Pure Performance Training https://pureperformancetraining.com Create A Life Without Limits Thu, 13 Aug 2020 16:58:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 https://pureperformancetraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/cropped-Untitled-design-2020-07-14T213344.324-32x32.jpg Pure Performance Training https://pureperformancetraining.com 32 32 Potent and Primed: Your Immune System https://pureperformancetraining.com/potent-and-primed-your-immune-system/ https://pureperformancetraining.com/potent-and-primed-your-immune-system/#comments Thu, 28 May 2020 16:37:42 +0000 https://pureperformancetraining.com/?p=566 The human immune system is a topic that seemed foreign and not particularly pressing just several months ago. But the current coronavirus pandemic has brought the topic of immunity to the forefront of everyday conversation. We’re going to demystify this topic so you can be better informed about what your immune system is and how […]

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The human immune system is a topic that seemed foreign and not particularly pressing just several months ago. But the current coronavirus pandemic has brought the topic of immunity to the forefront of everyday conversation.

We’re going to demystify this topic so you can be better informed about what your immune system is and how it relates to another topic you hear much about: inflammation. 

To begin, your immune system is not a system, but a set of systems that work together to protect the cells of your body. The two major branches of this system are innate immunity and adaptive immunity. 

The Innate Immune System

Innate immunity is the collection of nonspecific protections that we are born with. These include the physical and chemical barriers of the skin and the mucous membranes inside of our respiratory and digestive tracts. These barriers trap and flush-out invaders, as well as facilitate immune surveillance. 

 The innate system also has several chemical defenses that are “non-specific” because they don’t target a certain species of pathogen, but they still protect against invaders. These include things like sweat, oil, tears, saliva, and wax that can help trap and kill pathogens.

Beyond the initial physical and chemical barriers, the innate system has a second line of defenses that include sensors, communicators, defenders, and biological responses such as inflammation and fever.

A major cell type involved in the innate response is known as granulocytes, which are leukocytes that consume and digest invaders. These cells patrol the blood and tissues looking for threats and can respond accordingly when they discover one.

Additional cells act similarly to find threats and then create cascades that mount an attack. However, these cells still are not responding to just one type of pathogen but are instead triggered by substances in bacterial cell walls or viral particles. This is why these cells are considered non-specific defenses.

Inflammation

When an immune cell finds a threat, it releases a chemical messenger known as a cytokine. Cytokines are small proteins used for communication that can alter the behavior of cells around them. This initiates the inflammatory response. 

 Inflammation is a coordinated reaction to a threat. This response can include swelling, redness, heat, and pain. The purpose of the response is to destroy an invader and remove its by-products as quickly as possible. However, when destruction is not an option, the cells try to wall-off the foreign material. The essential factor of inflammation is that it be able to extinguish, clear-out, and resolve the threat. When inflammation is sustained and cannot be resolved, it becomes dangerous to the host.

The Adaptive Immune System

The adaptive immune system is called as much because after it encounters, fights, and defeats a specific pathogen, it holds onto a “memory” of how to kill it again if it’s encountered. That’s why this branch handles specific immune defenses. 

 The adaptive immune system works in two ways. First, it has what’s called humoral immunity, which is composed of B cells and antibodies that patrol the blood. Second, it has cell-mediated immunity, which uses T cells to defend cells that are infiltrated by a threat. 

“Humor” means fluids, which is referring to the adaptive response in body fluids that can eliminate threats outside of a cell. In this system, B cells become activated when they encounter an invader on their cell receptor. They then consume, process, and present the pathogen’s proteins on the outside of their cell membrane.

 A secondary immune cell called a Helper T Cell then checks the protein to decide whether it is a threat or not. If it is, the B cell will transform into a plasma cell, which can then start producing antibodies.

 Antibodies are small proteins that are produced to neutralize or destroy specific threats. Once the pathogen is defeated, some of those plasma cells will become memory cells, and then remember that one pathogen for life—circulating the body on patrol for it. This is one of the principles of vaccines.

The other branch of adaptive immunity is cell mediation. Rather than patrolling blood for an unbound threat, this response is all about dealing with a cell that is already infected.

 In this scenario, the pathogen causes the proteins on the outer membrane of the compromised cell to change. Which signals a special immune cell, called an antigen-presenting cell, that looks for surface protein changes.

 These cells sample the environment, collect foreign material, and then migrate into the lymph organs to present it to T cells. A T cell with the receptor for a particular foreign protein becomes “activated” once it encounters it. This transforms the basic T cell into a special type of Cytotoxic T cell that can then patrol the body for all fragments of this threat that it now “knows.” It can instruct any cell presenting that protein to kill itself using a process called apoptosis (programmed cell death).

Immunity in The News

Now that we’ve looked at the basic immune response from a 30,000-foot view, there are probably many key words standing out. Questions concerning antibodies, long-term immunity, and inflammation are at the forefront of national discussions. It’s important to note that all of these processes require a tremendous amount of nuance to understand fully.

Antibodies are an indication that a person has successfully dealt with a threat. When many people in a population have antibodies for a certain pathogen, “herd immunity” is developed.

 The balance of immune responses is a delicate one. Some people’s immune systems over-respond to threats and incur what’s known as a cytokine storm. This can damage the host but is done so at the hands of one’s own immune system, not the threat itself. It’s not exactly known why this happens, but there is a lot of research looking into risk factors and contributing issues such as underlying diseases and dysregulated metabolic processes.

This is also why the concept of “boosting” the immune system is inaccurate. What would “boosting” entail? Having more immune cells? We know from cytokine storms and autoimmune diseases that immune systems that over-react do not benefit the host. Instead, we need to think of supporting the immune system—which is more about supporting a person as a whole.  

What can you do to give your body the support it needs?

Habits and choices that promote total health over long periods of time are our best bet. However, what is simple is not easy. Americans are missing some of these factors entirely, but we can collectively make the decision to start prioritizing them. These include: not smoking, consuming a highly nutrient-dense diet, maintaining a healthy and lean body weight, drink alcohol sparingly, get at least 7-9 quality hours of sleep nightly, reducing chronic stress, and having diverse exposures to microbes in many different environments (fibers, forests, dirt, soils, water, and plants).

Above all, logic and healthy decisions are essential right now. We can focus on science to better understand what happens in our bodies and our population as we encounter microbes of all kinds. Then, we can make the choice to support ourselves and our community with healthy and resilient lifestyles. With that, we empower ourselves to make decisions regarding what we are in control of: our health.

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The Macronutrients: Carbohydrates https://pureperformancetraining.com/the-macronutrients-carbohydrates/ https://pureperformancetraining.com/the-macronutrients-carbohydrates/#respond Sun, 29 Mar 2020 15:55:18 +0000 https://pureperformancetraining.com/?p=550 The post The Macronutrients: Carbohydrates appeared first on Pure Performance Training.

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THE MACRONUTRIENTS: CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates are an endlessly debated topic in nutritional science. On one side, there are low-carb proponents who claim carbohydrates are the root cause for a variety of modern health problems—from obesity to diabetes to heart disease. On the other side, there are those who think that carbohydrates serve essential functions for our well-being and have been unfairly vilified.

Stepping back to look at the intricacies of these complex molecules will help us to understand this debate more accurately, so we can make better choices for ourselves.

What are carbohydrates?

The term carbohydrate refers to a family of macromolecules ranging from simple sugar units to much larger, complex chains of sugars and other chemicals. Broadly, carbohydrates are classified by the number of units they contain. The most basic units are called monosaccharides. These smaller units can then be linked by chemical bonds to create progressively larger chains called polysaccharides.

The monosaccharides include familiar molecules like glucose, fructose, and galactose. When bonded in pairs, they form disaccharides, like maltose, lactose, and sucrose. As those bond further, they become lager polysaccharides, like starch, glycogen, cellulose, and chitin.

What types of carbohydrates are consumed?

We get most of our dietary carbohydrates from plants, like fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. That’s because carbohydrates provide the building materials for cell walls in the plants we eat. For example, cellulose is a common polysaccharide found in plants that gives them their rigid structure—helping them stand up straight and retain their shape.

Cellulose is an insoluble fiber, meaning it isn’t metabolized into the blood stream. Rather, it passes through our gastrointestinal system unabsorbed, providing food and nourishment for the symbiotic bacteria in our gut.

On the smaller side, there are simpler carbohydrates such as sugar. Sugar, known formally as sucrose, is made up of one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule. Fructose is what makes sugar sweet.

Disaccharides like sucrose are noticeably smaller and simpler than their polysaccharide counterparts. As a result, they have very different effects in the body. Simple carbohydrates are digested more rapidly than complex ones, which is an important part of the narrative as it relates to low-carb dieting claims. Simple carbohydrates also lack many of the other elements commonly found alongside more complex ones, such as fibers, vitamins, and minerals.

What do carbohydrates do in the body?

Complex carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables digest more slowly because they have large, branched, and more complex structures surrounding them compared to simple sugars. Ultimately, they’ll all be metabolized into their smallest component parts, monosaccharides, it really just comes down to how long that process takes to occur.

Once glucose molecules are present in the blood our bodies have to deal with it. To do this, our pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin. Insulin’s job is to shuttle these molecules into cells to be used for energy production. Muscle, brain, organ and other tissue cells all utilize glucose for cellular respiration. Glucose is the basic substrate cells use to stay alive and carry-out their functions.

So what’s all the drama with carbohydrates?

The complicated story of carbohydrates

It seems clear that complex carbohydrates are more nutritious than simple ones, so it would be easy to write-off those darned white sugars. As many health gurus on YouTube might have you believe, sugar is the devil and insulin is its minion, right? Maybe.

Maybe not.

Let’s look at the bigger picture.

First, simple and quick carbohydrates don’t inherently equal bad news. If an athlete is performing a substantial amount of high-intensity training that requires large amounts of energy on-demand, does it make sense to give him or her very slow-digesting kale leaves that they won’t have energy access to for several hours?

Probably not. Cue, the white rice.

Second, we now know that different bodies will actually respond uniquely to sugars, even simple ones. The glycemic index has been a popular tool for investigating which carbohydrates digest most quickly, but recent research has demonstrated that even the simplest sugars could digest rapidly in one body and then more slowly in the next. One person’s blood sugar may spike after a banana, whereas another person could consume several cookies and still not experience high blood sugar levels.

Why’s this?

It appears to be due to a multitude of factors, including genetics, training status, lean body mass percentage, health history, movement patterns, and other metabolic behaviors.

Third, we want to think about all macronutrients in the greater context of total energy consumption. The common story is that carbs spike our blood sugar and when this occurs for long, we induce insulin resistance which causes metabolic dysfunction. But keep in mind: that’s in the context of a hypercaloric diet. In other words, chronic overnutrition of any kind continues to show itself as the key issue. In fact, recent evidence suggests that insulin resistance is not just the simple story of cells refusing to uptake any more sugar. It’s actually the result of cell dysfunction stemming from free radical damage. And this damage can be induced by overnutrition of all substrates.

“Chronic overnutrition and physical inactivity are major risk factors for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Recent research indicates that overnutrition generates an increase in hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) emission from mitochondria, serving as a release valve to relieve the reducing pressure created by fuel overload, as well as a primary signal that ultimately decreases insulin sensitivity.” -Fisher-Wellman and Neufer 2011

Therefore, we have to think about the body as a whole system that’s responding to total energy intake and output, and then also consider that system in the context of pressure and inflammation. One study in 2009 discovered–contrart to everyone’s previously conceived notions of carbs–that fat can also induce insulin resistance!

“Surprisingly, switching rats from a standard high-carbohydrate chow diet to 100% fat (lard) for 3 days or a 60% high-fat diet for 3 weeks induced a remarkable 3- to 4-fold increase in the maximal rate of mitochondrial H2O2 emission” (Anderson 2009).

In large studies, weight loss groups tend to lose the same amount of weight whether they’re on a low-carb and high-carb diet so long as the diet is nutritious and the person exercises regularly. A major intervention studied demonstrated this more recently, in the Diet FITS clinical trial:

“In this clinical trial of 609 generally healthy overweight or obese adults without diabetes who were randomly assigned to a healthy low-fat vs a healthy low-carbohydrate diet, there was no significant difference in weight loss at 12 months. In addition, there were no significant interactions between diet and 3 SNP multilocus genotype patterns or diet and baseline insulin secretion on 12-month weight loss. These results were observed in the context of similar mean 12-month weight loss in both diet groups that was greater than 5% of baseline body weight…” (Gardner et al 2018).

In the Diet FITS trial, subjects were given whole food diets with properly balanced calories and counselled participants on recognizing signs of fullness and satiety at mealtimes.

So what does this mean for us?

At a minimum, it shows that nourishing carbohydrates can be a totally healthy component of a nutritious diet, despite claims to the contrary. But it also tells us that our movement and energy balance allow for diversity of nutrients.

Lastly, there is something essential to consider when we are examining the diet as a whole. Processed food tends to be comprised of simple carbohydrates AND fat. This combination is what we call “hyperpalatable.” When something is sweet and fatty (creamy, smooth, thick…etc), it’s easy to eat a lot of it, and it’s hard to stop. Thus, when deciding which carbohydrates, fat, and protein to eat, its ideal to trend towards minimally processed food choices. This helps naturally manage calories, makes people feel full, and allows people to eat higher volumes of food.

Carbohydrates and You

It can feel complicated to consider all of the information above–and no doubt, it is complex science–but we also can zoom back out to the big picture.

Here’s what we know:

  1. Carbohydrates come in many forms. Complex carbohydrates tend to be more nutritious, by offering fibers, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
  2. In the context of too many calories consumed, carbohydrates can contribute to negative health outcomes.
  3. Hyperpaltable carbohydrates should be minimized in any diet. They’re easy to overconsume and offer little nutritional value.
  4. People who exercise frequently and intensely process carbohydrates more efficiently than those who don’t.
  5. Simple stories in social media about carbohydrates being the enemy are not approaching the subject with nuance. It’s key to see the details in the context of a broader picture.

Above all else, the key is to view the details without losing sight of the greater vision: you. If you’re not moving enough–which is at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week plus 8,000 or more steps daily–then there’s a reasonable chance that carbohydrate needs are somewhat low. In which case, sticking to fibrous fruits and vegetables when selecting carbohydrates at mealtimes is ideal. If you’re training hard, moving more, or aiming to improve performance, then taking advantage of simpler carbohydrates around workouts may be appropriate.

Overall, it’s essential to do some detective work when looking at the simple stories or quick fixes of nutrition discussions today. They almost always require more nuance than they’re given, and the true needs and uses of foods will be unique to each person.

THE MACRONUTRIENTS: CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates are an endlessly debated topic in nutritional science. On one side, there are low-carb proponents who claim carbohydrates are the root cause for a variety of modern health problems—from obesity to diabetes to heart disease. On the other side, there are those who think that carbohydrates serve essential functions for our well-being and have been unfairly vilified.

Stepping back to look at the intricacies of these complex molecules will help us to understand this debate more accurately, so we can make better choices for ourselves.

What are carbohydrates?

The term carbohydrate refers to a family of macromolecules ranging from simple sugar units to much larger, complex chains of sugars and other chemicals. Broadly, carbohydrates are classified by the number of units they contain. The most basic units are called monosaccharides. These smaller units can then be linked by chemical bonds to create progressively larger chains called polysaccharides.

The monosaccharides include familiar molecules like glucose, fructose, and galactose. When bonded in pairs, they form disaccharides, like maltose, lactose, and sucrose. As those bond further, they become lager polysaccharides, like starch, glycogen, cellulose, and chitin.

What types of carbohydrates are consumed?

We get most of our dietary carbohydrates from plants, like fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. That’s because carbohydrates provide the building materials for cell walls in the plants we eat. For example, cellulose is a common polysaccharide found in plants that gives them their rigid structure—helping them stand up straight and retain their shape.

Cellulose is an insoluble fiber, meaning it isn’t metabolized into the blood stream. Rather, it passes through our gastrointestinal system unabsorbed, providing food and nourishment for the symbiotic bacteria in our gut.

On the smaller side, there are simpler carbohydrates such as sugar. Sugar, known formally as sucrose, is made up of one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule. Fructose is what makes sugar sweet.

Disaccharides like sucrose are noticeably smaller and simpler than their polysaccharide counterparts. As a result, they have very different effects in the body. Simple carbohydrates are digested more rapidly than complex ones, which is an important part of the narrative as it relates to low-carb dieting claims. Simple carbohydrates also lack many of the other elements commonly found alongside more complex ones, such as fibers, vitamins, and minerals.

What do carbohydrates do in the body?

Complex carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables digest more slowly because they have large, branched, and more complex structures surrounding them compared to simple sugars. Ultimately, they’ll all be metabolized into their smallest component parts, monosaccharides, it really just comes down to how long that process takes to occur.

Once glucose molecules are present in the blood our bodies have to deal with it. To do this, our pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin. Insulin’s job is to shuttle these molecules into cells to be used for energy production. Muscle, brain, organ and other tissue cells all utilize glucose for cellular respiration. Glucose is the basic substrate cells use to stay alive and carry-out their functions.

So what’s all the drama with carbohydrates?

The complicated story of carbohydrates

It seems clear that complex carbohydrates are more nutritious than simple ones, so it would be easy to write-off those darned white sugars. As many health gurus on YouTube might have you believe, sugar is the devil and insulin is its minion, right? Maybe.

Maybe not.

Let’s look at the bigger picture.

First, simple and quick carbohydrates don’t inherently equal bad news. If an athlete is performing a substantial amount of high-intensity training that requires large amounts of energy on-demand, does it make sense to give him or her very slow-digesting kale leaves that they won’t have energy access to for several hours?

Probably not. Cue, the white rice.

Second, we now know that different bodies will actually respond uniquely to sugars, even simple ones. The glycemic index has been a popular tool for investigating which carbohydrates digest most quickly, but recent research has demonstrated that even the simplest sugars could digest rapidly in one body and then more slowly in the next. One person’s blood sugar may spike after a banana, whereas another person could consume several cookies and still not experience high blood sugar levels.

Why’s this?

