Add this ancient grain into your recipe rotation to go old school with your diet.

Like fashion, everything old is new again with food, and “ancient grains” like spelt are gaining traction. Cutting to the chaff, spelt has been around since the Roman Empire and contains vital nutrients, including a spectrum of B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium — a mineral that has been shown to slow the aging process. Spelt is also a good source of fiber, which may improve your microbiome and gut health, according to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Though it does contain gluten, spelt can be easier to digest than other kinds of wheat, which is good news because its nutty flavor and resilient texture can create crave-worthy dishes. Here’s how to invite this ultra-nutritious comeback kid into your kitchen.

To cook, place spelt in a pot with enough to cover the grains by 2 inches. Simmer until grains feel slightly chewy, then dump into a fine-mesh strainer to drain.

Swap Shop

1. Sub for rice in burrito bowls

To score twice as much iron for better brain function and optimal oxygen delivery.

In a large bowl, layer 1 cup cooked spelt, ½ cup black beans, ½ sliced avocado, ½ cup sliced cherry tomatoes, ½ cup cubed mango, ¼ cup chopped cilantro and 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds. Add a dollop of sour cream and squeeze on lime juice (to taste).

2. Switch for white flour in pancakes

To boost potassium, which improves blood pressure and reduces anxiety.

Mix together ¾ cup spelt flour, 1/3 cup peanut butter powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon salt.Add 1 mashed banana, 1 egg and ¾ cup milk. Cook pancakes on a greased skillet 2 minutes per side.

3. Trade with bulgur in tabbouleh

To double your intake of thiamine, which supports energy metabolism.

Toss together 1 cup cooked spelt, 1 cup diced cucumber, 1 cup diced tomatoes, 2 cups finely chopped parsley, ½ cup chopped mint and 2 sliced scallions. Whisk together ¼ cup olive oil, juice of ½ lemon, 2 minced garlic cloves and ¼ teaspoon salt. Drizzle on salad and toss.

4. Replace instant oats in porridge

To get 30 percent more fiber, helping keep appetite in check.

Bring 1 ½ cups spelt flakes, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg and 4½ cups water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, or until liquid is mostly absorbed and mixture is creamy. Stir in 1 cup blueberries, ¼ cup sunflower seeds and 2 tablespoons maple syrup and cook 2 minutes more. 

5. Use instead of potatoes in a stew

To amp magnesium intake for improved performance.

Place 1 ½ cups whole spelt grain, 3 ½ cups vegetable broth, 1 diced red bell pepper, 1 chopped onion, 3 chopped garlic cloves, ¼ teaspoon chili flakes and ¼ teaspoon salt in a saucepan. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add 1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, 1 can navy beans and 4 cups chopped kale. Simmer until spelt is tender, 15 minutes.

Pizza Spelt Salad

Makes: 4 Servings

Get all those cherished pizza flavors in a healthier package.


  • 2 cups cooked spelt grains
  • 1 cup summer sausage, chopped
  • 8 oz bocconcini (mozzarella pearls)
  • 1 cup roasted red peppers, sliced
  • 1/3 cup Kalamata olives, sliced
  • 1 large tomato, halved
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 8 cups baby greens


In a large bowl, toss together spelt, sausage, bocconcini, red peppers and olives. Grate tomato down to the skin and whisk with olive oil, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper. Divide greens among serving plates and top with spelt mixture. Drizzle on tomato dressing.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 552, fat 31 g, carbs 44 g, fiber 9 g, sugar 7 g, protein 21 g, sodium 312 mg

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You may not be able to fly or melt a car with a stare, but you can master these seven super skills and level up from mere mortal to mistress of the universe.

When playing Natasha Romanoff — aka Black Widow in the blockbuster Marvel Avengers series — Oscar-nominated actress Scarlett Johansson kicks ass with style, expertly dispensing with bad guys while strutting her superhero physique in a leather hide-nothing catsuit. The mastermind responsible for Johansson’s super bod is James “Duffy” Gaver, former Navy SEAL turned celebrity trainer. Gaver has created a workout similar to Johansson’s exclusively for Oxygen readers that can help everyday superheroes increase explosiveness, strength, endurance, power, coordination, speed and agility. He also offers up a fun self-test to determine where you rank among the world’s greatest cinematic crusaders and see how you can follow in Black Widow’s (silent but deadly) footsteps — catsuit optional.

Celebrity trainer and superheroine-building former Navy SEAL Duffy Gaver spills his secrets in this kick-ass girl-power workout.

Hero Helper: A Week of Workouts

Begin each workout with a cardio-based 10-minute warm-up such as walking/jogging on a treadmill or outdoors.

Day 1: The Superheroine Fitness Test

Determine your current level of super prowess with this two-part test.

Part 1

Warm up for five minutes, then perform each move for one minute. Record the number of reps you complete for each.

  • Pull-Up 
  • Bodyweight Squat
  • Push-Up 
  • Full Sit-Up

Part 2

Rest five minutes and then do a “bleep” test — a drill that basically entails running back and forth between two lines spaced 20 meters apart. (Download Bleep Test Lite, free on iPhone.) When the first bleep sounds, run from one line to the other. Turn around and wait until the next bleep sounds, then repeat. You’ll progress up through various levels with the bleeps getting closer together with each one. When you can’t make it to the other line before the next bleep, you’re done. Your score is your last completed level.

