Category Archives: Blog

The importance of vitamin D


Do you find yourself feeling depressed during the long and dark winter season? Have you ever noticed why your mood is generally better on sunny days? The explanation behind this is relatively simple. If you were to step outside in the middle of July at 10 AM with no sunscreen for 15 minutes, you would be able to produce roughly 1000 IU of vitamin D3 (this will vary depending on your skin pigment, weight, age). Under ideal conditions, the human body is capable of producing upwards of 10000 IU from about half an hour in the sun. Now consider this: the minimum daily recommended dose is 600 IU and the Vitamin D Council suggests that 50 ng/ml (a measurement of the amount of serum vitamin D in the body) is the minimum acceptable level. Despite this, the Food and Nutrition Board notes that 97 percent of Americans have a vitamin D level that falls into the range of 20—30 ng/ ml and a study by Stats Canada indicates that most Canadians are also deficient in D3, especially during the winter. Here are some common risks linked to low vitamin D levels:

  • Depression
  • Cancer
  • Osteoperosis
  • Insulin resistance and poor blood sugar regulation
  • Poor immune function
  • Poor cardiovascular health
  • Decreased muscular mass, strength and power development
  • Psoriasis
  • Diabetes

Although vitamin D3 toxicity is possible, it is impossible to attain from sun exposure alone. In fact, a healthy person would have to take upwards of 50000 IU per day, every day for several months. Though it is possible to get adequate levels of vitamin D3 from sunlight exposure alone, this can be difficult or impossible, depending on the season and your geographical location. Despite the fact that vitamin D is fat soluble, meaning your body can store extra amounts of it, we simply are not getting enough! In my opinion, it is not only safe but ideal for a relatively healthy person to be getting at least 5000 IU of D3.

Here are some effective ways to increase your D3 levels:

  • Sun exposure
  • Supplementation
  • Cod liver oil
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Organ meats

Vitamin D deficiency is potentially deadly yet it is extremely common. Have your blood work done to be sure. Make sure to go outside and get lots of direct sun exposure when it is possible, supplement when it is not and improve your health drastically!

 

References:

Salehpour, A., et al. A 12-Week Double-Blind Randomized Clinical Trial of Vitamin D3 Supplementation on Body Fat Mass in Healthy Overweight and Obese Women. Nutrition Journal. 2012. 11, 78.

Carrillo, A., et al. Impact of Vitamin D Supplementation During Resistance Training Intervention on Body Composition, Muscle Function, and Glucose Tolerance in Overweight and Obese Adults. Clinical Nutrition. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

Rock, C., Emond, J., et al. Weight Loss is Associated with Increased Serum 25(OH) D in Overweight or Obese Women. Obesity. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

Lamendola, C., Arial, D., et al. Relations Between Obesity, Insulin Resistance, and Vitamin D. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

Von Essen, M., Kongsbak, M., Schjerling, P., Olgaard, K., Odum, N., Geisler, C. Vitamin D controls T cell antigen receptor signaling and activation of human T cells. Nature Immunology. 2010. 11, 344–349.

Vijay, G., Milone, C., Cody, M., McCarty, F., Want, Y. Serum vitamin D concentrations are related to depression in young adult US population: the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.International Archives of Medicine.  3(1), 29.

Chen, G., Kim, S., King, A., Zhao, L., Simpson, R., Christensen, P. CYP24A1 Is an independent prognostic marker of survival in patients with lung adenocarcinoma. Clinical Cancer Research. 2011. 17(4), 817-26.

Holick, MF. High prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy and implications for health. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2006. 81(3), 353-73.

Ward, K., Das, G., Berry, J., Roberts, S., Rawer, R., Adams, J., Mughal, A. Vitamin D status and muscle function in post-menarchal adolescent girls. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2009. 94(2), 559-563.

