I’m not one for ‘New Year Resolutions’. If you believe you can only change on the New Year, or tie a behavioural change to a specific date, the likelihood of following through or succeeding with your resolutions are slim. What’s more, if or when you fail (like over 90% of people who set New Year Resolutions) you reside yourself with having to wait a whole other year, and rob yourself of the opportunity to fail and try again. Instead of New Year Resolutions, here are five simple goals:
1) Drink more water
Although that “eight cups a day” thing isn’t true for everyone, staying hydrated is essential. Not only does it keep all your physical functions, like digestion, running optimally, it makes you less likely to mistake thirst for hunger, a common mix-up that can lead to overeating.
2) Add instead of subtracting
When it comes to resolutions, a lot of people start by promising to “give up” bad foods. Instead, try to focus on adding healthier options to your diet. You should try to eat “more of the rainbow”, purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables of all varieties. Try not to leave the supermarket until you have found food of 5 different hues.
3) Take the stairs
Ponder this, if you lost the use of your legs tomorrow, what would you give to be able to walk up those dreaded stairs? Don’t take your legs for granted! What’s more, making small, daily changes such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator may seem minor, but they can make a big difference for your heart in the long run. Individuals who are physically active are much less likely to develop cardiovascular disease.
4) Stay In Touch
Feel like old friends (or family) have fallen by the wayside? It’s good for your health to reconnect with them. Research suggests people with strong social ties live longer than those who don’t. In a technology-fixated era, it’s never been easier to stay in touch—or rejuvenate your relationship—with friends and family, so fire up Facebook and follow up with in-person visits.
5) Give someone you don’t know a compliment
You never know what someone is going through, how stressed they might be, or just how powerful a well-meaning compliment can brighten a strangers day. Complimenting others makes you feel instantly happier too, boosting your mood and increasing your confidence. Worried about offending someone by complimenting their appearance? #MeToo. Here are some examples which avoid that:
Wondering what else you can do to better yourself for the New Year? Naturally, consider making a chiropractic checkup to start the year at your best.
Healthy New Year Resolutions
When you think of kiwi sport, tyre flipping isn’t one that immediately comes to mind. But for two kiwi blokes, it’s the only place their minds have been recently. Just over two weeks ago, the duo succeeded in setting an UNOFFICIAL GUINNESS WORLD RECORD, flipping a 93kg tyre for 24 hours. Harbourside Chiropractic were there to provide support and much-needed care during the event!
Humans have been fermenting food since ancient times. But now, as dishes like kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha have become seriously hip, science is discovering the stuff may be an elixir of health
What exactly is fermentation?
Fermentation is the process of preserving and ennobling food by allowing bacteria to feast upon it. This process of benevolent decay is the same process that turns grapes to wine, hops to beer, soy beans to miso, cocoa beans to chocolate and milk to cheese. The key difference between fermentation and rot, is that fermentation is anaerobic, consuming no oxygen, while rot is aerobic. Leave a cabbage leaf in the open air and it will rot; submerge it in liquid and it will ferment.
The amount of probiotics and enzymes available in the average diet has declined sharply over the last few decades as pasteurized milk has replaced raw, pasteurized yogurt has replaced homemade, vinegar based pickles and sauerkraut have replaced traditional lacto-fermented versions, the list goes on.
THE ADULT HUMAN BODY is home to around 3kg of bacteria – roughly the same weight as your brain. Every nook and cranny of your person is swarming with microscopic bugs, from your skin to your mouth to your throat to your gut. You are not an individual entity – you’re an ecosystem, home to vast, teeming populations of bacteria. And these bacterial populations, collectively known as microbiota, are crucial to your good health. We’re a composite organism and this microbial component is just as important to our biology as our human cells. So important is our microbiota, scientists are now beginning to think of it like an organ, just like your stomach, liver or kidneys. These microbial legions modulate our immune systems and control our metabolisms, they regulate our central nervous system and shape our moods. Although the precise mechanisms remain shadowy, the importance of these populations of bacteria are now scientific fact. Obesity, cancer, depression, allergies, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune diseases like asthma, even tooth decay – are all being traced back to disruptions in our microbiota. Put simply, these vast populations of bacteria don’t live on or in us – they live with us. Without us they die; without them, we die.
Our microbiotas start developing at birth. In our mother’s womb we are sterile, free of all bacteria. But as we begin struggling down the birth canal, then pushing our heads into the light, we are coated with millions of microbes. When we first take our mothers nipple and begin sucking down breastmilk, we ingest millions more (breast milk is swarming with the good stuff). And thus the process begins, a process that gathers steam as we begin eating, crawling, walking. By the time we’re three, our microbiotas have been largely established. Whether your bacterial ecosystem is diverse and healthy or narrow and fragile depends (to a large extent) on those first 3 years of life. If you were born by caesarean section, then your microbiota would have suffered. If you were fed formula rather than breast milk, it would have suffered further. If you led a cocooned existence as a child, rarely getting dirty or touching other humans or patting animals, it would have taken another hit.
If this describes your early life, don’t despair. Over the past few decades, the entire Western world has been doing its level best to destroy our bacterial friends. We’ve been starving them with low-fibre diets, ravaging them with antimicrobial soaps, obliterating them with course after course of antibiotics. We’ve sought to cleanse them from our kitchens, scrub them from our skin, poison them from our guts. Little surprise that, taken as whole, our microbiotas are seriously impoverished. Like a rainforest that has been burned and logged, our bodies have become inhospitable places of our bacteria.
Fortunately, the great strength of the microbiota is its malleability. Fragile microbiota can be strengthened, just as robust ones can be weakened. AND this is where fermented foods come in!
These foods teeming with colonies of bacteria are an antidote to out sterile modern landscape of antimicrobial soaps and antibiotic medications; they are the handfuls of live seeds spread over that burned and logged rainforest. There’s good evidence that taking live microbes orally has a real impact on our health. The data is not yet overwhelming, but its pointing in the right direction.
Fermentation transforms foods nutritionally. The pre-digestion of fermented foods makes the nutrients more easily available to us. Fermentation also causes the production of certain unique micro-nutrients that are produced by the bacteria as they ferment the food. Then there are the strains of live bacteria that are found only in certain types of fermented food.
To have a food that can improve your immune function and mental health – that’s huge.
Sure, stuffing vegetables in jars and letting bacteria do their thing may be well and good in a backwoods retreat or the world’s finest chef in their gleaming kitchens. But what about the rest of us? Should we really be packing cabbage into jars and waiting till the bugs have their way? Can’t we just buy a bottle of Yakult?
Ah well no. Yakult’s just good marketing and is actually really high in sugar. Pickled vegetables are similarly dismissed as they are preserved in vinegar which kills off bacteria. Jars of sauerkraut are also not ideal as to ensure they don’t “explode on the shelf”, they have been pasteurised, eradicating most of the good bacteria.
The best (and cheapest) method is to make your own!
