Maybe it’s an injury that took months to overcome. Maybe it’s an illness that left you bedridden (or demotivated). Maybe it’s simple disuse and neglect that dragged on and on—or lasted your entire life until today. Or maybe you read my recent post about claiming health in later life and want to get back on the road to vitality. For whatever reason, almost everyone will be forced to recover and rebuild their fitness and strength after an extended period of inactivity. But there’s a wrong way and a right way to do it.
Here are some tips for doing it the right way:
1. Do Anything You Can
Isometric contractions in the hospital bed (only if allowed by your doc, mind you). Single leg squats when standing up from the couch with your good leg. Bicep curls with the one arm that isn’t incapacitated. Whatever movement you can muster, get moving.
While it’s definitely “better” to train your entire body, training just a single body part or limb is better than doing nothing. It sends a signal to your body that you haven’t thrown in the towel, that you still need your metabolically-expensive muscle mass.
2. Motion Is Lotion—but Only If It’s High Quality Motion
The quicker you can get back to normal movement, the better. Normal movement, not normal speed. Quality over everything. For instance, say you sprain your ankle. The best thing you can do to recover is to start walking on it with good technique. Once you can walk with good form, however slow you go, get walking. Walk without a limp, even if it’s 1 MPH. Walk without a limp, even if you have to use crutches or a cane to bear some of the load. Don’t roll onto the outside of your bad foot. Don’t splay that foot out like a duck to avoid the pain.
The point is moving—and moving well.
3. Eat Tons Of Protein
Inactivity increases the protein requirement. When you’re on bed rest (mandatory or self-imposed), your protein metabolism shifts toward that of an older person’s—lower efficiency, higher substrate requirements to attain the same result. You need more protein just to stay on top of daily maintenance. Plus, since you’re actively healing and recovering and laying down or repairing tissue, you need extra protein to handle the extra processes.
Eat a good 1 gram protein per pound of lean body mass as you prepare for your return to activity. Consider including whey isolate, as it’s an easy additive source of protein that’s been shown to improve recovery after bed rest and surgery.
4. Learn To Distinguish Between Pain and Soreness
When recovering from an injury or just getting back into exercise, you want to avoid pain. Sharp pains in the joints, strains in the tendons that you feel for days after, a pulled muscle—these are not okay.
But you will and should feel discomfort. Muscle soreness after a session is fine. It’s normal. Burning in the muscle during a session is fine. It’s normal. Pain is not. Avoid pain.
5. Go For Walks
Regular walking is a powerful signal of “abundance” to your body. It tells your body that you’re still in the game, that you’re engaged with the world and have places to be. Walking is also the simplest, most fundamental way to get the blood flowing, get your joints lubricated, and apply a low-level stimulus to your musculoskeletal system. Pretty much everyone can walk.
If you have access to hills, even better. Walk up and down hills as often as possible. A brisk uphill walk is a legitimate way to build strength and endurance.
Work your way up to 5 times a week of 30-45 minutes. Throw on a weighted vest or throw some books in your backpack to add resistance.
6. Do Bear Crawls
Slow bear crawls are a great way to loosen up your joints and prepare your shoulders and hips for more complex, weighted movements. They’re actually a good exercise in their own right, especially if you haven’t done them since you were a baby.
Do these several times a week, preferably in the morning or before workouts, for a few minutes each day. Crawl forward, backward, sideways in a controlled fashion, making sure you feel the movements.
7. Do Balance Work
One basic way to improve balance (or just get more comfortable in unstable positions) is to stand on one foot and slowly sweep the opposite foot across in front of and behind you. Switch feet and do this every day for a couple minutes, or whenever you have down time—standing in line, for example.
You can also buy a 2×4 from the hardware store, place it on the ground, and practice walking forward and backward along it. You get the benefit of balancing on a narrow surface without the risk of falling to your doom.
8. Start With Bodyweight Exercises
Basic movements: knee flexion (squat, lunge, split squat), hip hinge (deadlift, kettlebell swing, trap bar DL), push (pushup, overhead press, dip), pull (pullup, chinup, row variations). You can do just about all of them with bodyweight, with the only one that’s really hard to do without external weights being the hip hinge.
Grab the Primal Blueprint Fitness ebook. It’s free and provides a step-by-step progression for all the movements, from total beginner doing pushups on the wall and assisted pull-ups to experienced lifter doing feet elevated pushups and weighted pull-ups.
9. Consider Finishing With Bodyweight Exercises.
Bodyweight exercises are totally sufficient for most people. It’s all about the amount of work you’re willing to do and the amount of effort you’re willing to give. In fact, I made the case in this post that you could build incredible strength and general fitness simply using bodyweight exercises plus some weighted resistance for the lower body (perhaps, say, my new favorite exercise: the trap bar deadlift and its many variations).
10. Take Fish Oil or Eat Fatty Fish.
The benefits of seafood on recovery and bounce-back-ability are multifold:
First, seafood is a great source of bioavailable high-quality protein—protein you need to recover from whatever sidelined you.
Second, the long chain omega-3s have a potent anti-inflammatory effect that can improve your recovery and speed up your return to normal activity. They reduce pain and inflammation without curtailing the healing process. One study even found that high dose omega-3 intake increased physical activity, maintained physical function, and reduced the incidence of joint replacement in older adults.
Third, the long chain omega-3s also increase muscle protein synthesis, particularly in older adults (presumably with higher baseline inflammation levels). In other words, they make physical activity more anabolic. They improve your ability to build muscle, muscle that you’ve probably lost being injured and inactive.