Day 2

Perform these moves back-to-back with no rest in between. Rest one to two minute between sets.

Day 3

* Add a rep to each set as you go. Rest 30 to 90 seconds between sets.

** Perform these moves back-to-back with no rest in between. Rest 30 seconds between sets.

Day 4

Alternate between these two moves for five sets, taking minimal rest when needed. With each set, reduce your rowing time by one minute and your box jumps by two reps. Record your total time.

Day 5

Perform these moves back-to-back with minimal rest in between. Rest one to two minutes between sets.

* Left, right, left, right = 1 rep.

Day 6

Complete four rounds of the below workout. With each round, reduce your burpees and star jumps by two reps each. Record your total time.

Day 7: Rest

Want more super workouts? Check out Duffy Gaver’s new book Hero Maker: 12 Weeks to Superhero Fit (St. Martin’s Press, April 2020).

Super Skill: Explosiveness

Developing explosive lower-body power is a must to leap tall buildings in a single bound, and this means developing high-velocity power in your hips, quads, hamstrings and glutes. Since buildings are tall, generally speaking, you’ll need to increase your vertical leap and boost your explosive power.

Blow up your bod on Day 4 with box jumps. Combining this move with rowing seems simple enough, but you’ll have to dig deep to continually generate explosive power as the rounds tick by and you’re working under fatigue. “If you did nothing but this [combination] every day, your fitness level would go through the roof,” Gaver says.

Box Jump

Box Jump

Face a box (or a low wall) with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms at your sides. Swing your arms back and quickly bend your hips and knees to drop into a shallow squat, then quickly extend your legs and hips, swing your arms forward, and leap up and onto the box, landing softly. Step or jump back down and repeat.

Super Skill: Strength

Superheroes — those who can’t fly, at least — all too often end up dangling precariously from a vertigo-inducing height as the villain makes a long-winded and absurdly edifying speech. What’s needed most in that moment — other than a handy assist from a sidekick — is pure, unadulterated strength, which enables you to pull yourself up to safety and put an immediate end to that stupid speech — and its orator.

Pull your weight in Day 3 with the pull-up reverse progression. Here, you’ll add a rep to each set as you go to push your limits and build super strength. “I find this technique helps people break through barriers,” Gaver says. “Our limits are so often mental rather than physical.” If you don’t have a pull-up bar, this modification works just as well.

Inverted Pull-Up

Inverted Pull-Up

Take an overhand grip on a bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart. Walk your feet forward so you’re hanging underneath the bar with your arms straight and your body in a straight line from head to heels. Draw your shoulder blades in toward one another, then drive your elbows down and back to pull your chest up toward the bar. Pause briefly and then lower all the way to the start.

Upright Row

Super Skill: Endurance

Chasing bad guys through all manner of obstacles is part of a day’s work for a superhuman, but becoming a parkour prodigy takes practice — and a lot of endurance. Training a muscle or muscle group to fatigue using a superset or giant set format pushes the limits of both your mental and your muscular endurance.

Endure the pain with the five-exercise shoulder gauntlet on Day 2. This giant set hits all three deltoids and your traps, making it a one-stop shop to shoulder exhaustion. Choose a set of dumbbells with which you can do 12 to 15 lateral raises, Gaver recommends. This is the weight you’ll use for the whole circuit.

Lateral Raise

Hold a set of dumbbells at your sides, palms facing inward, elbows slightly bent. Raise your arms up and out to the sides until they reach shoulder height, then lower to the start under control.

Front Raise

Hold the dumbbells in front of your thighs with your palms facing rearward. Raise both arms in front of you to shoulder height, pause briefly and then lower slowly back to the start.

Bent-Over Raise

Hold the dumbbells with your palms facing inward. Hinge at your hips with your back straight and fold forward until your torso makes a 45-degree angle. Hold here as you raise the dumbbells up and out to the sides until they reach shoulder level, then slowly lower to the start.

Overhead Press

Stand upright and hold the dumbbells on either side of your head with your elbows bent 90 degrees, palms forward. Press the weights up and in toward one another to full extension, then lower slowly back to the start.

Upright Row

Hold the dumbbells in front of your thighs, palms facing rearward. Pull the weights up along the front of your body, leading with your elbows, until they come underneath your chin. Lower slowly to the start.

Super Skill: Power

A superhero runs into burning buildings when everyone else is running out and would never shy away from a challenging scenario, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Physical and mental power often intertwine, and the strength of will is often a superhero’s best ally during a crisis and can turn crunchtime into celebration.

Power up your lower body in Day 2 with barbell squats, implementing an old-school technique Gaver recommends called “breathing squats”: You’ll work in sets of 20 reps, pausing at the top of each rep and taking a few deep breaths before continuing. “Take as many breaths as necessary while still maintaining focus throughout,” he advises.

Barbell Squat

Barbell Squat

Balance a barbell across your upper back and traps and hold it outside your shoulders with an overhand grip, elbows pointing downward. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your legs turned out slightly from your hips. Kick your hips back, then bend your knees while keeping your chest lifted and descend as low as you comfortably can while maintaining form. Drive through your heels and powerfully extend your knees and hips to return to standing.