It appears to be due to a multitude of factors, including genetics, training status, lean body mass percentage, health history, movement patterns, and other metabolic behaviors.

Third, we want to think about all macronutrients in the greater context of total energy consumption. The common story is that carbs spike our blood sugar and when this occurs for long, we induce insulin resistance which causes metabolic dysfunction. But keep in mind: that’s in the context of a hypercaloric diet. In other words, chronic overnutrition of any kind continues to show itself as the key issue. In fact, recent evidence suggests that insulin resistance is not just the simple story of cells refusing to uptake any more sugar. It’s actually the result of cell dysfunction stemming from free radical damage. And this damage can be induced by overnutrition of all substrates.

“Chronic overnutrition and physical inactivity are major risk factors for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Recent research indicates that overnutrition generates an increase in hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) emission from mitochondria, serving as a release valve to relieve the reducing pressure created by fuel overload, as well as a primary signal that ultimately decreases insulin sensitivity.” -Fisher-Wellman and Neufer 2011

Therefore, we have to think about the body as a whole system that’s responding to total energy intake and output, and then also consider that system in the context of pressure and inflammation. One study in 2009 discovered–contrart to everyone’s previously conceived notions of carbs–that fat can also induce insulin resistance!

“Surprisingly, switching rats from a standard high-carbohydrate chow diet to 100% fat (lard) for 3 days or a 60% high-fat diet for 3 weeks induced a remarkable 3- to 4-fold increase in the maximal rate of mitochondrial H2O2 emission” (Anderson 2009).

In large studies, weight loss groups tend to lose the same amount of weight whether they’re on a low-carb and high-carb diet so long as the diet is nutritious and the person exercises regularly. A major intervention studied demonstrated this more recently, in the Diet FITS clinical trial:

“In this clinical trial of 609 generally healthy overweight or obese adults without diabetes who were randomly assigned to a healthy low-fat vs a healthy low-carbohydrate diet, there was no significant difference in weight loss at 12 months. In addition, there were no significant interactions between diet and 3 SNP multilocus genotype patterns or diet and baseline insulin secretion on 12-month weight loss. These results were observed in the context of similar mean 12-month weight loss in both diet groups that was greater than 5% of baseline body weight…” (Gardner et al 2018).

In the Diet FITS trial, subjects were given whole food diets with properly balanced calories and counselled participants on recognizing signs of fullness and satiety at mealtimes.

So what does this mean for us?

At a minimum, it shows that nourishing carbohydrates can be a totally healthy component of a nutritious diet, despite claims to the contrary. But it also tells us that our movement and energy balance allow for diversity of nutrients.

Lastly, there is something essential to consider when we are examining the diet as a whole. Processed food tends to be comprised of simple carbohydrates AND fat. This combination is what we call “hyperpalatable.” When something is sweet and fatty (creamy, smooth, thick…etc), it’s easy to eat a lot of it, and it’s hard to stop. Thus, when deciding which carbohydrates, fat, and protein to eat, its ideal to trend towards minimally processed food choices. This helps naturally manage calories, makes people feel full, and allows people to eat higher volumes of food.

Carbohydrates and You

It can feel complicated to consider all of the information above–and no doubt, it is complex science–but we also can zoom back out to the big picture.

Here’s what we know:

  1. Carbohydrates come in many forms. Complex carbohydrates tend to be more nutritious, by offering fibers, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
  2. In the context of too many calories consumed, carbohydrates can contribute to negative health outcomes.
  3. Hyperpaltable carbohydrates should be minimized in any diet. They’re easy to overconsume and offer little nutritional value.
  4. People who exercise frequently and intensely process carbohydrates more efficiently than those who don’t.
  5. Simple stories in social media about carbohydrates being the enemy are not approaching the subject with nuance. It’s key to see the details in the context of a broader picture.

Above all else, the key is to view the details without losing sight of the greater vision: you. If you’re not moving enough–which is at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week plus 8,000 or more steps daily–then there’s a reasonable chance that carbohydrate needs are somewhat low. In which case, sticking to fibrous fruits and vegetables when selecting carbohydrates at mealtimes is ideal. If you’re training hard, moving more, or aiming to improve performance, then taking advantage of simpler carbohydrates around workouts may be appropriate.

Overall, it’s essential to do some detective work when looking at the simple stories or quick fixes of nutrition discussions today. They almost always require more nuance than they’re given, and the true needs and uses of foods will be unique to each person.

The post The Macronutrients: Carbohydrates appeared first on Pure Performance Training.

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Four Ways to Train Your Hamstrings at Home https://pureperformancetraining.com/four-ways-train-hamstrings-home/ https://pureperformancetraining.com/four-ways-train-hamstrings-home/#respond Thu, 26 Mar 2020 19:38:29 +0000 https://pureperformancetraining.com/?p=553 The post Four Ways to Train Your Hamstrings at Home appeared first on Pure Performance Training.

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FOUR WAYS TO TRAIN YOUR HAMSTRINGS AT HOME

 

Squats, Lunges, stairclimbing, running, and bicycling are great options to build and maintain strength in your lower body when you don’t have access to equipment.

The only drawback is that all these activities are primarily geared toward the quadriceps and, to a lesser extent, the glutes. Hamstrings go largely unutilized.

Biomechanically, the quadriceps flex the hip and extend the knee, while the hamstrings do the exact opposite–extending the hip and flexing the knee. They’re a dynamic system of opposing forces that keep your knee and hip in equilibrium.

The problem is that most exercise programs treat the quadriceps and hamstring as though they evolved to need different things to survive. The thinking appears to be that quadriceps need a lot of repetition, pavement-pounding, and burning-sensations to thrive, while the hamstrings are adapted primarily for passive stretching and toe-touches.

This, of course, is not the case. Your hamstrings require just as much strength and endurance as your quadriceps to function optimally—perhaps even more.

When the hamstrings are overlooked in training, it can create a strength imbalance between the front and back of the leg. This alters normal lower body movements, decreases force generating potential, and increases the risk for injury.

To compound the problem, many home-based, low-weight activities make it difficult to apply enough stress to the hamstrings to make them stronger.

Here are four hamstring exercises you can use to hit the reset button on your lower body training. Each exercise targets slightly different parts of the hamstrings and can be done at home with minimal equipment.

Chair Bridge with March 
  • Lay on the ground in front of a chair with your legs bent at ninety-degrees and your heels in contact with the chair or ottoman.
  • Reach both arms towards the ceiling, pulling the backs of your shoulders off ground.
  • Press down through your heels, lifting your hips up. Try to pull the back pockets of your pants to the back of your knees with your hamstrings.
  • Without losing position, lift one leg off the chair, moving it toward your face while the other leg stays in place.
  • Repeat with the other leg, and then back again.
Stability Ball Curl
  • Lay on the ground with your lower legs resting on top of a stability ball.
  • Press your feet and lower legs into the ball to raise your hips off the floor.
  • Flex your knee, pulling the ball toward you as you continue to raise your hips higher.
  • At the top of the exercise your knee, hip, and shoulders should all be in a straight line.
  • Lower your hips and return to the starting position.
  • Progress the exercise by taking one foot off the ball as you bring your hips back down.
Backpack Hamstring Curl
  • Fill a backpack with weights, water bottles, rocks, or whatever you have.
  • Loop the straps around your ankles, tightening them so they don’t slide around.
  • Lie face down on a bench or bed with a pillow or rolled-up towel on your stomach to keep your back from arching.
  • Bend your knees, curling the weight toward your butt.
  • Repeat.
Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
  • Use the weighted backpack for resistance again.
  • Holding the weight in front of you, tip your upper body forward while extending one leg behind you.
  • Stop when the weight gets to mid-shin (approximately) or when you feel a stretch in the back of the leg.
  • Press your heel into the ground, contracting your hamstring, and return back to an upright position.

FOUR WAYS TO TRAIN YOUR HAMSTRINGS AT HOME

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Squats, Lunges, stairclimbing, running, and bicycling are great options to build and maintain strength in your lower body when you don’t have access to equipment.

The only drawback is that all these activities are primarily geared toward the quadriceps and, to a lesser extent, the glutes. Hamstrings go largely unutilized.

Biomechanically, the quadriceps flex the hip and extend the knee, while the hamstrings do the exact opposite–extending the hip and flexing the knee. They’re a dynamic system of opposing forces that keep your knee and hip in equilibrium.

The problem is that most exercise programs treat the quadriceps and hamstring as though they evolved to need different things to survive. The thinking appears to be that quadriceps need a lot of repetition, pavement-pounding, and burning-sensations to thrive, while the hamstrings are adapted primarily for passive stretching and toe-touches.

This, of course, is not the case. Your hamstrings require just as much strength and endurance as your quadriceps to function optimally—perhaps even more.

When the hamstrings are overlooked in training, it can create a strength imbalance between the front and back of the leg. This alters normal lower body movements, decreases force generating potential, and increases the risk for injury.

To compound the problem, many home-based, low-weight activities make it difficult to apply enough stress to the hamstrings to make them stronger.

Here are four hamstring exercises you can use to hit the reset button on your lower body training. Each exercise targets slightly different parts of the hamstrings and can be done at home with minimal equipment.

Chair Bridge with March 
  • Lay on the ground in front of a chair with your legs bent at ninety-degrees and your heels in contact with the chair or ottoman.
  • Reach both arms towards the ceiling, pulling the backs of your shoulders off ground.
  • Press down through your heels, lifting your hips up. Try to pull the back pockets of your pants to the back of your knees with your hamstrings.
  • Without losing position, lift one leg off the chair, moving it toward your face while the other leg stays in place.
  • Repeat with the other leg, and then back again.
Stability Ball Curl
  • Lay on the ground with your lower legs resting on top of a stability ball.
  • Press your feet and lower legs into the ball to raise your hips off the floor.
  • Flex your knee, pulling the ball toward you as you continue to raise your hips higher.
  • At the top of the exercise your knee, hip, and shoulders should all be in a straight line.
  • Lower your hips and return to the starting position.
  • Progress the exercise by taking one foot off the ball as you bring your hips back down.
Backpack Hamstring Curl
  • Fill a backpack with weights, water bottles, rocks, or whatever you have.
  • Loop the straps around your ankles, tightening them so they don’t slide around.
  • Lie face down on a bench or bed with a pillow or rolled-up towel on your stomach to keep your back from arching.
  • Bend your knees, curling the weight toward your butt.
  • Repeat.
Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
  • Use the weighted backpack for resistance again.
  • Holding the weight in front of you, tip your upper body forward while extending one leg behind you.
  • Stop when the weight gets to mid-shin (approximately) or when you feel a stretch in the back of the leg.
  • Press your heel into the ground, contracting your hamstring, and return back to an upright position.

 

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The Macronutrients: Protein https://pureperformancetraining.com/the-macronutrients-protein/ https://pureperformancetraining.com/the-macronutrients-protein/#respond Mon, 24 Feb 2020 20:32:31 +0000 https://pureperformancetraining.com/?p=544 The post The Macronutrients: Protein appeared first on Pure Performance Training.

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THE MACRONUTRIENTS: PROTEIN

For decades, protein has been the macronutrient of choice for fitness pros, bodybuilders, and gym rats. Many of us have consumed, or at least heard about, protein shakes, whey isolate, BCAAs, and other supplements. And as of late, much of the current nutrition debates center around low protein versus high protein diets. But let’s backup to the beginning and start from a foundation of science–the first step to understanding that most often gets ignored. So what the heck is protein?

What is protein?

Protein is one of the three macromolecules that humans receive from food—the other two are fat and carbohydrate. Through the digestive process, all three of these “macros” are broken down into smaller and smaller units that provide energy and nutrients for our cells. Proteins, specifically, are made-up of long chains of amino acids that fold into complex shapes, and sometimes even bundle into groups together.

What are amino acids?

Amino acids are small, organic compounds that contain carbon, hydrogen, an amine group, a carboxylic acid group, and a side chain that we call the “R” group. The “R” group is what distinguishes each amino acid from the others.

There are twenty amino acids in total. Nine of those are considered essential, which means they must be consumed to be available, and the remaining eleven can be synthesized by your body.

Like Legos, amino acids can be pulled apart and re-configured in seemingly endless ways to form thousands of different proteins. These proteins are used as a scaffolding for muscle, hair, skin and nails, enzymes, bone, many hormones, and other cell signaling molecules. When it comes to proteins, the structure of the shape dictates its function. So thousands of proteins spanning every inch of your body all have different 3-D shapes that indicate what that protein is used for. Every enzyme for every specific chemical reaction has a distinct sequence of amino acids, which dictates how it folds into its complete shape, which then dictates what its capable of doing. Some proteins contain several dozen amino acids while other contain tens of thousands. A protein called titin is the third most abundant protein in muscle, aside from myosin and actin, and it tends to be approximately 27,000-33,000 amino acids long. We need a lot of amino acids to make all of our proteins!

Amino acids don’t get stored the way fat and carbohydrate can be. Instead, they’re usually being recycled, used as intermediates in other metabolic pathways, kept in the amino acid pool for muscle use, or excreted.

Where can you get amino acids?

Foods labeled as “complete proteins” contain all nine of the essential amino acids necessary in the human diet. Typically, the most complete proteins will come from animal sources such as seafood, poultry, eggs, wild game, beef, and dairy. Additional plant-based complete proteins include quinoa, buckwheat, algae, soybeans.

For many vegetarians or vegans, a diverse set of incomplete proteins must be combined throughout the course of a day in order to receive all the necessary amino acids. These sources can include beans, whole grains, seitan, nuts, and seeds.

How much protein do you need?

First, let’s start with how much protein is currently recommended. In the United States, the Recommended Daily Allowance is 0.8 g per kilogram of bodyweight. For a 150 pound person, that’s about 55 grams of protein. For a 200 pound person, that’s about 72 grams of protein. However, this calculation has two caveats: (1) The RDA’s are most likely going to change, as that dosage has been found to be inadequate to prevent sarcopenia in aging adults, and (2) this dose is the bare minimum to keep a human alive. There is a big difference between not dying and thriving.

Let’s focus on thriving.

According to the The International Society of Sports Nutrition, a sufficient amount of overall daily protein intake is more in the range of 1.4–2.0 g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day for most people to build or maintain muscle mass when combined with exercise. For a 150-pound person, that’s approximately 95-136 grams of protein per day, or 126-180 grams of protein daily for a 200-pound person.

Further large-scale clinical studies have shown that eating up to 4.4 g/kg (2 g/lb) body weight didn’t cause any short-term health problems and supported the construction of more lean mass when combined with resistance training.

Protein Quality

Housed within the adequate intake of proteins is hopefully adequate intakes of each amino acid. Not all amino acids are used in the same way, and each is important. For example, the essential amino acid leucine is also one of the branched-chain amino acids. Leucine is the “start” signal that begins the process of muscle protein synthesis. Because of this, we judge protein content and dosages often in regard to essential amino acid, and particularly leucine, availability. A protein dose of 20–40 g of protein (10–12 g of EAAs, 1–3 g of leucine) seems to be the “sweet spot” for stimulating the growth of new muscle tissue.

The Protein Myth

One of the most common statements surrounding protein consumption is that it will damage your kidneys. However, the genesis for this concept stems from the fact that people with poorly functioning kidneys may do better on a lower protein diet because it lessens the need for glomerular filtration and creatinine clearance–both of which are metabolic events required for protein processing. But those are people with a pre-existing injury/illness. That’s very different than the idea that protein caused that damage. This is an important distinction and essential for releasing this myth.

“Published reviews on this topic consistently report that an increased intake of protein by competitive athletes and active individuals provides no indication of hepato-renal harm or damage. This is supported by a recent commentary that referenced recent reports from the World Health Organization where they indicated a lack of evidence linking a high protein diet to renal disease. Likewise, the panel charged with establishing reference nutrient values for Australia and New Zealand also stated there was no published evidence that elevated intakes of protein exerted any negative impact on kidney function in athletes or in general” (JISSN).

Meta-analyses–studies that systematically assess the results of previous research–continue to find that protein does not damage the kidneys. And because we see such benefits from high-protein diets on preventing muscle loss, decreasing appetite, muscle building, and weight loss, it’s important to acknowledge this.

Protein for Weight Loss

Protein is a dieter’s best friend. First, eating protein tends to make people feel fuller at mealtimes, which makes them eat less, and helps them stay feeling full for longer. This effect on our hunger and satiety hormones makes our lives easier when we’re trying to lose some weight. Second, when dieting, people often lose lean mass as well as fat mass because the body is in an energy deficit. If the diet is high in protein, it can promote muscle sparing, particularly when combined with resistance training. Because there are plenty of available amino acids, our own muscles can be spared from degradation. That way, once the weight is lost we can save some of our metabolic rate from dropping even lower because muscle is energetically expensive. Lastly, protein has the highest thermogenic cost to digest, meaning it costs more calories to digest than other foods. For these reasons, protein helps us shed fat mass, save lean mass, and burn a few extra calories.

Protein for Muscle Gain

The most recent research shows that the fastest digesting proteins that contain high proportions of essential amino acids and adequate leucine are most effective in stimulating muscle protein synthesis. For that reason, consuming protein doses periodically throughout the day, and particularly around workouts, is essential for muscle growth.

After workouts, there is an anabolic window where muscle cells may be more sensitive to protein uptake. For years, bodybuilders have famously used their nutrition to jump into this window with shakes and large meals post-workout. While research has shown that there does appear to be an anabolic window, it likely is several hours long and not as brief as it was once throught to be. For most people, a complete protein meal after a workout is perfectly adequate. However, to take the programming up a notch, a fast-digesting animal protein supplement like whey protein powder should be consumed post-workout because it is ideal at helping your body to make more muscle as compared to a plant-based protein like soy.

Major Takeaways

Overall, we can look at some fantastic research to make sense of the wonderful macronutrient that is protein.

We can see that:

  • It supplies vitally important amino acids that give us the building blocks for our whole body
  • It provides the nourishment and supplies needed for muscle construction
  • It makes us feel fuller for longer
  • It burns the most calories during digestion
  • It can promote healthy and lean-mass sparing weight loss
  • It can optimize performance by promoting lean mass development
  • It’s safe to eat

If you want to build muscle, lose some weight, and feel satisfied at meals, investigating your protein intake is an important piece of your nutrition puzzle. Check-in with yourself to make sure that you’re consuming complete proteins at mealtimes or throughout the day, that you’re getting adequate leucine–especially after workouts–and that you’re consuming a complete protein after a workout.