That’s it, everyone. These are the tips and methods I’ve used to get myself back on my feet after a long layaway, and to help others do the same. If you have anything to add or questions to ask, do so down below. I’d love to hear what worked (and what didn’t) for you. Thanks for reading.
Arentson-lantz EJ, Galvan E, Ellison J, Wacher A, Paddon-jones D. Improving Dietary Protein Quality Reduces the Negative Effects of Physical Inactivity on Body Composition and Muscle Function. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2019;74(10):1605-1611.
Alfaddagh A, Elajami TK, Saleh M, Elajami M, Bistrian BR, Welty FK. The effect of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids on physical function, exercise, and joint replacement in patients with coronary artery disease: A secondary analysis of a randomized clinical trial. J Clin Lipidol. 2018;12(4):937-947.e2.
Smith GI, Atherton P, Reeds DN, et al. Dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;93(2):402-12.
The post 10 Tips For Rebuilding Fitness and Strength After Long-Term Injury, Illness or Atrophy appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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Cold season is upon us. Vitamin D levels are down. People are cloistered indoors. Kids are walking petri dishes. Drug stores are advertising free flu shots. It’s that time of year. I’m sure a few of you are even sniffling as you read this, or maybe trying to ignore the pain of swallowing with a sore throat.
Colds seem like an inevitability, maybe not so much since you’ve cleaned up your diet, but nothing is 100% fool-proof. You will get sick. You will catch a cold. Or someone close to you will. What can you do for yourself? For your sick kid or partner? Are there any natural cold remedies that actually work?
Let’s look at them.
High Dose Vitamin C
Most studies find that vitamin C supplementation has little to no effect on the duration or severity of a cold. But not all. What seems to help, if anything, is a mega-dose of vitamin C.
In one study, taking 8 grams on the first day of the cold reduced illness a bit more than taking 4 grams.
A meta-analysis of studies concluded that taking 1 gram as a daily supplementary dose and 3-4 grams as a therapeutic dose at the onset of a cold could reduce the duration and severity.
Verdict: Vitamin C can’t hurt, so it’s worth a shot. Try 3-8+ grams when you feel the cold coming on, and supplement 500 mg-1 g during cold season.
Having good zinc levels are a great preventive. A strong baseline intake of zinc-rich foods like shellfish and red meat is the first line of defense against upper respiratory infections. But once you have a cold, or you feel one coming on, pounding zinc citrate lozenges or smoked oysters won’t make much of a difference. What can work is taking a specific type of zinc acetate, highlighted here by Chris Masterjohn.
Studies show that zinc acetate works very well at reducing the duration of colds, especially when you catch it early. Chris recommends using these lozenges every 1-2 hours when a cold first hits and letting them dissolve slowly in the mouth. It takes about 20-30 minutes for a single lozenge to dissolve, but this slow process is vital for actually getting the cold-busting effect. Don’t chew.
Verdict: Zinc acetate taken at the onset can help. Other forms of zinc are important for prevention (and general health), but probably aren’t therapeutic.
Elderberry probably has the coolest name ever—like some folk medicine out of a Tolkien story. Plus, it works.
In intercontinental air travelers (a population at much greater risk for colds), taking elderberry syrup reduced total days with a cold (57 versus 117) and cold symptom score (247 versus 583, with higher being worse).
In a meta-analysis of controlled trials, elderberry syrup was also shown to reduce overall cold symptoms.
This elderberry syrup is very high quality, and even comes in a sugar-free (glycerin-based) form if you want to avoid any excess fructose.
Does “Jewish penicillin” work? Yes, yes it does. Evidence confirms that chicken soup made from real chicken broth eases nasal congestion, improves the function of the nasal cilia protecting us from pathogen incursions, and reduces cold symptoms.
Does it have to be chicken? As most cultures include broth-based soup in their list of effective cold remedies, I suspect it’s the goodness of the broth that’s important and any true bone broth-based soup will work.
If I feel a cold coming on, I’ll crush and dice up an entire head of garlic and lightly simmer it in a big mug of bone broth. I find I am usually able to ward off whatever’s headed my way. Of course, that’s just an anecdote and the available evidence is more equivocal.
Another way I’ll eat garlic is to use black garlic—garlic that’s been aged for months until it turns black, soft, and sweet. Delicious and even more potent.
Aged garlic extract can also be an effective supplement.
Verdict: It works.
Acupuncture is controversial. I’m no expert myself—I’ve gotten it a a few times at urging from friends who swear by it—and while I found it relaxing and enjoyable, I didn’t get any amazing results. Then again, I wasn’t going in for anything in particular, nor did I stick with it for very long (apparently you need ongoing therapy). This article by Chris Kresser (who in addition to being a nutrition expert is a licensed acupuncturist) explains the effects and benefits of acupuncture from a Western perspective; it’s worth reading if you’ve been wondering about the therapy.
Does it work for colds?
There are some studies where it seems to help against the common cold. Like this study out of Japan or this series of case studies out of Korea. Both studies indicate the need for placebo-controlled trials to truly determine the efficacy, though. In 2018 there was a published “protocol” for just such a study, but as far as I can tell the results haven’t been published.
Even if it doesn’t lessen the severity of the cold itself, I know some friends who go for acupuncture toward the end of a cold to help speed sinus drainage.
Verdict: Unknown but perhaps.
Echinacea is a medicinal herb native to North America, where it was traditionally used as a painkiller, laxative, and anti-microbial agent (although they didn’t know what microbes were of course). Today, it’s best known as an immune modulator that reduces symptoms of the common cold. Does it work?