Super Skill: Coordination

Clumsy superheroes aren’t a thing. Physical coordination is a must when it comes to saving the day, and uber-humans need to be able to handle anything from a clutch of henchmen to a live grenade with grace and dexterity.

Coordinate your efforts with star jumps on Day 6. This move requires precision and focus for proper execution — and to prevent an unceremonious and decidedly un-super faceplant. Its placement in the Day 6 workout after a 400-meter run and a grueling set of burpees makes maintaining a high level of coordination an incredible challenge.

Star Jump

Star Jump

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Quickly bend your knees and hips slightly and bring your arms together in front of your thighs, then explode upward off the ground, simultaneously raising your arms overhead and opening your legs so your body forms an X in space. Quickly bring your arms and legs back together, land softly and go immediately into the next rep.

All héros in training should work on their speed.

Super Skill: Speed

To ensure you can indeed run faster than a speeding bullet, all heroes in training should work on their super speed. Any form of cardiovascular activity lends itself to speed training — running, swimming, cycling or rowing. And if you’re doing it properly, even the most grounded superhero might even feel like they’re flying.

Supercharge your speed on Day 6 with the 400-meter run. Push your pace as hard as you can and challenge yourself to get faster with every round. It’s not as easy as it might seem, though. When combined with the burpee and star jump, this workout demands determination and sharpens your ability to accelerate under fatigue.

Super Skill: Agility

Being nimble and lithe are the hallmarks of any super species, and in order to execute your requisite quick cat- or bat-like movements, you’ve got to sharpen your agility.

Exercise your agility on Day 5 with mountain climbers: Imagine the floor under your feet is lava, and as soon as your toes touch down, you’ve got to pull your foot right back up again to prevent incineration. You’ll have to tread lightly and quickly to make each rep count. Speaking of reps, Gaver has tweaked the programming so that four reps are equal to one. If you’re doing the math, this means one set of 10 actually equals 40 reps!

Mountain Climber

Mountain Climber

Get into a high-plank position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels aligned. Press down into your hands to stabilize your upper body as you alternately drive your knees in toward your chest, keeping your hips low and your movements quick. 

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Train to protect yourself and get fit with these kick-butt martial arts moves.

Fitness is said to be “functional” when it transcends the gym and extends to real-life situations, and it doesn’t get any more functional than martial arts. This kind of workout improves your strength, mobility and cardiovascular prowess while giving you the skills and the confidence to defend yourself. But you don’t have to join a dojo and earn your black belt to be able to fight off an attacker. Incorporating some basic martial arts moves into your workouts will enhance your self-defense capabilities while amping your fitness level.

These seven moves were curated from combat experts across various different disciplines.

These moves were curated from combat experts across various disciplines and include suggestions on how to integrate them into your workout programming. Implement them for a few months and you’ll be functionally fit to fight off the bad guys — and body fat.

Air Strike

Nothing is more satisfying than hitting an actual target, but you don’t need a heavy bag or a partner holding mitts to get a good workout. Shadowboxing against an invisible opponent is a valid training protocol, and while throwing punches against the air may seem harmless, it’s actually pretty easy to hyperextend a joint or strain a muscle. Use these tips from Adam Zart, strength and conditioning coach and instructor at Dyme Boxing & Fitness and Hayastan MMA in North Carolina, to properly fight with yourself.

Start Slowly

Striking accuracy and body position are more important than throwing the hardest punches and kicks you can muster (no matter who you’re envisioning on the receiving end). “When striking the air with no target to impact, it’s extremely important to slow down the moves and emphasize control,” Zart says. “Start at about 30 percent of your speed and focus on form and balance.”

When against air, stop a punch or kick about 10 to 15 percent short of full lockout to keep your joints safe.

Shorten Your Range of Motion

Normally when hitting a pad or a bag, you try to punch or kick “through” the target. “But against air, you want to stop about 10 to 15 percent short of full lockout to keep your joints safe,” Zart says.

Speed Up Conservatively

As you get more comfortable and your technique improves, you can progressively increase your speed. Zart recommends ratcheting up 10 percent at a time until you’re 70 to 80 percent of full throttle. “Anything beyond that and you’ll want a target to strike,” he says.

Fight Club

The first rule of fight club is… not to be a pushover — literally. A strong, stable fighting stance is paramount in all manner of martial arts. Use these pointers from Adam Zart to stand up and deliver the most effective strikes possible.

  • Stagger your feet about a foot’s length away from each other and spread about 2 inches apart. Imagine standing on the edges of a strip of painter’s tape running between your legs.
  • If you’re right-handed, stand with your right foot back and your left foot forward (and vice versa). Your lead hand is on the same side as your forward leg.
  • Roughly 60 percent of your weight should be in your back leg so you can easily use your forward leg to kick or to transition to a punch.
  • Stay loose and light on your feet; don’t plant your heels.
  • Raise your hands to the sides of your face covering your cheeks, not below your jaw.
  • Keep your chin down and tucked slightly, and look at your target “through” your eyebrows.
Open-Fist Punch

Open-Fist Punch

Expert: Marika Hart, third-dan black belt in taekwondo, physiotherapist, owner of Dynamic Strength Physiotherapy in Perth, Australia

If an attacker is front and center, a punch to the head is darn effective, but using a closed fist could get you injured, as well. “An open-fist punch is easy to learn and apply, and you’ll be less likely to break your hand,” Hart says. Punching drills enhance upper-body strength and speed, trunk mobility and core stability, and because your power travels from the ground through your body and out your fist, punching uses every part of your body, according to Hart.