Humans didn’t invent fermentation; fermentation created us. Hone your fermenting skills with this basic sauerkraut recipe
Should your muscles be sore after every workout and have you walking side to side?
We’ve all been there. The day after a brutal squat session or copious amounts of bench or bicep curls. You’re finding yourself cringing as you walk down a flight of stairs or reach to grab your toothbrush.
The soreness you feel can be attributed to ‘Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness’, otherwise known as DOMs. The feeling often manifests within 6-8 hours post-exercise and peaks up to 48 hours afterward.
What Causes DOMs?
First and foremost, it’s important to understand what doesn’t cause DOMS: lactic acid. It is a common misconception that the accumulation and build up of lactic acid or toxic metabolic waste is the reason for our post-exercise pain.
This is now considered an outdated theory and yet ironically, there is no clear cut winner for the exact mechanism for DOMs. However, there is a widely held belief that DOMs is a product of inflammation (caused by microscopic tears) in the connective tissue elements that sensitise nociceptors and thereby heighten the sensation of pain. Simply put, DOMS appears to occur due to connective tissue microtrauma.
When it comes to how people view DOMs, there are two extremes. There are those that seek it no matter what. They gauge the effectiveness of their training by how sore they are the next day, thinking the sorer they are, the more progress they’ve made. Others avoid DOMs like a bad movie. For them, being sore isn’t pleasurable.
So, which vantage point is correct? - Well, the answer is a loaded one. When it comes to soreness and whether or not it’s mandatory to making progress, the truth is, soreness isn’t a prerequisite for building muscle and there really can be gain without pain. However... in order to progress – whether your goal is to add muscle or lose fat – it's crucial to consistently challenge the body to adapt. This is done by making muscles work, pushing things, pulling things, picking heavy things up and putting them back down. The same people who avoid DOMs or hardly ever experience it, are usually the same people who find themselves wondering why they are never making any progress. When you try a new workout or unfamiliar exercise, your body is going to respond with some feedback. The most common response? Muscle soreness.
Soreness vs. Pain
Important to note, there is a difference between muscle soreness and pain. The former is OK, the latter however (pain) is an indication that the workout or exercise was too advanced, too heavy or something structurally was wrong (poor technique or form).
How to differentiate?
Any experienced athlete knows the difference between DOMs and pain (injury), but here's a tip: DOMs manifests within 6-8 hours post-exercise and peaks up to 48 hours afterward. An injury can occur shortly after doing the exercise and it will feel 'different' or 'wrong'. It also most likely wont start feeling better after the 48 hour mark like DOMs traditionally would.
If you are in pain or think you have injured yourself, it is important to seek out a reputable health professional to avoid the formation of scar tissue or further damage.
Finding a Balance
DOMS is a normal physiological response by the body, and is a result of what happens when you challenge it. The degree of soreness experienced from one person to another can be highly individual and while soreness (or lack thereof) should never be the sole measurement in determining the effectiveness of a workout. If you find you are never sore following exercise, there’s a good chance you’re not challenging yourself. Perhaps you’re not using heavy enough weight to elicit an adaptive response, or maybe you’re not adding enough variety to your routine.
Conversely, it’s also not ideal to be sore all the time. Ample recovery is just as important, if not more so, to overall success and development.
Seek out discomfort. Cyclists hate stretching because their legs are tight; swimmers hate running because they’re faster in water. Humans love being comfortable, so we keep doing what we’re good at. But once you remove yourself from that comfort zone, you’re building the foundations to embrace your fears and GROW. In every workout, aim to do one exercise that you dread. You’re not simply expanding your skills – you’re preparing yourself for those testing situations in life that can engulf you like a rolling whitewash.
We don't give them much thought when compared to super-foods like quinoa and kale but it turns out the old dinner-table staples are some of the healthiest on the planet.
Birmingham based catering company Plyvine Catering has revealed the list of relatively inexpensive and easy-to-source fruit, nuts, fish and vegetables that give us the most in health benefits.
From dark chocolate to potatoes, these are the foods to focus on for a healthy diet:
The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon have been linked to a reduced risk of depression, heart disease and cancer. An 85 gram serving contains almost half your daily dose of niacin, said to protect against Alzheimers and memory loss.
One potato holds 66 micrograms of folate. That's about the equivalent to the amount found in a cup of spinach or broccoli. Kumara has almost eight times the amount of vitamin A required daily.
Just one lemon has more than 100 per cent of your daily intake of vitamin C, which may help increase "good" HDL levels and strengthen bones.
Citrus flavonoids found in lemons may help inhibit the growth of cancer cells and act as an anti-inflammatory.
Just seven grams of dark chocolate can reduce blood pressure in otherwise healthy individuals.
Of all nuts, walnuts contain the most omega-3, an essential fat shown to improve mood and fight cancer.
A medium stalk of broccoli contains more than 100 per cent of your daily vitamin K requirements and just under 200 per cent of your recommended daily vitamin C dose.
Allicin is a compound found in garlic that works as an anti-inflammatory. It has been shown to help lower cholesterol and blood-pressure levels.
Avocados can reduce your risk of heart disease. In one avocado, more than half the fibre and 40 per cent of the folate you need daily can be found.
This leafy green contains two immune-boosting antioxidants important for eye health. Recent research found that among cancer-fighting fruits and veggies, spinach is one of the most effective.
A serving of legumes such as beans, peas and lentils four times a week can reduce the risk of heart disease and breast cancer.
Vision-impairing conditions are on the up. Protect yourself from these eyesight saboteurs
According to many ophthalmologists, cases of myopia (near sightedness) are spiking while glaucoma, cataracts and other eye conditions are also on the rise. One major culprit is screen use. But stress, poor nutrition, smoking and obesity can also sap your sight. In fact, anything that hurts your heart will strain your eyes. So don’t fall victim to these mistakes!
Blue light from your devices may contribute to macular degeneration, an impairment of you central vision. Plus not blinking fully while staring at a screen can cause ‘computer vision syndrome’ – dryness, pain and fatigue.
Use the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a break and look at something 20 feet (6 metres) away for 20 seconds. Look out a window if you can, broad vistas help your eyes relax.
The stress hormone cortisol can lead to impaired retinal function. This can result in a condition known as central serous chorioretinopathy (CSCR), a build-up of liquid that causes blurry vision.
Exercise and meditation can slash stress. Better yet, go see your favourite act. An hour of live music can lower your cortisol levels by 25%.
The closer you hold something to your face, the harder your eyes work. This strain may cause your eyeballs to elongate, possibly resulting in myopia.
Keep any screen at least 40cm from your face and bump up the text size if you find yourself squinting on leaning closer.
Blunt trauma to the eye – say, from an errant ball or elbow – is the most common cause of vision loss in young men. One nightmare is a detached retina, which can also result from any violent head movement – even an intense sneeze.