A Cochrane analysis of controlled trials found no benefit against colds, but it did note that “individual prophylaxis trials consistently show positive (if non-significant) trends.”
In other words, it very well might work, but we don’t have gold standard evidence in either direction.
Verdict: Might work.
Oregano oil has a long history of traditional use in treating infectious diseases, and it has potent anti-bacterial effects against a broad range of microbes. It fights athlete’s foot. It’s broadly anti-fungal. But there simply isn’t any strong evidence that it works against the common cold.
Verdict: Not much evidence it works for colds.
Back when I was a boy, my favorite thing to do when I had clogged up nostrils was to get in a really hot shower, close all the windows and doors, and read a good book as the steam loosened up the nasal passages. It really did work, albeit not for long. If the cold virus was still present, my nose would usually clog right back up afterwards.
Verdict: Good for momentary relief of clogged nostrils, like right before bed.
Spicy food probably won’t destroy a cold outright, but it can safely (and deliciously) reduce the most annoying cold symptom: stuffy noses. Capsaicin, the chili pepper component that produces a burning sensation in mammalian tissue, reduces nasal inflammation. When your nasal blood vessels are inflamed, the walls constrict; the space gets tighter and you have trouble breathing. Studies indicate that capsaicin is effective against most symptoms of nasal congestion.
Verdict: Good for stuffy noses.
In Sanskrit, “neti” means “nasal cleansing.” The neti pot is a exactly what it sounds like. You fill a tiny plastic kettle with warm saline water, tilt your head over a sink, and pour the water into one nostril. It flows out the other one, clearing your nasal cavity and letting you breathe again. The scientific term is “nasal irrigation,” and it really does work, albeit only against one cold symptom. But let’s face it: the worst part of a bad cold is the stuffy nose that keeps you up at night, gives you dry mouth, and makes food taste bland. Neti pottin’ can fix that right up.
Cod Liver Oil/Fish Oil
Standard childcare practice across the world, but especially in Northern European countries, used to be a big spoonful of cod liver oil every day on your way out the door. Cod liver oil is a great source of vitamin D, vitamin A, and omega-3s—all of which figure prominently in immune function. But studies of the individual nutrients in cold prevention or treatment have had unimpressive results. What might work, though, is cod liver oil.
One recent study found that while vitamin D levels or supplements had no effect on whether a person got a cold or not, the only thing that was associated with lower incidences of colds was taking cod liver oil (or even just regular fish oil) in the last 7 days. It’s not a huge effect, and it’s not necessarily causal, but it’s good enough for me to recommend it.
Verdict: Works (and is healthy otherwise, so might as well).
So, there you go: a good list of therapies, supplements, foods, and nutrients to include (or not) in your anti-cold regimen this season. If you have any suggestions, any recommendations, or questions, throw them in down below.
Thanks for reading, folks, and be well.
Quidel S, Gómez E, Bravo-soto G, Ortigoza Á. What are the effects of vitamin C on the duration and severity of the common cold?. Medwave. 2018;18(6):e7261.
Anderson TW, Suranyi G, Beaton GH. The effect on winter illness of large doses of vitamin C. Can Med Assoc J. 1974;111(1):31-6.
Hemilä H, Petrus EJ, Fitzgerald JT, Prasad A. Zinc acetate lozenges for treating the common cold: an individual patient data meta-analysis. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2016;82(5):1393-1398.
Tiralongo E, Wee SS, Lea RA. Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients. 2016;8(4):182.
Hawkins J, Baker C, Cherry L, Dunne E. Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials. Complement Ther Med. 2019;42:361-365.
Nantz MP, Rowe CA, Muller CE, Creasy RA, Stanilka JM, Percival SS. Supplementation with aged garlic extract improves both NK and ??-T cell function and reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled nutrition intervention. Clin Nutr. 2012;31(3):337-44.
Lissiman E, Bhasale AL, Cohen M. Garlic for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(11):CD006206.
The post 12 Natural Cold Remedies Examined: What Works and What Doesn’t appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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Inflammation gets a bad rap in the alternative health world: “Inflammation causes heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune disease! It’s at the root of depression.” These are all true—to some extent.
Name a disease, and inflammation is involved.
Crohn’s disease is inflammatory.
Major depression is inflammatory.
Heart disease is inflammatory.
Autoimmune diseases, which involve an inflammatory response directed at your own tissues, are inflammatory.
Arthritis is inflammatory.
Even obesity is inflammatory, with fat cells literally secreting inflammatory cytokines.
Yes, but the story is more complicated than that. Inflammation, after all, is a natural process developed through millions of years of evolution. It can’t be wholly negative. Just like our bodies didn’t evolve to manufacture cholesterol to give us heart disease, inflammation isn’t there to give us degenerative diseases.
So, Why Does Inflammation Happen?
When pain, injury, or illness hit, the first responder is the acute inflammatory response. In other words, it is brief, lasting several days or less. All sorts of things can cause an acute inflammatory response. Here are a few:
- Trauma (punch, kick, golf ball to the head)
- Infection by pathogens (bacterial, viral)
- Burn (sun, fire, seat belt buckle on a summer day)
- Chemical irritants
- Allergic reaction
Things happen pretty fast in an acute inflammatory response and involve several different players, including the vascular system (veins, arteries, capillaries and such), the immune system, and the cells local to the injury.
- First, something painful and unpleasant happens; choose one of the above injury options.