  • Face a heavy bag (or imaginary opponent) and assume a relaxed fighting stance. Strike the bag/opponent at shoulder height — as if aiming for the nose, jaw or chin — with your wrist bent back, fingertips slightly curled and thumb tightly pressed against your hand (not sticking out to the side). Do a series of left-right jab-cross combinations, then switch your stance and repeat on the other side.

Quick Tip: After each two-punch combo, reset before repeating. If you go too fast, form tends to get sloppy, Hart warns.

Punch Up Your Workout

For endurance: Do the two-punch combo in 30- to 90-second rounds. Perform five to 10 rounds and rest one to two minutes
in between.

In a metcon: Do 20 punch combos leading with the left, then drop and do five burpees. Repeat on the right.

Shaolin Front-Ball Kick

Shaolin Front-Ball Kick

Expert: Melanie Rains, American Kenpo Karate instructor at Shaolin American Self Defense Academy in North Hollywood, California

A strong front kick is one of your best defenses against an assault, and this particular version mimics how you would be positioned if you were tying your shoe. “A swift kick to the attacker’s groin could be enough to stop him and give you the necessary time to run to safety,” says Rains, noting that this move done for reps is super effective for lower-body conditioning.

  • Kneel with your right foot forward and your left knee down with the ball of your left foot in contact with the ground. With your arms raised in a guard position, push off your left foot to stand and fire a quick front kick at your attacker’s groin with the ball of your foot. Recoil, immediately step back and lower into the kneeling position. Repeat on both sides.

Quick Tip: “Keep your posted [right] leg and core engaged to prevent you from rising when you kick,” Rains says. In other words, the momentum of the strike should not bring you up off the ground or cause you to lunge forward and lose your balance.

Punch Up Your Workout

For conditioning/circuit training: Do 10 kicks with your right leg, then repeat on the left. Perform three to four sets, resting one to two minutes between each.

When kicking a bag — or an attacker — pull your toes back as you make contact to prevent breaking some bones.



Expert: Ryan Hoover, instructor and programmer of krav maga, co-founder of the Fit to Fight Republic in North Carolina

A vicious knee to the groin, face or solar plexus can end a fight in a split second. Such efficiency is a hallmark of krav maga, an Israeli self-defense system popular for both real-world and fitness applications. “The up-knee is a close-range strike,” Hoover says. “It is also an explosive, fast-twitch movement used to build the quads, glutes, calves, hip flexors, core and hamstrings.”

  • Stand within arm’s reach of a partner holding a pad, a punching bag or an imaginary opponent. Grab the opponent with both hands at shoulder height and stagger your feet for a stable base. In one explosive movement, drive your back knee up while pulling the opponent down. Point the toe of your striking leg and bring your heel up near your glutes to protect your feet. Make contact, pull your leg back, reset and repeat.

Quick Tip: “The hip leads the motion,” Hoover says. Meaning you’re not just lifting your knee but are also driving your hip forward and contracting your glutes to thrust your pelvis forward.

Punch Up Your Workout

Tabata: Perform continuous up-knees, alternating legs with each round.

Multidirectional Elbow

Multidirectional Elbow

Expert: Angela “Coach Ange” Oliver, Protect Self-Defense–accredited trainer, owner of Pulse Training for Life in Christchurch, New Zealand

Your elbows are two of the most effective weapons you possess. “A truly violent encounter will happen at close quarters,” Oliver says. “Training your elbows in multiple directions puts you in good stead to confidently defend yourself against an attacker of any height — with the added bonus of a great shoulder workout!” Elbow strikes are useful to hit several bodyparts, including the face, chin, clavicle, shoulders and head.

  • Stand facing a heavy bag or imaginary opponent in your fighting stance. Keeping your forward elbow bent, quickly lift your arm up toward your opposite shoulder, twisting slightly as if grabbing a seat belt behind you, then forcibly drive that elbow diagonally downward, as if pulling the seat belt down to click it in, hitting the bag as hard as you can. Immediately reverse the movement and hit the bag with the same elbow in an upward diagonal motion. Repeat on both sides.

Quick Tip: Pivot on your front foot to help drive your hips and maximize your striking power, Oliver says.

Punch Up Your Workout

Add into a HIIT or circuit workout, or use as a finisher: Perform 10 reps on each side (diagonally down + diagonally back = one rep). Complete three to five rounds, resting briefly between each.

View the 2 images of this gallery on the original article


Expert: Kelly Kula, American Kenpo Karate instructor at Shaolin American Self Defense Academy in North Hollywood, California

If an attacker is trying to grab or choke you from the front, you may need to double up on the defense. “Grabbing their shoulders and delivering a thrusting knee to their groin or solar plexus brings them down,” Kula says. “Then as you land, you can deliver a roundhouse elbow to their face.” This is also a great full-body exercise that hits the quads, hams, abs, shoulders and especially the triceps.

