Master These 7 Tiny Swimming Improvements for Big Performance Gains

By Nick Meyer

What would give you the most time savings in an IRONMAN 70.3 or IRONMAN-distance swim? Would you say it’s the weeks of structured training and improving your cardiovascular efficiency or effectively performing open water drills and skills (i.e. sighting, pacing and navigation) more efficiently?

What if I told you that small skill improvements would give you more noticeable results? Indeed, by applying the theory of marginal or small one percent improvements to every aspect of your triathlon swimming, you can get the most benefit and time savings. These are in the form of open water swim skills and drills, tips, insights and advice for improving your swim stroke and technique, not numerous hours in the pool or lake.

If you can improve everything you do in the water by one percent, then the net effect is a much greater performance in the water than just cardiovascular efficiency alone.

This article will help you to apply this theory to open water swimming 70.3 and Ironman.

The Aggregation of Marginal Gains in Open Water Swimming

It’s so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making better decisions on a daily basis.

Almost every swimming habit that you have — good or bad — is the result of many small decisions over time. It takes lots of perfect practice to ingrain movements into muscle memory, and into actions where our neuromuscular system eventually enable these patterns to become automatic. For every action in water, there is an opposite and equal reaction. This can be unforgiving at times, yet when performed correctly can help propel us forward with greater ease, speed and power through the water.

Meanwhile, improving by just one percent often isn’t notable (and sometimes it isn’t even noticeable). But it can be just as meaningful, especially in the longer swims of an IRONMAN or IRONMAN 70.3.

And from what I can tell, this pattern works the same way in reverse. (An aggregation of marginal losses, in other words). If you find yourself stuck with bad habits or poor results, it’s usually not because something happened overnight. It’s the sum of many small choices — a one percent decline here and there—that eventually leads to a problem.

06157-master-these-7-tiny-swimming-improvements-for-big-performance-gains-fig1

There is power in small wins and slow gains. This is why average speed yields above average results. This is why the system is greater than the goal. This is why mastering your habits is more important than achieving a certain outcome.

So where can you find these tiny percentage improvements in your swimming technique for open water?

1. Sighting and Navigation

Did you know that you can add 20 percent or more to your overall open water swim race distance by not sighting effectively or often enough? We often see GPS swim tracks where swimmers have gone further than they expected. For example, swimming 2700m in a 1900m IRONMAN 70.3 swim due to poor sighting.

Sighting every six to eight strokes and checking on your navigation reference regularly is important to swimming and sighting effectively (and ensuring that you swim in a straight line). It’s best to sight on something higher like a darker tree, building, or spire, than a buoy in the water! Learning to sight efficiently while swimming in open water saves time and energy.

  1. Sight after you breathe, there’s more time for water to clear from your goggles, thus improving visibility, and less drag from pulling your head directly forward out of the water.
  2. Practice sighting off landmarks such as highly visible buildings or other structures on shore. Don’t rely solely on race buoys as they can be harder to see while in the water. In a race choose these landmarks beforehand while you’re warming up or during practice swims.

Practice sighting by turning your head slightly forward either before or after taking a breath. When sighting after a breath, you are more likely to rely on peripheral vision, which will also reduce drag.

2. Pacing for Open Water Swim Racing – Sprinting and Threshold Efforts

Being able to maintain and control your race pace under fatigue, and maintaining your technique becomes even more important in the IRONMAN 70.3 and IRONMAN swim legs.

If for example your goal is to swim 3800m in open water in 64 minutes, the pace you want to hold for each 100 meters is a 1:36 pace. You want to be able to hold this pace throughout your 1,900m or 3800m swim distance.

Build up to this gradually over time, starting at 10×100, working up to 40x100m.

Many triathletes wonder if they should sprint off the start line of a longer swim race. Be aware if you haven’t conditioned your body for some sprints over a number of weeks that you’ll produce high levels of lactic acid during the initial several hundred yards of the swim, and as such you may not recover for 10 to 15 minutes. That is a lot of lost time  until you can swim at your target race pace again, and it is likely to have diminishing returns in your overall time.

Try this swim session and see how you feel. It will make you as strong as an ox, and as fast as a cheetah using positive split intervals.

SUPERSETS X 5

  • Swim a good warm-up and cool down with this session as this set is very tough and you need to be prepared to work very hard.)
  • 5 x 150m as 50m front crawl flat out, then straight into 100m at 80-85 percent effort with 60 seconds rest at the end of each 150m.

Great swimmers have a variety of speeds, including warm up, aerobic training speeds, lactate speeds and pure print speeds. Having knowledge and an inherent feel for what these are will help you in swim races, and in particular knowing whether to sprint in mass starts.

By learning what your race pace is (and how to hold onto it), by making minor adjustments to your technique, by drafting and sighting well, you can create valuable savings in the water.

One way to check if your pacing is on target is to see if you can do even splits (+/- 3 seconds) over 15 x 200 meters free at your race pace with 60 seconds rest in between. Work up to this pacing test over a few weeks.

3. Technique for Turning around Buoys Effectively

Do you feel like you lose your way a bit when turning around buoys in open water? Or, when you’re racing, are you filled with dread at the thought of being punched and kicked just as you’re about to breathe?

Try swimming slightly wider around the buoy away from the corner where everyone tends to congregate. Practice turning around the “T” at the end of the lane in the pool first, then progress to open water. You’ll need to sight straight after your turn to re-align with your navigation point ahead quickly.

Depending on the race course, you may end up performing up to four or five turns around a buoy or other non-moving object in the water. You should be practicing to use these pace changes to your advantage.

  • Choose an object in the water to practice turns.
  • When approaching the turn, you should transition to one-side-only breathing with every stroke.
  • The side you breathe on needs to be facing whatever object you are turning around (another sighting drill).
  • Try to cut the turn as close as possible, which may require you to use short, choppy strokes.
  • Practice transitioning from a tight, choppy turn back into a long, relaxed glide, as you would do in the race.
  • Go for eight to 10 turn repeats.

Also practice doing “Crazy Ivan” turnarounds in open water, where you turn a full 360 degrees. Keep your strokes short and in the direction of your turn, keep kicking, and arc you body around the buoy. Over emphasizing the turn like this makes it easier in a race—and it’s fun too!

4. Drafting Techniques that Will Help Save You Time and Effort in a Race

You could save as much as 18 to 25 percent of your energy swimming in open water by drafting efficiently and effectively. This means you could save up to 90 seconds over 1900m, or three minutes over 3.8km!

By swimming in someone’s wake who is slightly faster than you, you’ll save quite a bit of your energy in open water, enabling you to swim faster than you would normally. Practicing swimming in close proximity to others will ensure you get used to this feeling.

There are two methods of drafting, one where you position yourself about 12 inches behind the swimmer’s feet, and the other where you swim close to the lead swimmer’s hip. Make sure you keep sighting in each position. Don’t necessarily trust that the swimmer you’re drafting is navigating perfectly.

However, by drafting effectively, you can significantly reduce your oxygen uptake, heart rate, blood lactate,  and rate of perceived exertion. Additionally, your stroke length is dramatically increased when in an ideal drafting position.

5. Mass Starts Techniques

Does a feeling of panic start to overcome you when you think about open water mass starts? There are several things you can do to manage these fears.

  1. Position yourself in the pack so you breathe toward the group. For example, if you normally breathe in a race to your right, start on the far left hand side. This way you’ll be out of the melee of the main group, and in your own space more.
  2. Float horizontally in the water prior to the start so you can get the best send off when the gun goes. This also gives you more space around you than a deep water “legs down” start position, limiting people swimming on top of your legs.
  3. If you don’t want to be a part of all those flying arms and legs, then plan your escape route before the race starts. Don’t start in the middle of the front. Start at the back, where nobody else will really want your space in the water.

6. Adapting to Wetsuit Swimming

Swimming in a wetsuit can give you between a seven and 10 second improvement over 100m than swimming without one. Also, as you go higher up the product range, the available technology helps you to swim faster and stay more stable and higher in the water.