- Then, pattern recognition receptors (PRR) located at the injury site initiate the release of various inflammatory mediators, which in turn initiate vasodilation (or widening of the blood vessels). This allows increased blood flow to the injury site, which warms the site, turns it the familiar red, and carries plasma and leukocytes to the site of the injured tissue.
- The blood vessels become more permeable, thus allowing the plasma and leukocytes to flow through the vessel walls and into the injured tissue to do their work. Emigration of plasma into tissue also means fluid buildup, which means swelling.
- At the same time, the body releases an inflammatory mediator called bradykinin, which increases pain sensitivity at the site and discourages usage of the injured area. These sensations—heat, redness, swelling, pain, and a loss of function—are annoying and familiar, but they’re absolutely necessary for proper healing.
Why Is (Acute) Inflammation Essential?
Allow me to explain why the four primary symptoms of acute inflammation are necessary, despite being unpleasant:
- Increased blood flow warms the injury and turns it red, which can be irritating and unsightly, but it also carries the guys—leukocytes—that will be cleaning up the injury site, mopping up pathogens, and overseeing the inflammatory process.
- Swollen body parts don’t fit into gloves, are really sensitive, and don’t work as well as their slim counterparts, but a swollen finger is a finger that’s full of a plasma and leukocyte slurry and therefore on the road to recovery.
- Pain hurts, but if an injury doesn’t hurt and it’s serious, you’ll keep damaging it because you won’t know not to use it.
- Loss of function prevents you from using what could be one of your favorite body parts, but you don’t want to make it worse be re-injuring it. Besides, it’s only temporary.
What About Chronic Inflammation?
These symptoms both indicate and enable inflammation (and, thus, healing), but what’s the deal with inflammation being linked with all those chronic illnesses—like obesity, heart disease, and depression? How does something normal and helpful go haywire and become implicated in some of the most crushing, tragic diseases of our time?
When inflammation becomes chronic and systemic, when it ceases to be an acute response, when it becomes a constant low-level feature of your physiology that’s always on and always engaged, the big problems arise.
The inflammatory response is supposed to be short and to the point. And because a big part of inflammation is breaking the tissue down, targeting damaged tissue and invading pathogens, before building it back up, the inflammatory response has the potential to damage the body. That’s why it’s normally a tightly regulated system: because we don’t want it getting out of hand and targeting healthy tissue. But if it’s on all the time—if chronic inflammation sets in—regulation becomes a lot harder.
Acute vs. Chronic Inflammation
A perfect example of the acute inflammation versus chronic inflammation dichotomy is exercise.
A single hard workout raises inflammation. It’s a stressor, a damaging event imposed upon your body. See for yourself.
A hard run spikes C-reactive protein for up to two days.
During exercise, skeletal muscle releases the inflammatory cytokine IL-6, a marker of damage.
Volleyball practice elicits spikes in IL-6 in both male and female elite volleyball players.
Acute exercise spiked CRP in cardiovascular disease patients (but a four-month exercise program lowered it).
This table of inflammatory responses to strenuous endurance events shows some massive spikes in CRP, some up to 20-fold the baseline value.
Yet, study after study (epidemiological and clinical alike) shows that extended exercise programs generally reduce markers of inflammation (like C-reactive protein) over the long-term:
- In elderly Japanese women, a 12-week resistance training program reduced circulating levels of inflammatory markers compared to baseline; reductions in CRP were associated with increases in muscle thickness.
- American adults who engaged in frequent physical activity tended to have lower CRPs than adults who were more sedentary.
- In type 2 diabetics, (key term coming up) long-term high intensity resistance and aerobic training reduced inflammatory markers over the course of a year (independent of changes in body weight, meaning activity was the key factor).
- Endurance combined with resistance training reduced CRP in young, healthy women better than endurance training alone.
- In obese, post-menopausal women, a basic moderate cardio program lowered CRP without really affecting body weight either way over the course of a year.
There are many more out there, but the general gist is that regular exercise tends to lower markers of systemic inflammation while acute exercise increases markers of acute inflammation. And sometimes what’s acute can become chronic. How do we make sense of this? How do we avoid making those acute spikes a chronic, constant thing?
Identifying Chronic Inflammation: Objective Markers
First, we need to be able to identify chronic inflammation. What symptoms and biomarkers can we use to track our inflammation levels?
CRP, or C-Reactive Protein
CRP is a protein that binds with dead and dying cells and bacteria in order to clear them from the body. It can always be found (and measured) in the bloodstream, but levels spike when inflammation is at hand. During acute inflammation caused by infection, for example, CRP can spike by up to 50,000-fold. CRP spikes due to acute inflammation peak at around 48 hours and declines pretty quickly thereafter (post acute-phase inflammation CRP has a half life of 18 hours). Thus, if the incident causing the inflammation is resolved, CRP goes back to normal within a few days. If it persists, the infection/trauma/etc. probably persists as well.
Highly sensitive to many different kinds of stressors, CRP rises in response to essentially anything that causes inflammation. This makes it valuable for determining that inflammation is occurring, but it makes it difficult to determine why that inflammation is occurring—because it could be almost anything. But if you’re looking for confirmation that you are chronically, systemically inflamed, an elevated CRP (in absence of any acute infections, injuries, burns, or stressors) is a useful barometer.
“Normal” CRP levels are supposedly 10 mg/L. Absent infection or acute stressors, however, ideal CRP levels are well under 1 mg/L. You want to stay well below 1; you don’t want “normal.” Between 10-40 mg/L (and perhaps even 1-9 mg/L, too) indicates systemic inflammation (or pregnancy), while anything above that is associated with real acute stuff. Note that exercise can elevate CRP, so don’t get tested if you’ve worked out in the last couple days.