  • Assume a fighting stance with your left foot forward. Drive your right knee up as you pull your hands/attacker down to meet your knee at about hip height. Continue turning toward the left and lift your right elbow to shoulder height. Land with your right foot as you simultaneously swing your right elbow across you in a roundhouse motion to the left.

Quick Tip: “Keeping your posted (standing) leg engaged and staying low is key for maintaining your foundation,” Kula says.

Punch Up Your Workout

For interval training: Do 10 knee-to-elbow exercises on each side. Rest one to two minutes and repeat for three to five rounds.

View the 2 images of this gallery on the original article

Turning Kick Strength Excercise

Expert: Angela “Coach Ange” Oliver

Your adversary won’t always cooperate and stand perfectly squared up in front of you awaiting your straight-on strike. This move helps develop the power and precision needed to execute a turning kick to effectively hit an off-center target. “It builds strength, particularly around the hip capsule, glutes and hip flexors, within the range of motion used in turning kicks,” Oliver says.

  • Stand with your right side near a wall (in case you need it for balance) and raise your hands in a guard position. Balance on your right leg as you raise your left knee, pulling it back behind you and opening it to the side so your knee, hip and ankle are in the same lateral plane — like a dog visiting a fire hydrant. When you feel a good stretch in your groin, return to the start. Repeat for reps, then switch sides. Ready for more? Extend your knee with each rep as you come to the front to execute a turning kick.

Quick Tip: “Practice at a range of heights to strengthen the muscles of the hips and glutes for stronger kicks,” Oliver says.

Punch Up Your Workout

In your warm-up or as a leg-workout finisher: Perform two to three sets of 10 to 15 reps per side.

View the 3 images of this gallery on the original article

Technical Stand-Up

Expert (and model!): Shaina Johnson, black belt/sensei in kenpo, pink belt Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Women Empowered, eight-year Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner, Beachbody master trainer in Providence, Rhode Island

If you get into a scuffle and end up on the ground, you’ll have to be able to get up quickly and safely. “In a self-defense situation, returning to your feet and managing distance is imperative — and your life may actually depend on it,” Johnson says. Most people drop their head to stand up, which puts you at risk for choking and strikes, Johnson says; This exercise teaches you how to protect yourself while simultaneously getting back on your feet.

  • Sit with your right knee bent and your leg open to the side and your left foot flat on the ground. Place your right hand behind your right hip and hold your left hand in front of you. Push down with your hand and foot to lift your hips, then retract your right leg, pulling it underneath you. Place your right foot down, knees bent and hips low, then rise into your fighting stance with both hands lifted for defense.

Quick Tip: “Extend your bottom leg straight before retracting it,” Johnson says. “It acts as a block and also can be used to kick or trip, if necessary.”

Punch Up Your Workout

For core/mobility training: Perform one stand-up on the right side, then return to the ground and repeat on the left. Continue, alternating sides, increasing your speed as you go. 

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is it safe to go to the gymAcross much of the world, movement restrictions are lifting, businesses are reopening, and gyms are coming back. While the next few weeks may paint a different picture, and cases are going up in many areas, many places now are seeing better overall trajectories. Deaths are down, which could be a lagging indicator and thus subject to a potential skyrocket. But for now, for better or worse, the gyms are opening.

Does that mean you should go?

My gym is open. Is it safe to go back?

Hi Mark,

I haven’t been able to get into the gym for several months now. But I just got an email and starting next week, they’re open for business. My question is should I go? Is it safe? What do you recommend?

I’ve really missed the workouts but I also don’t want to get sick.

Now, your regional COVID situation matters. If this is Hawaii and the case count is 1030 with just a few cases being added every day, you’re probably safe going to the gym. If you’re in New York with cases in the hundreds of thousands, the gym might pose more danger. So do your due diligence there. That’s going to vary for everyone.

Let’s say you decide you want to go back. All else being equal, how can you determine if it’s safe to do so? What should you expect from your gym proprietor? What steps can you take to reduce your chances of getting the virus at the gym?

I looked at the actual research into the interactions between gym safety and the coronavirus. I also asked my friend, Thom Downing, who owns the Focused Individualized Trainers facility in Los Altos, CA, for some tips. He’s been closed down for over three months now, and he’s figured out how to keep his coaches paid and his clients fit and healthy by expanding their offerings to include at-home sessions, virtual training, online tutorials, Zoom boot-camps, and even virtual PE classes for kids. He loaned out most of the gym’s equipment to local clients so they can continue their work at home. Plus, he’s been making modifications to the facility so that when he does open back up, his gym will be as safe as possible.

So, what are some things to consider?

I’m offering you a few things to think about. These measures will by no means keep you 100% virus-free. These are simply things to think about as you assess what risk level you are comfortable with.

Wait a Month to See How Things Shake Out

A month is a good period of time to see a trend emerge. If people return and transmission starts happening, you’ll know a month in. Any place of business will (or should) disclose positive COVID19 transmission.

Use Outdoor Equipment

There are many reasons to train outside. Sunlight is a powerful deactivator of the virus and increases your vitamin D production. Having an entire open atmosphere surrounding you instead of a cloistered indoor space provides plenty of room for the exhaled air to disperse and dilute.