If the sport allows, wear sunglasses. Good for sports like cricket and beach volleyball, not so good for others like rugby. If you take a hit and notice flashing lights, head to the ED.
Avoiding leafy greens means you miss out on nutrients such as nitrates and lutein that can help ward off glaucoma and macular degeneration.
Nitrates help promote bloodflow to the retina. A study published found that people who eat 240mg a day (a cup of spinach) are 30% less likely to develop glaucoma than people who steer clear of greens.
If you’re a smoker, obese or both, your risk of glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts and other eye diseases soars by up to 300%.
Lose the extra weight and ditch the burners. A diet rich in fatty fish, fruits and vegetables (especially those high in vitamin C and zinc) helps deliver better eye health.
Almost a year and a half ago (October, 2015), the World Health Organisation (WHO) labelled processed meats – such as bacon, sausages and hot dogs as ‘carcinogenic’ and therefore cancer causing. This puts processed meats in a group 1 list, which already includes tobacco, asbestos and diesel fumes – Yikes! In addition, WHO added that red meats including beef, pork, veal and lamb are “probably carcinogenic”.
The announcement wasn’t a total surprise. For years, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has been recommending that individuals reduce the amount of red meats in their diets and to avoid processed meats. Indeed, there is a lot research showing a connection between red and manufactured meats, linked to various types of cancer. A massive study in BMC Medicine for example, linked processed meat consumption not just with cancer but also early death – “A diet rich in processed meat is energy-rich and nutrient poor, and is associated with the development of the disabilities and diseases of modern civilisation. This includes cancer but also obesity, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases and many other conditions associated with continuous chronic low level inflammation.
How processed meats increase risk of cancer is still being studied, but four major factors have been identified;
1) Preservatives used such as nitrites and nitrates
2) Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons - A toxic substance formed by smoking meats
3) Heterocyclic amines - Formed by cooking meat at a high heat (shown to damage DNA)
4) The heme iron found in red meat, which can damage the lining of the colon
NOW, before a room full of vegetarians all applaud and shake hands…
First, this does not mean that all carcinogens are equally dangerous, it’s important to note that even things like aloe Vera is on the list of possible carcinogens.
Second, these findings need to be taken with a heavy grain of salt. At the other end of the spectrum, there have been some equally worrying findings regarding vegetarian/vegan diets. Various studies, including one that was carried out in Austria, found that adults who consumed a solely vegetarian diet (compared with other dietary habits) were actually, "less healthy, had a lower quality of life and required more medical treatment". They found that vegetarians were significantly more likely to suffer from mental health ailments such as; anxiety, depression, decreased social relationships and negative environmental factors. They were also more likely to suffer from allergies and other types of cancer.
The point? Scientific evidence shows that cancer is a complex disease not caused by single foods and a balanced diet with healthy lifestyle choices are essential to good health. It’s also important to put all new findings and new classifications in context.
I genuinely believe WHO are on the right track when classing processed meats as carcinogenic. I am not so convinced when it comes to their labeling of other red meats. Plenty of research points to the benefits of red meat consumption; the high biological-value proteins and important micro-nutrients such as B vitamins, iron and zinc. People also need to consider any off-setting benefits such as the nutritional value meat delivers or the implications of drastically reducing or removing meat from the diet altogether. Good quality, free range meat contains Vitamin B12, CoQ10, Creatine, Carnosine, Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Vitamin D3 (all of which are found exclusively in animal sources).
What Is Healthy Meat?
In New Zealand we are lucky, nearly all of our cows are grass-fed as opposed to grain (like much of the USA). There are two steps I recommend when it comes to choosing your meat.
1. Avoid Processed Meat
Meat in general gets blamed for causing bowel cancer. I believe it is processed meat, a lack of green leafy vegetables, poor digestion, lack of chewing, over-consumption of refined carbohydrates and vitamin, mineral and antioxidant deficiencies which leads to increased cancer risk. Many processed meats use a raft of corn and soy fillers, chemical preservatives, anti-foaming agents, sugar, hydrolysed vegetable oils, meatglue and in some cases, colour and flavour. Ontop of that, a review of more than 7,000 clinical studies examining the connection between diet and cancer came to a stark conclusion: No one should eat processed meats.
2. Choose Nutrient Dense Meat
Due to modern intensive agricultural farming, nutrient levels in the soil and in the food we grow have been stripped. We should choose growers who nurture the soil ecology, that promote and follow organic and free range practices and also those growers that recognise overuse of chemicals can damage the soil ecology (and are dangerous to human health).
Fortunately, there are farmers who are growing more nutrient dense foods and you can even get this kind of food delivered direct to your home or office. Green Meadows Beef, is an example of good quality grass-fed beef that you can get delivered anywhere in NZ with free deliveries over $90! Visit them here at http://www.greenmeadowsbeef.co.nz/
(If you know any other good suppliers please comment and link them in the description!)
Remember, everyone is at different stages of their health journey and our knowledge of foods and diets are constantly changing. I would urge readers not to think of red meats (on their own) as carcinogenic. After all, the Inuit people had a traditional diet loaded with blubbery meat and there are good records showing colon cancer did not exist in that population. It is my belief that a daily serving of beef, lamb or pork, served with a rainbow of veg, will actually protect you against intestinal cancers and I strongly encourage everyone to add more vegetables into their diet as well as healthy red meat.
Vitamin D is a star nutrient these days, and has been well-established in the role of good bone health and supporting the immune, brain and the nervous system. As well as reducing the risks of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Interestingly, before the year 2000, very few doctors ever considered the possibility that we may be deficient in vitamin D. But as the ability to measure levels became more readily available, it became increasingly clear that vitamin D deficiency was absolutely rampant, with up to 84% of New Zealanders deficient in this essential vitamin.
Did you know:
The most natural way to get vitamin D is by exposing bare skin to sunlight (ultraviolet B rays). What few people realise is the body can only synthesise vitamin D between 10am and 3pm in SUMMER! When the sun’s rays enter the Earth’s atmosphere at too much of an angle, the atmosphere blocks the UVB part of the rays, so your skin can’t produce vitamin D.
Why is Vitamin D Important?
Many decades ago, doctors believed that vitamin D was good only for healthy bones and teeth. Research has since proven otherwise, with a deficiency now being linked to numerous health problems including; heart disease, depression and cancer. One study at Creighton University found that vitamin D, when combined with calcium, reduced cancer by 77%.
One clue your lacking? You’ve starting feeling wimpy or blue. That’s because your muscle fibers contain vitamin D receptors, which play a key role in protein synthesis and growth. Without enough of the nutrient, both muscle strength and body function can suffer.
How much do you need?
This is as easy as rolling up your sleeve! If you haven’t had your vitamin D levels tested, I would highly recommend doing so. Most medical clinics in DHB areas are no longer funded for this, as it is considered a ‘preventative test’. Generally, the best way is to go into a local lab like Southern Labs, Lab Tests or Med Labs where you can get a test done for around $40.