Sources

Brandle E, Sieberth HG, Hautmann RE. Effect of chronic dietary protein intake on the renal function in healthy subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1996;50:734–40.

Devries MC, Phillips SM. Supplemental protein in support of muscle mass and health: advantage whey. J Food Sci. 2015 Mar;80 Suppl 1:A8-A15.

THE MACRONUTRIENTS: PROTEIN

For decades, protein has been the macronutrient of choice for fitness pros, bodybuilders, and gym rats. Many of us have consumed, or at least heard about, protein shakes, whey isolate, BCAAs, and other supplements. And as of late, much of the current nutrition debates center around low protein versus high protein diets. But let’s backup to the beginning and start from a foundation of science–the first step to understanding that most often gets ignored. So what the heck is protein?

What is protein?

Protein is one of the three macromolecules that humans receive from food—the other two are fat and carbohydrate. Through the digestive process, all three of these “macros” are broken down into smaller and smaller units that provide energy and nutrients for our cells. Proteins, specifically, are made-up of long chains of amino acids that fold into complex shapes, and sometimes even bundle into groups together.

What are amino acids?

Amino acids are small, organic compounds that contain carbon, hydrogen, an amine group, a carboxylic acid group, and a side chain that we call the “R” group. The “R” group is what distinguishes each amino acid from the others.

There are twenty amino acids in total. Nine of those are considered essential, which means they must be consumed to be available, and the remaining eleven can be synthesized by your body.

Like Legos, amino acids can be pulled apart and re-configured in seemingly endless ways to form thousands of different proteins. These proteins are used as a scaffolding for muscle, hair, skin and nails, enzymes, bone, many hormones, and other cell signaling molecules. When it comes to proteins, the structure of the shape dictates its function. So thousands of proteins spanning every inch of your body all have different 3-D shapes that indicate what that protein is used for. Every enzyme for every specific chemical reaction has a distinct sequence of amino acids, which dictates how it folds into its complete shape, which then dictates what its capable of doing. Some proteins contain several dozen amino acids while other contain tens of thousands. A protein called titin is the third most abundant protein in muscle, aside from myosin and actin, and it tends to be approximately 27,000-33,000 amino acids long. We need a lot of amino acids to make all of our proteins!

Amino acids don’t get stored the way fat and carbohydrate can be. Instead, they’re usually being recycled, used as intermediates in other metabolic pathways, kept in the amino acid pool for muscle use, or excreted.

Where can you get amino acids?

Foods labeled as “complete proteins” contain all nine of the essential amino acids necessary in the human diet. Typically, the most complete proteins will come from animal sources such as seafood, poultry, eggs, wild game, beef, and dairy. Additional plant-based complete proteins include quinoa, buckwheat, algae, soybeans.

For many vegetarians or vegans, a diverse set of incomplete proteins must be combined throughout the course of a day in order to receive all the necessary amino acids. These sources can include beans, whole grains, seitan, nuts, and seeds.

How much protein do you need?

First, let’s start with how much protein is currently recommended. In the United States, the Recommended Daily Allowance is 0.8 g per kilogram of bodyweight. For a 150 pound person, that’s about 55 grams of protein. For a 200 pound person, that’s about 72 grams of protein. However, this calculation has two caveats: (1) The RDA’s are most likely going to change, as that dosage has been found to be inadequate to prevent sarcopenia in aging adults, and (2) this dose is the bare minimum to keep a human alive. There is a big difference between not dying and thriving.

Let’s focus on thriving.

According to the The International Society of Sports Nutrition, a sufficient amount of overall daily protein intake is more in the range of 1.4–2.0 g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day for most people to build or maintain muscle mass when combined with exercise. For a 150-pound person, that’s approximately 95-136 grams of protein per day, or 126-180 grams of protein daily for a 200-pound person.

Further large-scale clinical studies have shown that eating up to 4.4 g/kg (2 g/lb) body weight didn’t cause any short-term health problems and supported the construction of more lean mass when combined with resistance training.

Protein Quality

Housed within the adequate intake of proteins is hopefully adequate intakes of each amino acid. Not all amino acids are used in the same way, and each is important. For example, the essential amino acid leucine is also one of the branched-chain amino acids. Leucine is the “start” signal that begins the process of muscle protein synthesis. Because of this, we judge protein content and dosages often in regard to essential amino acid, and particularly leucine, availability. A protein dose of 20–40 g of protein (10–12 g of EAAs, 1–3 g of leucine) seems to be the “sweet spot” for stimulating the growth of new muscle tissue.

The Protein Myth

One of the most common statements surrounding protein consumption is that it will damage your kidneys. However, the genesis for this concept stems from the fact that people with poorly functioning kidneys may do better on a lower protein diet because it lessens the need for glomerular filtration and creatinine clearance–both of which are metabolic events required for protein processing. But those are people with a pre-existing injury/illness. That’s very different than the idea that protein caused that damage. This is an important distinction and essential for releasing this myth.

“Published reviews on this topic consistently report that an increased intake of protein by competitive athletes and active individuals provides no indication of hepato-renal harm or damage. This is supported by a recent commentary that referenced recent reports from the World Health Organization where they indicated a lack of evidence linking a high protein diet to renal disease. Likewise, the panel charged with establishing reference nutrient values for Australia and New Zealand also stated there was no published evidence that elevated intakes of protein exerted any negative impact on kidney function in athletes or in general” (JISSN).

Meta-analyses–studies that systematically assess the results of previous research–continue to find that protein does not damage the kidneys. And because we see such benefits from high-protein diets on preventing muscle loss, decreasing appetite, muscle building, and weight loss, it’s important to acknowledge this.

Protein for Weight Loss

Protein is a dieter’s best friend. First, eating protein tends to make people feel fuller at mealtimes, which makes them eat less, and helps them stay feeling full for longer. This effect on our hunger and satiety hormones makes our lives easier when we’re trying to lose some weight. Second, when dieting, people often lose lean mass as well as fat mass because the body is in an energy deficit. If the diet is high in protein, it can promote muscle sparing, particularly when combined with resistance training. Because there are plenty of available amino acids, our own muscles can be spared from degradation. That way, once the weight is lost we can save some of our metabolic rate from dropping even lower because muscle is energetically expensive. Lastly, protein has the highest thermogenic cost to digest, meaning it costs more calories to digest than other foods. For these reasons, protein helps us shed fat mass, save lean mass, and burn a few extra calories.

Protein for Muscle Gain

The most recent research shows that the fastest digesting proteins that contain high proportions of essential amino acids and adequate leucine are most effective in stimulating muscle protein synthesis. For that reason, consuming protein doses periodically throughout the day, and particularly around workouts, is essential for muscle growth.

After workouts, there is an anabolic window where muscle cells may be more sensitive to protein uptake. For years, bodybuilders have famously used their nutrition to jump into this window with shakes and large meals post-workout. While research has shown that there does appear to be an anabolic window, it likely is several hours long and not as brief as it was once throught to be. For most people, a complete protein meal after a workout is perfectly adequate. However, to take the programming up a notch, a fast-digesting animal protein supplement like whey protein powder should be consumed post-workout because it is ideal at helping your body to make more muscle as compared to a plant-based protein like soy.

Major Takeaways

Overall, we can look at some fantastic research to make sense of the wonderful macronutrient that is protein.

We can see that:

  • It supplies vitally important amino acids that give us the building blocks for our whole body
  • It provides the nourishment and supplies needed for muscle construction
  • It makes us feel fuller for longer
  • It burns the most calories during digestion
  • It can promote healthy and lean-mass sparing weight loss
  • It can optimize performance by promoting lean mass development
  • It’s safe to eat

If you want to build muscle, lose some weight, and feel satisfied at meals, investigating your protein intake is an important piece of your nutrition puzzle. Check-in with yourself to make sure that you’re consuming complete proteins at mealtimes or throughout the day, that you’re getting adequate leucine–especially after workouts–and that you’re consuming a complete protein after a workout.

Sources

Brandle E, Sieberth HG, Hautmann RE. Effect of chronic dietary protein intake on the renal function in healthy subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1996;50:734–40.

Devries MC, Phillips SM. Supplemental protein in support of muscle mass and health: advantage whey. J Food Sci. 2015 Mar;80 Suppl 1:A8-A15.

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Fiber: Feeding the Ecosystem for Thriving Health https://pureperformancetraining.com/fiber-feeding-ecosystem-thriving-health/ https://pureperformancetraining.com/fiber-feeding-ecosystem-thriving-health/#respond Wed, 29 Jan 2020 13:25:35 +0000 https://pureperformancetraining.com/?p=539 The post Fiber: Feeding the Ecosystem for Thriving Health appeared first on Pure Performance Training.

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FIBER: FEEDING THE ECOSYSTEM FOR THRIVING HEALTH

We hear regularly that fiber is good for us. We know we’re supposed to eat fruits and vegetables, and at our yearly physicals, we’re encouraged to eat more of it by our doctor. Fiber is one of those words that feels familiar, and truthfully, rather boring. But the pathway behind fiber’s health-promoting mechanism is a fascinating and symbiotic event between our cells and the billions of microorganisms that live within us. For decades we’ve known that fiber is good for us, but the story of why and how it is so health-promoting has only recently begun to unfold. Understanding this tale is essential to prioritizing and enjoying its benefits.

What is Fiber?

When we consume food, it’s energy is not immediately available to us. To understand the path that nourishment must travel, it’s important to first consider the nature of how we acquire energy. Our gastrointestinal tract is a long funnel that stretches from our sinuses and mouth all the way through the colon. Think of it as a pathway where the outside world tunnels through us. It is actually not the “inside” of our bodies. It’s a barrier between us and the outside world. This tract is lined with a thin sheet of epithelial cells which is then covered in protective mucus. On top of the protective layer is where billions of microorganisms are housed — collectively, this ecosystem is our microbiome. The microbial population ideally consists of many species of bacteria, fungi, yeasts, and other tiny organisms that benefit our health. 

The GI tract also houses the majority of the human immune system. The delicate balance of well-maintained epithelial cells, a friendly microbial population, and in-tact mucus layers leads to healthy immune behavior. When one part of this ecosystem is depleted, such as the mucous layer or the tissue lining the tract, the microbial populations can encroach too closely across the barrier and an inflammatory response is triggered. 

Each compartment of the GI has specific adaptations and functions. Particular enzymes or molecules are secreted in certain areas where they are needed to perform a given task in order to assist the phases of nutrient processing. The mouth secretes a small amount of certain digestive enzymes, particularly amylases to digest starch; the stomach secretes hydrochloric acid to create an extremely low pH that can denature or cleave proteins and kill pathogens; and the small intestine is where the majority of nutrient absorption appears to occur. But humans cannot simply absorb somewhat digested nutrients. We only have enzymes that can break certain bonds, and we only can absorb the smallest units of each macromolecule. There are many structures that we cannot cleave into units small enough for this retention. That is where the symbiotic nature of our microbial populations enter the digestive pathway. 

Bacteria can cleave bonds in plants that we cannot, and thus they can liberate nutrients for us to access and also feed themselves in the process. Fiber contains the indigestible molecules whose bonds we cannot break on our own. Soluble fibers are water-soluble and create a gel-like substance as they breakdown and then pass through the colon, and insoluble fibers are not water-soluble and remain solid as they are processed. Both are found in plants that humans consume. 

Fiber and Health

Recent studies comparing low-fiber diets to high-fiber diets have explored possible mechanisms for the balance of this ecosystem. Low-fiber diets in mice have been shown to dramatically deplete their microbiota and correlate with changes in what species are present in their gut. This crash in the population then coincided with a thinning of the mucus barrier and an inflammatory immune response (Zou et al., 2017). 

Unfortunately, the diet tested mimicked what the majority of Americans continue to eat — nutrition that’s high in sugar, high in lard, and low in fiber. The mice that were kept on this diet eventually suffered from chronic inflammation, fat gain, and higher blood sugar levels. The lack of microbial diversity and the thinning of protective mucus was associated with sustained inflammation that resulted in poor health. 

The causal pathway for the immune response is thought to be a multi-step breakdown. First, the lack of fiber starves the microorganisms in the GI. This starvation leads to population decreases, and thus reduces the molecules that some species produce that help strengthen the mucus barrier. The barrier also might be consumed by some microorganisms as they try to cope with the lack of fuel. As this protective layer thins, the bacterial population encroaches on human tissue too closely, and an inflammatory response is initiated by immune cells that are prompted to defend this threat. Living in that precarious chronic state then leads to the negative health outcomes associated with sustained inflammation — fat gain, metabolic disturbances, and poor immune health. 

Fiber and Microbial Diversity

One possible cause precipitous to the inflammation is a term that researchers are calling “colony atrophy.” A lack of diversity in the speciation of the microbiome is correlated with dysregulated mucus production and epithelial function and thus increased immune activity. 

The good news is that a diet high in fiber is correlated with increased microbial diversity and balanced immune function. In some studies, added fiber was shown to be protective even when the subject was still eating a processed food diet. When bacteria feed on plant fibers that humans cannot digest, they produce a substance known as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which intestinal cells can then use as fuel to produce mucus, receive messages, and kill pathogens. 

Some bacteria feed directly on dietary fibers, and other species may be feeding on the waste that fiber-consuming bacteria produce. Either way, the fuel is allowing microorganisms to flourish and diversify. But all of this ecosystem is dependent on the steady income of plant fibers. 

Fiber and Aging

Interestingly, a more recent review of a major national health data set revealed a benefit of fiber that had not been elucidated before: fiber affects biological aging. 

Telomeres are tiny caps on the ends of chromosomes that work to protect genetic material. As humans age, telomeres shorten; making it a proxy for estimating the rate of biological aging in an organism. After examining data from 5,674 U.S. adults in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers discovered that telomere length was correlated with how many grams of fiber were consumed daily by the individual. Specifically, for each 1 g increment in fiber intake per 1000 kcal, telomeres were 8.3 base pairs longer. Because each additional year of chronological age was associated with telomeres that were 15.5 base pairs shorter, these results suggest that a 10 g increase in fiber intake per 1000 kcal would correspond with telomeres that are 83 base pairs longer. On average, this would equate to 5.4 fewer years of biologic aging. When smoking, BMI, alcohol use and physical activity were adjusted for, each 10 g increment in fiber accounted for telomeres that were 67 base pairs longer, resulting in a biologic aging difference of about 4.3 years (Tucker, 2018). 

This means that the human body may age more slowly and remain biologically younger as the daily dose of fiber increases. The suggested mechanisms for this relationship are complex but include the inflammatory response concepts previously mentioned, as well as other immune-modulating effects and mediation of oxidative stressors. 

Unfortunately, U.S. adults continue to have very low fiber intake on average, with recent studies showing them as consuming less than one-half of the recommended amounts daily (Tucker 2018). Given that our microbiome and immune health appear to have a dose-dependent response to dietary fiber, it’s clear that this is a component of obesity and disease in the U.S. — where metabolic illnesses continue to be a top public health crisis. 

Your Daily Doses of Fiber

One of the encouraging things about fiber issues is that its a relatively simple problem to fix — a person needs to eat more of it. Yet, this is challenging to actually implement in our current food culture. Thankfully, you can change this in your home, on your plate, right now.

Whole, real foods need to be consumed at breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. All meals should contain a portion of whole plant foods. The daily recommended amounts of fiber are 30 or more grams for men and 25 or more grams for women. If you want to investigate and see how many grams you’re getting daily, you can track your meals in a nutrient-tracking app such as Cronometer. Otherwise, its simple to first start by making half your plate consist of fresh color at mealtimes. Vegetables of all kinds (including frozen), fruits, seeds, nuts, potatoes, legumes, and beans are all wonderful sources of dietary fiber and resistant starch. All of these can be used to make delicious meals throughout the year. The key is to prioritize, value, and learn to enjoy these powerful foods.

Fiber type Found in
Beta-glucans Baker’s yeast, some mushrooms, some grains, seaweed
Cellulose / hemicellulose Plant cell walls, especially plants with a rigid structure (e.g. trees)
Chitin Fungi, exoskeletons (e.g. crab shells)
Chitosan Produced as a chitin derivative
Fructans Many vegetables and grains, such as chicory, Jerusalem artichoke, barley, and the Allium group (onions, leeks, garlic, etc.)
Gums Seaweeds, barley bran, some tree saps and seeds
Lignins Plant cell walls, especially xylem (nutrient-transporting) cells
Non-digestible dextrins Plant starches
Non-digestible oligosaccharides (the prebiotic fibers) like inulin, fructo- and galacto-oligosaccharides For inulin and fructo-oligosaccharide, see fructans. Galacto-oligosaccharides are derived from lactose in milk.
Pectin Fruits such as apples, apricots, quince, guava, and citrus. Citrus peels are a very high source of pectin (30% of weight).
Polydextrose Synthesized from dextrose (combined with citric acid and sorbitol), used as a starch replacer in commercial food products
Resistant starches Seeds, legumes, whole grains, potato, corn, green bananas (especially if these foods are cooked then cooled)

-Precision Nutrition

Not only are many of these foods super delicious and easy to incorporate, but they have benefits beyond their colorful nutrients. The fiber can assist with weight loss and healthy weight maintenance, GI health, colonic transit, lowering cholesterol, increasing microbial diversity, feeling fuller longer, cancer protection, cardiovascular protection, and even increased energy expenditure.

Those who can make this lifestyle change stand to reap wonderful benefits. These foods are the items that we’re designed to consume. If we look at the framework of the relationship between the microorganisms that we house and the symbiotic benefits our cells acquire from their presence, it’s clear that we are designed to work with, feed, and benefit from billions of microbiota all around our bodies. The health, diversity, and balance of that ecology is nothing short of essential to achieving thriving human health.