This isn’t possible everywhere. Your average big box facility probably won’t let you take weights outside, but the smaller, more mom-and-pop gyms likely will. Ask nicely.

Consider Switching to a Personal Training-style Gym

Smaller, more personal gyms will be your best bet. The user count will be lower. You’ll be familiar with more of the people there. You can avoid people if you need to. People will be doing their own thing, usually with a trainer, and the trainers will all be keeping their clients at a safe distance from other clients because it’s mandated (and correct). It has structure, in other words, and that’s what you need right now.

A big box gym is impersonal, unwieldy. There’s so much going on and so many people you can’t possibly account for. This pushes up the risk of transmission.

Ensure There’s Good Ventilation

A study from 2018 found that the risk of influenza transmission at the gym increased with higher occupancy and higher CO2 levels.‘>2 and masks will likely be required for indoor gyms. At first glance, that seems like it would be uncomfortable, particularly if you’re wearing a legitimate N95 mask. Those things are hard to breathe in.

But researchers have actually looked at this.‘>4

Then again, another study found that lifters wearing a mask completed fewer repetitions.‘>6 This is coronavirus on a surface, not in your body, but the virus initially spends time on the surface of your nasal membranes and throat before gaining entry and proliferating. There could be a window of opportunity between when the virus is transmitted to you and when you “have” it—and the povidone-iodine wash might kill some or all of the virus before it gets into you.

Simply get a 10% solution online or at a drug or pet store and dilute it to 0.5%.

If it doesn’t help, you’re not in any danger. 0.5% povidone-iodine is safe for gargling and nasal swabbing. Just don’t swallow it.

Keep Your Distance

Six feet is the prescribed distance. If you’re indoors and training, I’d bump that up even higher to 12-15 feet. You’re breathing hard. The other people are breathing hard. Everyone’s sweating, grunting, spittle flying.

Wipe Down Equipment Before and After You Use It

I don’t mean the old “wipe it with a sweaty towel.” I mean bring a cleaning agent that’s been shown to kill, or use disinfectant wipes (either bleach or ethanol-based). Very likely the gym will provide these; if not, provide your own.

Go During Off Hours

The more people in the gym, the greater the risk of transmission. Every gym has peak hours. Avoid those.

Find a Gym That’s Doing Everything Right

I’ll tell you what Thom is doing because it’s a very strong model.

No cardio equipment—too hard to clean.

Start every session on the hour. This makes it easier to do a deep clean every hour and keep people organized and safely distancing.

Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer stations all over. Hospital grade.

UV-C (shown to kill coronavirus) lighting in the air ducts.

Ionizers installed that attach water molecules to particles in the air, making them big enough for filters to catch.

Upgraded, more capable filters changed more frequently (once a month versus twice a year).

Open doors, big fans.

Do as much as possible outside in the sun.

Masks required in common areas.

Constant updates and communication with clients. Taking no chances.

Considering povidone-iodine washes available and zinc lozenges for sale, depending on logistics and whether more research emerges. This one’s pending.

Anyway, that’s what I’d recommend looking into. Regardless of how worried you are or not about the virus, these tips will help ensure you’re safe without negatively impacting your training experience.

What do you think about returning to the gym? What precautions will you take? What modifications, if any, will you make to your former routine and approach?

Let me know down below!


The post Dear Mark: My Gym is Open, Is It Safe to Go? appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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ghrelin leptin hunger satiety hormonesToday we’re taking a peek under the hood and looking at some of the hormones involved in hunger and satiety, a.k.a. appetite hormones.

You might think of hunger as a gnawing feeling in your stomach and satiety as that feeling of fullness when you’ve eaten enough… or maybe too much. That’s how we experience the feelings we call hunger and satiety, true; but I’m talking today about the physiological drives to eat or stop eating that is driven by hormones.

Eating behavior is coordinated mostly in the brain by the hypothalamus, which acts as the control center for appetite. Hunger and satiety hormones deliver information from the body about how much energy you are taking in and whether you need more. The overarching goal here is energy homeostasisbalancing the energy coming in (via food) with the energy needed for the everyday functions of being alive.

When you have sufficient energy, your body is free to invest in growth, repair, and reproduction. Taking in more energy than you need can lead to excess fat storage and issues like hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. Energy deficits result in adaptations designed to conserve energy. In the long run, energy deficits might increase longevity, but they can also seriously undermine health and, for example, impair fertility.

Today I’m going to cover some of the key hormones that are involved in this delicate dance. This is by no means a complete list. Let me know in the comments if you have a burning desire to learn more about one of the hormones not covered here.

Ghrelin: the Hunger Hormone

Ghrelin is usually called “the hunger hormone” because it directly stimulates your drive to eat. In fact, it is the only known peripheral (outside the central nervous system) hormone that has this effect. Other peripheral appetite hormones all act to suppress hunger and reduce food intake. I always use the mnemonic “ghrelin gets your stomach growlin’” to keep it straight. I’m sure the endocrinologists in the crowd are groaning at that one.

Ghrelin is released primarily by cells in the stomach. Levels rise before meals and correlate with subjective feelings of hunger.‘>2

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Should I Just Take a Ghrelin Blocker?