IL-6, or Interleukin-6
T cells (type of white blood cell that plays a huge role in the immune response) and macrophages (cells that engulf and digest—also known as phagocytosing—stray tissue and pathogens) both secrete IL-6 as part of the inflammatory response, so elevated IL-6 can indicate systemic inflammation.
Tissue Omega-3 Content
This is a direct measurement of the omega-3 content of your bodily tissue. It’s not widely available, but it is very useful. Remember that anti-inflammatory eicosanoids draw upon the omega-3 fats in your tissues and that inflammatory eicosanoids draw upon the omega-6 fats. People having a higher proportion of omega-6 fats will thus produce more inflammatory eicosanoids. Now, we absolutely need both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory eicosanoids for proper inflammatory responses, but people with high omega-6 tissue levels make way too many inflammatory eicosanoids. Studies indicate that people with the highest omega-3 tissue levels suffer fewer inflammatory diseases (like coronary heart disease).
Research (highlighted and explicated here by Chris Kresser) suggests that omega-3 tissue concentrations of around 60% are ideal, which is a level commonly seen in Japan—the seemingly paradoxical land of high blood pressure, heavy smoking, and low coronary heart disease rates.
This measures the EPA and DHA, the two important omega-3 fatty acids, as a percentage of total fatty acids present in your red blood cells. It doesn’t correlate exactly to tissue amounts, but it’s pretty good and a powerful predictor of cardiovascular disease risk. The omega-3 index doesn’t measure omega-6 content, but those with a low omega-3 index are probably sporting excessive omega-6 in their red blood cells.
Anything above 8% corresponds to a “low risk,” but levels of 12-15% are ideal and roughly correspond to the 60% tissue content mentioned by Chris’ article. Four percent and below is higher risk and can be viewed as a proxy for increased inflammation (or at least the risk of harmful systemic inflammation developing from normal inflammation).
Heart Rate Variability
Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome Score
There’s the systemic inflammatory response syndrome, which is incredibly serious and has four criteria. If you have two or more of them at once, congratulations: you qualify—and should probably see a health professional immediately. This isn’t relevant for low-grade systemic inflammation, like the kind associated with obesity or autoimmune disease.
- Body temperature less than 96.8 F (36 C) or greater than 100.4 F (38 C).
- Heart rate above 90 beats per minute.
- High respiratory rate, 20 breaths per minute or higher.
- White blood cell count fewer than 4000 cells/mm³ or greater than 12,000 cells/mm³.
Of these objective markers to test, I’d lean toward CRP, HRV, and one of the omega-3 tests. CRP is pretty comprehensive, HRV is a two-fer (inflammation and general stress/recovery), and, while omega-3 tissue or blood cell content doesn’t necessarily indicate the existence of systemic inflammation in your body, it does indicate the severity of the inflammatory response you can expect your body to have. Taken together, these tests will give you an idea of where you stand.
Identifying Inflammation: Subjective Markers
There are also subjective markers. They may be harmless artifacts, but they may indicate that something systemic is going on.
Flare-up of Autoimmune Conditions You Haven’t Heard From In Ages
Sore joints, dry, patchy, and/or red skin, and anything else that indicates a flare-up. For me, this is usually mild arthritis.
Acute inflammation is often characterized by swelling at the site of injury. The same effect seems to occur in states of systemic inflammation, although they aren’t localized, but rather generalized.
If you feel stressed, you’re probably inflamed. I’m talking about the kind that has you rubbing your temples, face palming, sighing every couple minutes, and pinching the space between your eyes very, very hard.
Persistent But Unexplained Nasal Congestion
Could be allergies, sure, but I’ve always noticed that when I’m under a lot of stress and generally in an inflamed state, my nose gets clogged. Certain foods will trigger this, too, and I think it can all be linked to a persistent but subtle state of inflammation.
If you fit the bill for the eight signs of overtraining listed in this post, you’re probably inflamed.
Ultimately, though? It comes down to the simple question you must ask yourself: How do you feel?
I mean, this seems like an obvious marker, but a lot of people ignore it in pursuit of numbers. If you feel run down, lethargic, unhappy, your workouts are suffering, you struggle to get out of bed, you’re putting on a little extra weight around the waist, sex isn’t as interesting, etc., etc., etc., you may be suffering from some manner of systemic, low-grade inflammation. Conversely, if you’re full of energy, generally pleased and/or content with life, killing it in the gym, bounding out of bed, lean as ever or on your way there, and your sex drive is powerful and age appropriate (or inappropriate), you’re probably not suffering from chronic inflammation.
Causes of Chronic Inflammation
We need to determine why inflammation is “on” all the time—and then take the steps to counter it. I’m going to fire off a few things that both induce inflammation and tend toward prevalence in developed countries. You let me know if anything sounds familiar to you.
- Toxic diets: High-sugar, high-processed carb, high-industrial fat, high-gluten, high-CAFO meat, low-nutrient food is a pretty accurate descriptor of the modern Western diet.
- Insufficient omega-3 intake: Omega-3 fats form the precursors for anti-inflammatory eicosanoids, which are an integral part of the inflammatory response. Poor omega-3 status means insufficient production of anti-inflammatory eicosanoids and a lopsided inflammatory response to normal stimuli.
- Excessive omega-6 intake: Omega-6 fats form the precursors for inflammatory eicosanoids, which are an integral part of the inflammatory response. High omega-6 status (especially when combined with poor omega-3 status) means excessive production of inflammatory eicosanoids and a lopsided inflammatory response to normal stimuli. The more omega-6 you eat, the more omega-3 you crowd out for anti-inflammatory eicasonoid formation.