FIBER: FEEDING THE ECOSYSTEM FOR THRIVING HEALTH

We hear regularly that fiber is good for us. We know we’re supposed to eat fruits and vegetables, and at our yearly physicals, we’re encouraged to eat more of it by our doctor. Fiber is one of those words that feels familiar, and truthfully, rather boring. But the pathway behind fiber’s health-promoting mechanism is a fascinating and symbiotic event between our cells and the billions of microorganisms that live within us. For decades we’ve known that fiber is good for us, but the story of why and how it is so health-promoting has only recently begun to unfold. Understanding this tale is essential to prioritizing and enjoying its benefits.

What is Fiber?

When we consume food, it’s energy is not immediately available to us. To understand the path that nourishment must travel, it’s important to first consider the nature of how we acquire energy. Our gastrointestinal tract is a long funnel that stretches from our sinuses and mouth all the way through the colon. Think of it as a pathway where the outside world tunnels through us. It is actually not the “inside” of our bodies. It’s a barrier between us and the outside world. This tract is lined with a thin sheet of epithelial cells which is then covered in protective mucus. On top of the protective layer is where billions of microorganisms are housed — collectively, this ecosystem is our microbiome. The microbial population ideally consists of many species of bacteria, fungi, yeasts, and other tiny organisms that benefit our health. 

The GI tract also houses the majority of the human immune system. The delicate balance of well-maintained epithelial cells, a friendly microbial population, and in-tact mucus layers leads to healthy immune behavior. When one part of this ecosystem is depleted, such as the mucous layer or the tissue lining the tract, the microbial populations can encroach too closely across the barrier and an inflammatory response is triggered. 

Each compartment of the GI has specific adaptations and functions. Particular enzymes or molecules are secreted in certain areas where they are needed to perform a given task in order to assist the phases of nutrient processing. The mouth secretes a small amount of certain digestive enzymes, particularly amylases to digest starch; the stomach secretes hydrochloric acid to create an extremely low pH that can denature or cleave proteins and kill pathogens; and the small intestine is where the majority of nutrient absorption appears to occur. But humans cannot simply absorb somewhat digested nutrients. We only have enzymes that can break certain bonds, and we only can absorb the smallest units of each macromolecule. There are many structures that we cannot cleave into units small enough for this retention. That is where the symbiotic nature of our microbial populations enter the digestive pathway. 

Bacteria can cleave bonds in plants that we cannot, and thus they can liberate nutrients for us to access and also feed themselves in the process. Fiber contains the indigestible molecules whose bonds we cannot break on our own. Soluble fibers are water-soluble and create a gel-like substance as they breakdown and then pass through the colon, and insoluble fibers are not water-soluble and remain solid as they are processed. Both are found in plants that humans consume. 

Fiber and Health

Recent studies comparing low-fiber diets to high-fiber diets have explored possible mechanisms for the balance of this ecosystem. Low-fiber diets in mice have been shown to dramatically deplete their microbiota and correlate with changes in what species are present in their gut. This crash in the population then coincided with a thinning of the mucus barrier and an inflammatory immune response (Zou et al., 2017). 

Unfortunately, the diet tested mimicked what the majority of Americans continue to eat — nutrition that’s high in sugar, high in lard, and low in fiber. The mice that were kept on this diet eventually suffered from chronic inflammation, fat gain, and higher blood sugar levels. The lack of microbial diversity and the thinning of protective mucus was associated with sustained inflammation that resulted in poor health. 

The causal pathway for the immune response is thought to be a multi-step breakdown. First, the lack of fiber starves the microorganisms in the GI. This starvation leads to population decreases, and thus reduces the molecules that some species produce that help strengthen the mucus barrier. The barrier also might be consumed by some microorganisms as they try to cope with the lack of fuel. As this protective layer thins, the bacterial population encroaches on human tissue too closely, and an inflammatory response is initiated by immune cells that are prompted to defend this threat. Living in that precarious chronic state then leads to the negative health outcomes associated with sustained inflammation — fat gain, metabolic disturbances, and poor immune health. 

Fiber and Microbial Diversity

One possible cause precipitous to the inflammation is a term that researchers are calling “colony atrophy.” A lack of diversity in the speciation of the microbiome is correlated with dysregulated mucus production and epithelial function and thus increased immune activity. 

The good news is that a diet high in fiber is correlated with increased microbial diversity and balanced immune function. In some studies, added fiber was shown to be protective even when the subject was still eating a processed food diet. When bacteria feed on plant fibers that humans cannot digest, they produce a substance known as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which intestinal cells can then use as fuel to produce mucus, receive messages, and kill pathogens. 

Some bacteria feed directly on dietary fibers, and other species may be feeding on the waste that fiber-consuming bacteria produce. Either way, the fuel is allowing microorganisms to flourish and diversify. But all of this ecosystem is dependent on the steady income of plant fibers. 

Fiber and Aging

Interestingly, a more recent review of a major national health data set revealed a benefit of fiber that had not been elucidated before: fiber affects biological aging. 

Telomeres are tiny caps on the ends of chromosomes that work to protect genetic material. As humans age, telomeres shorten; making it a proxy for estimating the rate of biological aging in an organism. After examining data from 5,674 U.S. adults in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers discovered that telomere length was correlated with how many grams of fiber were consumed daily by the individual. Specifically, for each 1 g increment in fiber intake per 1000 kcal, telomeres were 8.3 base pairs longer. Because each additional year of chronological age was associated with telomeres that were 15.5 base pairs shorter, these results suggest that a 10 g increase in fiber intake per 1000 kcal would correspond with telomeres that are 83 base pairs longer. On average, this would equate to 5.4 fewer years of biologic aging. When smoking, BMI, alcohol use and physical activity were adjusted for, each 10 g increment in fiber accounted for telomeres that were 67 base pairs longer, resulting in a biologic aging difference of about 4.3 years (Tucker, 2018). 

This means that the human body may age more slowly and remain biologically younger as the daily dose of fiber increases. The suggested mechanisms for this relationship are complex but include the inflammatory response concepts previously mentioned, as well as other immune-modulating effects and mediation of oxidative stressors. 

Unfortunately, U.S. adults continue to have very low fiber intake on average, with recent studies showing them as consuming less than one-half of the recommended amounts daily (Tucker 2018). Given that our microbiome and immune health appear to have a dose-dependent response to dietary fiber, it’s clear that this is a component of obesity and disease in the U.S. — where metabolic illnesses continue to be a top public health crisis. 

Your Daily Doses of Fiber

One of the encouraging things about fiber issues is that its a relatively simple problem to fix — a person needs to eat more of it. Yet, this is challenging to actually implement in our current food culture. Thankfully, you can change this in your home, on your plate, right now.

Whole, real foods need to be consumed at breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. All meals should contain a portion of whole plant foods. The daily recommended amounts of fiber are 30 or more grams for men and 25 or more grams for women. If you want to investigate and see how many grams you’re getting daily, you can track your meals in a nutrient-tracking app such as Cronometer. Otherwise, its simple to first start by making half your plate consist of fresh color at mealtimes. Vegetables of all kinds (including frozen), fruits, seeds, nuts, potatoes, legumes, and beans are all wonderful sources of dietary fiber and resistant starch. All of these can be used to make delicious meals throughout the year. The key is to prioritize, value, and learn to enjoy these powerful foods.

Fiber type Found in
Beta-glucans Baker’s yeast, some mushrooms, some grains, seaweed
Cellulose / hemicellulose Plant cell walls, especially plants with a rigid structure (e.g. trees)
Chitin Fungi, exoskeletons (e.g. crab shells)
Chitosan Produced as a chitin derivative
Fructans Many vegetables and grains, such as chicory, Jerusalem artichoke, barley, and the Allium group (onions, leeks, garlic, etc.)
Gums Seaweeds, barley bran, some tree saps and seeds
Lignins Plant cell walls, especially xylem (nutrient-transporting) cells
Non-digestible dextrins Plant starches
Non-digestible oligosaccharides (the prebiotic fibers) like inulin, fructo- and galacto-oligosaccharides For inulin and fructo-oligosaccharide, see fructans. Galacto-oligosaccharides are derived from lactose in milk.
Pectin Fruits such as apples, apricots, quince, guava, and citrus. Citrus peels are a very high source of pectin (30% of weight).
Polydextrose Synthesized from dextrose (combined with citric acid and sorbitol), used as a starch replacer in commercial food products
Resistant starches Seeds, legumes, whole grains, potato, corn, green bananas (especially if these foods are cooked then cooled)

-Precision Nutrition

Not only are many of these foods super delicious and easy to incorporate, but they have benefits beyond their colorful nutrients. The fiber can assist with weight loss and healthy weight maintenance, GI health, colonic transit, lowering cholesterol, increasing microbial diversity, feeling fuller longer, cancer protection, cardiovascular protection, and even increased energy expenditure.

Those who can make this lifestyle change stand to reap wonderful benefits. These foods are the items that we’re designed to consume. If we look at the framework of the relationship between the microorganisms that we house and the symbiotic benefits our cells acquire from their presence, it’s clear that we are designed to work with, feed, and benefit from billions of microbiota all around our bodies. The health, diversity, and balance of that ecology is nothing short of essential to achieving thriving human health.

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Three Systematic Changes to Make in 2020 https://pureperformancetraining.com/three-systematic-changes-to-make-in-2020/ https://pureperformancetraining.com/three-systematic-changes-to-make-in-2020/#respond Fri, 20 Dec 2019 14:36:51 +0000 https://pureperformancetraining.com/?p=537 The post Three Systematic Changes to Make in 2020 appeared first on Pure Performance Training.

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THREE SYSTEMATIC CHANGES TO MAKE IN 2020

Many of us go into the New Year with high hopes and big dreams. 

  • “I’m going to lose weight.”
  • “I’m going to make more money.”
  • “I’m going to manage my stress.”
  • “I’m not going to miss a workout.”
  • “I’m going to write more.”

Motivation is strong the week of January first, but slowly, it dwindles to a small flicker within a few days or weeks. The energy spent trying to force ourselves to make new things happen becomes too taxing. And by the end of the month, we’re the same person that we were in December. Why is this so? Why does this cycle repeat itself every year across the country in millions of households?

There are three principal reasons for most of the failure. The majority of goal-setting people set outcome-based goals for themselves, not behavior-based goals. The ambiguity of an outcome such as “I want to lose weight” provides no action steps or clarity for the brain. Ambiguity is the path to zero progress. Secondly, most people don’t set up systems for them to succeed within. The kitchen pantry is stocked with the same treats as usual, no vegetables live in the fridge, and there’s just no time to cook dinner or exercise. The old system will produce the same old results. Lastly, most goal-setters don’t have checkpoints for themselves. Our brains avoid reflecting on progress or clearly defining the parameters of success and failure. If we don’t reflect at all, we avoid the pain of feeling like we failed. But if we don’t reflect, we can’t course-correct or determine what systems must be put in place. 

Because these three items are essential to creating change, they are the top three systematic changes to make in 2020:

  1. Create specific behavior goals, not outcome goals.
  2. Build the system. If you can’t change your habits, it’s because you don’t have a system built for new ones. 
  3. Setup time to reflect, consistently. Reflect on these 2 major questions:
    1. Will my current habits result in my desired future?
    2. Are my results showing me that my actions are the ones I desire?
Create Specific Behavior Goals

You’ve probably heard of the concept of “SMART” goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Many people might roll their eyes at this old standby, as it’s used often in work, sports, and life-coaching services with cliche, yet at its core the parameters are highly effective. The idea is to move people away from outcome-based goals and instead towards behavior-based goals.

Outcome goals are inherently weak and nearly useless due to their lack of specificity. They offer no call to action, no plan, no guidelines, no system, no evaluation, and no timeline. 

Our brains might enjoy the sound of the goal “lose 10 lbs” or “get to the gym every week” but those goals mean little by way of action. Additionally, what if the goal is not reached exactly? What if a person loses 8 lbs instead of 10? Are they a failure? Or what if they lose the weight in an unhealthy or unsustainable manner? Is the goal a success? 

Instead, more specific and detailed behavior-based goals that work towards a truly meaningful aim will give a person clarity and purpose. 

These might look more like:

  • I will eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily by prepping sliced fresh produce on Sunday.
  • I will go to the gym 3 times per week by making 3 scheduled sessions with my coach. 
  • I will meditate once daily using the Calm App at 6:30 am. 
  • I will get to bed by 10 pm every night by completing my work earlier in the evening and reducing TV watching by an hour.

These goals are not heralding specific outcomes, but the behaviors would undoubtedly carry someone towards improved wellness, healthy body weight, or muscle growth. Therefore, the action-based plan is more likely to produce an outcome than the outcome-based goal itself. 

The first thing you must do to prepare yourself for change in 2020 is to set clear behavior-based goals. 

Build the System

If you can’t change your habits, it’s because you don’t have a system built for new ones. 

How many times do you hear yourself or others saying “I don’t have the time for that”? The way we all speak about time is an insightful part of our language and patterns. We might not feel like we have time for the gym, but in the next breath we mention how good the most recent season of Stranger Things was. Or we might tell ourselves that we couldn’t possibly cook dinners at home due to time constraints, yet we spend over an hour a night on facebook. The truth is, we make time for what we value. There’s almost always a way to rearrange things in a day to squeeze something in–if it’s important enough to us. 

But the small voice that tells us we don’t have time is usually a protective mechanism. If we don’t have time, that means we don’t have to try. We get to stay the same. We get to conserve resources. We get to avoid possible failure. We get to stay safe.


That voice is one of the most dangerous voices we have. While its protective in many regards, its often the only thing holding us back from growth. 

That’s why questioning that voice is essential to change. We have to rearrange our schedule, change our timing, prioritize something over TV or social media, get up a little earlier, and find a way to add something important into the day. 

We do not rise to the strength of our goals, but instead we fall to the level of our systems. If our systems stay the same, we stay the same, too. Thus, its essential to change the system of the day. 

  • If your goal is to lose weight, you’re going to have to do a kitchen clean-out to get rid of trigger foods and start cooking dinner at home. 
  • If your goal is to build muscle you’re going to have to train consistently at least 3-4 times weekly. That means that something else in the day will have to go, and you’ll need to book sessions with your coach. 
  • If your goal is to heal your harmful sleep cycle, you’re going to have to block blue light, reduce screen time, and get the kids to bed earlier. 

There’s no way around it. New inputs create new outputs. This means that you have to reflect on what you’ve been doing to determine what parts of the day might be holding you back. Tune-in to what you’re really spending time on. How much scrolling on social media? How many episodes on Netflix? How much time is wasted on less meaningful tasks? Could you wake-up a little earlier? Can you grocery shop on Sundays with a meal prep list? Can you ask your partner for help on a particular task/goal? 

Create a new system, because motivation and discipline cannot out-play the old system.

Setup Time to Reflect

Reflecting on where we are at in relation to where we want to be is an essential step in both planning and evaluation. If we don’t know where we are at, we don’t know where we need to go. And if we don’t know where we need to go, we have no aim. An aimless human being is an ineffective human being. It’s critical to have time to reflect. This can be setup daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. But it must occur. 

There are two major questions to focus on:

  1. Will my current habits result in my desired future?
  2. Are my results showing me that my actions are the ones I desire?

The first question explores the simple question of whether or not what we are currently doing will turn us into the person we want to be. Does my fitness routine promote muscle growth and wellness? Do my sleep habits make me a healthier person? Is my food nourishing and does it fuel a healthy weight? The answers here will be very simple. You will find that either yes, your habits are making you become the person you want to be. Or no, they are not serving you and must change. 

The second question is particularly helpful once behavior changes are underway. We are the result of what we’ve been doing. Therefore, what we’ve been doing is either giving us the results we want, or preventing them. Our current knowledge is the result of our previous learning habits. Our current weight is the result of our previous food habits. Our current level of fitness is the result of our previous exercise habits. What are they showing you? Are you starting to see some positive improvements? Or are they not quite helping you improve? 

This check-in system is essential for course-correcting initiatives that we’ve undertaken. The key is to be honest with yourself, and also to not be afraid of making some errors. You might find that you still haven’t lost a pound even after changing some of your food habits for the previous three weeks. That doesn’t mean you’re a failure, but it does mean that you’re still consuming more calories than you’re burning. This can help you make further adjustments! The beauty is that it’s ok to make a correction to your planning. The danger lies not in acknowledging a shortcoming, but in ignoring it. 

It’s essential to reflect in the short-term as well as long-term. These two questions will cover both. 

Be Bold Enough to Truly Try

A new year doesn’t have to be a cliche goal-setting opportunity. Fresh starts really can be a great time to try new things and work towards improving many areas of life. But the key to actually creating change is to build systematic changes into your lifestyle. To achieve, earn, or be something you’ve never been before, you will undoubtedly have to do things you’ve never done before. Thankfully, if you set behavior-based goals, build systems that facilitate executing those behaviors, and reflect regularly, you can absolutely create change. In fact, you might be shocked at what you really can achieve. 

THREE SYSTEMATIC CHANGES TO MAKE IN 2020

Many of us go into the New Year with high hopes and big dreams. 

  • “I’m going to lose weight.”
  • “I’m going to make more money.”
  • “I’m going to manage my stress.”
  • “I’m not going to miss a workout.”
  • “I’m going to write more.”

Motivation is strong the week of January first, but slowly, it dwindles to a small flicker within a few days or weeks. The energy spent trying to force ourselves to make new things happen becomes too taxing. And by the end of the month, we’re the same person that we were in December. Why is this so? Why does this cycle repeat itself every year across the country in millions of households?

There are three principal reasons for most of the failure. The majority of goal-setting people set outcome-based goals for themselves, not behavior-based goals. The ambiguity of an outcome such as “I want to lose weight” provides no action steps or clarity for the brain. Ambiguity is the path to zero progress. Secondly, most people don’t set up systems for them to succeed within. The kitchen pantry is stocked with the same treats as usual, no vegetables live in the fridge, and there’s just no time to cook dinner or exercise. The old system will produce the same old results. Lastly, most goal-setters don’t have checkpoints for themselves. Our brains avoid reflecting on progress or clearly defining the parameters of success and failure. If we don’t reflect at all, we avoid the pain of feeling like we failed. But if we don’t reflect, we can’t course-correct or determine what systems must be put in place. 