Vitamin D levels are measured by 2 different units, ng/ml in the United States and nmol/l in most other places. Depending what you read, recommended levels are beween; 40-60 ng/ml OR 50-100 nmol/L. Anything less is considered a deficiency.
Note; The is the minimum required levels, not the optimum levels, further research suggests we may need even more. Older adults especially need more as aged skin becomes less efficient at synthesising vitamin D.
How do you increase your vitamin D levels?
Get some summer sun! The best time to get outside and soak up the vitamin D is between 10am and 3pm (in summer). However, your body can’t make vitamin D if you’re wearing sunscreen, so 20 minutes of sun exposure should be the maximum you aim for (depending on your skin type, less if you’re fairer), as it’s important not to burn your skin. Most people with fair skin will max out their vitamin D production in just 10-20 minutes. Some need less, others more. The darker your skin, the longer exposure you will need to optimize your vitamin D production. A good rule of thumb; if your shadow is longer than you are tall, you’re not making much vitamin D. The closer to midday the better the angle and the more vitamin D is produced.
Vitamin D can also be obtained from food and supplements, however, it is my firm belief that we were not designed to swallow our daily dose of vitamin D, we were designed to absorb it from the sun. Food and supplements should be used to complement vitamin D from the sun, especially in the winter months. There are very few foods that actually have therapeutic levels of vitamin D naturally, some of those foods include; oily fish (salmon, tuna, trout), liver, eggs, mushrooms and raw dairy (milk, cheese). Supplements can help fill the gaps, so if you are taking a supplement, you will want to make sure you are getting D3, as this is the most biologically active form of vitamin D.
Final Thoughts & Tips
It is a fine line between sufficient vitamin D absorption vs skin damage and melanoma. There is a danger that a couple ‘sun bunnies’ will read this article and think it is ok to spend 3 hours in the sun getting burnt. It’s not.
To all my readers, the blog will be taking a break in January and will be back the first Monday of February. Have a good holiday and enjoy the summer sun!
10 foods proven to lift energy, repair muscles and blast fat
Looking for some fresh, tasty salads this summer? We got you covered! Best of all, by including a variety of ingredients, salads are often a nutritional powerhouse.
These onions are a bright idea for your body; they contain allicin, which aids muscle repair and increase antioxidant activity, according to the journal Phytotherapy Research.
Ditch the banana; this hardy herb delivers on your potassium needs. Just one bulb provides a quarter of your RDI, as well as helping combat gas and regulate hunger. It’ll ensure you’re all bulk and no bark.
Packed full of nitrate, these greens boost your blood flow and oxygen supply, so you can make better use of your outdoor summer activities.
The flesh is full of vitamin B6, which reduces fatigue and helps turn carbs into energy.
Mint works as a natural muscle relaxant which helps with muscle spasms and knots.
Beat infections with beta-carotene. Chilli ups your dose of multiple vitamins to keep germs at bay.
This meaty fish is heart-healthy. Its rich in potassium but sodium-poor, curbing your risk of high blood pressure.
As one of the few foods that contain silica, cucumber improves calcium assimilation to boost bone density and strength.
It’s a top source of quercetin, an anti-inflammatory flavonoid that increases your nitric oxide, for better stamina.
This sharp finishing touch is packed with vitamin C - an ally of energising iron. It enhances mineral absorption, squeezing more from the rocket and tuna – the perfect pairing.
Gratitude may be a “chick thing”, but it’s another reason why women are happier and live longer than men. But you can even the playing field with two very simple words
Just so you know, gratitude has been around slightly longer than the internet. The Roman Philosopher Cicero deemed it ‘the greatest of virtues’ and the world’s major religions foster a sense of gratitude with prayers of thanks and litanies of blessings. However, when it comes to giving thanks, it would appear men are noticeably off the pace (sorry gents!). In comparison, women are more grateful on almost every level. Take Facebook, women are grateful for sunny days to butterflies to ass-kicking gym sessions.
Despite this, are we actually becoming a more grateful society? It hardly feels like it. People are least likely to express gratitude in the workplace despite wishing to be thanked more often in it. If asked, most would say they are grateful for family and friends, yet only 52% of women and 44% of men express gratitude on a regular basis. All in all, most think we have become less grateful over the past 20 years.
What you won’t see on Twitter, is a decade’s worth of research from scientific studies on gratitude. The new field of ‘positive psychology’ has produced more than 1000 scientific papers showing that gratitude, can improve three key areas of your life;
As far as your health goes, studies show that gratitude can significantly lower systolic blood pressure, helping those with hypertension. It also showed, those who felt most grateful about life, slept better. Grateful people it seems, have more positive thoughts and fewer negative ones just before sleep. Research also links the experience of feeling grateful emotions to an increased activity in the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which is beneficial in controlling stress.
A study at the University of North Carolina found that gratitude is like a booster shot for romantic relationships. The study discovered that the good deeds we do for our soulmates go completely unnoticed about half the time. Which can lead to feeling underappreciated or feelings of resentment.
This can be rectified with one simple exercise. Each night, independently responds ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following 2 statements. First statement; I did something thoughtful for my partner. Second; My partner did something thoughtful for me. This strategy will highlight all the little things you may be unaware your partner does and the opportunity to give and receive gratitude.
This involves the power of ‘thank you’ in the workplace. Most of us never hear a word of heartfelt praise at work, even though 81% of us say we’d work harder if we did. The connection here is that workplace gratitude is directly associated with productivity, the more employees feel valued, the harder they work. The absence of gratitude can send as powerful a message as the presence of it, as someone not thankful can send a strong signal of distrust.
Consider this: Negative attitudes are bad for you while gratitude makes you happier and healthier. In a word, it is remarkable that the positive effects of gratitude, are consistent, significant and quantifiable. In that, if you invest in a way of seeing the world that is mean and frustrating, you’re going to get a world that is, well, more mean and frustrating.
So why do we suffer from ‘gratitude deficit disorder’? Theories suggest that gratitude implies we need help, and we don’t like looking weak. Gratitude implies dependence, and we don’t like being dependent. Gratitude is an emotion, and we don’t like emotions. But if you can find a authentic reason to give thanks, with anything that is going right with the world or your life. Then statistics say you’re going to be happier while perhaps bringing out the best in those around you too.
Looking for a protein hit that won’t cost the earth? It might be time you started adding Ocean Vegetables to your kitchen rotation.
But it’s like sea ‘weed’ right, something to avoid on the beach? – Not anymore. While most of us may be comfortable with nori sheets encasing our sushi, we would be less comfortable with a slimy fettucine variant. Meanwhile, in Asia, they’re eating it by the bucket load. However, there are signs that seaweed may be on its way to becoming the new kale, as producers eye a global edible seaweed market valued at $8 billion.
So lets begin with a few facts to explain why this ocean vegetable could be a key component in the future of food.