- Lack of sleep: Poor sleep is linked to elevated inflammatory markers. Poor sleep is a chronic problem in developed nations. Either we go to bed too late, wake up too early, or we use too many electronics late at night and disrupt the quality of what little sleep we get. Or all three at once.
- Lack of movement: People lead sedentary lives, by and large, and a lack of activity is strongly linked to systemic, low-grade inflammation. People don’t have to walk to get places, they take escalators and elevators, they sit for hours on end, and they don’t have time for regular exercise.
- Poor recovery: Other people move too much, with too little rest and recovery. When I ran 100+ miles a week, I certainly wasn’t sedentary, but I was chronically inflamed. Overtraining is a form of chronic inflammation.
- Chronic stress: Modern life is stressful. Bills, work, commuting, politics, exercise that you hate – it all adds up and it doesn’t seem to let up or go away. And if it becomes too much for you to handle (I know it’s too much for me at times), your body will have a physiological, inflammatory response to emotional stress.
- Lack of down time: When you’re always on the computer, always checking your email/Facebook/smartphone, you are always “on.” You may think you’re relaxing because your body is stationary, but you’re not relaxing.
- Lack of nature time: We spend too much time contained in cubicles, cars, trains, and cities, away from trees, leaves, and soft earth. In a way, nature is home for us. Going home certainly has its measured benefits.
- Poor gut health: The gut houses the bulk of the human immune system. When it’s unhealthy, so is your inflammatory regulation. A healthy gut is also selectively permeable, allowing beneficial compounds passage into the body and keeping toxins out. An unhealthy gut often becomes leaky, allowing toxins into the body to stimulate an immune, inflammatory response.
- Poor acute stressor/chronic stress ratio: We respond far better to acute stressors than repeated, sustained stress – even if the latter is of a lower intensity.
See what I mean? Since we’re set up for acute stressors requiring an acute inflammatory response, all this other low-level, evolutionarily-discordant, superficially mild stuff set against a backdrop of misaligned fatty acid ratios and impaired gut health throws us off and sets us up for a lifetime of chronic inflammation.
Inflammation is a complex physiological process that can go wrong in a lot of ways. But luckily, sticking to the tried and true dietary and lifestyle measures will get you most of the way toward preventing inflammation from becoming chronic and untamed.
If you have any further questions about inflammation, fire away down below! Thanks for reading.
Eliakim A, Portal S, Zadik Z, et al. The effect of a volleyball practice on anabolic hormones and inflammatory markers in elite male and female adolescent players. J Strength Cond Res. 2009;23(5):1553-9.
Lara fernandes J, Serrano CV, Toledo F, et al. Acute and chronic effects of exercise on inflammatory markers and B-type natriuretic peptide in patients with coronary artery disease. Clin Res Cardiol. 2011;100(1):77-84.
Ford ES. Does exercise reduce inflammation? Physical activity and C-reactive protein among U.S. adults. Epidemiology. 2002;13(5):561-8.
Balducci S, Zanuso S, Nicolucci A, et al. Anti-inflammatory effect of exercise training in subjects with type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome is dependent on exercise modalities and independent of weight loss. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2010;20(8):608-17.
Daray LA, Henagan TM, Zanovec M, et al. Endurance and resistance training lowers C-reactive protein in young, healthy females. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2011;36(5):660-70.
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Older people (and those headed in that direction, which is everyone else) are really sold a bill of goods when it comes to health and longevity advice. I’m not a young man anymore, and for decades I’ve been hearing all sorts of input about aging that’s proving to be not just misguided, but downright incorrect. Blatant myths about healthy longevity continue to circulate and misinform millions. Older adults at this very moment are enacting routines detrimental to living long that they think are achieving the opposite. A major impetus for creating the Primal Blueprint was to counter these longevity myths. That mission has never felt more personal.
So today, I’m going to explore and refute a few of these top myths, some of which contain kernels of truth that have been overblown and exaggerated. I’ll explain why.
1) “Don’t Lift Heavy: You’ll Throw Out Your Back”
Obviously, a frail grandfather pushing 100 shouldn’t do Starting Strength right off the bat (or maybe ever, depending on how frail he is). That’s not my contention here. My contention:
Lifting as heavy as you can as safely as you can is essential for healthy longevity. That’s why I put it first in the list today. It’s that important.
For one, lean muscle mass is one of the strongest predictors of resistance to mortality. The more muscle a person has (and the stronger they are), the longer they’ll live—all else being equal. That’s true in both men and women.
One reason is that the stronger you are, the more capable you are. You’re better at taking care of yourself, standing up from chairs, ascending stairs, and maintaining basic functionality as you age.
Another reason is that increased lean mass means greater tissue reserve—you have more organ and muscle to lose as you age, so that when aging-related muscle loss sets in, you have longer to go before it gets serious. And that’s not even a guarantee that you’ll lose any. As long as you’re still lifting heavy things, you probably won’t lose much muscle, if any. Remember: the average old person studied in these papers isn’t doing any kind of strength training at all.
It doesn’t have to be barbells and Olympic lifts and CrossFit. It can be machines (see Body By Science, for example) and bodyweight and hikes. What matters is that you lift intensely (and intense is relative) and safely, with good technique and control.
2) “Avoid Animal Protein To Lower IGF-1”
Animal protein has all sorts of evil stuff, they say.
Methionine—linked to reduced longevity in animal models.