Because these three items are essential to creating change, they are the top three systematic changes to make in 2020:

  1. Create specific behavior goals, not outcome goals.
  2. Build the system. If you can’t change your habits, it’s because you don’t have a system built for new ones. 
  3. Setup time to reflect, consistently. Reflect on these 2 major questions:
    1. Will my current habits result in my desired future?
    2. Are my results showing me that my actions are the ones I desire?
Create Specific Behavior Goals

You’ve probably heard of the concept of “SMART” goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Many people might roll their eyes at this old standby, as it’s used often in work, sports, and life-coaching services with cliche, yet at its core the parameters are highly effective. The idea is to move people away from outcome-based goals and instead towards behavior-based goals.

Outcome goals are inherently weak and nearly useless due to their lack of specificity. They offer no call to action, no plan, no guidelines, no system, no evaluation, and no timeline. 

Our brains might enjoy the sound of the goal “lose 10 lbs” or “get to the gym every week” but those goals mean little by way of action. Additionally, what if the goal is not reached exactly? What if a person loses 8 lbs instead of 10? Are they a failure? Or what if they lose the weight in an unhealthy or unsustainable manner? Is the goal a success? 

Instead, more specific and detailed behavior-based goals that work towards a truly meaningful aim will give a person clarity and purpose. 

These might look more like:

  • I will eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily by prepping sliced fresh produce on Sunday.
  • I will go to the gym 3 times per week by making 3 scheduled sessions with my coach. 
  • I will meditate once daily using the Calm App at 6:30 am. 
  • I will get to bed by 10 pm every night by completing my work earlier in the evening and reducing TV watching by an hour.

These goals are not heralding specific outcomes, but the behaviors would undoubtedly carry someone towards improved wellness, healthy body weight, or muscle growth. Therefore, the action-based plan is more likely to produce an outcome than the outcome-based goal itself. 

The first thing you must do to prepare yourself for change in 2020 is to set clear behavior-based goals. 

Build the System

If you can’t change your habits, it’s because you don’t have a system built for new ones. 

How many times do you hear yourself or others saying “I don’t have the time for that”? The way we all speak about time is an insightful part of our language and patterns. We might not feel like we have time for the gym, but in the next breath we mention how good the most recent season of Stranger Things was. Or we might tell ourselves that we couldn’t possibly cook dinners at home due to time constraints, yet we spend over an hour a night on facebook. The truth is, we make time for what we value. There’s almost always a way to rearrange things in a day to squeeze something in–if it’s important enough to us. 

But the small voice that tells us we don’t have time is usually a protective mechanism. If we don’t have time, that means we don’t have to try. We get to stay the same. We get to conserve resources. We get to avoid possible failure. We get to stay safe.


That voice is one of the most dangerous voices we have. While its protective in many regards, its often the only thing holding us back from growth. 

That’s why questioning that voice is essential to change. We have to rearrange our schedule, change our timing, prioritize something over TV or social media, get up a little earlier, and find a way to add something important into the day. 

We do not rise to the strength of our goals, but instead we fall to the level of our systems. If our systems stay the same, we stay the same, too. Thus, its essential to change the system of the day. 

  • If your goal is to lose weight, you’re going to have to do a kitchen clean-out to get rid of trigger foods and start cooking dinner at home. 
  • If your goal is to build muscle you’re going to have to train consistently at least 3-4 times weekly. That means that something else in the day will have to go, and you’ll need to book sessions with your coach. 
  • If your goal is to heal your harmful sleep cycle, you’re going to have to block blue light, reduce screen time, and get the kids to bed earlier. 

There’s no way around it. New inputs create new outputs. This means that you have to reflect on what you’ve been doing to determine what parts of the day might be holding you back. Tune-in to what you’re really spending time on. How much scrolling on social media? How many episodes on Netflix? How much time is wasted on less meaningful tasks? Could you wake-up a little earlier? Can you grocery shop on Sundays with a meal prep list? Can you ask your partner for help on a particular task/goal? 

Create a new system, because motivation and discipline cannot out-play the old system.

Setup Time to Reflect

Reflecting on where we are at in relation to where we want to be is an essential step in both planning and evaluation. If we don’t know where we are at, we don’t know where we need to go. And if we don’t know where we need to go, we have no aim. An aimless human being is an ineffective human being. It’s critical to have time to reflect. This can be setup daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. But it must occur. 

There are two major questions to focus on:

  1. Will my current habits result in my desired future?
  2. Are my results showing me that my actions are the ones I desire?

The first question explores the simple question of whether or not what we are currently doing will turn us into the person we want to be. Does my fitness routine promote muscle growth and wellness? Do my sleep habits make me a healthier person? Is my food nourishing and does it fuel a healthy weight? The answers here will be very simple. You will find that either yes, your habits are making you become the person you want to be. Or no, they are not serving you and must change. 

The second question is particularly helpful once behavior changes are underway. We are the result of what we’ve been doing. Therefore, what we’ve been doing is either giving us the results we want, or preventing them. Our current knowledge is the result of our previous learning habits. Our current weight is the result of our previous food habits. Our current level of fitness is the result of our previous exercise habits. What are they showing you? Are you starting to see some positive improvements? Or are they not quite helping you improve? 

This check-in system is essential for course-correcting initiatives that we’ve undertaken. The key is to be honest with yourself, and also to not be afraid of making some errors. You might find that you still haven’t lost a pound even after changing some of your food habits for the previous three weeks. That doesn’t mean you’re a failure, but it does mean that you’re still consuming more calories than you’re burning. This can help you make further adjustments! The beauty is that it’s ok to make a correction to your planning. The danger lies not in acknowledging a shortcoming, but in ignoring it. 

It’s essential to reflect in the short-term as well as long-term. These two questions will cover both. 

Be Bold Enough to Truly Try

A new year doesn’t have to be a cliche goal-setting opportunity. Fresh starts really can be a great time to try new things and work towards improving many areas of life. But the key to actually creating change is to build systematic changes into your lifestyle. To achieve, earn, or be something you’ve never been before, you will undoubtedly have to do things you’ve never done before. Thankfully, if you set behavior-based goals, build systems that facilitate executing those behaviors, and reflect regularly, you can absolutely create change. In fact, you might be shocked at what you really can achieve. 

The post Three Systematic Changes to Make in 2020 appeared first on Pure Performance Training.

]]>
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Shopping Thoughtfully: The Story of Our Food and Soil https://pureperformancetraining.com/shopping-thoughtfully-the-story-of-our-food-and-soil/ https://pureperformancetraining.com/shopping-thoughtfully-the-story-of-our-food-and-soil/#respond Sat, 30 Nov 2019 15:11:50 +0000 https://pureperformancetraining.com/?p=534 The post Shopping Thoughtfully: The Story of Our Food and Soil appeared first on Pure Performance Training.

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SHOPPING THOUGHTFULLY: THE STORY OF OUR FOOD AND SOIL

The food industry of 2019 is bridging the curious interface of demand for ethical food; confusion over what exactly is ethical, healthy, and sustainable; and the birth of large consumer populations who are willing to pay for it.

As consumers grow more discerning in their desires for certain types of food and particular styles of food sourcing, it places pressure on manufacturers and producers to adjust accordingly. Since the organic food boom resurfaced in the 1990s, the organic market has grown by almost 20% annually. This creates potent opportunities for companies who are interested in capitalizing on consumer demands. Not only did this phenomena give rise to new types of farming, food labels, and brands; it birthed massive supermarkets and corporations dedicated to the pursuit of these labels. Yet, the information regarding what is organic, how it’s organic, where it’s coming from, and whether or not this is actually a good thing remains ambiguous to the average shopper.

There are government agencies designed to regulate our food, and they do indeed regulate several labels with meaning, such as the term “USDA Organic.” This label is regulated strictly by the USDA and only the companies that completely meet these standards are allowed to use it. However, as science emerges must faster than the government can make decisions, there is evidence showing that “organic” doesn’t always amount to the bucolic red barns and rolling hills that marketing initiatives try to promote. Oftentimes, organic corporations look a lot more like a standard production–with alternative pesticides, massive outputs, and equally concerning soil practices.

So what exactly do we want to see from food production?

With meat consumption and veganism the current trend of debate, it’s clear that people are continuing to fight about what type of food to eat. While these debates are often lacking all of the nuance, evidence, and scientific knowledge they deserve, their bigger failing is that they’re the wrong conversation to have entirely. There’s actually a bigger problem at hand–and it’s affecting all eaters. Whether someone is a vegan, omnivore, pescatarian, or carnivore, the sources of all food groups in our modern production are suffering from quality issues and contributing to climate destruction.

Industrial meat production is confining animals to cages or feedlots of grain and soy (which ruminants are unable to digest), and is committing over-grazing of pastures to the point of grass being unable to grow. Plant production on large industrial farms is relying on genetically modified species, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. The science regarding the consumption of these products, such as glyphosate, is still hotly debated and conclusive evidence that they are safe is lacking. But that discussion can be saved for another day.

The production issue to consider here for both meat and plants is that these modern practices are destroying soil.

Soil Health is the Health of the Planet

The health of the soil around the world is a fantastic measuring stick for determining how that area has been stewarded. Topsoil, the uppermost layer of the soil, is one of the key players in climate change. When an area loses its topsoil, carbon can escape from below, microorganisms in the ground die, and the dirt is devoid of key nutrients and minerals. Then, nothing can grow there. The loss of topsoil prevents the earth from being able to trap and house everything that it needs to be healthy. When it rains, healthy topsoil will soak-up and hold the water in the dirt below it. The minerals in the dirt can nourish the plants growing within it, making them stronger and more nutrient-dense. The ecosystem of microorganisms, like bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and mycorrhiza can fix the earth’s periodic elements, create antioxidants, and help sequester carbon dioxide. And when topsoil is rich, the earth is teeming with nourishing life, and more plants–which can sequester atmospheric CO2–can grow. This is the natural carbon cycle of the earth.

When an area is over-farmed, the topsoil dries and deteriorates. It runs off in rainwater and wind, cannot protect any ground below it, and is devoid of life. This is one of the reasons the Mississippi river is so brown–the farms of all the states bordering the water are losing pounds and pounds of topsoil every year as run-off. In fact, researchers have determined that $8 billion is lost annually from global GDP in topsoil losses. This is also why our produce is less nutritious than it was several decades ago, with statistically significant declines in amounts of key nutrients present in our fruits and vegetables.

The key to restoring the health of the soil is to farm the way people once farmed and to mimic the natural movement of life across terrain. This means that a farm must have a diverse ecosystem of both plants and animals, a farm must use cover crops to deposit nitrogen back into the soil after a growing season, and a farm must move ruminants across pastures to restore the outermost layer of topsoil, feed microorganisms, and house moisture. This is where the term “pasture management” or “regenerative farming” is stemming from. Some amazing farmers and researchers are using grazing-intensive management to completely restore barren land to lush ecosystems. One of the researchers who has pioneered this priceless science is Allan Savory. See one of his Ted Talks here.

Exciting new research has shown that grazing-intensive management can turn farms into net-carbon sinks, wherein the use of their cattle to move through pastures in a manner that promotes plant growth and restores topsoil transforms the farm into an area of land that can collar and store CO2. This is one of the key mechanisms in saving the planet from further climate change, and healing damage that has already occurred.

This same principle applies to plant growth. Massive wheat, corn, soy, and vegetable farms also contribute to total habitat destruction. Thousands of square acres are cleaned of trees, animals, and diverse plant life. The soil is so over-framed that stalks will only grow if supplemented with synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. This fertilizer and the pesticides sprayed by airplanes from overhead contribute to the death of microorganisms in the soil. In these ecosystems, topsoil is lost as dust and life below is gone. Thus, organic farms are a step in the right direction, but the big organic farms also use fertilizers and actually commit far more tilling of the soil (since they can’t kill their weeds with glyphosate), which is a major contributor of topsoil loss, too. So while this trend is mostly well-intentioned and is at least limiting potentially dangerous chemical use, we still have factors to improve upon given new research.

Natural, Organic, and Free-Range?

So, when you’re standing in the middle of Whole Foods looking at 17 different egg carton labels, how do you decide which brand to pick? Let’s first consider several important labels. Currently, only some labels on food are regulated by the USDA and FDA. This means that some of the text on food packages doesn’t necessarily mean anything at all, and often is only designed to make the food appear healthier.

USDA Organic:

  • Food can be called organic if it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
  • None of this food can be grown or handled using genetically modified organisms, which the organic standards expressly prohibit.
  • For organic meat, regulations require that animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors (like the ability to graze on pasture), fed 100% organic feed and forage, and not administered antibiotics or hormones.
  • Note that this is different from “made with organic ingredients,” which means that some of the ingredients are organic but not all are organic.

Natural:

  • The FDA regulates the use of the word “natural” when applied to meat, poultry, and eggs. A “natural” food is “a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed.”
  • This label is not officially regulated in regard to other products but is present on countless packages as a marketing gimmick.

Animal Welfare Approved:

  • Animal Welfare Approved has some of the highest standards of any third-party auditing program.
  • For poultry, the Animal Welfare Institute prohibits forced molting through starvation, beak cutting, and feed containing meat or animal byproducts. And flocks must contain fewer than 500 birds.
  • Each hen must have 1.8 square feet of indoor floor space and must be able to nest, perch and dust-bathe.
  • Birds must have continuous access to an outdoor area for ranging and foraging.
  • The outdoor space must be covered by growing vegetation and must provide at least 4 square feet (576 square inches) of space per bird.

Cage-Free:

  • This only means that the hen doesn’t live in a cage at all times, and has a door somewhere in the vicinity where she could get outside. It does not mean that she ever was outside.

Free-Range:

  • In regard to poultry, this term is regulated by the USDA, and it means hens were given continuous access to the outdoors during their production cycle. This does not guarantee that a hen ever actually stepped foot outside, it just means there was a way for them to do so.

Antibiotic-free:

  • All meat has to have passed antibiotics through their system before they can be consumed, so this label has loopholes and does not mean anything significant.
  • Pasture-raised meat does not require antibiotics by virtue of their healthy lifestyles, and thus the animal’s system would never have been exposed to the antibiotic int he first place

Grass-Fed vs Pasture-Raised:

  • The USDA defines grass-fed as a diet of 100% grass, but there are loopholes to this regulation. Some farms will allow cattle to graze during the growing season but then feed them hay all winter. Which isn’t necessarily a significant issue, especially in cold-weather areas.
  •  The American Grassfed Association (AGA) has stricter standards, including details about animal confinement and the use of hormones. But there are only 300 farms certified with the AGA in the United States. With the term pasture-raised, no organization is verifying standards, which means the label is often used loosely.
Strategies for Thoughtful Food Consumption

Now that we know that we want to support farms that utilize cover crops, use pasture management grazing, and do not use chemical fertilizers and pesticides, how do we find these good actors?

There are two major interventions that are the most obvious and the most effective that must first be stated. The first initiative to consider is to grow a garden in your backyard. The interaction with the soil is incredibly important for your health and also is a cost-effective and health-promoting strategy for getting the best produce you can. At one point, most American families had a garden on their property. This has fallen out of trend as we separate ourselves further from the natural world, but when we acknowledge that this practice gives us organic, free produce, and that we can have an area of our own to sequester carbon and steward life, it’s easy to see that this endeavor is valuable.

Second, shop locally at sustainable farms. There are farms all around the country working to do the right thing. More and more farmers are continuing to transition to regenerative practices, and they need our support. Visit wonderful sites like Eat Wild to find farms to visit.

After considering those two key strategies, we can then turn to shopping thoughtfully. More labels will continue to emerge to market practices that consumers are looking for. Already, labels are touting things such as “forage-raised,” or “regenerative.” These are not yet regulated, but if you see a brand featuring this logo it’s worth investigating their background. That company might have a wonderful website where they demonstrate their practices. For example, Nellie’s Free Range eggs have 24-hour webcams on their site where visitors can see live views of their chickens out in the pasture! So keep a lookout for brands that are trying to do the right thing. For produce, buy the best fruits and vegetables you can afford. A fruit and vegetable of some sort is better than no fruit and vegetable, but if you can manage organic produce or sustainable produce from a local farmer’s market, even better.

Lastly, there thankfully are some great emerging companies for ethical meat production. Namely, Walden Local Meat, Butcher Box, Belcampo Meat, and EPIC brand. And if you investigate your local area, you can find wonderful sources for meat shares, CSA’s, and smaller producers. Here in Massachusetts, we have great farms like Clark Farm Carlisle, Stillman Meats, and local meat shares.

While navigating this landscape is no small feat, a consumer, scientist, and farmer all have the responsibility to try to do the right thing. This is an overwhelming topic because it’s interdisciplinary; it requires knowledge of nutrition science, agricultural science, public policy, and even American history. That’s a big undertaking! But the wonderful thing about nutrition science and land management is that in time, the truth continues to surface. We keep researching, we keep trying to do the right thing, and we keep supporting those who are making a difference, and eventually, we make progress. The story continues to point us towards the most genuine source of information itself: the farmer.  We have to cut-out Hollywood, celebrities, and our crazy aunt on social media, and instead, focus on the story of the soil. The stewards of our land can tell us the most accurate story of the land. And when we support them, we are making a difference.

Grow the garden. Visit the farm. Cook the food at home. Your food story matters, and it will make a difference.

Learning Resources:

The Savory Institute

Joel Salatin at Polyface Farm

White Oak Pastures

Farmer’s Footprint

Kiss The Ground

Climate, A New Story by Charles Eisenstein

SHOPPING THOUGHTFULLY: THE STORY OF OUR FOOD AND SOIL

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The food industry of 2019 is bridging the curious interface of demand for ethical food; confusion over what exactly is ethical, healthy, and sustainable; and the birth of large consumer populations who are willing to pay for it.

As consumers grow more discerning in their desires for certain types of food and particular styles of food sourcing, it places pressure on manufacturers and producers to adjust accordingly. Since the organic food boom resurfaced in the 1990s, the organic market has grown by almost 20% annually. This creates potent opportunities for companies who are interested in capitalizing on consumer demands. Not only did this phenomena give rise to new types of farming, food labels, and brands; it birthed massive supermarkets and corporations dedicated to the pursuit of these labels. Yet, the information regarding what is organic, how it’s organic, where it’s coming from, and whether or not this is actually a good thing remains ambiguous to the average shopper.