After it was discovered in 1999, ghrelin became a target for drug companies hoping to cash in by developing ghrelin inhibitors as a treatment for obesity. These efforts haven’t panned out for several reasons. First, ghrelin doesn’t stimulate overeating in normal physiological conditions. If you administer ghrelin to a human or lab rat, they will eat more, even to the point of becoming obese in the case of rodents. Normally, though, ghrelin levels don’t stay consistently high. They rise and fall to reflect energy balance. After you eat, ghrelin levels fall in proportion to the number of calories you ingest,‘>4

Ghrelin doesn’t stimulate eating just for the heck of it. Its main job seems to be preventing a negative energy balance. Obese individuals actually have chronically lower ghrelin than their lighter counterparts.‘>6

Drug trials have also been stymied because ghrelin has wide-reaching effects on other aspects of health besides eating behavior. Some of the known activities of ghrelin include:‘>8‘>10

  • Increasing insulin sensitivity
  • Improving cardiovascular function
  • Promoting muscle growth and bone formation
  • Regulating stress and anxiety
  • Suppressing brown fat thermogenesis, contributing to energy conservation
  • In other words, suppressing ghrelin could be very costly indeed. You can focus on metabolic flexibility instead. More on that later.

    Leptin: the Satiety Hormone

    Leptin’s main job is to signal to the brain when you have sufficient energy available. It is produced by adipose (body fat) cells. More body fat means more circulating leptin. Leptin is also released after you eat. Carbohydrate intake prompts a particularly strong leptin response, protein less so, and fat probably only minimally.

    Sometime leptin is characterized as ghrelin’s counterbalance. Whereas ghrelin is “the hunger hormone,” leptin is “the satiety hormone” (although in truth there are many, as you’ll see). If ghrelin tells the brain GO, leptin tells the brain STOP. I think that characterization isn’t exactly correct, though.

    It seems to me that both leptin and ghrelin prevent negative energy balance. If you think about it, for most of human history, energy shortagewhich, in the extreme, means starvation and deathwas a much bigger problem than energy abundance. Consuming too much food is a thoroughly modern problem. We should be more strongly attuned to shortages.

    Elevated ghrelin levels signal to the brain that it’s in danger of going into the red; low levels of leptin do the same. This explains why low leptin is particularly problematic from a health perspective. It’s associated with mood disturbances and infertility, among other issues.‘>12 Low leptin and high ghrelin both put the body in an energy conservation state. Leptin decreases, and ghrelin increases, in response to dieting and weight loss.‘>14 In fact, leptin decreases more than you’d expect just based on how much body fat is lost while dieting. It’s one of the reasons hunger increases and can become unbearable when you’re on a diet. Presumably, these hormonal changes reflect the body’s efforts to defend its energy stores and restore homeostasis.

    As with ghrelin, leptin’s functions extend well beyond appetite. Leptin has a hand in bone and cardiovascular health, insulin sensitivity, regulating thyroid hormones, insulin sensitivity, and glucose metabolism.

    How to Increase Leptin Levels

    It is possible to increase your leptin levels naturally, without medication. Here’s how to do it.

    1. Eat enough food. If you are severely depriving yourself, leptin will be suppressed and ghrelin will take over. That’s no way to live.
    2. Be sure to get healthy fats. Fats signal to your body that you’ve consumed enough calories, and they take longer to break down than carbs do. Some of my favorite sources of healthy fats include avocado oil, coconut butter, ghee, and macadamia nuts, among others.
    3. Restrict carbs for a time. Carbs need to be constantly replenished. Once you get past the “low-carb flu,” you’ll find that you have energy without constantly having to reach for snacks.
    4. Cycle in carbs. To optimize your leptin and ghrelin balance, you’ll want to achieve metabolic flexibility.

    For more details on leptin and how to control it, read this article

    Neuropeptide Y

    Neuropeptide Y, or NPY, is the most abundant peptide in the central nervous system. Found mostly in the hypothalamus, it acts as a hormone and neurotransmitter. It’s involved in a host of actions locally in the brain and throughout the body.

    Most importantly for the present purposes, NPY is considered the most potent appetite-stimulating compound in the human body. Each of the other hormones discussed in this post regulates food intake by acting on NPY in the hypothalamus. For example, ghrelin increases NPY activity, while leptin suppresses it. Elevated NPY strongly increases the drive to eat, especially carbohydrates.‘>16 It’s also expressed by fat cells, and research suggests that NPY promotes fat storage.‘>18, and it has known neuroprotective effects. There are a number of reasons to think that NPY is the key that explains how caloric restriction extends lifespan.‘>20 This may be one reason you don’t stay full for long after eating high-carb meals.


    Cholecystokinin (CCK) was the first known satiety hormone. It is secreted in the gastrointestinal tract, especially in the small intestine. CCK rises quickly after eating, especially in response to fat and protein in the meal, and it triggers the initial release of PYY.

