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Pelvic Floor & Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (PFD)

Pelvic Floor & Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (PFD)

The pelvic floor is the basket of muscles and fascia that sits at the base of your pelvis, which stretches front to back the pubic bone to your tailbone, and side to side to your sitz bone. Essentially this “holds everything together” and without the these muscles you wouldn’t be able to pee, have babies, or have orgasms. 

Throughout a woman’s lifetime she may experience pelvic floor dysfunction, with the most common symptom being urinary incontinence, which is an involuntary leakage of urine due to weak pelvic foundation. I think we are conditioned as woman that weakening, bladder dysfunction, and pelvic discomfort as we age is normal. It is not normal and there are things that can be done to be comfortable as we age. In addition to urinary incontinence there are other pelvic floor problems that can manifest, dyspareunia (pain during intercourse), lower back pain, and even pelvic organ prolapse. Especially regarding woman’s health, you need to be proactive and one step ahead to ensure these issues don’t arise, which is highly possible due to the natural aging process.

You must strengthen the foundation first and foremost. This goes for the majority of your tissue types, and understanding a base level of interconnections between every tissue in your body is important.

Good news, there is actually quite a few preventative methods that can encourage a healthy pelvic floor. Every woman at any age can benefits from these guidelines, even if they’re asymptomatic. Although these seem simple overtime this can add up to make a big difference:

  • POSTURE

Often overlooked, but so important. Being proactive about posture is vital to overall health. It’s the core pillar to physical health by ensuring that your body is able to take on daily tasks with more energy, while keeping away fatigue. Poor posture is less resistant to the strains and stresses we experience over the months, years and decades of our life. When sitting or standing for long hours our posture can be working for us or against us. Therefore, it’s important to consider alignment of our spine and pelvis during these times. When we are constantly slumped our muscle floor activity can weaken as we age.

  • GENERAL FUNDAMENTAL STRENGTH

Hip mechanics, tightness and coordination through your hips and lower abdomen have connections to regions of the pelvic floor. General strength needs to be achieved through engagement and an intermediate level of strength in these regions. If your pelvic floor needs strengthening developing a foundation of strength can be beneficial. This can be achieved by specific exercises, squat, glute bridge, deadlift exercises done consistently. Remember to consciously engage the muscles through proper posterior pelvic tilt positioning, lower core and glute engagement.

  • ANTI INFLAMMATORY FOODS/DIET

One important, but often overlooked contributor to inflammation and pain is food. While no foods can fix or prevent PFD or pelvic pain, eating to nourish and support pelvic floor health definitely encourages it. Making dietary changes can have a significant impact on inflammation, which drives pain. Pelvic floor, surrounding tissue, and smooth muscle (bladder) are prone to irritability. When you have chronic inflammation your immune system gets stuck on high alert, and although you may not feel continuous pain it continues to attack in places that are vulnerable which triggers irritability. There are specific foods that increase inflammation – high sugar, processed carbohydrates, and dairy. Focusing on reducing these foods can decrease inflammation throughout your entire body. Focusing on a balanced nutritional intake with low anti-inflammatory properties that can decrease pain; fish, nuts, leafy greens, and whole grains.

  • HYDRATE

More specifically, don’t allow your body to reach dehydration. Dehydration makes more concentrated urine which aggravates the bladder, and creates muscle spasms. This happening consistently can lead to weakening our entire pelvic floor over a prolonged period of time.

  • SUPPLEMENTATION GEARED TOWARDS MUSCLE AND NERVE FUNCTION

Magnesium is important for many processes in the body, with the primary function being to keep muscles and nerves healthy. Magnesium is a mineral that plays an important role in muscle relaxation. It has significant calming properties, so when a nerve is being over stimulated, magnesium can actually calm it down. When you have a weak pelvic floor your bladder contracts without you giving it permission to do so, resulting in urinary incontinence (bladder leakage). Due to it’s relaxing effect, it may be used to ease pelvic tightness, which occurs in both skeletal muscle and smooth muscle (such as the bladder). Subsequent that with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Omega 3 fatty acids contain properties counteract inflammation, improving pain and irritation. Vitamin D affects skeletal muscle strength and function. Low Vitamin D has been associated with bone and muscle weakness. As woman age we are more prone to Vitamin D deficiency, which is linked to cause pelvic floor muscle or skeletal weakness.