There are government agencies designed to regulate our food, and they do indeed regulate several labels with meaning, such as the term “USDA Organic.” This label is regulated strictly by the USDA and only the companies that completely meet these standards are allowed to use it. However, as science emerges must faster than the government can make decisions, there is evidence showing that “organic” doesn’t always amount to the bucolic red barns and rolling hills that marketing initiatives try to promote. Oftentimes, organic corporations look a lot more like a standard production–with alternative pesticides, massive outputs, and equally concerning soil practices.

So what exactly do we want to see from food production?

With meat consumption and veganism the current trend of debate, it’s clear that people are continuing to fight about what type of food to eat. While these debates are often lacking all of the nuance, evidence, and scientific knowledge they deserve, their bigger failing is that they’re the wrong conversation to have entirely. There’s actually a bigger problem at hand–and it’s affecting all eaters. Whether someone is a vegan, omnivore, pescatarian, or carnivore, the sources of all food groups in our modern production are suffering from quality issues and contributing to climate destruction.

Industrial meat production is confining animals to cages or feedlots of grain and soy (which ruminants are unable to digest), and is committing over-grazing of pastures to the point of grass being unable to grow. Plant production on large industrial farms is relying on genetically modified species, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. The science regarding the consumption of these products, such as glyphosate, is still hotly debated and conclusive evidence that they are safe is lacking. But that discussion can be saved for another day.

The production issue to consider here for both meat and plants is that these modern practices are destroying soil.

Soil Health is the Health of the Planet

The health of the soil around the world is a fantastic measuring stick for determining how that area has been stewarded. Topsoil, the uppermost layer of the soil, is one of the key players in climate change. When an area loses its topsoil, carbon can escape from below, microorganisms in the ground die, and the dirt is devoid of key nutrients and minerals. Then, nothing can grow there. The loss of topsoil prevents the earth from being able to trap and house everything that it needs to be healthy. When it rains, healthy topsoil will soak-up and hold the water in the dirt below it. The minerals in the dirt can nourish the plants growing within it, making them stronger and more nutrient-dense. The ecosystem of microorganisms, like bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and mycorrhiza can fix the earth’s periodic elements, create antioxidants, and help sequester carbon dioxide. And when topsoil is rich, the earth is teeming with nourishing life, and more plants–which can sequester atmospheric CO2–can grow. This is the natural carbon cycle of the earth.

When an area is over-farmed, the topsoil dries and deteriorates. It runs off in rainwater and wind, cannot protect any ground below it, and is devoid of life. This is one of the reasons the Mississippi river is so brown–the farms of all the states bordering the water are losing pounds and pounds of topsoil every year as run-off. In fact, researchers have determined that $8 billion is lost annually from global GDP in topsoil losses. This is also why our produce is less nutritious than it was several decades ago, with statistically significant declines in amounts of key nutrients present in our fruits and vegetables.

The key to restoring the health of the soil is to farm the way people once farmed and to mimic the natural movement of life across terrain. This means that a farm must have a diverse ecosystem of both plants and animals, a farm must use cover crops to deposit nitrogen back into the soil after a growing season, and a farm must move ruminants across pastures to restore the outermost layer of topsoil, feed microorganisms, and house moisture. This is where the term “pasture management” or “regenerative farming” is stemming from. Some amazing farmers and researchers are using grazing-intensive management to completely restore barren land to lush ecosystems. One of the researchers who has pioneered this priceless science is Allan Savory. See one of his Ted Talks here.

Exciting new research has shown that grazing-intensive management can turn farms into net-carbon sinks, wherein the use of their cattle to move through pastures in a manner that promotes plant growth and restores topsoil transforms the farm into an area of land that can collar and store CO2. This is one of the key mechanisms in saving the planet from further climate change, and healing damage that has already occurred.

This same principle applies to plant growth. Massive wheat, corn, soy, and vegetable farms also contribute to total habitat destruction. Thousands of square acres are cleaned of trees, animals, and diverse plant life. The soil is so over-framed that stalks will only grow if supplemented with synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. This fertilizer and the pesticides sprayed by airplanes from overhead contribute to the death of microorganisms in the soil. In these ecosystems, topsoil is lost as dust and life below is gone. Thus, organic farms are a step in the right direction, but the big organic farms also use fertilizers and actually commit far more tilling of the soil (since they can’t kill their weeds with glyphosate), which is a major contributor of topsoil loss, too. So while this trend is mostly well-intentioned and is at least limiting potentially dangerous chemical use, we still have factors to improve upon given new research.

Natural, Organic, and Free-Range?

So, when you’re standing in the middle of Whole Foods looking at 17 different egg carton labels, how do you decide which brand to pick? Let’s first consider several important labels. Currently, only some labels on food are regulated by the USDA and FDA. This means that some of the text on food packages doesn’t necessarily mean anything at all, and often is only designed to make the food appear healthier.

USDA Organic:

  • Food can be called organic if it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
  • None of this food can be grown or handled using genetically modified organisms, which the organic standards expressly prohibit.
  • For organic meat, regulations require that animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors (like the ability to graze on pasture), fed 100% organic feed and forage, and not administered antibiotics or hormones.
  • Note that this is different from “made with organic ingredients,” which means that some of the ingredients are organic but not all are organic.

Natural:

  • The FDA regulates the use of the word “natural” when applied to meat, poultry, and eggs. A “natural” food is “a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed.”
  • This label is not officially regulated in regard to other products but is present on countless packages as a marketing gimmick.

Animal Welfare Approved:

  • Animal Welfare Approved has some of the highest standards of any third-party auditing program.
  • For poultry, the Animal Welfare Institute prohibits forced molting through starvation, beak cutting, and feed containing meat or animal byproducts. And flocks must contain fewer than 500 birds.
  • Each hen must have 1.8 square feet of indoor floor space and must be able to nest, perch and dust-bathe.
  • Birds must have continuous access to an outdoor area for ranging and foraging.
  • The outdoor space must be covered by growing vegetation and must provide at least 4 square feet (576 square inches) of space per bird.

Cage-Free:

  • This only means that the hen doesn’t live in a cage at all times, and has a door somewhere in the vicinity where she could get outside. It does not mean that she ever was outside.

Free-Range:

  • In regard to poultry, this term is regulated by the USDA, and it means hens were given continuous access to the outdoors during their production cycle. This does not guarantee that a hen ever actually stepped foot outside, it just means there was a way for them to do so.

Antibiotic-free:

  • All meat has to have passed antibiotics through their system before they can be consumed, so this label has loopholes and does not mean anything significant.
  • Pasture-raised meat does not require antibiotics by virtue of their healthy lifestyles, and thus the animal’s system would never have been exposed to the antibiotic int he first place

Grass-Fed vs Pasture-Raised:

  • The USDA defines grass-fed as a diet of 100% grass, but there are loopholes to this regulation. Some farms will allow cattle to graze during the growing season but then feed them hay all winter. Which isn’t necessarily a significant issue, especially in cold-weather areas.
  •  The American Grassfed Association (AGA) has stricter standards, including details about animal confinement and the use of hormones. But there are only 300 farms certified with the AGA in the United States. With the term pasture-raised, no organization is verifying standards, which means the label is often used loosely.
Strategies for Thoughtful Food Consumption

Now that we know that we want to support farms that utilize cover crops, use pasture management grazing, and do not use chemical fertilizers and pesticides, how do we find these good actors?

There are two major interventions that are the most obvious and the most effective that must first be stated. The first initiative to consider is to grow a garden in your backyard. The interaction with the soil is incredibly important for your health and also is a cost-effective and health-promoting strategy for getting the best produce you can. At one point, most American families had a garden on their property. This has fallen out of trend as we separate ourselves further from the natural world, but when we acknowledge that this practice gives us organic, free produce, and that we can have an area of our own to sequester carbon and steward life, it’s easy to see that this endeavor is valuable.

Second, shop locally at sustainable farms. There are farms all around the country working to do the right thing. More and more farmers are continuing to transition to regenerative practices, and they need our support. Visit wonderful sites like Eat Wild to find farms to visit.

After considering those two key strategies, we can then turn to shopping thoughtfully. More labels will continue to emerge to market practices that consumers are looking for. Already, labels are touting things such as “forage-raised,” or “regenerative.” These are not yet regulated, but if you see a brand featuring this logo it’s worth investigating their background. That company might have a wonderful website where they demonstrate their practices. For example, Nellie’s Free Range eggs have 24-hour webcams on their site where visitors can see live views of their chickens out in the pasture! So keep a lookout for brands that are trying to do the right thing. For produce, buy the best fruits and vegetables you can afford. A fruit and vegetable of some sort is better than no fruit and vegetable, but if you can manage organic produce or sustainable produce from a local farmer’s market, even better.

Lastly, there thankfully are some great emerging companies for ethical meat production. Namely, Walden Local Meat, Butcher Box, Belcampo Meat, and EPIC brand. And if you investigate your local area, you can find wonderful sources for meat shares, CSA’s, and smaller producers. Here in Massachusetts, we have great farms like Clark Farm Carlisle, Stillman Meats, and local meat shares.

While navigating this landscape is no small feat, a consumer, scientist, and farmer all have the responsibility to try to do the right thing. This is an overwhelming topic because it’s interdisciplinary; it requires knowledge of nutrition science, agricultural science, public policy, and even American history. That’s a big undertaking! But the wonderful thing about nutrition science and land management is that in time, the truth continues to surface. We keep researching, we keep trying to do the right thing, and we keep supporting those who are making a difference, and eventually, we make progress. The story continues to point us towards the most genuine source of information itself: the farmer.  We have to cut-out Hollywood, celebrities, and our crazy aunt on social media, and instead, focus on the story of the soil. The stewards of our land can tell us the most accurate story of the land. And when we support them, we are making a difference.

Grow the garden. Visit the farm. Cook the food at home. Your food story matters, and it will make a difference.

Learning Resources:

The Savory Institute

Joel Salatin at Polyface Farm

White Oak Pastures

Farmer’s Footprint

Kiss The Ground

Climate, A New Story by Charles Eisenstein

The post Shopping Thoughtfully: The Story of Our Food and Soil appeared first on Pure Performance Training.

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The Truth About Diet Trends https://pureperformancetraining.com/thetruthaboutdietrends/ https://pureperformancetraining.com/thetruthaboutdietrends/#respond Thu, 31 Oct 2019 01:53:37 +0000 https://pureperformancetraining.com/?p=531 The post The Truth About Diet Trends appeared first on Pure Performance Training.

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THE TRUTH ABOUT DIET TRENDS

Even when it didn’t seem possible, the world of dieting has grown more contentious. Social media feeds are riddled with quips about the latest articles, “must-see” Netflix documentaries, new books to buy that promise weight loss, supplements that claim to burn fat fast, and even arguments between friends and family about which diet is superior.

The conversations and selling points are emotionally, politically, financially, and personally motivated. And often, rely on very little–if any–scientific evidence. Statistics are cherry-picked and hard data is understood by very few. Opinions are formed before a new study is even read, so the opportunity for an open discussion is lost prior to the first breath of a conversation.

So what’s at the heart of some of these contentious topics?

In my coaching practice and in my life of science, several culprits of these issues have become clear:

  1. Our food climate is so gluttonous and overwhelming that nearly any dietary boundary has benefits. This creates diet camps.

  2. Diet camps trigger a human’s desire to be right, which initiates a cascade of belief systems and arguments.

  3. Genetics have a profound and still little understood impact on what diets work best for which people.

  4. The desire to help others is genuine in many people, but a lack of formal education, understanding, and time spent with research and in-depth science creates large blind spots in reasoning. Some of the loudest voices know the least.

  5. A truly tactful clinician and/or scientist will look at the totality of the research to make sense of patterns, data, and correlations. And then use those in the context of an individual. This is a tremendous amount of work and most people can’t/won’t put themselves through that!

Together, these factors generate a lot of arguments, confusion, and personal opinion. But surely there must be a way to find a system to function in this disarray.

How could the average American possibly navigate this tumultuous landscape?

Thankfully, there are some items at the heart of weight loss, health, and fitness that we can absolutely rely on.

What’s Really Going On In the Diet World

First, let’s reframe the picture.

It feels like everyone is on a different diet and screeching about how good it is and how bad everyone else’s is. But what’s actually happening is that our modern food environment is literally unnavigable and they found a little tool to navigate, so they’re hooked! They’re believers! And they want everyone to try it!

Our restaurant menus are saddled with fried food, oils, sugar, and serving sizes bigger than biology textbooks. Checkout lines are bordered by candy, kettle corn, hot cocoa, and cookies. Coffee shop counters are lined with muffins, croissants, and doughnuts. Lattes are pumped with flavored sugar syrups. Bread is served first, alcohol is bottomless, and dessert is offered before we can ask for a check. Fast-food is on every corner, and sneaky marketing gimmicks create more times to eat per day, with more opportunities and buying options. It’s all the honey and no bees. All the meat and no hunt. All the fruit and no climb.

And what are diets? They’re bees around the honey hive. We can’t dive face first into a peanut butter pie when we’re keto, vegan, carnivore, Whole 30, Zone, or paleo. It gives limits in a limitless world. And when that works–because it inevitably will because it reduces our total energy intake and tends to increase consumption of whole foods–a person gets excited and wants to get everyone else on the plan, too. They become passionate, especially if moral reasoning behind the food decisions speaks to their personal values (like meat consumption).

But these are what we call case studies. One person experiencing an outcome after starting one type of diet. This is by no means meaningful data. This is also what’s used by documentaries, celebrity-endorsed products, or many books to help sell the product.

But really what happened in many instances is that someone subscribed to a diet that they believed in for some mixture of reasons, whether moral, social, or even taste-related, and then that diet was sustainable because they believed in its values. It’s great that they had success with it, but this is not evidence for anything other than behavior change.

The Key to Weight Loss and Health Isn’t One Diet

But the key isn’t which diet is the best thing ever. The key is: what are you willing to do for the rest of your life?

Because America doesn’t have a weight loss problem. It has a weight regain problem.

In a meta-analysis of 29 long-term weight loss studies, more than half of those who lost weight had regained it within two years, and by five years more than 80% of lost weight was regained. Similarly, in the 1999–2006 NHANES surveillance followed the prevalence and correlates of long-term weight loss maintenance (defined as weight loss maintained for at least 1 year) in 14,306 US adults. The study found that only one out of every six US adults who had ever been overweight or obese had accomplished long-term weight loss maintenance of at least 10% (I). The reason that data like this is so essential to consider is that health biomarkers, such as cholesterol, fasting insulin, and measurements of inflammation, quickly trend in a negative direction as soon as weight begins to be regained. In other words, the body can’t regain a lot of fat and stay healthy. The benefits of the weight loss are quickly lost, and baseline cardiovascular and metabolic disease risks return.

Weight regain can be attributed to many variables, including psychosocial factors and emotional regulation, but it is important to consider hormones, lean mass, exercise, and sleep as essential drivers of behavior and metabolism. One of the issues with weight loss is that muscle is often lost in a hypocaloric state, which can contribute to a lower metabolic rate that dieters often suffer from.

In previous articles I’ve examined different types of diets, citing interventions on low-fat vs low-carb protocols and total weight lost. Both have shown to be effective so long as the energy consumption is controlled. Knowing that high-protein diets are highly effective at promoting weight loss, and crucially contribute to the development of lean mass or the sparing of it in low-energy states, we must consider protein to be an essential piece to the metabolic puzzle.

Knowing that low-fat vs low-carb interventions have no differing effects on weight loss, and that lean mass and exercise can keep metabolic rate higher and build muscle, then the long-term health solution can consist of these key points. The goals for lifelong success thus include building muscle and exercising, eat plenty of protein, and balance the remainders of your macronutrients depending on taste preferences to control energy. There is no fancy name for this diet. There is no book, pill, class, or celebrity to put at the front of it. It’s a simple short list of low-hanging fruit. But, it must be executed tirelessly for the rest of your life. So really, you don’t have to pick a diet. Nor should you. You should pick a lifestyle that you can thrive in for decades.

When my clients are picking their homework for each session I often ask them: is this something you can do on your best day and your absolute worst day? Because that’s what these lifestyles really have to build: a new way of living.

And that’s what we all have to ask ourselves when making health decisions. Because losing weight and building muscle is inherently protective. Gaining many pounds, losing them, and regaining them is inherently dangerous. So the diet camp I belong to is: eat enough and train enough to build muscle and do NOT regain the weight!

Health Decisions Are A Value System

Everything comes at a cost. We can eat whatever we want, and pay the price metabolically. We can control our food down to the macronutrient grams and isolate ourselves. We have to use our values to determine which boundaries feel worth it to us. And thankfully–even though the diet world would never want us to know it–there’s valuable space in between the extremes that allow for healthy body weight, exercise, delicious food, and positive mental health. But at the core of it lies the need to end the extremism and yo-yo diets, to avoid the weight loss followed by regain, and instead find a lifestyle that we can enjoy for decades to come.

So the next time a new trend comes along, remember to note why these things often appear, and then go enjoy the healthy lifestyle that you’ve built for yourself.

I. Kraschnewski, J. L., Boan, J., Esposito, J., Sherwood, N. E., Lehman, E. B., Kephart, D. K., & Sciamanna, C. N. (2010). Long-term weight loss maintenance in the United States. International journal of obesity (2005), 34(11), 1644–1654. doi:10.1038/ijo.2010.94

THE TRUTH ABOUT DIET TRENDS

[/fusion_title][fusion_text columns=”” column_min_width=”” column_spacing=”” rule_style=”default” rule_size=”” rule_color=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=””]

Even when it didn’t seem possible, the world of dieting has grown more contentious. Social media feeds are riddled with quips about the latest articles, “must-see” Netflix documentaries, new books to buy that promise weight loss, supplements that claim to burn fat fast, and even arguments between friends and family about which diet is superior.

