and full range of motion. If your joint mobility is poor, performing any type of physical activity is going to be that much harder, and the increase for injury is that much higher. In order to thrive, we require full use of our limbs, joints and muscles. No, I am not saying you need to be able to do a full split or be a pro yogi (although I wish), simply regaining and maintaining full range of motion.

Hip Mobility

Just like our bones and muscles require resistance training to maintain strength through adaptation, our joints require regular movement and use to maintain health and mobility. As I’m sure you may have heard before, the body works together as a whole and everything is interconnected. The most common deficiency is in one specific location, the hips. In my case specifically, my lack of hip mobility has hindered improvements in both hypertrophy and strength. It took years of me neglecting stretching and mobility exercises to finally realize that in order to see changes and growth I needed to prioritize that, and STAT.

One huge factor that decreases our hip mobility is a sedentary lifestyle. So many of us in today’s world are forced into a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting negatively impacts us in two ways: it weakens the glutes and shortens the hip flexors. Did you know that the sole function of your glutes and hip flexors is to stand in an upright position and is responsible for movement of the hips and thighs. So when your glutes and hip flexors are are weak your lower back or knees ending picking up most of the slack (and not in a good way). With that excessive sitting and weak posterior chain, your hip extension is no longer sufficient.

Restoring hip mobility has the potential to:

  • reduce or eliminate lower back and/or knee pain
  • improve your power output allowing you to fully engage posterior chain during squats, deadlifts etc. and making them safer
  • improve overall strength and power of your hip extensions, again for compound movements, but also for explosive movements.

But most of all, hip mobility will improve your entire relationship with the rest of your body, eliminate a major stressor on your system as a whole and watch your fitness increase and your body achieve greatness!