As urbanisation spreads and expands, fertile land to grow crops and raise livestock are quickly running out. Global fisheries are not doing much better, with the UN food and agriculture (FAO) estimating that 70% of the fish population is either fully used, overused or in crisis.
Seaweed on the other hand is abundant, sustainable and widespread.
Nutritionally, seaweed packs what our land vegetables can’t, mainly because of deficient soil quality. New Zealand in particular has some of the lowest levels of selenium in the world. By contrast, seaweed acts as a sponge in mineral rich oceans, loading up with
Then there’s the protein. The percentage varies between the 30-odd known edible seaweed varieties (from 10,000 plus in total). After drying, it comprises 40% protein. That’s dusting most cuts of beef right there. A further milling process provides a salt reduced extract boasting a whopping 60% protein. Now you’re nudging towards the top of the protein hit-list, in tune with another algae which you may have already heard of and tried; spirulina.
Seaweed has one more superweapon. It is high in what are called free glutamates, which when combined with other ingredients, produces what a Japanese scientist coined umami, or delicious flavour. Umami is now accepted in the West as the fifth taste alongside salt, bitter, sweet and sour. Umami is that savoury meatiness that keeps you coming back for more of something. Other examples of umami include; Marmite (a kiwi favourite) and also parmesan cheese. Seaweeds advantage however is Parmesan is 18% saturated fat while seaweed is just 0.2%.
As dark, leafy veggies go, seaweed is about as nutrient-dense as it gets. So if you’re looking for something to help build muscle, re-populate your gut flora and improve your heart health, while being as virtuous as a solar panel. Perhaps it’s time to reach for some weed.
Some health benchmarks are outdated. If you want to stay fit and mentally sharp for life, then consider these new science-proven trackers of well-being.
Every cell in your body relies on water for survival. Studies suggest that dehydration hampers your endurance, motivation and mental sharpness. Problem is, the old eight glasses a day is too broad. It doesn't take into account gender, weight or activity throughout the day. A 70kg man, for instance, needs far less than a 100kg crossfit fanatic.
So stop counting trips to the water cooler and start counting trips to the bathroom. You should be averaging at least 5 trips a day to mean you're well hydrated. If not? Drink.
Devised in the 1830's, BMI was used to estimate 'how fat' someone was by dividing their weight (in kg) by their height (in meters squared).
Out of interest I entered my own measurements into a BMI calculator which you can find at the New Zealand Heart foundations website here; Having a BMI of 25.26, I just scraped into the category that classifies as; "overweight" and of "high risk of developing obesity related diseases". Which is not accurate.
This is BMI's major flaw, in that it does not distinguish between muscle and fat. Measuring BMI alone, certain groups (such as competitive athletes) can be shown inaccurately as obese. This doesn't mean BMI is wrong for everyone, it just means it has its limitations.
A better 'one-off measurement' is the waist-to-hip ratio. A study by Mayo Clinic assessing more than 15,000 adults, found that men with high waist-to-hip ratios were twice as likely to die over the 14 year study as men with high BMI’s.
Waist-to-hip Ratio - How to calculate
To calculate your ratio, measure your waist at your belly button and your hips at their widest point. Divide the first number (waist) by the second (hips). For males 0.90 - 0.95 is the average, so aim for < 0.90. For females 0.80 - 0.85 is the average, so aim for < 0.80.
Numbers above average indicate you have too much visceral fat, the kind that promotes type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
To improve this number, many may be thinking cardio like the treadmill. A better idea is to hit the squat rack. Not only is weighted exercise more effective at burning fat but the higher the 'bottom' number, the better your overall score. So kill 2 birds with 1 stone and burn fat while building a better rear.
Saturated fat took a big hit a few decades back, when research (wrongly) linked it to heart disease. That science has since been debunked and I have talked about it in multiple blogs, but perception lingers. So let’s be clear, there is no solid evidence that saturated fat puts your heart at risk.
What isn’t controversial is the link between cardiovascular health and sitting; the more time you spend in your seat, the more your heart-attack risk spikes. A study in the Journal of Clinical Exercise found inactivity was responsible for twice as many deaths as obesity, and daily workouts don’t completely undo the damage.
Tying in to the first point, drink plenty of water so you are going to the bathroom at least 5 times a day. Don't think of it as an annoyance but rather an opportunity to get up and walk around. Office less than 4 floors up? Walk!
So enjoy a steak. Just earn it with time on your feet.
The sit and reach test (sitting with your legs straight and trying to touch your toes) does have some merit. A study of Japan’s National Institute of Health and Nutrition found that people with more flexibility have less arterial stiffness. Unfortunately, the results apply only to people over 40.
A better test; grip strength. By following 140,000 adults, international researchers linked a weaker grip to an increased risk of death from all causes. The average middle-age should generate about 50kg of force.
To test your grip, you will need to use a dynamometer, which you may find at your local gym or ask a personal trainer.
In 1970, 1000 milligrams a day of vitamin C was believed to protect you from colds. Numerous studies have surprisingly, found very little, to no link between vitamin C and illness prevention.
What does help? Friends. Researchers found that people with robust friendship circles tend to have less systemic inflammation. According to a Cornell University Study, the average person today, has two close friends. Aim to have 5 to see an uptick in Health. Everyone benefits from social interaction, and no, Facebook doesn’t count!
Your arteries don’t do well under pressure. They stiffen and plaque collects along the inner walls which puts undue strain on your heart. The magic number for blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg.
In a US study of people aged 50 and over with high blood pressure. Those who dropped their systolic BP below 120mmHG reduced their risk of death by 27%. So keep your Blood pressure down. No pressure.
Aside from catching an early flight, caring for a sick child or perhaps getting up to watch a World Cup match, you may have never considered getting up as early as 5am. For most of us it sounds like torture. But a few weeks ago I bit the bullet and began doing it anyway.
Overwhelmingly, people’s initial reaction is “Why?” with an added look of bewilderment. Now, I’ll admit that I love sleep. A lot. I too never understood why someone would voluntarily wake up early. If we could sleep in late, shouldn’t we just let our body rest? I saw it as some act of deprivation.
The truth is, there was no underlying reason for it. I undertook this as a personal challenge for myself. Philip Doddridge wrote; “The difference between rising at 5am and 7am in the morning, for 40 years, supposing you went to bed at the same hour at night, is nearly equivalent to the addition of 10 years to a man’s life.”
I know I’ve wasted hours of my life that I will never get back because I kept hitting the snooze button.
When you wake up at 5am, you start your day earlier than 99.9% of the world
Going About It
It’s not easy, trust me. Waking up early can be a daunting task, especially when you first attempt it. In fact, I had attempted this once before, failing and giving up in the first week! I could give you tips like; “Put your alarm clock on the other side of the room” or “start off small, setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier each morning”. Which are decent tricks to help you succeed. The truth is, YOU are your biggest obstacle. If the drive to get up isn’t there, you won’t succeed. This is true with anything. One important tip I did learn; Don’t give your brain time to rationalise. If you allow your brain to think, it will talk you out of getting up early.
