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Eating Organic, Deadlifting, and Smiling (Sunday Reads #8)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

On Fitness, Food, Sleep, and Smiling

Are organic fruits and vegetables actually healthier and more nutritious?  The British Journal of Nutrition crunched data from 343 studies and found that organic fruits and vegetables deliver between 20-40% higher antioxidant activity and “lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues”.

“Researchers have found that a compound produced by the body when dieting or fasting can block a part of the immune system involved in several inflammatory disorders such as type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Instead of a structured program focused on changing poor sleep habits and a nighttime routine, older adults improved sleep quality through mindfulness meditation.

Keep reading this »

Written by Mike Torres

February 22nd, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Low-Fat Diets, Morning Routines, and Procrastination (Sunday Reads #7)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.  I’m posting this on Saturday this time to make sure email subscribers get this on Sunday.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

On Food as Fuel and Athleticism

Not that this is a surprise to most of you, but the science behind low-fat diet advice was undercooked.  “An international team of health scientists has completed a systematic study of the evidence available back in the 1970s and ’80s and concluded that a relationship of causation between fat consumption and coronary heart disease was never established.”

The U.S. is also dropping it’s crusade against cholesterol.  Another example of how misled we’ve all been for so long.

The flavonoids in dark chocolate have anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancer, and anti-diarrheal properties.  My favorite dark chocolate is Green & Blacks and I eat a cube or two every evening.

Is there a better way to become the ultimate athlete than the randomness of Crossfit?  Max Shank puts forth a dedicated system with programming to be as strong as a gymnast, as fast as a sprinter, and as flexible as a martial artist.

The Incredible Power of Sleep

If you want to reduce body-fat levels, insulin resistance, and systemic inflammation, you should sleep in a dark room and avoid blue light before you sleep.

This one is weird, but night owls tend to be more exploitive and entitled than early risers.

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Written by Mike Torres

February 14th, 2015 at 3:24 pm

Decision Making, Red Meat, and Immunity (Sunday Reads #6)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.  I’m posting this on Saturday this time to make sure email subscribers get this on Sunday.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

On Brain Stuff and Careers

The kind of instinctive decision-making advocated in best-selling popular psychology books like ‘Nudge’, ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ and ‘Blink’ is not backed up by reliable evidence, a study concludes.  My view is that inaction is almost always worse than wrong action.

What is the #1 predictor of career success?  Having an open network vs. a closed network.  In a closed network you’re surrounded by people with the same ideas and beliefs as yours, while in an open network you’re challenging one another.  So surround yourself with people who don’t think like you do.

A study on musical training “adds to mounting evidence that musical training not only gives young developing brains a cognitive boost, but those neural enhancements extend across the lifespan into old age when the brain needs it most to counteract cognitive decline.”

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Written by Mike Torres

February 7th, 2015 at 8:51 am

Creative Work, Stress, and Being “Ready to Run” (Sunday Reads #5)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.  I’m posting this on Saturday this time to make sure email subscribers get this on Sunday.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

On Creative Work

How many times have you found yourself thinking “that really didn’t need to take an hour”?  Brad Feld has some experience with that.

“People sitting at messy desks are less efficient, less persistent, and more frustrated and weary than those at neat desks.”  I find it easier to keep my desk clean than to actually clean it, so at the end of every day I take 20 seconds to reset it before I leave the office.

18 Habits of Highly Creative People pulls together some great recommendations for how to do incredible things.

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Written by Mike Torres

January 31st, 2015 at 9:22 am

Sleep Research, Workaholism, and Self-Regulation (Sunday Reads #4)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.  I’m posting this on Saturday this time to make sure email subscribers get this on Sunday.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

High-Performance Work and Life

Research shows that workaholism is related to many negative outcomes including burnout, job stress, work–life conflict, and decreased physical and mental health.

Checking your email too often is stressful.  There can be a significant reduction in stress when people check email less frequently.

Better posture equals less stress.  A recent study “found people who sat upright with straight shoulders coped better emotionally with a stressful task than people who were hunched over.”

Researchers compared 10 psychological strengths on their ability to predict goal attainment and the greatest changes in overall well-being using a sample of 755 people.  Which strengths won?  Curiosity and grit.

Keep reading this »

Written by Mike Torres

January 24th, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Boosting Memory, Perils of Diet Soda, and Getting Unstuck (Sunday Reads #3)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.  I’m posting this on Saturday this time to make sure email subscribers get this on Sunday.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.

High-Performance Work and Life

Fantastic post on the differences between a high-performer and a workaholic.  In my experience as someone who could maybe appear to be a workaholic from the outside, the conclusion rings true: “The big difference isn’t how many hours are logged, but how the individual feels on the inside about who they are in relationship to their work.”

When it comes to creativity, the “myth of epiphany” is commonplace.

An amazing episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast with Pavel Tsatsouline on the Science of Strength and the Art of Physical Performance.

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Written by Mike Torres

January 17th, 2015 at 9:20 am

Your Microbiome, Bone Broth, and Fancy New Fitness Gadgets (Sunday Reads #2)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads #2 on Refocuser, a collection of my favorite weekly links from around the web spanning topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, and positivity.  I’m posting this on Saturday this time to make sure email subscribers get this on Sunday.

Speaking of which, join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.

On Moving, Eating, and Sleeping

The healthy human microbiome is the new frontier.  All the more reason why I’m surprised I didn’t know about uBiome (10% off with that link!) – it’s similar in spirit to WellnessFX and 23andMe.  They send you a sample kit for only $89 (!) so you can learn more about your body’s own bacteria in an effort to improve your overall health.  Don’t need to twist my arm to do this – I’m in!  We’re super early in this citizen science movement but I love it.  You can also learn more on Fast Company.