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Filed under Blog, Lifestyle, Nutrition, Supplements

Benefits of coffee


Are you a coffee lover? You should be! The myths behind this delicious beverage are finally being debunked so here are 5 great reasons to consume nature’s energy drink:

  1. High in antioxidants: Coffee contains a massive amount of antioxidants such as caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid. These antioxidants have proven to lower the risk of cancer (specifically liver and colorectal)
  2. Fat burner: By increasing the metabolic rate, coffee can effectively mobilize fat to be used as source of fuel (rather than glucose).
  3. Increases strength, speed and recovery: Studies have shown that caffeine will increase strength and reaction time when consumed before a workout. In addition to this, coffee has been shown to speed recovery and help reduce muscle soreness.
  4. Increases energy levels: after being absorbed through the bloodstream, caffeine makes its way to the brain where it blocks adenosine (an inhibitory neurotransmitter) and increases dopamine and norepinephrine, allowing the neurons to fire more effectively and in turn increase energy levels.
  5. Shown to help protect you from neurodegenerative diseases: Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are two of the most common neurodegenerative disorders. The regular consumption of coffee has shown to decrease the risk of both of these diseases by up to 60%

 

Although there are numerous great benefits linked to the consumption of coffee, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. It is best to avoid coffee after training because caffeine has been shown to increase cortisol levels and delay recovery when consumed postworkout. Also, limit your caffeine intake it your cortisol levels are high.
  2. Do not consume coffee with carbohydrates. Doing so will negate the stimulatory effects of caffeine.
  3. Drink organic coffee. Non-organic coffee is often grown using insecticides, herbicides and fungicides which are carcinogenic.

 

References:

Lopez-Garcia, E. Long-Term Coffee Consumption Associated with Reduced Risk of Total and Cause-Specific Mortality. Evidence-Based Medicine. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

Wang, Y., et al. Coffee and Tea Consumption and Risk of Lung Cancer. Lung Cancer. 2012. 78(2), 169-170.

Takami, H., et al. Inverse Correlation Between Coffee Consumption and Prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome. Journal of Epidemiology. 2012. Published Ahead of Print

Cook, C., Beaven, C., et al. Acute Caffeine Ingestion Increases Voluntarily Chosen Resistance Training Load Following Limited Sleep. International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.
Bailey, D., Williams, C., et al. Oxidative Stress, Inflammation and Recovery of Muscle Function after Damaging Exercise: Effect of 6-Week Mixed Antioxidant Supplementation. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2011. 111, 925-936.

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Training for fat loss: the anaerobic vs aerobic debate


With spring around the corner, many of us are looking to lean out and shed off some unwanted body fat. If you have stepped into a commercial gym at some point in the past few decades, you have likely noticed that most trainees tend to gravitate towards cardiovascular machines in an attempt to “lose weight”. Generally speaking, people seem to be under the impression that aerobic training (jogging, marathon running or other moderate intensity workouts over long periods of time) is the most effective way of accomplishing their fat loss goals. This is largely due to massive amounts of marketing on the part of cardio equipment manufacturers. Although most beginners will generally see a drop in body fat during the 1-2 months of aerobic training, progress will almost always stagnate. Why?

1. Research shows that cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) is significantly higher in endurance athletes. Chronically high levels of cortisol are linked to gradual muscle loss, fat gain and chronic inflammation.

2. Since aerobic training does not elevate anabolic hormones such as testosterone or growth hormone, the fat loss effect quickly becomes negligible

3. Fat is a supply of slow burning energy. Therefore, longer aerobic training sessions will slow down the metabolism to allow the body to store more fat to be used during long, boring, low-intensity workouts. This is also the reason why marathon runners generally have a higher body fat percentage than sprinters.

Here are two great alternatives to a typical one hour cardio session for beginners and more advanced trainees.

Sprints take less time, are more fun and are more demanding but will ultimately give you the fat loss results you are looking for. Slow and steady doesn’t always win the race!