Don't Let The Sun Catch You In Bed!
Once you do manage to get yourself awake and out of bed, it is vital to have scheduled some important or exciting plans for the morning – Wake up with purpose! Morning rituals have become an important part of my morning routine – if you win the morning, you win the day. Getting up at 5am on the dot and making the bed. That’s a big win for me. Then I’ll eat a big breakfast. If you are getting up early and spend that time pottering around aimlessly until your day starts at 9am, then you have just wasted 4 hours.
Make Your Day Top Heavy
We all have that one item on our ‘to do’ list that we dread. It looms over you all day (or week) until you finally suck it up and do it after much procrastination. Not only should you wake up with purpose and a plan but do one of the least desirable tasks on your list first. The morning is the time when you are (generally) more well rested and your energy levels are up. Therefore, you are more equipped to handle more difficult projects. And look at it this way, your day will get progressively easier, not the other way round. By the time your work day is ending, you’re winding down with easier to do jobs and heading into your free time more relaxed.
Unfortunately, there are none. None that I know of anyway. There are a ton of benefits though! Here are just 4.
Doing this experience, I have realised waking up early is so difficult for many because it’s a holistic lifestyle change, beyond just changing your waking time. There is a sense of control acquired from beating your inner voice. When the alarm goes off and the voice tells you that you went to bed far too late to get up this early, or that 5 minutes won’t hurt, don’t listen. When you are in charge of your inner voice, things start on a high and usually only get better.
Yes, when you first start you are going to be tired, mainly because the time your head hits the pillow hasn’t shifted any earlier. This is part of the process. You need to feel tired at the end of the day, so lights out can come sooner.
“Life is too short,” she panicked, “I want more.” He nodded slowly, “Wake up earlier.” – Dr. SunWolf
However, If you can muster the will. If you can train your body and conquer your mental resistance, the benefits to an early start are incredibly rewarding.
Dr Edward Benson-Cooper,
The latest coffee trend sees butter and coconut oil tossed in, to create a brew that is meant to enhance brainpower while shaving inches off your waist.
For people in ‘the know’ with health trends, this isn’t new. If you haven’t noticed, more and more of the trendier cafes – riffing off paleo phenomenon – are offering coffees laced with butter and oil.
It all started when US entrepreneur Dave Asprey downed a cup of yak butter tea in the Tibetan Himalayas in 2004. Trying to replicate the buzz back home, he eventually settled on a large cup of coffee, two tablespoons of grass-fed butter and two tablespoons of medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil. Asprey claims that by drinking one of his ‘Bulletproof coffees’ in the morning, you’ll get “unusual” mental energy while maintaining complete satiety deep into the afternoon. Asprey also credits the coffee with helping him shed over 40 kilograms.
HOW DOES BUTTER FIT IN?
Asprey claims the butter adds a nutritional payload. Although he stresses it must be grass-fed butter, which is higher in antioxidants and vitamins A, E, D and K than grain-fed butter.
WHAT ABOUT MCT OIL?
This is the magic ingredient. According to Asprey, MCT oil (such as coconut oil) rapidly converts to ketones, which is a source of energy - “It turns out the brain prefers ketones to glucose as a fuel source. So if your brain’s running on ketones rather than glucose, food cravings go away and your ability to both focus and think improves dramatically. It’s like your brain turns on again”.
SHOULD I BE DRINKING THIS STUFF EACH MORNING?
So far, there is only a smattering of studies to support Asprey’s claims. Dietitians have pointed out the staggering kilojoule load of packing your morning coffee with butter and oil. Indeed, a single cup of bulletproof coffee contains roughly 2000 kilojoules – about a quarter of the recommended daily total. It also carries 44 grams of saturated fat – nearly twice your RDI. Of course, recent studies have questioned whether saturated fat is as bad for you as previously once thought.
If you're interested you can check out a previously blog here, talking about the changing perceptions of 'fats' and coconut oil, a Medium Chain Saturated Fat (MCT).
SO WHAT’S MY MOVE?
Give it a whirl and see how it affects you, but follow these steps;
MAKE YOUR OWN ROCKET FUEL
Oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit. Turns out they’re much more than an easy holiday gift basket.
Aside from the obvious benefits of vitamin C and fibre, citrus has been linked to a reduced risk of stroke, an increase in fat loss and inhibited growth of cancerous tumours. Grapefruit in particular has been shown to prevent asthma, help you stay ‘regular’ and promote healthier skin.
5 Ways Citrus Helps Your Health
Loading up on citrus and vitamin C won’t prevent colds, but high doses of C (400 to 500 mg) may shorten the duration and lessen the symptoms.
Citrus fruit are rich sources of flavonoids. The predominant flavonoid in these fruits—hesperidin—is credited with boosting “good” HDL cholesterol and lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Naturally packed with water and fiber, citrus will help you stay full and satisfied, but grapefruit may have a decided advantage, according to a 2006 Journal of Medicinal Food study. When researchers put volunteers on an exercise plan for 12 weeks and asked them to eat either half a fresh grapefruit or drink apple juice and pop a placebo pill before each meal, the grapefruit group dropped an average of 3½ pounds (compared to just ½ pound for the apple group).
Both citrus and salt, enhance flavours. So skip the salt and add a spritz of citrus juice instead to keep dishes lower in sodium.
A study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating lycopene-rich foods (a special class of antioxidants in most citrus) may help guard against colon, lung, breast, skin, stomach and prostate cancer.
You gotta love that!
Grapefruits are also 91% water, and contain a payload of electrolytes that make them an ideal pre and post workout snack to hydrate and stay energized!
The most abundant, highest-quality protein on the planet could be scurrying across your kitchen floor.
The thought of eating bugs is probably making your skin crawl. But it shouldn’t. Eating insects is after all, something man has been doing for a long time. In fact, insects were our first source of animal protein and there is pretty good evidence that human evolution was driven by nibbling on termites.
"On an intellectual level, is a bug really all that different from say, a prawn?"
The reason for an initial repulsion is that insects trigger the body’s ‘disgust reaction’, an evolved response to prevent us coming into contact with potential harbourers of disease. Part of the problem for insects (which isn’t faced by various meats or fish) is that in many cases, the product looks exactly like it does in the wild (or on your kitchen floor). Beef, lamb, venison or pork in contrast, have been cleverly named to disguise their origins, helping you get over that mental hurdle. A piece of bloodied, unprepared slab of 'flesh' would be pretty disgusting. A well-cooked steak, not so.
Could insects become our primary source of protein?
Many cultures – primarily in Africa, Asia and South America, already rely on creepy-crawlies as one of their main sources of protein. For that to happen in New Zealand and the rest of the ‘Western World’, we’re going to need to get over that 'yuck factor'.
Growing world populations, water scarcity and a shortage of land mean edible insects are in an industry that has potential to swarm.