Mark Sisson challenges some of our common misconceptions when it comes to calories (part 1part 2).

How does exercise really affect our brains and how does it really make us happier?  Fast Company set out to understand the science.  Turns out addiction to exercise isn’t a crazy concept since BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor) and those ever-popular endorphins have the same characteristics as nicotine, heroin, or morphine.  Big takeaway: Daily exercise of just 20 minutes is all it takes.

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Written by Mike Torres

January 10th, 2015 at 3:23 pm

Finding An Answer: Dogma, Frameworks, and Changing Your Mind

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Have you ever found yourself believing something “just because”? Just because your family does, your friends do, or the “facts” as you know them just seem intuitively correct? Maybe this belief has been there your entire life, and is cemented deeply in your psyche as “the truth” regardless of whether or not the facts support it. Or maybe you believe something, but have no clear idea where the belief started or why you believe it at all. My guess is that you, like me, believe a lot of things that have no basis in objective reality – but you have never stopped to question many of those beliefs.

It’s human nature to like things to be simple. We don’t like to muster up our cognitive reserves to dig into the rationale, the logic, the reasoning, or the “why” something is the way it is. It’s usually easier to simply believe the so-called experts and focus our energy elsewhere. Quite often this is the right tradeoff to make, in fact. You don’t have to research cyanide to know that you shouldn’t put it in your mouth – it doesn’t rank high enough on the “investment relative to importance” scale to question whether or not it will harm you. Similarly, there’s no reason (for most people at least) to personally test the safety features of their car. You can take it on faith and a small bit of research that the claims made by your car company are valid without putting them to the ultimate test. But there are other things that really DO matter – or at least SHOULD. Things that could make a BIG difference in your life if you spent the time digging into them to understand them just a little bit more… and didn’t assume the answer was correct “just because”.

The definition of dogma: a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true; prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true by a particular group.

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Written by Mike Torres

January 7th, 2015 at 8:44 pm

Books, Kettlebell Swings, and the Goal-Gradient Effect (Sunday Reads #1)

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Welcome to the first edition of Sunday Reads on Refocuser.  In an effort to both engage with my readers and have a complete archive of awesome stuff I’ve been reading, I’m going to start filtering the web for things that are most applicable to Refocuser subscribers.  This way you get the most out of subscribing to this blog and email newsletter.

These updates will consist mostly of links to other sites with minimal commentary, and will vary in length and depth.  They should be easily consumable… and should be fun.  Here we go.

Reading is Fundamental

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and Founder of Facebook, believes in the power of reading books.  He says, “I’ve found reading books very intellectually fulfilling. Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today. I’m looking forward to shifting more of my media diet towards reading books.”  I agree 100% and have joined his book club to follow along.

More on reading books: Reading in the Age of Amazon is a great profile of the people I work with every single day at Amazon and our mission to empower the world to read more every day.  In short, reading is good for you and, of course, Kindle is the best way to do it.

On Fitness, Nutrition, and Sleep

“Optimized meat products higher in omega-3″ reduce body fat more than “optimized” products lower in overall fat. This implies that if we’re going to be eating meat, we should seek out the grass-fed variety. (via Mark Sisson)

Keep reading this »

Written by Mike Torres

January 4th, 2015 at 11:53 am

Improve Your Health in 5 Minutes Flat with WellnessFX

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My blood draw took a total of about 5 minutes.  5 long minutes in a downtown Seattle lab… looking out the window, focused on the “Go Seahawks” and “12th Man” signs on nearby buildings so I didn’t pass out.  Something like 12 or 13 vials of blood were taken from my right arm and confirmed, one by one, that they were labeled correctly.  I thought I would be lying down in a spinning haze after the 6th vial but I breathed through it like a ninja warrior would.

One could say that the lengths I go to learn more about my mind and body are a tad bit excessive. And expensive.  But you can’t manage what you can’t measure, and in this case what I’m measuring include some of the most important indicators available today for overall health, well being, and spiritual, mental, and physical performance.  If there’s something I could be doing to feel better, think better, or move better that I’m not already doing, I want to know immediately.  Am I overtraining? Am I more stressed than I thought I was? Are my hormones getting in the way of my training progress or ability to solve problems at work? Is chronic inflammation an issue and if so, why? Do I need to scale back on my creatine or fish oil supplementation?  Is lack of vitamin D holding me back during the winter months?  What about the summer?  Is my Primal/Paleo lifestyle actually improving my health as promised or making it worse?  And so on.

WellnessFX

Enter WellnessFXWellnessFX is a relatively young service with a pretty straightforward outward mission: to improve the health and performance of its clients through data. And that data comes from the ultimate source: your blood. A quick trip to a lab and a couple weeks later you have a complete analysis of the primary blood markers you should care about.

Why does this matter?

“The future has not been written. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.” – John Connor

What we eat and what we do in our everyday lives have major impacts on our body and mind.  The field of epigenetics explains how controllable environment factors like your diet, your training, your friends and family, your job and stress levels, and the sunlight or toxins you’re exposed to can trigger gene expression.  So while we may be pre-coded for certain outcomes, we aren’t prisoners to those outcomes.  We have a lot more control over how our body ages and adapts to external stimuli.  So if we care enough about living better, there’s frankly a lot we can do.

I do believe that taking your health into your own hands is an important skill to hone.  I’ve found that far too few doctors keep up on the latest research, so their recommendations are typically outdated (“eat a low-fat diet and lose weight”).  And the lack of true personal connection with patients means their advice is almost always based on limited information about you.  So it’s best to arm yourself with the same data they have – and then some – since only you know how you actually feel at any given time.  In other words, a medical doctor has a role in your overall wellness, but so do you.

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Written by Mike Torres

February 5th, 2014 at 9:35 pm

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