The overall savings can be as high as two minutes for an IRONMAN swim, (The test group for this study were all tested with Race Zone 3 wetsuits, at the same heart rate, and perceived effort of exertion on the same size loop in a lake).

Practicing drills which make you feel slightly disorientated in the pool are very useful for distraction control and maintaining your rhythm and tempo when swimming in a race. This way you can also be accustomed to getting bumped about by other triathletes swimming in close proximity to you.

We would recommend the following swim drills to help you get the most out of swimming in your wetsuit:

  • Zips
  • Turnarounds
  • Barrel rolls and somersaults
  • Eyes closed with sighting
  • High elbow recovery
Zips Slide your thumb up your side from hip to armpit Promotes high elbow recovery
Barrel rolls While doing front crawl, keep kicking and rotate yourself 360 degrees mid stroke holding a lead arm in front for balance Body roll and power in core /obliques and helps develop muscles used in rotation
Turnarounds Practice turning around the “T” at the end of the lane in the pool first, then progress to open water. You’ll need to sight straight after your turn to re-align with your navigation point ahead quickly Teaches you to do buoy turns effectively in open water. Try to make them as tight and fluid as possible
Eyes closed swimming Practice this in a pool, in the middle 10 to 15 meters of the lane close your eyes to see if you can stay swimming straight (only if no one else is swimming in the lane, or in an organized club session) This shows you if your stroke pulls you to one side or is uneven, and you’re likely to do this in open water. If you do, sight more often (every 6-8 strokes consistently)
Chicken wings Touch your hands into your armpits High elbow recovery
Somersault Front somersault start in deep water, with 15 yards max effort, 35 yards easy. Repeat  6 times. 60 seconds rest in between each Good for distraction control and maintaining tempo / rhythm. These can be combined with barrel rolls for a real challenge to maintain our rhythm and tempo

7. Sea Swimming

The sea can present many different challenges to your normal swim stroke. For example, in choppy water, if you keep your fingers just above the surface of the water, then you are quite likely to have an unexpected wave come along and cause your hand to enter the water below your shoulder. In order to allow a reasonable stroke, you need to have a much higher recovery with your hand in open water.

Top Tips for Sea Swimming

  1. Sighting in swell: You would have no doubt seen in the Olympics open water race, it a slightly different technique to sighting in flat water. Due to the size of the swell you’ll either need to lift your head higher, or sight on the crest of the wave. If it’s choppy be prepared to sight more, as the currents can move you around more than normal.
  2. Navigation: Sight on something that’s high if you can, or if swimming parallel to the beach, sight horizontally as well as forward to maintain your position.
  3. Bilateral breathing: It’s recommended to be able to breathe bilaterally while swimming in the sea, for two reasons. One is for making sure you hold your position in a group and to make sure the currents are not moving you around too much. Two, if you’re swimming a rectangular course and the swell is high, then sighting toward the beach going out and back, will stop you from swallowing lots of water— if you’re breathing in toward a wave rather than from away from it.
  4. Drafting in currents: If there is a current pulling you away from the first buoy, try angling yourself into the current more. So if the current pulls you to the right, swim more over to the left about 30 degrees, so you’ll then be drifting in an arc to the right spot to turn next to the buoy.
  5. Wading: Running in the water up to knee height, by flicking your feet out laterally and your knees inward slightly. Doing this will help you to run and keep your feet clear of the sea water and waves. This is much quicker than swimming at this depth.
  6. Dolphining: To get past the breaking waves, it’s best to use a dolphining technique. This involves a mixture of a butterfly swim technique, with launching yourself into a dive, touching the sea bed / sand with your hands and then pushing yourself back up again into a dive. Only do this until the water is about waist deep, after this it’s best to start swimming normally.
  7. Beach starts: You can have a lot of fun with this next exercise as long as you have a safe beach entry for practice. Be sure to check for submerged objects that you might not have otherwise seen when entering for your warm-up. If you’re with friends, divide yourself up into pairs and label yourself one and two while standing on the beach looking out to the water.Upon the command “Go!” attempt a safe beach entry into the open water using wading and porpoising skills. Once you are deep enough, swim 40 strokes away from shore before turning and swimming back fast to the beach, making sure you avoid any head-on collisions with any other swimmers in the process. Run up onto the beach and tag your partner. Let them do the same 40 strokes before you take over again and then each do 30 strokes, then 20 strokes, then 10 strokes.

Conclusion

By applying these small, one-percent gains from every aspect of your swimming technique, they can all add up to something fundamentally larger than the original whole you once knew as your swimming stroke! Let’s see how much we can help you improve your swimming technique and fitness over the next few months, so you can have the best swimming season yet.

 

About Nick 

Nick de Meyer is the author of Speedy Freestyle, a front crawl swim drills book, and he is a level 2 British Triathlon Coach.

How to Make the Jump from Marathons to Ultras

Marathons to UltrasAndrew Simmons – Lifelong Endurance

With more and more people signing up for ultra-marathons—are you starting to get the itch too? These guidelines will show you how to make the jump from marathons to ultras and give you some key tips for having the best race possible.

It All Starts With a Plan

Longer distances will require more time in many aspects. Make sure you have the time to commit to training. Starting with a good training plan or a coach and an idea of how many hours you can train each week is key. Take some time to find the right plan and the right coach to suit your needs and your training availability.

Know Your Time Frame

If you’re currently in good shape you can prepare for a 50Km in roughly 12 weeks. However, if you’re starting from scratch give yourself plenty of time, up to 24 weeks to prepare for your event. Add an additional eight to 10 weeks of training for events that are between 50Km and 100 miles in length.

5 Tips for Your Best Race

Run Where You Race – Or As Close As You Can

It can be hard to find trail access in urban areas, however it’s a pretty safe bet most ultras will take you off road and onto a trail. For some, finding a trail or technical section can require some creativity, but it is worth the extra effort and possible drive time.

Getting onto a trail and off the roads can beneficial in multiple ways; it helps break up training by taking you out of your comfort zone, gets you into new training situations and will require you to think on your feet. Thinking on your feet and even getting a little lost is a crucial part of long-distance run training and developing a strong sense of direction and the ability to cope in the event of a mistake is a necessary skill.

Take to trails in small doses if you’re not a regular trail runner. If you’re totally lost, remember that trail running offers the bonus of less impact on you and your body. Less impact and more time on feet will help increase your durability both mentally and physically. It won’t always be easy!

Throw Away Your Ego

The first thing you’ll notice is that kilometre splits and hitting very specific times go out of the window at first. If you think you’re going to run a consistent pace front to back in an ultra, you will come to a harsh realization at your first hill or technical section.

Ultra-marathons require a “manage it as it happens” approach. While a road marathon requires supreme fitness, an ultra requires similar fitness with the added challenge of solving problems as you run. Running down a steep technical hill with rocks and roots and then quickly back up a wet culvert requires good fitness and the ability to control yourself so you can get to the finish line in one piece.

Time on Your Feet Is King

This doesn’t mean you can’t use fitness markers to your advantage in a race. A majority of ultra-marathon plans are based on heart rate (HR) and require you to find a comfortable zone that you can run in and then endure for four to seven hours to complete the course.

Keeping yourself in an aerobic zone allows you to utilize onboard energy more efficiently and will keep you feeling fresh longer. Tip over your HR threshold a few too many times and you may find your race a lot tougher during those last 10 miles.

Mileage is not always the best marker when going off road; time on your feet matters more than the weekly mileage totals. You’ll find that if a majority of your work is truly aerobic, you’ll be running slower than you may have been in previous training build ups. This will require you to reframe what’s important in your ultra training. Looking at your total weekly hours and building up to more consecutive hours will be key to building yourself into an ultra-marathon runner.