 

References:

Heydari, M., Freud, J., et al. The Effect of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise on Body Composition of Overweight Young Males. Journal of Obesity. 2012. Published Ahead of Print. Boutcher, Stephen. High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss. Journal of Obesity. 2011. Published Ahead of Print.

Skoluda, N., Dettenborn, L., et al. Elevated Hair Cortisol Concentrations in Endurance Athletes.Psychoneuroendocrinology. September 2011. Published Ahead of Print.

Cakir-Atabek, H., Demir, S., Pinarbassili, R., Bunduz, N. Effects of Different Resistance Training Intensity on Indices of Oxidative Stress. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. September 2010. 24(9), 2491-2498.

Trapp, E., Chisholm, D., et al. The Effects of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise Training on Fat Loss and Fasting Insulin Levels of Young Women. International Journal of Obesity. 2008. 32(4), 684-691.

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Filed under Blog, Training

Our take on CrossFit


It seems like it is nearly impossible to get through a hard training session at the gym without hearing someone say the word Crossfit. Some people seem to swear by the immensely popular fitness phenomenon while others can’t wait for an opportunity to bash it. One could argue the good and bad side of Crossfit for hours but the fact of the matter is this: it is not a black and white issue.

Pros:

• Hard work is emphasized: One of the greatest principles of Crossfit is that it stresses the importance of hard work, persistence and effort.
• Team work: Crossfitters motivate each other to improve and constantly better themselves.
• Compound lifts: Crossfit generally discourages the use of exercise machines in favor of bang for your buck, multi-joint movements such as squats, jumps, deadlifts, pulls and presses.
• Olympic weightlifting: Crossfit has popularized the sport of Olympic weightlifting by incorporating lifts such as the snatch and clean & jerk into workouts.
• Healthy eating: Crossfitters are generally conscious of the foods that they eat, often following a paleo style diet.

Cons:

• Poor program design: Since Crossfit follows a WOD (workout of the day) method, exercise sequence and order is often quite poor.
• Periodization: Once again due to the fact that the whole system is essentially based on a WOD, the body simply isn’t given enough time to adapt. There is no real progression. Trying to do too much at once will impede progress.
• Technique: Often, you will find Crossfitters performing exercises (such as the snatch) for high volume, compensating technique. This is not safe nor is it effective. The lack of emphasis on proper technique puts many people at risk of injury. For example, if you are not even able to clean half of your body weight ONCE, you have no business attempting to perform a full clean & jerk for 10 reps.
• One size fits all: It is blatantly wrong to think that one type of training system (or diet for that matter) is right for everyone, regardless of how well it may have worked for you as an individual.

We need to take a step back and stop being so emotionally invested (or brand loyal in the case of Crossfit) in a specific training system. We should look at training from a subjective and scientific standpoint, be open to trying new things, take preventive measures to avoid injury (emphasis on structural balance and safety), use our logic and most importantly, listen to our bodies. Always ask yourself what you are doing and why you are doing it, no matter what type of training system you are using.

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Progress begins with a step


We often fall into the trap of thinking that progress is difficult. That we must completely change ourselves to achieve our goals. That without drastic change, there is no progress. The reality, however, is quite different. Progress begins with information. By identifying that there is room for improvement (*there is always room for improvement*), one can take small steps, however insignificant these steps may seem, to bettering oneself mentally and physically. Being informed gives us the option to take the necessary action to improve the quality of our lives.

Unfortunately, we are often informed but are misled into thinking that shortcuts are an easy way out of our problems. Although we are bombarded with the idea that a magic product is often the solution, the reality is this: Your willingness to see improvement must be matched with equal levels of hard work and effort. In other words, if you want to be able to run faster, you must be willing to push yourself that much harder. If you want to be able to jump higher, you must be willing to train your mind and body that much harder. There is no substitute for HARD WORK and hard work is a process that begins with a single step.

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Filed under Blog, Motivation