In terms of a sustainable business model, bugs have a lot going for them. For starters, they breed like well, rabbits. A female cricket can lay anywhere from 200 to 1000 eggs, with a zippy six-week gestation period. Plus, unlike heavy-hooved livestock, you don’t need acres of grass or mountains of grain to feed them. A report by the UN Food Agriculture Agency found it takes 2.1 kilograms of feed to produce 1kg of edible body weight of bugs. To produce 1kg of beef by comparison, you need 25kg of feed (almost 12 times as much). Insects also don’t mind being treated like battery hens, easing ethical objections. It’s quite easy to raise insects in a way that keeps them happy. They’re not stressed by overcrowding. Crucially, they can also be killed quickly and humanely. Bugs ready for harvesting are euthanised in a freezing chamber.
But the payoff is not just sustainability, perhaps more importantly is the nutrient density. Take crickets, the gateway bug due to the relative ease of manufacturing them. Gram for gram, these summer night songbirds provide more than twice (more than TWICE) the protein of beef. And it’s high quality protein too, containing all 9 amino acids. They also pack five times as much magnesium, and three times as much iron. The reason for their nutritional firepower? Unlike heavy-hooved livestock, you eat the whole bug, feelers to tail. You’re getting a lot of protein from the endoskeleton as they use all the nutrients they consume to make the shell hard on the outside, and that’s what you’re eating. This hard exterior delivers a payload of calcium, iron, vitamin B12, zinc and potassium.
Is Insect Powder the Pure Protein You’ve been looking for?
If crickets are the gateway insect, then powder is the form that’s most likely to go mainstream and start showing up in increasing quantities in biscuits, cakes, energy bars and breakfast cereals.
Can’t see it happening?
It already is and not surprisingly, it's the paleo community that has been one of the first to hop on board the insect bandwagon. People have this preconceived notion that insects are dirty, disgusting and gross. But these insects are bred specifically for people to eat. No different to any food available in a supermarket.
Back in the 80’s many in Kiwis and Aussies were appalled at the prospect of eating raw fish. Now? The lines at sushi bars can stretch around the block. And what about the insects of the ocean; Crabs, prawns and crayfish? These are often served with eyes, legs, tails and tentacles intact. Lobster was even once considered among the least desirable foods one could eat – "a garbage meat fit for only prisoners, apprentices, slaves and children." In many cases, we now consider these delicacies. The reason? We’ve grown accustomed to eating them and all disgust elicitors become a lot less disgusting with exposure. Which is precisely why the future of nutrition could be critters.
Are we set up to return to our original protein source?
Our prehistoric forebears may be celebrated for spearing sabre-tooth tigers and bringing down woolly mammoths, but they were just as likely to be digging about in the soil for bugs. The question is, with all this information; Are you ready to dig in?
Over the past few years, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has become a real source of personal inspiration. He has transformed himself from a popular professional wrestler, to one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. Yet, it is not his A-list status or even his commitment to hard-earned muscle that has drawn my inspiration. It is his tireless work ethic and determined attitude.
So from troubled delinquent to beloved superstar, here are 7 Dwayne Johnson teaching moments. Seven, because in 1995, that’s all the money he had in his pocket before deciding to turn his life around.
Dwayne first learnt and applied this lesson by way of heavy metal and calloused hands. The gym was Dwayne’s home when he was homeless and has served as an outlet for frustration over his failures. There he learnt at a very young age; “there is no substitute for hard work” both inside and outside the gym.
At just 13 years old, Dwayne’s first gym session was humbling and saw him ‘buried by the weight’. “I’ll never forget that feeling, I was completely embarrassed.”
This created an obsession with ‘moving that weight’, a philosophy, which continued into his career. Whatever obstacle stood in his way, he was going to move it, no matter how ugly. Persistence means progress, not perfection.
Coming home to an eviction notice and padlock on the door, Dwayne made a vow to never be homeless again. Surrounded by others who had achieved success through sweat equity and hardened hands, his purpose now was to train harder than ever before.
And while in retrospect, he knows that lifting weights and paying rent are unconnected, the determination and sense of purpose that grew out of that event, would continue to serve and drive him to this day.
Despite all the focus and discipline he showed in the gym, his unstable home life left him directionless outside of it. By the time he entered highschool, he was a towering 193cm and weighed 102kg, but squandered his potential by getting into fights and was arrested multiple times.
Thanks to a high school football coach (and future mentor), Dwayne would learn to control his anger and put all that hard-earned muscle to good use on the field, rather than off it.
Like a deadlifting session gone wrong, one day, Dwayne had the realisation that, if he didn’t turn things around and take responsibility for his actions, he might never get the chance.
“There are signs around you all the time, and a lot of the time we don’t see them, but sometimes we do, and those become our greatest lessons.”
In order to handle the challenges that come your way, you must be able to read and respond to them mindfully. Rather than simply reacting out of habit.
When times are challenging, or you find yourself doubting or questioning your path. Remember, there are no shortcuts to success. You need to be willing to travel back down that hard road and start everything again, beginning with the basics.
For Dwayne, he didn’t need directions, that road was well-worn. He simply needed to call upon the same principles that powered him through his most gruelling training sessions: focus, persistence and HARD WORK.
To Dwayne, there is a sublime beauty in life’s struggles and he knows he is a product of the most challenging times in his life. “As crazy as it sounds, in my mind, I’m always a week away from getting evicted, and that’s what keeps me motivated.”
*Inspiration of this blog, was taken from the January 2016, Muscle & Fitness Magazine
Eggs are pretty much the gold standard which all other proteins are judged. For starters, they’re cheap! But they are also packed with amino acids, antioxidants and iron, making them a solid investment in your health.
Caged Eggs vs. Free Range Eggs – Nutritionally, What’s the Difference?
Free ranged eggs tend to have a much deeper yellow/orange yolk and a recent comparison of nutritional data found free range eggs had;
Cage-Free vs. Free-Range vs. Organic
5 reasons to eat more eggs
1. Lower stroke risk
Adding an extra 20 grams of protein to your daily diet (three eggs) can slash your stroke risk by 20%, reports the journal of Neurology.
2. Good gut senses
Mixing protein-heavy snacks with exercise increases the levels of good gut bacteria, University College Cork reports.
3. Stronger heart
The tryptophan in eggs helps you produce serotonin, low levels of which are linked to an increased risk of heart attack.
4. No energy slumps
Amino acids help your body make norepinephrine, a chemical that boosts alertness. Eggs provide you with the full spectrum.
5. Sharper brain
Packed with choline, eggs have been linked to better mental functioning and reduced dementia according to the University of Boston.
When it comes to ‘it’ foods, coconut oil is the one of the hottest things around. Converts tout its heart benefits, weight loss and dental hygiene properties.
However, some have put coconut oil under the chopping block, concluding that its high saturated-fat content should preclude it from making health claims.
So is coconut oil a super food or just super hype?