Pressure Test The System

Ultra-marathon training on the surface simply requires you to run longer, pushing you out of your comfort zone mentally and physically. One of the biggest roadblocks for a successful first ultra is not having tested yourself at your race effort. You may find that you need to adjust for electrolytes after two to three hours, that you do better with solid food the first half of a race, or that you need to change shoes because your feet swell in warm temperatures. These small nuances can have a huge impact on your race—especially once you start looking at 50km and above races

Hydration and fuelling strategies should be tested on your long runs and you should start to note what it feels like when you’re dehydrated or low on fuel. Your long runs are your chance to try out new fuels. Learning how to work through a bad stretch in a long run is a vital learning experience in many ways!

A key component to your success is getting in the training but also replicating what you’re going to expect to see on race day; think about the terrain, major elements like long hills, extended descents or race day conditions like extreme heat or cold.

You’re Stronger and More Capable than You Think

It’s hard to imagine what running 50kms or more will feel like and I can’t even tell you what you will personally experience. To some that extra five miles is an eternity and to others it’s a natural and more comfortable progression.  Pacing yourself and taking the race aid station to aid station is going to help you break the race into manageable chunks. Give yourself a boost at each aid station as a reward, or imbibe in an aid station treat (believe me they have some amazing things at these trail races!).

An ultra requires mental persistence, self-affirmation and a belief that you can complete it. Many professionals utilize mantras to keep them focused and “in the zone.” Others like to use music, podcasts or other tactics to push the little monster out from inside their head. Using a motivational tool or pacer can be a huge help  toward ensuring your success on race day.

Recovery

First and foremost, ultras are longer than you’ve ever gone before. In both training and racing, you’ll be pushing your body into new territories.  This can come with its own aches and pains; post-race you’ll want to give yourself an extra seven to 10 days of low mileage on top of your normal marathon recovery protocol.

Following your first ultra you should allow yourself five days of low impact activity directly following and roughly 10 to 14 days before you return to your normal training or start to focus on your next event. Remember, the first one always takes the longest to recover from! In rare cases there can be minimal soreness; don’t let this fool you. Long distance racing takes a larger and more impactful metabolic, mental and physiological toll that can put you down for longer than you think.

Take this time to enjoy activities you missed out on during peak training and maybe sleep in a little and slowly introduce yourself back to training. After all, recovery is the second best part after the race itself!

Why Am I So Hungry All the Time?

Why am I so hungry all the time? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Sometimes it’s real hunger and we need to eat but other times we are ravenous just 30 minutes after eating! What’s up? Today we’re taking a look at hunger, what causes it and what we can do to manage it.

WhyHungry1

WHY AM I SO HUNGRY ALL THE TIME?

It’s crazy, right? You just ate a huge meal and an hour later, you’re starving. What gives? Why am I so hungry all the time?! You might feel like you’re always hungry, or maybe you’re not hungry at all until you eat, and then you’re ravenous, or maybe y0u just ate a huge meal, feeling totally stuffed, only to be hungry again shortly after. Your hunger is always there and often in charge of your whole day.

FIRST OF ALL, YOUR HUNGER ISN’T IN CHARGE

I’ve been there, guys. My hunger used to be in charge, big time. The slightest sensation of hunger and I was in a panic that I needed to eat and I needed to eat now. I’ve since accepted that my hunger is not an emergency. Hunger isn’t in control and you have the power to decide how to respond to it.

AM I REALLY HUNGRY?

If you’re reading this, chances are you aren’t starving. We are lucky enough to live in a part of the world where we have access to as much quality food as we need. Your body will be just fine if you don’t feed it at it’s beckon call.

I’m not saying don’t listen to your body. Often, we’re legitimately hungry and it’s time to re-fuel. However, sometimes what we’re experiencing isn’t true hunger. If we can develop a better understanding of hunger and use our common sense, we can determine if we’re truly hungry and need to eat.

Our bodies are highly intelligent and complex but they don’t always know exactly what’s best for us, so next time you find yourself “starving” when you recently ate a meal, it’s time to look a little further. In addition to feeling hungry, sometimes our brains come in with an appetite and ask for things we really don’t need. Say hello to cravings!

It can be challenging to make quality food choices if you’re always hungry. You arrive home from work ravenous and it’s tempting to grab the first thing you see rather than preparing a healthy meal. You ate a sugary breakfast that left your stomach asking for more just 30 minutes later so you decide to hit the vending machine. Feel too hungry, too often and it’s almost impossible to consistently make good food choices.

If you’re constantly battling hunger, eating quality food in the right amounts becomes difficult to maintain, so we end up making poor choices and so continues the cycle.

What might be missing in your diet and what aspects of your lifestyle could be improved to help manage hunger?

WhyHungry3

WHAT CONTROLS HUNGER

Hunger is primarily controlled by hormones and hormones are affected by the what and how much we eat. There are a number of key hormones that affect hunger. Leptin and ghrelin are considered to be the “hunger hormones” but serotonin, dopamine, neuropeptides and glucagon also play a role.

Understanding how ghrelin and leptin work can help us get hunger under control and reduce the frequency and intensity of hunger sensations. Today, we’re just going to look at ghrelin because it’s the bad boy responsible for making you feel so damn hungry all the time.

WHAT IS GHRELIN?

First of all, I think ghrelin is an appropriate name for this hunger hormone, don’t you think? It reminds me of gremlin, or some pesky, little monster that lives in our bellies, always freakin’ hungry and demanding that we feed it. Rawr!

Ghrelin is secreted by the stomach and is responsible for causing feelings of hunger, hanger and “I might die and/or kill someone if I don’t eat.” Ghrelin also encourages the body to store fat, particularly around the liver and abdominal area. Just what we’re looking for, right?

Luckily, we can tame hunger by controlling ghrelin levels though food and lifestyle choices. Ghrelin is affected not only by what we eat but by everything from stress to sleep, so approaching nutrition from a total wellness perspective can go a long way.

AGAIN, WHY AM I SO HUNGRY ALL THE TIME?!?

We know that ghrelin is responsible for causing us to feel hungry and that ghrelin levels are affected by our food and lifestyle choices. What is it exactly that we’re doing and eating that’s affecting ghrelin? Let’s look at how we can manage ghrelin, then look at what else can increase hunger.

WhyHungry4

5 WAYS TO CONTROL GHRELIN LEVELS

  1. Avoid very low calorie diets.Heavily restricting calories (we’re talking 1000 calories per day or less) increases ghrelin production and abdominal fat storage. Your body is like, hey I’m starving over here! I’m gonna store every little bit of food I get, just in case I need it. This doesn’t mean you can’t reduce body fat though a slow and steady calorie deficit but extreme restriction of calories is dangerous for both your physical and your mental health.
  2. Eat fibre and high-volume foods.When the walls of the stomach experience stretching or pressure from high-volume, fibrous foods, ghrelin production is suppressed. Keeping the belly full of high-volume foods can go along way in managing hunger. I find including a few servings of vegetables at breakfast really helps keep me full throughout the morning.
  1. Eat more omega-3s. You can use an omega-3 supplementwith EPA and DPA and/or include plenty of foods in your diet that contain them. When we don’t get enough EPA and DHA, it can increase ghrelin production and thereby fat storage around the abdominal area. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids has also been shown to boost leptin and reduce inflammation in the body.
  2. Support healthy digestion.A healthy gut can help control hunger and body weight. To promote healthy digestion, enjoy fermented foods and beverages, digestion-supporting foods, spices an d herbs and consider a probiotic supplement.
  3. Eat less fructose.Fructose raises ghrelin levels and suppresses hormones that trigger fullness. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat fruit but you try to avoid processed foods which typically have a high amount of fructose in them, often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. There’s nothing good in there. Eat real food.

Ghrelin is also affected by stress, exercise and sleep, so always remember that total wellness is key!

Okay, we looked at how we can control ghrelin production but what else has an effect on hunger? Well, there’s one huge factor that not only causes hunger but neglecting to manage it can have a number of negative impacts on the body. Did you guess what it is? Yep, blood sugar!