Increased IGF-1—a growth promoter that might promote unwanted growth, like cancer.
Yet, a huge study showed that in older people, those 65 or older, increased animal protein intake actually protected against mortality. The older they were and the more protein they ate, the longer they lived.
Meanwhile, low-protein diets have been shown to have all sorts of effects that spell danger for older people hoping to live long and live well:
- Slow the metabolism, increase insulin resistance, and cause body fat gain.
- Impair the immune system and make infections more severe.
- Reduce muscle function, cellular mass (yes, the actual mass of the cell itself), and immune response in elderly women.
- Impair nitrogen balance in athletes.
- Increase the risk of osteoporosis.
- Increase the risk of sarcopenia (muscle wasting).
And about that “excess methionine” and “increased IGF-1”?
In both human and animal studies, there’s a U-shaped relationship between IGF-1 levels and lifespan. Animal studies show an inverse relationship between IGF-1 and diabetes, heart disease, and heart disease deaths (higher IGF-1, less diabetes/heart disease) and a positive association between IGF-1 and cancer (higher IGF-1, more cancer). A recent review of the animal and human evidence found that while a couple human studies show an inverse relationship between IGF-1 and longevity, several more show a positive relationship—higher IGF-1, longer lifespan—and the majority show no clear relationship at all.
3) “You’re Never Getting Back That Cartilage—Once It’s Gone, It’s Gone”
Almost every doctor says this. It’s become an axiom in the world of orthopedics.
But then we see this study showing that people have the same microRNAs that control tissue and limb regeneration in lizards and amphibians. They’re most strongly expressed in the ankle joints, less so in the knees, and even less so at the hip—but they’re there, and they’re active.
I’ve seen some impressive things, have been able to personally verify some stunning “anecdotes” from friends and colleagues who were able to regrow cartilage or at least regain all their joint function after major damage to it. Most doctors and studies never capture these people. If you look at the average older person showing up with worn-down joints and degraded or damaged cartilage, how active are they? What’s their diet?
They are mostly inactive. They are often obese or overweight.
They generally aren’t making bone broth and drinking collagen powder. They aren’t avoiding grains and exposing their nether regions to daily sun. They aren’t doing 200 knee circles a day, performing single leg deadlifts, and hiking up mountains. These are the things that, if anything can, will retain and regrow cartilage. Activity. Letting your body know that you still have need of your ankles, knees, and hips. That you’re still an engaged, active human interacting with the physical world.
4) “Retire Early”
This isn’t always bad advice, but retiring and then ceasing all engagement with the outside world will reduce longevity, not increase it. Having a life purpose is essential for living long and living well; not having one is actually an established risk factor for early mortality. And at least when you’re getting up in the morning to go to work, you have a built-in purpose. That purpose may not fulfill your heart and spirit, but it’s a purpose just the same: a reason to get up and keep moving.
Retiring can work. Don’t get me wrong. But the people who retire early and make it work for their health and longevity are staying active. They’re pursuing side projects or even big visions. They have hobbies, friends, and loved ones who they hang out with all the time.
The ones who don’t? Well, they are at at increased risk of dying early.
You don’t have to keep working a job you hate, or even a job you enjoy. You can retire. Just maintain your mission.
5) “Take It Easy As You Get Older”
As older people, we’re told that sex might be “too strenuous for the heart” (Truth: It’s good for it). We’re told to “take the elevator to save our knees.” They tell us “Oh, don’t get up, I’ll get it for you.”
They don’t tell me that because, well, I’m already up and doing the thing. I’m active and obviously so. I don’t take it easy.
Stay vigorous, friends. Stay vivacious. Don’t be foolhardy, mind you. Be engaged.
“Take it easy” quickly becomes “sit in the easy chair all day long watching the news.” Don’t let it happen.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t rest. Rest is everything. Sleep is important. But you must earn your rest, and when you have the energy, take advantage of it. Don’t rest on your laurels.
As you can see, there are tiny kernels of truth in many of these myths. We should all be careful lifting heavy things and pay close attention to technique and form. Everyone should care for their cartilage and avoid damage to it. No one should continue working a job that sucks their soul and depletes their will to live if they can move on from it. And so on.
What we all need to avoid is sending the message to our brain, body, and cells that we’re done. That we’ve given up and our active, engaged life is effectively over. Because when that happens, it truly is over.
Someone asked me when aging begins. How old is “old”?
I think I know now. Aging begins when you start listening to conventional longevity advice. As I said on Twitter earlier today, healthy aging begins when you do the opposite.
Want more on building a life that will allow you to live well into later decades? I definitely have more on that coming up. A perceptive reader shared the news in one of the Facebook groups already, so let me mention it here. My new book, Keto For Life: Reset Your Biological Clock In 21 Days and Optimize Your Diet For Longevity, is coming out December 31, 2019. I’ll have more info, including a special bonus package for those who preorder, in just a few weeks. In the meantime, you can read more about it here on our publisher’s page.
That’s it for today, friends. Chime in down below about longevity or any other health topics you’re thinking about these days. What are the most egregious aging myths you’ve heard? What do you do instead? Take care.
Karlsen T, Nauman J, Dalen H, Langhammer A, Wisløff U. The Combined Association of Skeletal Muscle Strength and Physical Activity on Mortality in Older Women: The HUNT2 Study. Mayo Clin Proc. 2017;92(5):710-718.
Malta A, De oliveira JC, Ribeiro TA, et al. Low-protein diet in adult male rats has long-term effects on metabolism. J Endocrinol. 2014;221(2):285-95.