    Like PYY, CCK is involved in various processes related to digestion, especially the digestion of fat. CCK also has interesting effects in the brain. The hippocampus contains a large concentration of CCK receptors, indicating that CCK plays an important role in learning and memory, though it’s still not well understood.‘>22

    Glucagon-like Peptide-1

    Abbreviated GLP-1, this hormone is secreted by the ileum and colon in response to nutrient intake. It acts as a satiety hormone, but researchers are especially interested in how it stimulates insulin secretion, improves insulin sensitivity, and helps regulate blood glucose.‘>24 which can persist for decades after the procedure.‘>26


    Let’s end with a familiar one. You probably know that the pancreas releases insulin after you eat, especially following carbohydrate intake. Insulin is sometimes called the “storage hormone” because one of its main jobs is to “unlock” adipose cells in order to store fat for future use. In healthy individuals, it also supports energy homeostasis by inhibiting lipolysis (fat burning) when there is sufficient glucose in the bloodstream to supply energy.

    As with the other hormones discussed here, insulin also acts as an energy barometer for the brain. It crosses the blood-brain barrier, where it regulates NPY expression and suppresses appetite.

    Can You Control Your Hunger Hormones?

    It’s tempting to think that if we understood these hormones’ actions, we could learn to control hunger and eating behavior and solve all the problems related to overeating. As great as that sounds, we’re a long way off.

    As you can see, energy homeostasis depends on the coordination of many different signaling pathways within the body. Too often, people try to hone in on the effects of just one variableleptin or ghrelin, sayhoping to manipulate hunger and satiety. None of these hormones works in isolation, though. There is still a lot to learn about the physiological significance of each of these hormones individually, not to mention how they work in tandem with one another.

    Furthermore, in human studies, hormone levels don’t consistently map on to our actual eating behavior as you’d expect. This might be because scientists haven’t uncovered the whole picture and don’t understand how all the various pieces work together to produce hunger. Probably, it’s also because we humans are complicated creatures who eat for a lot of reasons other than pure physiological hunger.

    What does it all mean? I think it means don’t look for a magic pill that will allow you to control appetite and hunger. If you struggle with unwanted hunger, the first thing to ask is whether you are eating enough to meet your energy needs. Are sending your brain scarcity signals by not eating enough, or perhaps not often enough? That’s an easy fix.

    Next, you can try manipulating your macros. One of the advantages of low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diets over low-fat, high-carb (LFHC) diets is that appetite is managed much better on LCHF.‘>28 If you go very low-carb, you might experience the appetite suppressing effects of ketosis as well.

    Check in with your stress levels and sleep habits. Too much of the former and not enough of the latter can drive up appetite.

    If none of those is the answer, it might be time to make an appointment with an endocrinologist or functional medicine practitioner who can help you dig deeper.

    Hunger isn’t something to be avoided, though. Hunger and satiety are normal physiological signals. Their job is to keep us alive and thriving. Rather than trying to manipulate or hack hunger, it’s useful to understand where it comes from so that we can respond appropriately and have the energy we need to be active and healthy.

    July Keto Month

    The post Hunger and Satiety Hormones appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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    Increase recovery and energy while beating the heat with this quick and easy recipe in less than five minutes.



    1. Add HyperAmino and peaches into blender and blend until smooth.
    2. Add splash of lemon juice and ice (optional).
    3. Enjoy! 

    Per Serving: 100 mg Caffeine | 30 Calories | 7 g Carbs

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    Don’t let emotional eating sabotage your fat-loss goals. Here are four easy-to-follow tips to stop your cravings.

    From eating small meals throughout the day, to consuming healthy unsaturated fats, these four tips will help you fight food cravings and keep your diet (and weight) on track. 

    Know Your Triggers

    Stressed? Bored? Sad? If you’re eating clean all day but then get hit with unexpected stress or emotion, those cravings could come creeping. If you find this is happening regularly, it’s time to jot that information down in your food journal or planner. 

    Try this: Knowing your triggers will arm you with the best defense — carry clean snacks or see the next item on our list for another good way to ward off mindless snacking.

    Watch Your Saturated Fats

    Going out for a round of food high in saturated fats (think pizza and chicken wings) can actually leave you wanting more for up to three days after your food fest, according to a study from UT Southwestern Medical Center. Researchers say the fatty food hits your brain with fatty acids and prevents the hunger-regulating hormones – leptin and insulin – from signaling you to stop chowing down.

    Try this: The good news is that the same study points out that healthy unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, don’t have the same waistline-damaging effects, which leaves your options wide open for a whole-wheat crust pizza with fresh vegetables and olive oil or chicken breast strips sauteed in a tablespoon of the good golden stuff.

    Work It Out

    Sometimes those cravings are just a reaction to anxiety or boredom, which means that getting creative could be your ticket out of cravingsville. The key is to distract yourself with healthy alternatives – not the kind that will leave you with regrets when its time to sling on the two-piece this summer.

    Try this: Get in a workout, take a walk or test-drive a new dance-cardio class for the first time. Turn your craving into a reminder that it’s time to switch gears and start something new. 

    Be Hungry No More

    Not eating regularly throughout the day will cause your body to fall into starvation mode and you’ll crave carbs — usually nutrient-void refined carbs, such as white pasta and bread – so nip that craving in the bud before it strikes by not letting yourself go hungry.

    Try this: It’s the Oxygen lifestyle mantra: Eat five to six small meals of protein and complex carbs every two to three hours. This will keep you satisfied so when a craving does arise (and that double-layer chocolate cake in the bakery window is calling your name) you’ll know that it’s all in your head because your body is fully fueled.

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