WhyHungry5

HOW BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS EFFECT HUNGER

Maintaining stable blood sugar is one of the most important jobs the body does for us and we don’t always make it an easy one. We sometimes overeat or eat too much sugar, creating spikes in blood sugar that our body has to scramble to correct. This is tough on the body and is at the root of diabetes, obesity and a number of other health concerns.

BLOOD SUGAR PEAKS AND VALLEYS

Hunger is triggered by low blood sugar and this triggering can happen whether you actually need re-fuel or not. If our blood sugar gets too low, our energy levels drop and we experience hunger sensations. Alternatively, high blood sugar can be toxic and dangerous for the body. Big spikes in blood sugar cause big crashes in blood sugar, which causes hunger, leading to overeating and poor food choices. Maintaining stable blood sugar through a healthy diet can go along way in reducing hunger.

WHAT CAUSES SPIKES IN BLOOD SUGAR

Well, it’s pretty simple. Eat foods primarily made up of sugar and you’ll experience a spike in blood sugar and consequent crash. High blood sugar can also be caused by overeating. When we overeat, our bodies go into overdrive to deal with an abundance of sugar.

As the body deploys insulin and quickly compensates to bring blood sugar levels back down, we experience low blood sugar shortly after eating. That’s your body sending you a message that you need to bring your blood sugar levels back up ie. hey, I’m hungry, feed me!

When we experience this kind of hunger it’s pretty clear we don’t need to eat again.We just ate. Don’t add fuel to the fire. Let your body deal with the effects of overeating before you give it more to handle.

HOW TO PROMOTE STABLE BLOOD SUGAR

There are plenty of ways we can assist the body in maintaining stable blood sugar. Blood sugar levels are always going to go up and down but the key is preventing big peaks and valleys. Eat a bunch of sugar on an empty stomach, spike your blood sugar, the body compensates, crashing blood sugar levels, the body sends you a hunger message, you eat again, the cycle continues.

You don’t need to immediately react to that hunger!

Ideally, we’d prevent these blood sugar spikes in the first place. Lets look at a few ways we can help promote stable blood sugar levels.

10 WAYS TO BALANCE BLOOD SUGAR

  1. Include healthy fats at every meal.Fats have the lowest impact on blood sugar levels and help increase satiety by slowing down the absorption of glucose into the blood stream. Get those avocados and nuts into your diet!
  2. Eat enough protein. Compared to carbohydrates, protein is digested more slowly and when it’s consumed on it’s own, doesn’t create the spike in blood sugar that carbs do. Remember, low-sugar protein powder and bars are okay to help supplement protein but it’s important to include whole food protein sources in your diet.
  3. Eat a balance macronutrients at each meal to help slow down the digestive process. Carbohydrates are essential and typically make up somewhere between 40 and 60% of a healthy diet. The key is to include a balance of carbohydrates, fats and protein with every meal to help slow down their digestion and keep you full. That being said, sometimes we want quick digesting carbohydrates, for example, when we’re weightlifting or performing high-intensity exercise but we’ll look at that another day!
  4. Eat more non-starchy vegetables.These high-volume, fibrous veggies are digested more slowly than starchy vegetables and have a low impact on blood sugar.
  5. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can cause an immediate rise in blood sugar and then a large drop a few hours later. If you do consume alcohol, do so in moderation and with some food in your stomach.
  6. Include fibre with every meal.Similarly to fat and protein, fiber can help to promote satiety and help slow digestion, preventing spikes in blood sugar. Fiber also provides a range of other health benefits and is a very important part of a healthy diet.
  7. Excercise. Exercising on a consistent basis lowers your blood glucose and helps keep blood sugar levels stable.
  8. Start the day with a balanced, higher protein meal.Even though I love oatmeal and smoothies at breakfast, it’s important to include a balance of fats and protein. A good choice for vegans and vegetarians is a non-starchy vegetable scramble with tempeh or quinoa porridge with nuts and hemp seeds.
  9. Don’t skip meals. Eat balanced meals and snacks every 3-4 hours or so to help keep blood sugar stable and prevent overeating.
  10. Eat ceylon, or true cinnamon.True cinnamon has been shown to help balance blood sugar levels. Try mixing it into tea or coffee, using it in baking and other recipes, sprinkling it on hot and cold cereal and even using it to spice curries. There are a number of benefits to including ceylon over regular cinnamon in your diet, so while it’s a bit of a splurge, if you can get your hands on some, I think it’s worth it.

LIFESTYLE CHOICES AFFECTING HUNGER AND BLOOD SUGAR

Stress, exercise, dehydration and sleep all play a roll in hunger.

STRESS MANAGEMENT

Not managing our stress levels can cause cortisol levels to remain high in the body, effectively increasing our appetite. We’ve all been there. Stress eating, emotional eating, whatever you want to call it. High stress levels can effect our appetite, which is psychological drive that causes us to crave particular foods, not to be mixed up with real hunger. Mindful eating and bringing awareness to times you overeat can distinguish between appetite and true hunger. A food journal is often helpful in this case!

EXERCISE, HYDRATION AND SLEEP

As for exercise, daily movement promotes a healthy metabolism, proper digestion, helps to manage stress and of course, has wide range of other health benefits. Do it. Every day!

Dehydration is huge too, and you’ve probably heard it 100 times. Drink more water! As for sleeping, a lack of quality sleep may have a direct effect on how hungry we feel. Sleep duration has been found to reduce levels of leptin, an appetite suppressing hormone and increase levels of ghrelin, stimulating hunger. Not only that, a lack of quality sleep effects mood, recovery, memory, blood sugar and energy levels. I’ll be talking about my routine for a great nights sleep in an upcoming post. Don’t miss it!

NOW WHAT?

Alright! That was really fun to chat about. We talked all about ghrelin, how to manage it to control hunger and what we can do to promote stable blood sugar. Where to go from here….

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

When it comes to nutrition and fat loss, knowledge is power. Arm yourself with the tools you need to succeed. Read, listen to podcasts, surround yourself with people who share similar goals and that you can learn from. The more we understand about our bodies and how powerful the food we eat is, the easier it becomes to consistently make quality food choices. That chocolate chip muffin might not be as appealing when you know it will cause a spike in blood sugar, causing you to crash and leaving you feeling hungry shortly after eating it, creating an endless cycle.

WHERE TO START

If that all seems overwhelming to you, don’t worry about it! Pick one thing to focus on. Maybe you start by including one omega-3 rich food in your diet every day. Or maybe instead of a whole chocolate chip muffin, you eat half along side a big tofu and vegetable scramble. Maybe you focus on getting to bed an hour earlier this week.

Improvement over perfection, guys. It’s a lifelong journey and it isn’t a linear one! These aren’t the rules and they certainly aren’t set in stone. Sometimes we’re going to eat the damn (vegan) doughnut. These are simply some steps you can take to help get a hold of your hunger. One step of a time, you don’t have to do all these things at once. Perfection only sets us up for failure.  Consistency and steady improvement are the golden ticket.

It’s never to late to educate yourself, improve your diet and keep striving towards your best self. When we feel good, feel comfortable in our skin and have plenty of energy, everything in life gets easier, so keep after it, guys!

Strive to be the best version of yourself, at any given time, with what you have.

Milk is for Babies

March 17, 2017 by

milkWhen Arnold Schwarzenegger was asked if he drinks milk, he famously answered that «milk is for babies», implying that it’s not good for adults to consume this white liquid. To most people, this statement probably seems highly controversial, and based on their knowledge, incorrect. They may have been consuming cow’s milk their whole life and have been led to believe that milk is a very healthy food; a belief that has likely been imprinted in them by the dairy industry – which has done a remarkably “good” job of convincing the public that milk is the perfect food, for adults and children alike – and government nutritional agencies – which typically recommend that everyone should consume low-fat dairy products.

