Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category
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.
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.
Enter WellnessFX. WellnessFX 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.
Last year I wrote The Unconventional Gym Bag: 5 Cool Things You Don’t Use and a few months prior, I wrote about Building the Perfect Home Gym. As expected, my training has evolved over the past year – and will continue to evolve – and the contents of my actual gym bag (and home gym) have also been upgraded. I take my training seriously – more seriously every year – and making sure I’m up-to-date on the latest and greatest is part of the fun.
While I’m a strong believer in self-experimentation, I also “keep it real” with basics in every training session. Loads of bodyweight workouts for general physical preparedness, and of course moving big iron for strength skill work. My strength & conditioning sessions (the primary choice for my entire adult life) consist primarily of the basics: kettlebells, deadlift, squat, bench press, and military press variations. Depending on my goals at the time, I vary the sets, reps, tempo, rest periods, and “supplementary” work. Sometimes the goal is to get stronger or bigger, sometimes it’s to get faster, and sometimes it’s to get leaner. I enlist the help of an awesome, experienced strength coach every few weeks or months to make sure my form is spot-on, and that I’m constantly improving (something I shouldn’t have waited so long to do).
I’ve also evolved my programming and have found a pretty good rhythm. After tearing my right medial meniscus after a July 4th Crossfit workout last year, I realized the hard way that there is a big difference between exercising and training. As much as I loved Crossfit workouts, anyone will sweat and feel spent if pushed to the breaking point. Training is different. Training is personal. Training is about goals. Now, every time I enter the gym, I have a goal to hit. That’s what training is all about. No more random daily workouts with no structure or sound programming behind them.
So what’s new in my gym bag? Let’s get to it.
Some days you feel like absolutely nothing can go wrong. You’re on fire, unstoppable. Ideas are flowing, confidence is high, and you’re walking around with your chin up and your back straight. There’s no better feeling than knowing you’re at the top of your game. The world is your oyster. Everything you touch seems to turn to gold and you wonder how you were ever stagnant before.
Until the past few years, I had really only been able to identify these times when looking back. Now I’m acutely aware of them when I’m in them and I grab onto them and try not to let go when that train is rolling.
But these feelings never last long. Maybe a day or two, maybe a little more. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a full week of this superhuman ability to create things out of nothing without obstruction. Sooner or later things will return to normal and there’s no explanation why this happens. You just can’t self-motivate like you were able to the day before. Ideas are at a distance, just out of reach. You aren’t feeling flow and a day’s worth of work is taking two full days instead of just three hours.
It’s crazy frustrating when this happens. You try and recreate the environment, the feeling you had, and you just can’t. Your mind has moved on, your thoughts are elsewhere, and your current experience has been altered in some inexplicable way. And you don’t like it at all.
What happened? Well, nothing at all. It’s perfectly normal for creativity to ebb and flow like this. It happens to every single creative person dozens – even hundreds – of times throughout a year. It’s just not possible to keep anything running at its highest capacity all the time.
But are there ways to keep it running for as long as you can? Maybe. There are things you can do that will help but only in the sense that they may be able to prolong that window. There’s no guarantee that these things will work every time, but if they buy you an extra few days or a shorter period in the downswing, it could be worth it.
Keeping yourself satiated throughout the day is one surefire key to focusing. You can’t really focus if you can’t think, and you can’t think unless you’re constantly replenishing your brain fuel. Snacking in-between regular meals is one of the best ways to do this.
With snacks you’re able to maintain “normal” eating times for social purposes (although it’s recommended you eat smaller meals rather than “typical” portions). But by supplementing with simple snacks, you keep yourself from getting hungry between meals which has a number of benefits: 1) you’re less inclined to eat a stack of donuts out of desperation, 2) you keep your blood sugar level steady which leads to an enhanced mood and stronger focus, and 3) your metabolism will have a higher steady state which can lead to accelerated fat loss. What’s not to love about this?
In other words: eating just 2-3x daily is for losers. You need to eat more often. And the easiest way to do this is to snack, snack, snack. Keeping your snacks small and simple to prep is also key, which is why Greek yogurt, almonds, and green tea is so great – and string cheese and an apple are as well.
The clock just hit 4pm and you’re sitting at your desk staring at your computer monitor with your eyelids heavier than boulders. Your last meal was 4 hours ago so your stomach is growling loud enough for the guy in the next office to hear, and your energy level couldn’t be lower if you were actually sleeping. You can’t concentrate, you can’t get your eyes to focus, and you feel like just curling up into a fetal position and giving up on the day.
But you can’t of course; you have work to do. So what do you do? There are a number of things you can do in times like this to increase your focus: one of the best things you could do is go for a brisk 10 minute walk to get your blood flowing. But another great option is to eat. In fact, you should have eaten something before you got to this stage, making it a point to eat something every few hours to keep yourself energized throughout the day.
Here’s a great, simple snack to pick you up – remember, it’s best consumed before you hit rock-bottom. I keep a small refrigerator in my office to make sure I’m never without these three essentials.