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, no.

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.