Not everyone is on board the ship that holds these beliefs though. Some people, myself included, are a lot more skeptical when it comes to the healthfulness of milk. I actually think Arnold hits the nail on the head with his statement. He may have been half-joking, but the fact is that milk is indeed for babies. There’s no doubt that milk is the perfect food for a growing child. It’s not the perfect food for an adult though.

What role does milk play in the mammalian diet?

The milk of each mammalian species here on Earth was designed by evolutionary forces (e.g., natural selection) to support the growth and development of the young of that species. It was obviously not designed to promote health or longevity in members of another species.

This basic fact is often left out in discussions about milk. Instead of taking a step back and asking what role milk plays in our diet, dietitians typically jump straight into the specifics and examine what types of nutrients and other compounds that are present in the white liquid we call milk.

This approach is very common in nutrition, regardless of what type of food that’s being investigated. This is unfortunate, because this approach doesn’t really give us a good answer as to whether or not it’s healthy to consume the food in question.

The fact that a specific food is high in certain vitamins or minerals or low in certain nutrients that are believed to cause us harm doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a healthy food. It’s important to see the forest for the trees. If we stand too close to the object under investigation, we’ll be able to closely inspect its composition and details; however, we may be unable to see the big picture of things.

Milk, regardless of what animal species it’s derived from, contains an impressive repertoire of nutrients, growth factors, hormones, and bacteria. These compounds are there for a reason; they didn’t just happen to be there by chance, which seems to be what some people think.

Here’s what a recent review paper had to say about the role milk plays in the mammalian diet:

Milk plays an exceptional role in the beginning of mammalian life and performs its biological function by delivering its amino acid hardware and exosomal microRNA software. These messengers of milk have only one primary mission: to activate and maintain mTORC1-dependent translation and other mTORC1-mediated anabolic effects during the period of postnatal growth and postnatal metabolic programming.

Mammary gland-derived exosomes transmit a sophisticated array of microRNAs that function as a “Trojan horse”, like a retrovirus infection, to “transfect“ the newborn infant with maternal microRNAs that modify infant’s gene expression at the level of posttranscriptional regulation [9,293,294]. In this context, milk is best viewed as each mammalian mother’s nutrigenomic doping system, accelerating postnatal anabolism, cell growth, and cell proliferation of the offspring. (1)

The unique properties of milk

Milk is a very special food. It is produced with the exact purpose of nourishing a growing child. Over evolutionary time, the milk of each species here on Earth has evolved, changing in its composition and nutritional characteristics. These changes have occurred as a result of selective forces acting upon the natural world.

Milk is also an extraordinarily dynamic food: it can change a lot in a very short time. These short-term changes are shaped by mother-child interactions. You may find it surprising to hear, but research has shown that a lactating mother can respond to her child’s needs by altering the production of antibodies and other compounds found in her breast milk (2). This is obviously not something she does consciously, but rather something that occurs naturally as a result of signaling between the mother and child.

This process clearly highlights that milk is a food that’s specifically produced for babies. It is tailored to provide babies with all the nutrients, microbes, and immune-enhancing substances they need to grow into healthy, strong adults that are able to reproduce themselves one day. Because that’s of course the fundamental reason why evolution “bothered” to design a white liquid that provides “everything” that young, fragile infants need to grow and survive in the big, scary world we find ourselves in; it helps them pass on their genes.

“But… I’ve heard that we’ve adapted to drink milk. If I’m not lactose intolerant, why shouldn’t I drink milk?”

I often come across people who make the case that we have adapted to drink milk. In support of this statement, they present evidence showing that a large proportion of the population in many European countries is able to digest lactose without experiencing gastrointestinal distress. In other words, they have a lactose-persistence phenotype.

What a lot of these people fail to recognize is that natural selection doesn’t select for health, but rather for reproductive success. The fact that you’re able to digest and make use of the nutrients in milk without experiencing any acute health problems doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s healthy for you to drink milk.

Lactase-persistence alleles didn’t spread in European populations because those people who were able to digest lactose lived longer, healthier lives than those who weren’t capable of breaking down this milk sugar, but rather because the former had a higher reproductive success than the latter. I.e., they got more surviving offspring.

This isn’t surprising, given that milk is a very nutritious food. Particularly during times of scarcity, it would have been a significant evolutionary advantage to be able to digest milk.

Often, health and reproductive success are linked; but not always. For example, some chronic diseases develop primarily late in life and have little impact on reproductive success. It’s therefore important that we don’t confuse evolutionary fitness with physical fitness. If a trait confers increased reproductive success, it will spread, regardless of how it affects the health of the organism. As we’ll see in the next section, milk consumption has been associated with a range of adverse health effects. Since most of these health effects have little impact on evolutionary fitness, natural selection doesn’t pay them much attention.

Some of the problems with milk

I’ve talked quite a bit about the problems with milk here on the blog in the past. Let’s briefly summarize the core points…

  • Milk has been implicated in the pathogenesis of many chronic diseases and health disorders
    Milk seems to play a role in the pathogenesis of several chronic diseases and health disorders, including heart disease, insulin resistance, acne vulgaris, and Parkinson’s disease (1, 3, 4, 5).
  • Milk is packed with substances that are not a natural part of the adult human diet
    Milk contains a wide range of hormones, bioactive peptides, and other similar compounds, some of which breach the gut barrier and induce adverse health effects (3).
  • Pasteurization and homogenization may change the structure of some of the nutrients found in milk
    Pasteurization and homogenization can force milk casein and fats into new configurations that make the proteins stackable into fibers/amyloids (6). These milk protein fibers may play an important role in diseases such as type I diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease (6).
  • Milk is extremely high in calcium
    Contrary to what dairy lobbyists want you to believe, the fact that milk is very high in calcium could actually be a bad thing, as an abnormally high intake (from an evolutionary perspective) of calcium may cause mineral imbalances and increase the risk of heart attacks, among other things (3). Moreover, several large meta-analyses have shown that calcium intake is not significantly associated with hip fracture risk in women or men (7, 8, 9). One of these analyses even found that calcium supplementation may increase hip fracture risk (8). Yes, calcium is important, but maybe we’re better off getting it from green vegetables?
  • Cow’s milk consumption may adversely affect bone health
    Recent research suggests that regular consumption of milk and other dairy foods may increase the risk of osteoporosis (10). In other words, milk may actually weaken our bones, as opposed to strengthening them.
  • The macronutrient characteristics of milk differ markedly from that of other foods
    Milk (e.g., cow’s milk) is unique in that it contains whey protein, casein, and the disaccharide lactose, as well as many other special nutrients. It’s undoubtedly beneficial for a growing mammal (e.g., a calf) to take in these compounds; however, the scientific research indicates that it’s not beneficial for an adult human, which is not surprising, given that these nutrients are a novel component of the adult human diet. A low intake of these nutrients is unlikely to do much harm; however, a high intake may certainly do. Casein has been shown to trigger opioid-like effects in the brain (one of the main reasons cheese is so addictive) (11, 12); whey is very insulinogenic, may destabilize the gut microbiota, and promote the development of acne vulgaris, among other things; and lactose has been linked with premature cataract formation (3). If that wasn’t enough, milk also contains high concentrations of saturated fat (About 60% of the fat in milk is of the saturated kind).

Milk is a growth stimulant

Another problem with milk that I haven’t talked much about here on the blog in the past has to do with the impact it has on growth and development. Given that milk’s role in the mammalian diet is to support and promote the development of the young, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that milk has been shown to stimulate growth. In children, there’s a strong association between cow’s milk consumption and linear growth. Children who drink a lot of cow’s milk as they grow up tend to become taller than those who don’t (13, 14, 15).

It’s often assumed that this effect is beneficial. After all, we all want strong and tall children. There’s only one (big problem): Cow’s milk wasn’t “designed” to be a health food for the young members of the species Homo sapiens, it was designed to nurture and strengthen calves. I very much question the conventional idea that it’s good for children to drink milk because milk makes them taller.