  • LIMIT COFFEE & CAFFEINE

Coffee does have benefits if consumed in moderation and within a specific window. But it’s important to understand that coffee/caffeine is more than just a beverage. Coffee is a stimulant, which means it can have a negative chemical affect on your body if consumed to much. Coffee is also a diuretic causing you to pee more than you should triggering urinary frequency, and results in pelvic floor irritation.

  • LIMIT REFINED SUGAR

Excess sugar leads to inflammation, period. That is a scientific fact. Severe inflammation results in the weakening of your entire pelvic floor which can lead to decreased function of your surrounding organs & tissue. Refer back to anti-inflammatory diet/foods.

These are general guidelines and solely for preventative education on pelvic floor. Severe incontinence, & confirmed diagnosis of PFD should seek professional help and specialist in treating pelvic floor conditions.

THE IMPORTANCE OF RESISTANCE TRAINING (maintenance & optimization of health and longevity)

THE IMPORTANCE OF RESISTANCE TRAINING (maintenance & optimization of health and longevity)

Unpopular truth: YOU NEED TO PRIORITIZE STRENGTH TRAINING FOR REASONS OTHER THAN ALTERING BODY COMPOSTION , MUSCLE GROWTH AND IMPROVING STRENGTH.

Resistance training is so much more than a modality to build strength and alter body composition. It’s a modality that improves your quality of life, and increases vitality and longevity. Resistance training cures you of the bad and leaves you with the good while physically transforming your body. It empowers you. It provides you with the knowledge that you’re bettering yourself. It keeps you coming back for more and provides long term sustainable results that contribute to your heath and well-being.

As the American lifestyle became more sedentary and the rise of decreased health and longevity as grown over the past decade the promotion of physical activity has become more encouraged. At this point, I think we all know that exercise is crucial to living a heathy life. It decreases risk of disease, improves sleep, reduces stress and the list goes on. However, the initial emphasis was placed on aerobic training as the primary method for weight loss and benefits towards health. Aerobic training is great for metabolic health (i.e. reduce stress, insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, lipids) and does play a part in maintaining and optimizing good health. Implementing a combination of aerobic and resistance training is optimal and advised. However, when you use resistance training as a primary method for exercise you’re directly working against one key factor: the natural progression of aging.

As we age there are specific factors that interfere with our ability to maintain aesthetics and optimize our health (hormones, fat storage shift, sarcopenia/muscle loss, osteopenia/bone strength, decreased elasticity and collagen production). It’s an inevitable part of life that our bodies are going to change, internally and externally. So the question relies heavily on how to maintain a heathy body composition and simultaneously contribute to our health. When understand this it becomes easier to shift our efforts towards methods that reverse aging and improve these health factors.

We’re are seeing a paradigm shift towards resistance training as a primary exercise method. Over the past decade new research and studies are emerging with the benefits it can provide to improve our quality of life. The general population has started to realize that resistance training is more than building muscle and altering body composition, which is amazing.

The goal is to get your desire results but in a way that feels good by providing confidence, knowledge, energy, stamina and strength. I’ve outlined below specific factors that hold the most value towards moving well and feeling good, for as long as possible:

  • Hormonal balance / influence (decreases fluctuations / optimize hormonal profile and fat storage). Several factors influence the balance of our hormones: aging, stress, nutrition, body composition, insulin resistance, to name a few. Resistance training creates hormonal changes that help both men and woman in building dense muscle tissue and assists with decreasing the shift in fat storage in problematic locations. Strength training can also help regulate sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen) when we age. In men, testosterone levels drop which can affect muscle growth, energy levels and sex drive. In woman, when you reach perimenopausal your estrogen levels are starting to fluctuate and are slowly decreasing. Once menopause takes place there is a significant drop in estrogen causing a shift in fat distribution viscerally (fat surrounding internal organs). Visceral fat is more damaging to your metabolic health compared to fat deposited in your arms or legs for example. In summary, if you want a healthy hormonal profile, strength training – independent of other lifestyle and nutritional changes – is a key component to balance and maintain dense tissue and eliminate problematic fat storage.
  • Increases muscle tissue (decreases sarcopenia). Sarcopenia is progressive and generalized loss of muscle tissue. Starting around age 30-35 we start naturally decreasing muscle tissue and overall function of muscle tissue. On a more extreme scale physically inactive people lose 3% to 5% muscle mass every decade. Sarcopenia is inevitable due to aging but we want to slow the progression for reasons beyond appearance. The importance of maintaining muscle tissue is valuable for longevity by maintaining general strength, stamina, and posture. Additionally, muscle tissue plays a major role in determining your resting metabolic rate (RMR), which is how many calories you burn at rest. Your total resting metabolic rate accounts for 60-70% of your total body expenditure in non-active people, where fat is the body’s preferred energy source at rest. Increasing muscle size through resistance increases RMR, therefore increasing or sustaining fat-loss overtime, which again is more than maintaining healthy body fat but more increasing longevity and living comfortably.
  • Increases Bone Density (decreases Osteopenia). Osteopenia is a loss of bone mass and weakening of your bones. The weakening of your bones increase your chances of developing osteoporosis. This bone disease causes fractures, stooped posture, pain and decreases quality of life. It is important to understand that osteoporosis is not a disease in a clinical sense, but a condition. Your bones are in a state of building until the ages 30-35, after that point we lose bone density. Yours bones can also be affected by genetics, sex hormones (que estrogen & hormone fluctuations above), physical activity, lifestyle and even medications. Similarly to muscle, bone is also a living tissue, constantly undergoing renewal, and it responds best when challenged through impact loading exercise to rebuild and become stronger. Resistance training is extremely valuable for building the density of your bones and becoming stronger. By loading the bone through a progression of strength and repetitive mechanical force the bone begins to remodel. This greatly reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis or bone weakening. Also, incorporating Vitamin D naturally or through supplementation is also valuable for prevention.
  • Metabolic Health / Long term weight control. Only 12-15% of Americans are considered metabolically healthy. Metabolic health translates to many valuable health concepts that are transferrable to longevity and decreased risk of chronic disease. In order to be considered metabolically healthy this means having ideal levels of blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol, blood pressure and waist circumference. Your muscle cells will burn more calories than fat cells will. When you build muscle mass, you are also improving your metabolic health by boosting your resting metabolic rate. Increased muscle tissue and density in your skeletal system plays a vital part in metabolic health by regulating insulin, oxygen, blood, and improving detoxification.
  • Optimize Fat Storage (decreases inflammation & visceral fat ). Excessive body fat (primarily viscerally) is associated with many risk factors such as elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, increased insulin sensitivity and increased inflammation – these are the culprit to chronic disease. As we age peripheral fat tends to shift viscerally. There is countless studies stating increased fat in the abdominal cavity is the cause of underlying disease and decreased health in general. By implementing resistance training it can significantly decrease likelihood of visceral fat in older men and women. The emphasis is heavily on the decreased likely-hood of fat storage viscerally in pre and post menopausal woman (which is common due to drop in estrogen). By shifting fat away from the abdominal cavity it decreases inflammation, increases resting metabolic rate (RMR), improves insulin sensitivity, and enhances sympathetic activity.

As you can see there is a lot of similarities between these concepts. Each of our bodies systems are interconnected and dependent on each other. All of your body systems work together to keep you healthy. Your bones and muscle tissue work together to support and move your body freely and comfortably. What is good for one is often good for the other. Resistance training does just that by taping into these various body processes. It is a viable long-term method to prevent weight gain, deleterious changes in body composition and optimize your health in the process. You do not need to lift like a body builder or weightlifter to reap these benefits. Nor do you need to strength train six days a week. Implementing resistance training two times a week can bring positive change to your life. There is no better feeling than becoming stronger, fitter while optimizing your health and well-being. It’s never to later to start, and anyone at any fitness level can do it. So what are you waiting for?

In simple bullet form here is what I outlined above and what will improve:

  • improve bone density
  • improve joint & ligament health
  • improve insulin sensitivity
  • improve posture
  • Improve balance
  • improve sleep and energy levels
  • improve sex drive
  • improve self-esteem
  • improve cognitive resources
  • improves blood pressure
  • improve metabolic health (increase RMR)
  • improve muscle tissue (decrease sarcopenia)
  • decrease visceral fat
  • decrease inflammation

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.