The conversations and selling points are emotionally, politically, financially, and personally motivated. And often, rely on very little–if any–scientific evidence. Statistics are cherry-picked and hard data is understood by very few. Opinions are formed before a new study is even read, so the opportunity for an open discussion is lost prior to the first breath of a conversation.

So what’s at the heart of some of these contentious topics?

In my coaching practice and in my life of science, several culprits of these issues have become clear:

  1. Our food climate is so gluttonous and overwhelming that nearly any dietary boundary has benefits. This creates diet camps.

  2. Diet camps trigger a human’s desire to be right, which initiates a cascade of belief systems and arguments.

  3. Genetics have a profound and still little understood impact on what diets work best for which people.

  4. The desire to help others is genuine in many people, but a lack of formal education, understanding, and time spent with research and in-depth science creates large blind spots in reasoning. Some of the loudest voices know the least.

  5. A truly tactful clinician and/or scientist will look at the totality of the research to make sense of patterns, data, and correlations. And then use those in the context of an individual. This is a tremendous amount of work and most people can’t/won’t put themselves through that!

Together, these factors generate a lot of arguments, confusion, and personal opinion. But surely there must be a way to find a system to function in this disarray.

How could the average American possibly navigate this tumultuous landscape?

Thankfully, there are some items at the heart of weight loss, health, and fitness that we can absolutely rely on.

What’s Really Going On In the Diet World

First, let’s reframe the picture.

It feels like everyone is on a different diet and screeching about how good it is and how bad everyone else’s is. But what’s actually happening is that our modern food environment is literally unnavigable and they found a little tool to navigate, so they’re hooked! They’re believers! And they want everyone to try it!

Our restaurant menus are saddled with fried food, oils, sugar, and serving sizes bigger than biology textbooks. Checkout lines are bordered by candy, kettle corn, hot cocoa, and cookies. Coffee shop counters are lined with muffins, croissants, and doughnuts. Lattes are pumped with flavored sugar syrups. Bread is served first, alcohol is bottomless, and dessert is offered before we can ask for a check. Fast-food is on every corner, and sneaky marketing gimmicks create more times to eat per day, with more opportunities and buying options. It’s all the honey and no bees. All the meat and no hunt. All the fruit and no climb.

And what are diets? They’re bees around the honey hive. We can’t dive face first into a peanut butter pie when we’re keto, vegan, carnivore, Whole 30, Zone, or paleo. It gives limits in a limitless world. And when that works–because it inevitably will because it reduces our total energy intake and tends to increase consumption of whole foods–a person gets excited and wants to get everyone else on the plan, too. They become passionate, especially if moral reasoning behind the food decisions speaks to their personal values (like meat consumption).

But these are what we call case studies. One person experiencing an outcome after starting one type of diet. This is by no means meaningful data. This is also what’s used by documentaries, celebrity-endorsed products, or many books to help sell the product.

But really what happened in many instances is that someone subscribed to a diet that they believed in for some mixture of reasons, whether moral, social, or even taste-related, and then that diet was sustainable because they believed in its values. It’s great that they had success with it, but this is not evidence for anything other than behavior change.

The Key to Weight Loss and Health Isn’t One Diet

But the key isn’t which diet is the best thing ever. The key is: what are you willing to do for the rest of your life?

Because America doesn’t have a weight loss problem. It has a weight regain problem.

In a meta-analysis of 29 long-term weight loss studies, more than half of those who lost weight had regained it within two years, and by five years more than 80% of lost weight was regained. Similarly, in the 1999–2006 NHANES surveillance followed the prevalence and correlates of long-term weight loss maintenance (defined as weight loss maintained for at least 1 year) in 14,306 US adults. The study found that only one out of every six US adults who had ever been overweight or obese had accomplished long-term weight loss maintenance of at least 10% (I). The reason that data like this is so essential to consider is that health biomarkers, such as cholesterol, fasting insulin, and measurements of inflammation, quickly trend in a negative direction as soon as weight begins to be regained. In other words, the body can’t regain a lot of fat and stay healthy. The benefits of the weight loss are quickly lost, and baseline cardiovascular and metabolic disease risks return.

Weight regain can be attributed to many variables, including psychosocial factors and emotional regulation, but it is important to consider hormones, lean mass, exercise, and sleep as essential drivers of behavior and metabolism. One of the issues with weight loss is that muscle is often lost in a hypocaloric state, which can contribute to a lower metabolic rate that dieters often suffer from.

In previous articles I’ve examined different types of diets, citing interventions on low-fat vs low-carb protocols and total weight lost. Both have shown to be effective so long as the energy consumption is controlled. Knowing that high-protein diets are highly effective at promoting weight loss, and crucially contribute to the development of lean mass or the sparing of it in low-energy states, we must consider protein to be an essential piece to the metabolic puzzle.

Knowing that low-fat vs low-carb interventions have no differing effects on weight loss, and that lean mass and exercise can keep metabolic rate higher and build muscle, then the long-term health solution can consist of these key points. The goals for lifelong success thus include building muscle and exercising, eat plenty of protein, and balance the remainders of your macronutrients depending on taste preferences to control energy. There is no fancy name for this diet. There is no book, pill, class, or celebrity to put at the front of it. It’s a simple short list of low-hanging fruit. But, it must be executed tirelessly for the rest of your life. So really, you don’t have to pick a diet. Nor should you. You should pick a lifestyle that you can thrive in for decades.

When my clients are picking their homework for each session I often ask them: is this something you can do on your best day and your absolute worst day? Because that’s what these lifestyles really have to build: a new way of living.

And that’s what we all have to ask ourselves when making health decisions. Because losing weight and building muscle is inherently protective. Gaining many pounds, losing them, and regaining them is inherently dangerous. So the diet camp I belong to is: eat enough and train enough to build muscle and do NOT regain the weight!

Health Decisions Are A Value System

Everything comes at a cost. We can eat whatever we want, and pay the price metabolically. We can control our food down to the macronutrient grams and isolate ourselves. We have to use our values to determine which boundaries feel worth it to us. And thankfully–even though the diet world would never want us to know it–there’s valuable space in between the extremes that allow for healthy body weight, exercise, delicious food, and positive mental health. But at the core of it lies the need to end the extremism and yo-yo diets, to avoid the weight loss followed by regain, and instead find a lifestyle that we can enjoy for decades to come.

So the next time a new trend comes along, remember to note why these things often appear, and then go enjoy the healthy lifestyle that you’ve built for yourself.

I. Kraschnewski, J. L., Boan, J., Esposito, J., Sherwood, N. E., Lehman, E. B., Kephart, D. K., & Sciamanna, C. N. (2010). Long-term weight loss maintenance in the United States. International journal of obesity (2005), 34(11), 1644–1654. doi:10.1038/ijo.2010.94

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Spark A Chain Reaction of Change https://pureperformancetraining.com/spark-a-chain-reaction-of-change/ https://pureperformancetraining.com/spark-a-chain-reaction-of-change/#respond Wed, 25 Sep 2019 17:52:10 +0000 https://pureperformancetraining.com/?p=528 The post Spark A Chain Reaction of Change appeared first on Pure Performance Training.

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SPARK A CHAIN REACTION OF CHANGE

Productive, happy, and healthy human beings tend to make decisions based on two things: they identify the choice as part of their self-image and they have an internal locus of control.

Identity-Based Habits

Identity-based decision-making and inertia tend to influence the daily life of a human being. At the beginning of any given day, there is a routine that unfolds as a person wakes up, makes their coffee, and brushes their teeth. The routine is a normal, safe, and predictable cycle that the brain feels most comfortable playing out.

That routine will also set into motion more routines that occur daily. A bed will be half-made, a dish will be left in the sink, the dog will be walked at a certain time, a turkey sandwich will be eaten at lunch, and there will be some seemingly good reason to skip the gym that evening.

But what if something different occurred one morning? What if the coffee had no sugar in it, the bed was made, or there was lunch prepared in the fridge and ready to be brought to work?

Well, that would feel different.

And the brain would notice. After a few weeks of that, a person might also dust the bureau after they made that bed, or scramble an egg to go with their coffee or prepare a dinner to complement the healthy lunch.

Their brain would start saying, “I’m the type of person that makes a nice healthy lunch. So, I also eat nice healthy dinners, too.”

Or, “I’m the type of person who cleans-up. I’m neat, and I like it that way.”

The seed for change in the day was planted when the inertia shifted—when the momentum stopped replaying the old loops and created something a little new. And that change comes because all habits align with self-image.

When we change our self-image, even just a tiny bit, we open up the door to do new things. This is the core of identity-based decision-making and habit formation. Our brains identify with our behaviors and then use that inertia as a domino effect every single day to guide all of our decisions and beliefs.

This can play out for better or for worse. When a person wakes up late in the morning, struggles to get out of bed, skips the gym, doesn’t pick-up, has to order takeout at mealtimes, and relies on sugary lattes to get through the day, it’s because their brain is saying “I’m not the type of person that makes my bed, scrambles an egg, goes to the gym, gets to bed on time, or makes my food at home.” Our brains can easily develop a narrative that it then reinforces with decision after decision after decision. Even when we don’t know it. And even when we don’t feel happy.

Internal Locus of Control

In his book Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg discusses how the military utilizes the concept of internal locus of control to create capable and confident leaders.

In Marine Corps Basic Training, incoming potential candidates have never had to lead others in safe, let alone dangerous, settings. If they pass basic training, their future holds ever-changing warfare settings and tactics, challenging climates, unclear battle lines, and life-threatening situations. Their lives depend on their ability to be extreme self-starters capable of rapid, independent decision-making.

To achieve this, the Marine Corps specifically works towards developing a strong internal locus of control in each Marine. An internal locus of control is the belief that one has complete control over their decisions and outcomes. Their mind feels empowered, capable, and willing to take full responsibility for any negative outcomes. They don’t wait for instructions—because often, none are coming—and they can self-motivate to lead.

“Internal locus of control has been linked with academic success, higher self-motivation and social maturity, lower incidences of stress and depression, and longer life span,” a team of psychologists reported in Problems and Perspectives in Management in 2012. People with an internal locus of control tend to earn more money, have more friends, stay married longer, exercise, eat healthier, and report higher rates of professional success and satisfaction.

During their final challenge in boot camp—aptly named “The Crucible”—Marines endure three days of climbing, marching, crawling, lifting, ambushes, only a few hours of sleep, and little food. Anyone who lags behind or fails to move is dropped as a potential candidate. If a civilian were to watch The Crucible unfold from the sidelines, they would hear resounding shrieks of “why?” emerging from beneath the smoke. Marines are taught to ask each other “why?” when what they’re doing feels impossible. That way, they can cry out their motivation, their goals, and their values in the heat of suffering. They can proclaim that they have a reason to do what they’re doing—reminding themselves and their teammates that they’re all there for a reason.

This “why” is incredibly purposeful. When a person makes a decision on their own, research shows that it makes self-motivation emerge, which makes someone enjoy their decision more, and then execute properly. This provides the impetus for an internal locus of control, identity-based decisions, and inertia for more decisions that reinforce the self-image.

Having an external locus of control is to believe that one’s life is primarily influenced by events outside of their own control. It evades a sense of responsibility to self and others and stifles confidence and motivation. An external locus of control is correlated with higher levels of stress because an individual perceives every situation they’re in as beyond their ability or power.

Your Action Steps

If we know that at their core, habits are rooted in self-image and are therefore very malleable, and we know that making choices for ourselves elicits self-motivation, and that having a “why” keeps us committed to our choices and self-image, then our task is to string these items together. The key to making these changes a reality is to start small and then build. If we suddenly try to have a new day on any given morning, our brain is going to balk at us.

Have you ever started an extreme diet and by dinner your mind had convinced you: “We don’t eat this way.” Have the alfredo!”? Because if you have, it means you’re human!

That’s because the change was not coaxed with self-image and motivation. Instead, we have to start small and keep that promise to ourselves every single day. And let it permeate. Then, we can allow that momentum and shift in self-image to bloom.

Here’s how to spark a chain reaction of change:

  1. Undertake a very small habit in your day that you are most motivated to do. It has to be small, almost to the point where it seems silly. Examples are things such as making your bed, buying a vegetable at the store, removing sugar from your coffee, going for a walk around the block, or having a big glass of water upon rising. Keep this habit as a sacred promise to yourself with a sense of personal responsibility.
  2. Once that habit has taken root, let it bloom into another part of the day. After making the bed, pick-up the socks. Skip the sugary scone and scramble an egg with your coffee. Prepare a salad for lunch. Again, keep this promise to yourself with a sense of personal responsibility.
  3. Repeat this process with unwavering commitment. Create momentum. If your momentum crumbles it’s because you’ve picked a habit too large, you’ve picked a habit you don’t actually care about, or your sense of ownership is evaporating. Return to something smaller or more meaningful if this happens. Momentum is key.
  4. When there are moments to be a leader, even if just with yourself, don’t run from them. Even if it’s a small decision. Do you know how many people can’t decide what to make for dinner? Millions! Be the person who states a dinner idea, buys the items, and executes the action steps. Practice this over and over and over.
  5. Have a “why.” If you aren’t the one who made the choice to change something, or if you aren’t the one who decided why it matters, you won’t make an ounce of improvement. Ask yourself what you care about, value, and envision for your life. Who do you want to inspire? What kind of example do you want to set? Who do you want to be?

You will see who you can be when you start changing tiny habits in your day. And you might shock yourself! The keys to sparking change in your life are to know your why, develop a strong internal locus of control, self-motivate, and start very small so that you have the opportunity to shift your self-image.

Together, these things can help you grow and develop in profound ways.

SPARK A CHAIN REACTION OF CHANGE

Productive, happy, and healthy human beings tend to make decisions based on two things: they identify the choice as part of their self-image and they have an internal locus of control.

Identity-Based Habits

Identity-based decision-making and inertia tend to influence the daily life of a human being. At the beginning of any given day, there is a routine that unfolds as a person wakes up, makes their coffee, and brushes their teeth. The routine is a normal, safe, and predictable cycle that the brain feels most comfortable playing out.

That routine will also set into motion more routines that occur daily. A bed will be half-made, a dish will be left in the sink, the dog will be walked at a certain time, a turkey sandwich will be eaten at lunch, and there will be some seemingly good reason to skip the gym that evening.

But what if something different occurred one morning? What if the coffee had no sugar in it, the bed was made, or there was lunch prepared in the fridge and ready to be brought to work?

Well, that would feel different.

And the brain would notice. After a few weeks of that, a person might also dust the bureau after they made that bed, or scramble an egg to go with their coffee or prepare a dinner to complement the healthy lunch.

Their brain would start saying, “I’m the type of person that makes a nice healthy lunch. So, I also eat nice healthy dinners, too.”

Or, “I’m the type of person who cleans-up. I’m neat, and I like it that way.”

The seed for change in the day was planted when the inertia shifted—when the momentum stopped replaying the old loops and created something a little new. And that change comes because all habits align with self-image.

When we change our self-image, even just a tiny bit, we open up the door to do new things. This is the core of identity-based decision-making and habit formation. Our brains identify with our behaviors and then use that inertia as a domino effect every single day to guide all of our decisions and beliefs.

This can play out for better or for worse. When a person wakes up late in the morning, struggles to get out of bed, skips the gym, doesn’t pick-up, has to order takeout at mealtimes, and relies on sugary lattes to get through the day, it’s because their brain is saying “I’m not the type of person that makes my bed, scrambles an egg, goes to the gym, gets to bed on time, or makes my food at home.” Our brains can easily develop a narrative that it then reinforces with decision after decision after decision. Even when we don’t know it. And even when we don’t feel happy.

Internal Locus of Control

In his book Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg discusses how the military utilizes the concept of internal locus of control to create capable and confident leaders.

In Marine Corps Basic Training, incoming potential candidates have never had to lead others in safe, let alone dangerous, settings. If they pass basic training, their future holds ever-changing warfare settings and tactics, challenging climates, unclear battle lines, and life-threatening situations. Their lives depend on their ability to be extreme self-starters capable of rapid, independent decision-making.

To achieve this, the Marine Corps specifically works towards developing a strong internal locus of control in each Marine. An internal locus of control is the belief that one has complete control over their decisions and outcomes. Their mind feels empowered, capable, and willing to take full responsibility for any negative outcomes. They don’t wait for instructions—because often, none are coming—and they can self-motivate to lead.

“Internal locus of control has been linked with academic success, higher self-motivation and social maturity, lower incidences of stress and depression, and longer life span,” a team of psychologists reported in Problems and Perspectives in Management in 2012. People with an internal locus of control tend to earn more money, have more friends, stay married longer, exercise, eat healthier, and report higher rates of professional success and satisfaction.

During their final challenge in boot camp—aptly named “The Crucible”—Marines endure three days of climbing, marching, crawling, lifting, ambushes, only a few hours of sleep, and little food. Anyone who lags behind or fails to move is dropped as a potential candidate. If a civilian were to watch The Crucible unfold from the sidelines, they would hear resounding shrieks of “why?” emerging from beneath the smoke. Marines are taught to ask each other “why?” when what they’re doing feels impossible. That way, they can cry out their motivation, their goals, and their values in the heat of suffering. They can proclaim that they have a reason to do what they’re doing—reminding themselves and their teammates that they’re all there for a reason.

This “why” is incredibly purposeful. When a person makes a decision on their own, research shows that it makes self-motivation emerge, which makes someone enjoy their decision more, and then execute properly. This provides the impetus for an internal locus of control, identity-based decisions, and inertia for more decisions that reinforce the self-image.

Having an external locus of control is to believe that one’s life is primarily influenced by events outside of their own control. It evades a sense of responsibility to self and others and stifles confidence and motivation. An external locus of control is correlated with higher levels of stress because an individual perceives every situation they’re in as beyond their ability or power.

Your Action Steps

If we know that at their core, habits are rooted in self-image and are therefore very malleable, and we know that making choices for ourselves elicits self-motivation, and that having a “why” keeps us committed to our choices and self-image, then our task is to string these items together. The key to making these changes a reality is to start small and then build. If we suddenly try to have a new day on any given morning, our brain is going to balk at us.

Have you ever started an extreme diet and by dinner your mind had convinced you: “We don’t eat this way.” Have the alfredo!”? Because if you have, it means you’re human!