Unlike what some people think, milk’s effect on growth can’t solely be attributed to its high nutritional value. Milk is capable of activating evolutionary developmental genes, such as FTO and MTOR, which are very important for perinatal programming. This signaling cascade is a natural part of the developmental phase of mammals and helps promote proper growth and development. However, it’s certainly not a natural part of adult life.

A solid body of research suggests that persistent activation of these signaling systems is a major health hazard promoting ageing and early onset of age-related diseases (1, 14).

Here’s what the review paper mentioned earlier had to say about this issue.

Daily consumption of cooled pasteurized milk thus allows excessive intake of milk’s amino acid hardware and milk’s gene-regulatory software, which in a synergistic fashion upregulate mTORC1 signaling enhancing mTORC1-dependent anabolism and mTORC1-dependent mRNA translation. It is becoming apparent that this unnoticed modification of epigenetics by milk consumption has had an enormous impact on modern human nutrigenomics 10,000 years since the Neolithic revolution.

… Permanent overactivation of mTORC1 signaling is the key mechanism driving mTORC1-mediated age-related diseases of civilization [16,17,18,19,67,89,287,293]. … Persistent milk signaling leads to alterations in cell homeostasis, ER stress, cellular malfunctions, organ damage and thus early onset of age-related diseases. (1)

The bottom line

I’d like to finish off with the quote below, which I feel nicely summarizes the main problems with cow’s milk consumption.

Persistent abuse of a developmental nutrient and programming system of another mammal such as Bos taurus, a species whose initial growth rate is four times that of humans, is thus a major pathogenic factor promoting the epidemic diseases of civilization [316]. Wiley was right when she pointed out that persistent cow’s milk consumption is a novel human behavior potentially exerting long-term adverse effects on human health [10]. Taken together: “No milk today, that’s what this message means, the end of obese and Western disease!”. (1)

5 Plant Based Foods That Have More Protein than Meat

Protein gets a lot of attention, especially in a plant-based diet where the issue of complete and incomplete protein comes into play, along with protein per amount of weight, which is something else to consider. For instance, we don’t need to combine foods as we once thought to form a complete protein (such as beans and rice). That protein myth died years ago, thankfully when we found out our bodies are capable of using all sources of amino acids to form complete proteins.

Not Just Grams … What to Consider When Measuring Protein

It’s also important to consider that amounts in grams aren’t the only thing that matters when measuring protein in a food. You should also consider what percentage of total calories protein makes up in a food. For instance, beef and animal foods are high in calories and though they contain a good size amount of protein, per amount of calories, beef and animal proteins (even fish) are higher in cholesterol-forming saturated animal fats, where most of their calories come from. Plant-based foods on the other hand, have fewer calories, a variety of sources of amino acids that form complete proteins in the body and per weight, their percentage of protein in the amount of total calories is relatively high.

Some plant-based foods are higher in protein percentage than others, however, so making sure to include a variety of plant-based foods in your diet is important for achieving the amount of protein your body needs. Beef contains 7 grams of protein per ounce for about 75 calories, so let’s compare some better plant-based options that don’t come with the health risks beef and animal proteins do.

Here are five foods with more protein per gram than beef that also come with a higher percentage of protein per amount of calories:

spirulinaPer gram, Spirulina is 65% protein, the highest amount of protein percentage of all foods. In just 1 teaspoon, you’ll get 4 grams of protein, which is unheard of for all other foods. Spirulina is also a great source of iron, providing 80 % of your daily needs in just 1 teaspoon and at only 30 calories. You can add this blue green algae to your smoothies to mask the taste and know you’re getting in a nice dose of B vitamins, protein, iron and vital trace minerals. Since it’s also alkalizing, spirulina also reduces inflammation, unlike animal foods that contribute to it.

spinach

Yes, the humble Spinach contains 51 % protein (about 5 grams per cup at only 30 calories). It’s also a good source of iron and Vitamin C. This much-loved green is also a great source of folate, an important vitamin for women that contributes to strength, brain function and reproductive health. Adding a couple cups of spinach to your smoothie, salad, wrap, soup, or any other way, is an easy way to sneak in 10 grams of protein without the need for a supplement powder whatsoever.

hempseedsHemp is one of the best, easy-to-use foods that’s rich in all essential fatty acids and all 20 amino acids. Per ounce (about 2 tablespoons)  has 10 grams of protein, is high in fibre and most of its calories come from beneficial proteins and Omega fatty acids. Unlike animal-based proteins and sources of fat, hemp is very alkalizing to the body and also boosts the mood and energy thanks to high amounts of magnesium. It can also increase metabolism due to it containing 45 % of your daily iron requirements in just one ounce. You can also use hemp protein, another fantastic way to get this whole food into your diet. We enjoy it in smoothies, raw treats, but you can even stir it into oatmeal and bake with it in place of flour if you like. Although, it is better to consume hemp raw (not cooked), as heat destroys the fatty acids.

broccoli

Per calorie, broccoli has more protein than beef, which about 4.5 grams per 30 calories. Broccoli is also packed with amino acids, fibre, Vitamin B6 to improve your mood and is one of the best vegetables linked to fighting cancer.

almondsAlmonds and almond butter both provide 7 grams of protein in one ounce, along with heart-healthy fats and Vitamin E. They’re also a good source of calcium and provide high doses of beneficial magnesium.

Peanut butter is another high source of protein, with 8 grams per two tablespoons of peanut butter. While higher in calories than beef per ounce, these nut butters are rich in amino acids per ounce and also recommended as a good source of plant-based protein.

 

Plant-Based, High Protein Smoothie

Combine all these foods into a smoothie for a crazy, high-protein meal that your body will love and one that will shock you in how great it tastes! You’ll never know it contains good-for-you veggies!

greenproteinsmoothie

Servings : 1 Large or 2 Smaller

Ingredients:

1 Cup baby Spinach

4 Frozen Broccoli Florets (gives it a surprisingly great thick texture and the other ingredients hide the taste)

1/2 Cup Frozen Organic Mixed Berries or Blueberries

1 Tablespoon Cacao Powder (also a great source of protein and more iron than beef)

2-3 Tablespoons Hemptons Shelled Hemp Seeds

1 Tablespoon raw Almond Butter or Peanut Butter

1 Cup Non-Dairy Milk like Almond, Soy, Hemp or Rice Milk

Sweetener of choice – to taste (Stevia, 1/2 A Banana, A Date, A Fig, Raw Honey Or Maple Syrup)

 

Directions:

Add all the ingredients to your blender, blend together, decant and enjoy!

3 Reasons You Need To Change Your Protein Powder

Protein powders are as synonymous with fitness as tough workouts, competition and the need for recovery.

Even though the protein supplement market has been oversaturated and misunderstood, the reality is that: Human beings are protein machines.

All the way down to our DNA, you’ll find instructions for building our brain, digestive system, muscles, immune cells and so much more out of protein building blocks.

To build new structures, we must provide our bodies with the raw materials it needs to make it happen. You can’t build your muscle out of cheese fries and Doritos (believe me, I tried). And if your body is deficient in the protein building blocks it needs, you will breakdown faster and live a poorer quality life as a result.

The big issue in our world today is that we live in abnormally stressful conditions where our bodies have to work on high gear more often. More stress to fight, more infections to defend against and more need to build new brain and nervous system tissue than ever before. And don’t even get me started on how you need protein to build a sexified lean body… You already know that!

Though many people are adamant about getting in their protein supplement today for some of these reasons, many are unaware that the protein they are choosing may be doing more harm than good.

Here are 3 reasons you need to change your protein powder:

Digestion

The conventional go-to for protein powders for the past couple decades has been whey protein. For some people, this has worked out fine, but for many others this has been a stinky situation.