The controversy comes from coconut oil being extremely high in saturated fat, which was once thought to raise cholesterol. However, fats are no longer seen as the villain of heart disease and obesity, clogging everyone’s arteries.
For a start, most coconut oils in the 90’s were partially hydrogenated (a nasty process). Today’s selections contain virgin, organic and unprocessed options.
Second, the fat crazed hysteria of the 90’s is over. Butter is back on our tables and people are eating egg yolks again. As a society, we have been so focused on trying to lose fat (around our middle) it was only natural we thought we needed to eat less 'fatty' food. In this regard, it is unfortunate the two share the same name when actually, good fats are one of the three essential building blocks our bodies need to survive and thrive.
When it comes to coconut oil specifically, studies have found that medium chain saturated fats (like coconut) can actually aid in weight loss and decrease fat mass. It also contains zero (dietary) cholesterol and has been shown to improve overall body cholesterol.
The main area coconut oil falls short is its smoke point, that is, the temperature at which certain oils burn. You want to avoid burning oil as this can cause a break down and the creation of free radicals, which can damage cells and increase the risk of cancer.
The smoke point for coconut oil is around 175oC which is somewhere in the middle for cooking oils. You don’t need smoking hot oil for a good saute, so coconut oil is perfect for low-medium heat cooking and sautéing, just keep a close eye on the stove. For higher heat cooking, such as searing meat or stir frying, you'll want to use a healthy alternative with a high smoke point. Avocado oil is great, and has a smoke point of about 190 - 205oC, one of the highest.
Overall, the health benefits of coconut oil are tremendous and I only ever have 3 types of oils in the kitchen. Olive oil for salads, avocado oil for high heat and coconut oil for everything in between.
All this makes coconut oil worthy of its ‘Superfood title’.
But rather than gobbling it up like it’s a magic pill, the key is to enjoy it and use in moderation!
You have likely seen a few of these taking up space in an unused corner of the gym. They are cylindrical shape, come in multiple colours, sizes and are made of foam. You may even be vaguely familiar with one, having awkwardly jumped on wondering if you were using it right. They are called ‘Foam Rollers’ and they are one of the most effective tools at your disposal for recovery and injury prevention, achieved by performing self-myofascial release.
Our modern sedentary lifestyle, sees us sitting at our desks, in our cars and at home on often more than 8 hours a day. Unsurprisingly, this constant seated positon causes various muscle imbalances, often disrupting good posture and contributing to lower back pain. The hip flexors are particularly vulnerable to this extended seated position (as illustrated below).
Foam rollers are an ideal tool to help combat muscle imbalance as they can apply myofascial release to just about any muscle group. What’s more, you have the advantage of controlling the amount of pressure you apply to the tissue AND what problematic area to focus on.
The main benefits of foam rolling are as follows:
Below are some examples demonstrating basic foam roll exercises:
Lack of sleep isn’t the only thing sapping your energy. Little things you do (and don’t do) can exhaust you both mentally and physically, which can make getting through your day a chore. Here are a few common bad habits (and lifestyle tips) that will put the pep back into your step.
1) You skip breakfast
Similar to how your car runs on petrol, the food you eat literally fuels your body. So, when you wake up, you need to refuel your system with breakfast. Skip it, and you’ll feel sluggish.
The more I research, the more I feel we have gotten our meals back to front. Most of us have very little (or no breakfast), medium lunch and big dinner. This makes no sense! Our biggest and most nutritious meal should be at the beginning, to ensure we have enough fuel and energy to power though a busy day, not right before we go to bed.
In case you don’t have time to be cooking roasts at 5am in the morning, here are some examples of more traditional, nutritious breakfasts.
Oatmeal with protein powder and a dab of peanut butter; a smoothie made with fruit, protein powder, Greek yogurt, and almond butter/milk; or eggs with slices of salmon or avocado.
2) You rely on caffeine to get through the day
Don’t be a slave to coffee! If you are finding that coffee no longer gives you a boost, but just a feeling of ‘normal’ or if you find yourself thinking; “Argh I really need coffee”. Chances are, your body is addicted to caffeine and can no longer functional normally without it. While some studies have shown that up to three daily cups of coffee may actually be good for you, it is important to appreciate coffee instead of being co-dependent.
Using caffeine improperly can seriously disrupt your sleep-wake cycle. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine revealed that consuming caffeine even 6 hours prior to bedtime affects sleep, so cut yourself off by mid-afternoon and watch out for those surprising sources of caffeine.
3) You have a glass of wine (or three) before bed
A nightcap sounds like a good way to unwind before falling asleep but ultimately, it sabotages sleep maintenance. Alcohol initially depresses the central nervous system, producing a sedative effect, which people can find helpful for falling asleep. However, alcohol creates a rebound effect as it is metabolised, creating an abrupt surge of adrenaline in the system. This is why, after you have been drinking, you are more likely to have a restless sleep (tossing and turning) or to wake up in the middle of the night.
4) You check e-mails at bedtime
The glaring light of a tablet, smartphone, or your computer’s backlit screen can throw off your body’s natural circadian rhythm by suppressing melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles.
Sensitivity to the digital glow of tech toys can vary from person to person, but in general it’s a good idea to avoid all technology for one to two hours before bedtime. Can’t avoid checking your device before your head hits the pillow? Then hold it at least 14 inches away from your face to reduce the risk of sleep interference.
5) You skip exercise when you’re tired OR you don’t exercise because you’re tired all the time
Many patients will tell me; “I don’t have time to exercise”. Yet they have time to binge watch a couple episodes of their favourite show (#GameofThrones). What they are really saying, is; ‘they don’t have the energy.’ As previously mentioned, breakfast is a vital component to ensuring you have enough fuel to get through your day. Skipping your workout to save energy (or not working out at all!) can actually work against you.
It has been found that sedentary but otherwise healthy adults who began exercising lightly three days a week for as little as 20 minutes at a time reported feeling less fatigued and more energised after 6 weeks. Regular exercise also boosts strength and endurance, helps make your cardiovascular system run more efficiently and delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues.
6) You have a messy Office / Car / Bedroom
A cluttered space mentally exhausts you by restricting your ability to focus and limits your brain’s ability to process information. If your office or living space needs major reorganising, avoid becoming totally overwhelmed by taking it one step at a time. Start by tidying what you can see, then move through your desk, cabinets and drawers etc. At the end of each day, make sure your work and personal items are organised and put away.
7) You’re not consuming enough iron
An iron deficiency can leave you feeling sluggish, irritable, weak and unable to focus. It makes you tired because less oxygen travels to the muscles and cells. You can boost your iron levels naturally by loading up on lean beef, kidney beans, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and peanut butter. Pair them with foods high in vitamin C, as vitamin C improves iron absorption when eaten together.
Note: An iron deficiency may be due to an underlying health problem, so if you’re experiencing fatigue which you think may be due to a deficiency in iron, make sure you visit your local doctor.