That’s because the change was not coaxed with self-image and motivation. Instead, we have to start small and keep that promise to ourselves every single day. And let it permeate. Then, we can allow that momentum and shift in self-image to bloom.

Here’s how to spark a chain reaction of change:

  1. Undertake a very small habit in your day that you are most motivated to do. It has to be small, almost to the point where it seems silly. Examples are things such as making your bed, buying a vegetable at the store, removing sugar from your coffee, going for a walk around the block, or having a big glass of water upon rising. Keep this habit as a sacred promise to yourself with a sense of personal responsibility.
  2. Once that habit has taken root, let it bloom into another part of the day. After making the bed, pick-up the socks. Skip the sugary scone and scramble an egg with your coffee. Prepare a salad for lunch. Again, keep this promise to yourself with a sense of personal responsibility.
  3. Repeat this process with unwavering commitment. Create momentum. If your momentum crumbles it’s because you’ve picked a habit too large, you’ve picked a habit you don’t actually care about, or your sense of ownership is evaporating. Return to something smaller or more meaningful if this happens. Momentum is key.
  4. When there are moments to be a leader, even if just with yourself, don’t run from them. Even if it’s a small decision. Do you know how many people can’t decide what to make for dinner? Millions! Be the person who states a dinner idea, buys the items, and executes the action steps. Practice this over and over and over.
  5. Have a “why.” If you aren’t the one who made the choice to change something, or if you aren’t the one who decided why it matters, you won’t make an ounce of improvement. Ask yourself what you care about, value, and envision for your life. Who do you want to inspire? What kind of example do you want to set? Who do you want to be?

You will see who you can be when you start changing tiny habits in your day. And you might shock yourself! The keys to sparking change in your life are to know your why, develop a strong internal locus of control, self-motivate, and start very small so that you have the opportunity to shift your self-image.

Together, these things can help you grow and develop in profound ways.

The post Spark A Chain Reaction of Change appeared first on Pure Performance Training.

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The Nature of Adapting: The Link Between Your Muscles and Your Mind https://pureperformancetraining.com/the-nature-of-adapting-the-link-between-your-muscles-and-your-mind/ https://pureperformancetraining.com/the-nature-of-adapting-the-link-between-your-muscles-and-your-mind/#respond Sun, 01 Sep 2019 19:30:13 +0000 https://pureperformancetraining.com/?p=525 The post The Nature of Adapting: The Link Between Your Muscles and Your Mind appeared first on Pure Performance Training.

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THE NATURE OF ADAPTING: THE LINK BETWEEN YOUR MUSCLES AND YOUR MIND

Part of the nature of being a human being is the subconscious desire–emotionally, mentally, physically, and metabolically–to stay the same. What do I mean by that? Your cells have no desire to do extra work. To change. To grow. They’d like to keep puttering along as they are, and much of our existence orbits around this desire for homeostasis. That’s why it’s hard to form new habits, break cycles of emotions or behavior, lose weight, get accustomed to new foods, make new friends, get out of our comfort zones, and put on muscle. Even physical pain can be a loop of chemical reactions that become chronic because they’re known, expected, and predictable. The devil you know is better than the one you don’t, right? From our cell’s perspective, yes. 

This is one of the reasons why arguing with people is essentially fruitless. The part of the human brain that detects norm violations is the same part of the brain that can detect rotten food. And what do human brains like? To a degree, they like things to stay the same. Which is why someone declaring a statement opposite to our own beliefs can be so jarring. It makes our brains get defensive and even panic. Norm violations are threatening. To consider an alternative viewpoint is scary–it suggests that something we perceived was wrong, that we missed something, or that we didn’t know something. It means we’d need to change.

Willingness to Battle A Storm Determines Growth

This homeostatic defense plays out in countless organ systems. One of which that’s particularly profound is the human muscular system. The most effective metaphor for adaptation in this system is one presented by Dr. Pat Davidson in his article on muscle growth. He likens the body to a ship and the brain to its captain. He explains that the human body is a ship that goes out to sea and gets wrecked by a storm–with a broken mast, holes in the sidewall, and leaks allowing water to come pouring in. The captain and his crew must get the ship to clear skies and smooth waters to repair the damage with even more capable material, making the patched-up areas stronger than they’ve ever been. Yet, the next storm will be different, and new areas will be compromised. This again will require more robust repairs. This process can occur countless times, with new storms acting as the impetus for constructing a more powerful design. This is what the human body is built for. It’s designed to experience stress that forces potent reconstruction. It has the innate ability to adapt. 

In the wild, the humans that could adapt most efficiently had superior evolutionary fitness. They were suited to survive. Life in the wilderness would have caused damage daily–stimulating growth and repair frequently. This created bodies that could locomote through multiple planes of motion, generate greater and greater force, move more mass, utilize energy more efficiently, and construct larger muscles to cope with the demands of the environment. In modern life, this stimulus is essentially nonexistent. Work is performed in cubicles, in settings that require sitting for ten or more hours a day, with little sunlight, and certainly no muscle stimulation. We stare at screens, never feel the grass beneath our feet, and take so few steps per day that our metabolic regulatory pathways are compromised. The desire for homeostasis is now accommodated. We don’t even have to walk somewhere to get food–just call GrubHub.

What’s more is that the more deeply entrenched in this loop we are, the more challenging it will be to rewire it. What happens on a cellular level also occurs, in many respects, on an organismal level. If our cells want to minimize change–which requires generating more energy and doing extra work–then we, too, want to minimize change. We’re really, really good at maintaining homeostasis. Which means that the link between building bigger muscles, becoming more agile, developing a more robust body that can perform more work and feel less pain, lies in your brain. The decision to actively engage in a storm is yours. You’re going to need to send your ship out to sea at will and embrace the damage if you want to be a stronger human being.

The Proper Stimulus For Building Stronger Muscles

Appreciating the fact that you must enter a storm to build muscle is the first step towards becoming stronger. The second step is determining just how taxing the workload needs to be to stimulate growth. To that end, the process of hypertrophy must be considered. Hypertrophy is the enlargement of the muscle fiber cross-sectional area in response to a mechanical training stimulus. This means that if you want bigger muscles, you need to engage in hypertrophy.

Using muscle requires many steps and has many effects in the body–much of which is beyond the scope of this article. At the acknowledged risk of oversimplifying, let’s consider just two events from a 30,000-foot view. Two actions in particular that occur in response to strength training are (1) muscle recruitment by the nervous system and (2) mechanical loading of the muscle fibers. These two items are important factors in determining how a muscle will adapt. A common misconception is that muscle recruitment itself creates strength. It does not. It does indeed help a body move better by becoming more efficient at recruiting fibers. Yet, there are different types of fibers. The body will call upon low-threshold fibers to perform the work when it can, and will only call upon high-threshold muscle fibers if the stimulus is great enough. A higher degree of mechanical loading will force a body to recruit higher threshold motor units. 

“Muscle growth is not determined by the degree of motor unit recruitment, but by the mechanical loading experienced by each muscle fiber. To achieve the necessary level of mechanical loading, contraction velocity must be both maximal and slow, because only this combination leads to enough simultaneous cross-bridges forming in the muscle fibers controlled by high-threshold motor units. This state can be achieved by either (1) lifting heavy weights, or (2) lifting light weights to muscular failure. Recruiting high-threshold motor units does not work if the velocity is not slow (like when lifting light weights quickly, and not to failure), as the mechanical loading on each individual fiber is insufficient because the cross-bridges detach too quickly after forming.” -Dr. Chris Beardsley

Thus, if each muscle fiber, including the high-threshold motor units, experiences intense mechanical loading, muscle hypertrophy will occur. This hypertrophic stimulus causes many beneficial cascades in the body that promote growth and construction. The number of myofibrils within a muscle fiber will increase, as will the number of contractile and structural proteins. This increase in protein results in a greater diameter of the muscle itself and thus enlargement of the entire muscle group. It also leads to more intramuscular storage of the substrate needed to perform mechanical work. The storage of glycogen in the muscle cells also causes the enlargement of the muscle. The cascades caused by effective resistance training also have profound systemic effects on bone density, connective tissue adaptations, and neural alterations. This results in a larger and more powerful muscle, as well as more capable muscle groups, denser bones, stronger connective tissue, and increased neural ability that can exert more force across time and space.

The phenomena of recruiting high-threshold motor units at a slow velocity that maximizes mechanical loading are unequivocally best achieved by resistance training. The muscles must be forced to move a load enough times to damage the cells–initiating a response that tells the body “we weren’t strong enough to handle this and we must repair appropriately.” This is the storm. Adequate load, acidity, and heat will alert the muscle that synthesizing new protein to prepare for this experience in the future is necessary. This is why progressive overload is essential to building strength. A different workout every day that is not slowly increasing the weight lifted in the same lifts repeatedly will promote energy turnover, but not promote muscle growth.

Your Homework Is To Train and Get Stronger

Now that we’ve looked at the natural inclination of a human to resist change, a cell’s desire to maintain homeostasis, and the challenging training necessary to make a muscle grow, we can connect these plot points. The greatest factor holding people back from becoming stronger is being willing to face the necessary training stimulus. People convince themselves not to do it–to cancel the training session, to tell their trainer they can’t go up in weight, to tell themselves they don’t have another rep within them to complete the set. This is the link between your mind and your muscles. The desire to minimize work. To just go to yoga. To take a rest day. To only lift once a week. Simply put, it just won’t get the job done to reach the goal of building muscle. To get stronger you have to train–hard and frequently. You must willingly make your body experience stimuli that it never has before. Your brain won’t like it, at first. Your muscles will be sore. But then they will grow and adapt, and they’ll be ready for more. And so will your mind. You will eventually see results, and if you stay consistent you will come to love the storm. Because you will be expressing your humanity in your movement, growth, new muscles, and adaptive nature. 

The potent health-promoting effects of having more lean mass on your body are irrefutable. You will be a stronger and more capable human being–more resistant to pain, superior at utilizing energy (that means you get to eat more), better able to fall asleep (because your body did real work), and more capable of adapting. Your job now is to get to the gym and train under truly challenging conditions. Then recover adequately with nutritious food, sleep, and relaxation so that your body has time away from the stimulus to repair. And do that over and over again.

If this topic is of interest to you and gets you really excited about being a strong human, stay tuned for events featuring Dr. Pat Davidson at Pure Performance.

THE NATURE OF ADAPTING: THE LINK BETWEEN YOUR MUSCLES AND YOUR MIND

Part of the nature of being a human being is the subconscious desire–emotionally, mentally, physically, and metabolically–to stay the same. What do I mean by that? Your cells have no desire to do extra work. To change. To grow. They’d like to keep puttering along as they are, and much of our existence orbits around this desire for homeostasis. That’s why it’s hard to form new habits, break cycles of emotions or behavior, lose weight, get accustomed to new foods, make new friends, get out of our comfort zones, and put on muscle. Even physical pain can be a loop of chemical reactions that become chronic because they’re known, expected, and predictable. The devil you know is better than the one you don’t, right? From our cell’s perspective, yes. 

This is one of the reasons why arguing with people is essentially fruitless. The part of the human brain that detects norm violations is the same part of the brain that can detect rotten food. And what do human brains like? To a degree, they like things to stay the same. Which is why someone declaring a statement opposite to our own beliefs can be so jarring. It makes our brains get defensive and even panic. Norm violations are threatening. To consider an alternative viewpoint is scary–it suggests that something we perceived was wrong, that we missed something, or that we didn’t know something. It means we’d need to change.

Willingness to Battle A Storm Determines Growth

This homeostatic defense plays out in countless organ systems. One of which that’s particularly profound is the human muscular system. The most effective metaphor for adaptation in this system is one presented by Dr. Pat Davidson in his article on muscle growth. He likens the body to a ship and the brain to its captain. He explains that the human body is a ship that goes out to sea and gets wrecked by a storm–with a broken mast, holes in the sidewall, and leaks allowing water to come pouring in. The captain and his crew must get the ship to clear skies and smooth waters to repair the damage with even more capable material, making the patched-up areas stronger than they’ve ever been. Yet, the next storm will be different, and new areas will be compromised. This again will require more robust repairs. This process can occur countless times, with new storms acting as the impetus for constructing a more powerful design. This is what the human body is built for. It’s designed to experience stress that forces potent reconstruction. It has the innate ability to adapt. 

In the wild, the humans that could adapt most efficiently had superior evolutionary fitness. They were suited to survive. Life in the wilderness would have caused damage daily–stimulating growth and repair frequently. This created bodies that could locomote through multiple planes of motion, generate greater and greater force, move more mass, utilize energy more efficiently, and construct larger muscles to cope with the demands of the environment. In modern life, this stimulus is essentially nonexistent. Work is performed in cubicles, in settings that require sitting for ten or more hours a day, with little sunlight, and certainly no muscle stimulation. We stare at screens, never feel the grass beneath our feet, and take so few steps per day that our metabolic regulatory pathways are compromised. The desire for homeostasis is now accommodated. We don’t even have to walk somewhere to get food–just call GrubHub.

What’s more is that the more deeply entrenched in this loop we are, the more challenging it will be to rewire it. What happens on a cellular level also occurs, in many respects, on an organismal level. If our cells want to minimize change–which requires generating more energy and doing extra work–then we, too, want to minimize change. We’re really, really good at maintaining homeostasis. Which means that the link between building bigger muscles, becoming more agile, developing a more robust body that can perform more work and feel less pain, lies in your brain. The decision to actively engage in a storm is yours. You’re going to need to send your ship out to sea at will and embrace the damage if you want to be a stronger human being.

The Proper Stimulus For Building Stronger Muscles

Appreciating the fact that you must enter a storm to build muscle is the first step towards becoming stronger. The second step is determining just how taxing the workload needs to be to stimulate growth. To that end, the process of hypertrophy must be considered. Hypertrophy is the enlargement of the muscle fiber cross-sectional area in response to a mechanical training stimulus. This means that if you want bigger muscles, you need to engage in hypertrophy.

Using muscle requires many steps and has many effects in the body–much of which is beyond the scope of this article. At the acknowledged risk of oversimplifying, let’s consider just two events from a 30,000-foot view. Two actions in particular that occur in response to strength training are (1) muscle recruitment by the nervous system and (2) mechanical loading of the muscle fibers. These two items are important factors in determining how a muscle will adapt. A common misconception is that muscle recruitment itself creates strength. It does not. It does indeed help a body move better by becoming more efficient at recruiting fibers. Yet, there are different types of fibers. The body will call upon low-threshold fibers to perform the work when it can, and will only call upon high-threshold muscle fibers if the stimulus is great enough. A higher degree of mechanical loading will force a body to recruit higher threshold motor units. 

“Muscle growth is not determined by the degree of motor unit recruitment, but by the mechanical loading experienced by each muscle fiber. To achieve the necessary level of mechanical loading, contraction velocity must be both maximal and slow, because only this combination leads to enough simultaneous cross-bridges forming in the muscle fibers controlled by high-threshold motor units. This state can be achieved by either (1) lifting heavy weights, or (2) lifting light weights to muscular failure. Recruiting high-threshold motor units does not work if the velocity is not slow (like when lifting light weights quickly, and not to failure), as the mechanical loading on each individual fiber is insufficient because the cross-bridges detach too quickly after forming.” -Dr. Chris Beardsley

Thus, if each muscle fiber, including the high-threshold motor units, experiences intense mechanical loading, muscle hypertrophy will occur. This hypertrophic stimulus causes many beneficial cascades in the body that promote growth and construction. The number of myofibrils within a muscle fiber will increase, as will the number of contractile and structural proteins. This increase in protein results in a greater diameter of the muscle itself and thus enlargement of the entire muscle group. It also leads to more intramuscular storage of the substrate needed to perform mechanical work. The storage of glycogen in the muscle cells also causes the enlargement of the muscle. The cascades caused by effective resistance training also have profound systemic effects on bone density, connective tissue adaptations, and neural alterations. This results in a larger and more powerful muscle, as well as more capable muscle groups, denser bones, stronger connective tissue, and increased neural ability that can exert more force across time and space.

The phenomena of recruiting high-threshold motor units at a slow velocity that maximizes mechanical loading are unequivocally best achieved by resistance training. The muscles must be forced to move a load enough times to damage the cells–initiating a response that tells the body “we weren’t strong enough to handle this and we must repair appropriately.” This is the storm. Adequate load, acidity, and heat will alert the muscle that synthesizing new protein to prepare for this experience in the future is necessary. This is why progressive overload is essential to building strength. A different workout every day that is not slowly increasing the weight lifted in the same lifts repeatedly will promote energy turnover, but not promote muscle growth.

Your Homework Is To Train and Get Stronger

Now that we’ve looked at the natural inclination of a human to resist change, a cell’s desire to maintain homeostasis, and the challenging training necessary to make a muscle grow, we can connect these plot points. The greatest factor holding people back from becoming stronger is being willing to face the necessary training stimulus. People convince themselves not to do it–to cancel the training session, to tell their trainer they can’t go up in weight, to tell themselves they don’t have another rep within them to complete the set. This is the link between your mind and your muscles. The desire to minimize work. To just go to yoga. To take a rest day. To only lift once a week. Simply put, it just won’t get the job done to reach the goal of building muscle. To get stronger you have to train–hard and frequently. You must willingly make your body experience stimuli that it never has before. Your brain won’t like it, at first. Your muscles will be sore. But then they will grow and adapt, and they’ll be ready for more. And so will your mind. You will eventually see results, and if you stay consistent you will come to love the storm. Because you will be expressing your humanity in your movement, growth, new muscles, and adaptive nature. 

The potent health-promoting effects of having more lean mass on your body are irrefutable. You will be a stronger and more capable human being–more resistant to pain, superior at utilizing energy (that means you get to eat more), better able to fall asleep (because your body did real work), and more capable of adapting. Your job now is to get to the gym and train under truly challenging conditions. Then recover adequately with nutritious food, sleep, and relaxation so that your body has time away from the stimulus to repair. And do that over and over again.

If this topic is of interest to you and gets you really excited about being a strong human, stay tuned for events featuring Dr. Pat Davidson at Pure Performance.

 

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