In the health & fitness field, whey protein is often referred to as “Gas & Blast” due to the unfortunate effects of causing more bloat, digestive distress and gassiness.

halleberry_catwoman

I remember hearing an interview from Halle Berry back in the day when she was getting in shape for the movie Cat Woman (bad movie, but great body). She said to the interviewer that she’d be glad when she could back off on all the exercise and whey protein shakes she had to drink because of all the gas she was kicking out. (Wait, whaaat? Halle Berry farts?)

There are actually many reasons for these digestive woes. Unfortunately, many whey protein producers claim that their products are safe for those who are lactose intolerant because there is little to no lactose found in it (especially if it’s an isolate).

The problem with this is that even a small amount of lactose (milk-sugar) can be enough to set off a chain reaction of health problems. For those who are lactose intolerant (which you probably are if you’re not a baby and if you are a baby and reading this, great job!) just that small amount of lactose found in whey will go undigested in your digestive tract and trigger excessive activity with bacteria in your gut.

As a result, you end up experiencing the bloating, distended stomach and gassiness that are definitely not the sexy part about getting into shape.

Some people will hop to vegan proteins like soy to avoid this, but end up jumping into another problem. Many soy proteins, for example, are hexane extracted. That’s hexane, as in gasoline, as in that’s explosive stuff, as in that’s just crazy!

So whether you are unknowingly choosing the conventional whey, or the typical soy alternative, you are not doing your digestion any favours. And the truth is, it’s not “You are what you eat”, it’s really, “You are what you digest.”

To wrap this digestion point up, internal distress, denatured amino acids and the potential immune response can lead to an increase in mucus production and hormone dysfunction. This can translate to an increase in allergies and asthma symptoms, skin breakouts (especially back acne aka bacne) and more frequent colds and infections. More than enough reasons to leave these lower quality protein sources behind.

The solution

The most digestible protein source that you’ll find for the human body is hemp protein. Hemp protein contains a unique blend of two soft, highly digestible proteins called edestin and albumin.

Globular proteins like edestin are regarded as the most bioavailable, usable sources of protein for the human body. The word edestin is actually from the Greek word “edestos” meaning edible. Hemp is actually the only known source of the powerhouse protein edestin.

Edestin has also been found to contain higher levels of essential amino acids than soy and you’ll also avoid the harsh extraction process used to turn the soy bean into a protein powder.

Toxicity

A Consumer Reports study found that several of the major whey protein powders on the market exceeded the safety limits for heavy metals recommended by the USP.

Heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury were found in surprisingly high amounts in protein powders and drinks you’d find on your local store shelves.

The most alarming were the amounts of arsenic and cadmium. Exposure to arsenic has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver and prostate. It’s a strong immune system depressant and shown to damage blood vessels and other cardiac tissues.

Cadmium is also a known carcinogen. It’s proven to damage DNA and also disrupt DNA repair systems that help prevent cancer in the first place. These heavy metals are bad business. But the question is, how did they get into the protein powder in the first place?

This goes back, again, to the misinterpreted saying, “You are what you eat”.

Not only is it deeper than ‘you are what you eat’, but when it comes to the animal proteins you consume, it’s really, “You are what you eat ate.”

The health of the animals that provide you with the protein you consume is of the utmost importance. Toxicity becomes more concentrated as you move up the food chain, accumulating in the tissues of the animal and transmitting over to the animal’s meat, organs and bodily fluids. In this case, it’s the whey made from milk.

If the animals themselves are eating an abnormal diet, then the milk they produce will be far less safe to consume. Did you know that only a small fraction of a whey proteins on the market are from cows that actually eat grass?

The vast majority of whey protein products are from cow’s who’ve been given a diet of soy and/or corn. Not sure if I’m the only one that noticed, but cows can’t shuck corn… And I’m pretty sure that they can’t cook beans either. It’s just those pesky hooves that they have… They’re just not that graceful in the kitchen.

Bottom line is, when you give cows food that they have not evolved eating, they get sick just like humans do. This is also the reason that most conventional whey products are from cows that have been treated rigorously with antibiotics. This destroys their immune system and leaves them susceptible to every disease under the sun. But hey, that won’t affect you when you drink their milk… Nah, I’m just kidding. Of course it will!

Add to the mix that you are consuming the whey from potentially hundreds of different cows in one jug of protein powder, you can imagine the not-so-pretty number it can do on your immune system.

You are what you eat ate. If the cows are consuming GMO corn and soy grown in soil that is saturated with unnatural fertilizers (which contain dense amounts of heavy metals) it’s no wonder that studies are finding the heavy metals in the whey. It’s just how the system works.

The Solution

To get out of that system and get a protein supplement that’s exceptionally more safe, it’s a good idea to shift over to a plant-based protein. There’s going to be less toxicity because it’s lower on the food chain, but you want to get one that still packs the protein punch that you would find in an animal source.

Hemptons utilizes a rich and complete protein derived from organic hemp seeds. You’re no longer going to have to be concerned about nefarious pesticides and heavy metal laced fertilizers making their way into your body. Hemptons’ Hemp Protein contains all of the essential amino acids and all three branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), making it one of the most potent sources of plant protein in the world. You’ll get the protein that you need and none of the stuff you don’t.

Dense Nutrition

The protein you choose should never be deficient in the co-factors that actually make it work. Protein doesn’t function by itself in the human body.

Nothing functions independently in nature. Everything depends on something else to give it life and make it work.

Most protein powders on the market are so heavily processed that they give no regard to this fact. Vitamins and minerals found in the food, blah, who needs ’em! Antioxidants and neurotransmitters, please, who said any of that stuff is important?

The vitamins, minerals and immune factors that would be found in a cow’s milk (intended to give to its baby) are all but destroyed in the processing practices of most whey protein companies.

You are not left with anything close to a complete food… You are left with, well, protein and none of its friends (and protein is definitely not a shy little introvert … it likes friends)

Soy, on the other hand, has been found to absorb plenty of nutrients from its environment, but an abnormal amount of the wrong stuff. One study on protein-rich soy infant formula found that it contained up to 200 times more manganese than natural breast milk. You probably know that manganese is an essential nutrient for the human body, but consuming it in excess has been linked to reduced brain function and even Parkinson’s Disease.

Soy is a plant that has this unique affinity to absorb excessive manganese. This could be a good indicator that it’s not an appropriate human food. Add to the mix that it’s extremely high in estrogen compounds and trypsin inhibitors that actually block the uptake of proteins and the case is pretty clear that soy is not the standard that we want to subscribe to.

The Solution

Hemp protein provides a safe variety of minerals and trace minerals that make the protein more useable by the human body.

Hemp contains healthy amounts of magnesium, iron, zinc and potassium as some of the highlights. All with critical roles in brain function, blood building, the immune system and muscle function as well.

In nature, hemp contains nearly the exact ratio of omega 6’s to omega 3’s that are ideal for the human body. Research indicates that we need a 3:1 to 4:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 respectively.

In our world today we are bombarded with foods that contain extremely high levels of omega 6’s (the pro-inflammatory fatty acids) and not enough omega 3’s (the anti-inflammatory fatty acids). Hemp contains a ratio of approximately 3.38:1 of Omega 6 to Omega 3 and no other food is this identical. This is yet another reason why hemp looks to be an amazing food for human beings.

At 35 percent protein by weight, hemp is a naturally high protein food that provides the most useable source of protein for the human body. It’s a food that we all need to incorporate as we move forward in our health and becoming the best version of ourselves.

So to answer the question: What is the best protein powder? Clearly, hemp protein stands head and shoulders above all other conventional protein powders in digestibility, assimilation, safety and nutrient density.

Here’s to a better protein, better performance and better health for years to come!

Does Nutella cause cancer? A deeper look

Written and published By Kamal Patel at examin.com

Last week was abuzz with headlines ranging from …

“Nutella causes cancer!” to …

“Don’t worry, Nutella doesn’t actually cause cancer!”

Which one is correct?

Neither. Here’s what the research actually said. If you’re in a rush, read the blue boxes or the end of the post. If you’re curious, read the whole thing. It’s super interesting, we swear!

What did the research say?

A report came out in May of 2016 from a European food safety agency. Under review were some potentially carcinogenic compounds found notably in refined palm oil. And Nutella contains refined palm oil.

So why did all the buzz happen seven months after that report? Because the Italian maker of Nutella, Ferrero (which invented the chocolate-hazelnut spread in the 1940s and currently uses about a quarter of the world’s hazelnut supply), decided to start fighting back this month, responding to outcry and proposed regulations in Europe. And the media took note.

Anyway, back to the report. It focused on three specific compounds:

GE (Glycidol Ester) is the compound that gets most of the press. The GE content of palm oil is much higher than that of other oils.

3-MCPD and 2-MCPD can both be produced alongside GE, and can be harmful on their own.

The report found that GE is bad news, at least in animal studies. As a “genotoxin”, it can damage DNA, which is a causative step in the formation of cancer cells. 3-MCPD harmed the kidneys and male reproductive organs of the experimental animals. Data on 2-MCPD were scarce, so we won’t talk more about it.

A report from May of 2016 was revisited by the media in January of 2017, after the makers of Nutella launched an ad campaign defending its use of palm oil — a campaign spurred by Nutella being pulled off the shelves of some Italian supermarkets, and by potential regulations in Europe. The report looked at three potentially harmful compounds in palm oil, with the media especially focusing on GE (Glycidol Ester).

It turns out that babies are at the greatest risk of consuming too much GE, because some babies rely on infant formulas as their sole food source. And guess what can be quite high in GE? Yup, infant formulas. This is yet another reason why breastmilk is pretty great, though in some cases formulas are the only option to feed a baby.

The below chart, copied from the European agency’s report, shows two important points:

● Babies and children tend to consume much more GE (and 3-MCPD) than adults.

● Babies who drink formulas have it the worst off, with more than twice the average intake.

Hold on a sec! This whole Nutella scare may actually apply more to babies (particularly those fed formulas) than to adults. That’s because adults eat a variety of foods, whereas babies don’t. Older children aren’t off the hook, since they often eat a lot of snacks that can contain GE, and also eat a lot in proportion to their bodyweight in order to grow.

How serious is this cancer risk, exactly?

People absolutely love shrugging off cancer reports. Either that, or letting the report scare the heck out of them. We like to take the middle ground, as in the case of last year’s big red meat and cancerreport. So … how important is it for you to cut down on Nutella?

The full paper is massive (159 pages) and contains one little line that isn’t mentioned in the abstract:

The report looked at animal studies, mostly in rats and mice. None of the studies were in humans. This severely limits the conclusions that can be drawn from the data, for two reasons:

● We aren’t exactly like rodents. For example, they can make their own vitamin C out of glucose; we can’t, so we have to eat it. More to the point, cancer studies in rodents often don’t translate to humans, partly because rodents seem to be more susceptible to cancer.

● When you lack human data, you end up with really rough risk estimates. For GE, the report’s authors took the dose that caused cancer in rats and divided it by 25,000, then used that number as the “safe” level in humans. Without human data, though, it’s hard to know if this really, really large (and somewhat arbitrary) number isn’t overly cautious.

Finally, one should remember that, in real life, people don’t consume steady supplies of isolated compounds. Nutella is composed of several ingredients, and we eat it in combination with other foods, in different and varying amounts over time.

We lack human data on those compounds, so nobody knows how dangerous they really are. Given the discrepancies that can occur between rodents and humans with regard to cancer, the report might not apply all that well to us. That doesn’t mean you should eat refined palm oil or Nutella all day every day; it just means that the report was really just an initial step in the research.

Nutella versus other foods

The report was not a study of Nutella, and that’s what scaremongers don’t seem to understand. GE is formed at processing temperatures above 200ºC (nearly 400ºF). Nutella is processed at much lower temperatures specifically so as to reduce the production of contaminants like GE.

Plus the report explicitly states that between 2010 and 2015, GE levels in palm oils and other fats went down by half due to changes in manufacturing.

Nutella is produced at fairly low temperatures that minimize the production of GE. The report is of greater concern for people who eat refined palm oil that isn’t known to be produced at safe temperatures.

That doesn’t mean you should ignore the report, though. At the very least, you should ask yourself this question: Why was refined palm oil targeted? The answer: Because it is rich in a type of fat called DAG (diglyceride), whereas other oils have more of the normal stuff, triglyceride. And as far as the research group could tell, refined oils are the only direct source of GE in the human diet.

Smelly oils, like palm oil, often need higher heats to deodorize them, otherwise people wouldn’t use them as cooking oils and in food products. And while vegetable oils are somewhat low in DAG when fresh (around 1–3%), once stored and transported they can have double that amount even before refining.

Purified DAG oil was actually studied for genotoxicity back in 2005, with no link being found. Which may seem confusing, since purified DAG oil has around 80% DAG and palm oil around 10% — but genotoxicity tests can differ, as can refining processes. Anyway, purified DAG cooking oil was a big hit in Japan, under the name of Enova, and there’s been a decent amount of research into purified DAG potentially helping with weight loss and metabolic syndrome.

But wait, why don’t you see Enova on supermarket shelves anymore? Because it was voluntarily discontinued in 2009 due to potential toxicity concerns! In other words, it was a canary in a coal mine.

The high DAG content of palm oil is part of what makes it potentially harmful. People don’t use purified DAG oil anymore, but high-DAG oils could be a concern. If you don’t eat refined oils, nor foods that contain them, you don’t have to worry about this report.

DAG can’t produce GE without reacting with chlorine. In fact, 3-MCPD fits under the category of CHLOROpropanol, so chlorine is crucial to this story. Therefore, to be safe:

● Don’t cook your oils in chlorinated pool water (joke).

● Be careful when heating Splenda/sucralose (not a joke).

Splenda, a.k.a. sucralose, is a polychlorinated artificial sweetener. So it’s got chlorine in spades. While Splenda is safe according to current evidence, not much of that evidence is on heated Splenda. It turns out that heating Splenda could generate substantial amounts of the potentially harmful compounds we talked about above.

Other ways chlorine might figure in the equation aren’t that well researched. For instance, it’s possible that fertilizers containing chloride could make the problem worse, but there’s been very little research.

Heating Splenda (e.g. baking with Splenda) may generate chloropropanols. Researchers don’t know much about this, but keep it in mind if you’re a Splenda junkie.

Although palm oil has an especially high GE content, other oils can be a concern, too. Moreover, most people eat foods containing refined oils (e.g. potato chips and baked goods) more often than they eat isolated refined oils (e.g. sunflower oil), so those foods are the greater practical concern. The charts below (copied from the report) show GE levels per kilogram of foods and isolated oils.

Although palm oil has been singled out, other refined oils, whether in isolation (e.g. sunflower oil) or in foods (e.g. potato chips and baked goods), can also be a concern.

The bottom line

You probably just want to know the answer to this question: Should I worry? Luckily, the answer is similar to our takeaways from other reports.

If you eat a diet of mostly unprocessed plants and animals, you’re fine. Carcinogens are everywhere; it’s the dose that makes the poison. But if you eat foods containing refined oils on a daily basis, especially high amounts of refined palm oil, you may want to lower your intake.

High-heat processing is not very healthy, especially for oils; it can produce a variety of potentially toxic substances, from the ones mentioned in this report to other scary initialisms like PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). Again, of course, it’s the dose that makes the poison, so the occasional junk food or fried food isn’t a deal breaker.

Humans may eat unhealthy foods and live unhealthy lifestyles, but we’re not lab rats. The report covered only animals studies, which often don’t apply all that well to humans. We don’t know if humans detoxify these compounds differently from rats. We do know that, in our bodies, some of these compounds are conjugated to glutathione in order to neutralize them, and that glutathione is one of our bodies’ powerhouse antioxidants — the production of which is also supported by a healthy diet. So eat your greens!