Carrillo E, Jimenez MA, Sanchez C, et al. Protein malnutrition impairs the immune response and influences the severity of infection in a hamster model of chronic visceral leishmaniasis. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(2):e89412.
Castaneda C, Charnley JM, Evans WJ, Crim MC. Elderly women accommodate to a low-protein diet with losses of body cell mass, muscle function, and immune response. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995;62(1):30-9.
Gaine PC, Pikosky MA, Martin WF, Bolster DR, Maresh CM, Rodriguez NR. Level of dietary protein impacts whole body protein turnover in trained males at rest. Metab Clin Exp. 2006;55(4):501-7.
Wu C, Odden MC, Fisher GG, Stawski RS. Association of retirement age with mortality: a population-based longitudinal study among older adults in the USA. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2016;70(9):917-23.
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Today’s post is offered up by the good people at Joovv, a company devoted to researching and harnessing the science of red light therapy. I’ve gotten to know (and love) their technology over the last year, and my family has, too—especially my daughter and son-in-law. Today I’ve invited Scott Nelson and his team to share some of their research into red light therapy, a topic I’ve written about now and then over the last few years. It’s an area of ancestral health I find fascinating—and one where modern science can help us recreate or even enhance natural ancestral inputs to foster better well-being today. Enjoy—and be sure to check out the giveaway below.
Diet and fitness are the pillars of a healthy life built on ancestral principles. But food, water, and exercise aren’t the only factors that affect your health and function on a day-to-day basis. Natural light is also a major pillar of a healthy, ancestral lifestyle, and unfortunately, many people don’t get nearly enough of it.
You can complement your diligence in the kitchen and your hard work in the gym with the “nutrients” that come from natural light. This post gives an overview of photobiomodulation (aka “red light therapy”), a natural health intervention that’s helping people get the light their bodies need for optimal health and fitness.
The Problem With Modern Light Exposure
Our Ancestors Lived with an Abundance of Natural Light. We Don’t Get Nearly Enough.
One of the biggest differences between our modern lives and those of our ancestors is the amount of time we spend outside and how much natural light we experience every day. Even if you’re eating well on a Paleo or Keto diet and exercising every day, odds are you spend most of your days indoors. In fact, the average American spends more than 90% of their time inside.  That’s not nearly enough natural light for our bodies, and it’s a far cry from our ancestors’ lifestyles.
In the past, people were outdoors every day out of necessity. The human body and our biology evolved in the presence of lots of sunlight, and light is still essential to our health. It helps regulate our sleep cycle, powers our cells and energy production, which allows our bodies to function as they were intended.
To make matters worse, we’re currently faced with a modern light problem as well. All of our overhead lighting, plus the bright blue light from our phones, TVs, and computer screens, is negatively affecting our health. Many of our sleep problems can be traced back to the abundance of bright, artificial light we take in at all hours of the day. 
Similar to how our diets have grown to include more grains and processed foods, and our physical activity has dwindled as we became more sedentary, the negative effects of artificial light combined with a lack of natural light have separated us even further from the roots of good health.
Using Red Light Therapy to Get the Natural Light You Need
Jobs, school, busy schedules, and changing seasons prevent many of us from getting outside every day, even if we want to. That’s where red light therapy comes into play: it’s a natural, noninvasive health intervention you can use in your home to get a full day’s worth of natural light, even if you can’t get out in the sun.
Light therapy is a non-invasive, convenient treatment that powers your cellular function with concentrated, natural light. This natural light stimulates the mitochondria in your cells, which helps you produce more adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is used by your body for muscle and skin healing, pain relief, and clearer skin. We’ll get into detailed health benefits later, but check out Joovv’s learn library now if you want to dig in now.
Many people are still in the dark when it comes to red light therapy. There’s a lot to know and a lot of misleading information out there. Let’s explore what red light therapy is, how it works, and how it can help maximize your health and Paleo goals.
How Does Red Light Therapy Work?
A quality red light therapy device—like a Joovv— delivers concentrated wavelengths of natural red and near infrared light directly to your skin and cells. All you really have to do is sit or stand in front of the light for a few minutes every day. In other words, red light therapy is very easy to do, but it produces some pretty incredible health results that have been demonstrated across hundreds of peer-reviewed clinical studies.
On top of ATP production, red light therapy increases circulation and reduces oxidative stress associated with cell injury and things like muscle fatigue, joint pain, and inflammation. A treatment only takes 10-15 minutes with a professional-grade device. Because red light therapy is natural and non-invasive, there are virtually no side effects or risks either.
Red light therapy is backed up by a large base of clinical research, originally driven by NASA’s involvement in the 1990s. After that, red light therapy devices could only be found in expensive and exclusive spas. With advancements in LED technology, combined with more awareness of the therapy, there are now many light therapy devices on the market. We’ll break down some of the most important factors to consider in a light therapy device towards the end of this post.
Natural Health Benefits of Red Light Therapy
The benefits of red light therapy are backed up by a large base of clinical research. Here are some of the most studied and well-documented health benefits, complete with links to the published and peer-reviewed studies:
More Restful Sleep and a Healthy Circadian Rhythm with Red Light Therapy
Light exposure is one of the biggest factors in our sleep quality, and it also has a major impact on our sleep cycles, a.k.a. our Circadian Rhythm. Our bodies and brains take cues from the light we’re receiving at any given time. For example, when we get way too much bright, artificial light in the evenings, our bodies get the signal that it’s time to be awake. 
Light therapy helps your body produce more natural melatonin, unlike artificial blue light, which hinders your body’s melatonin production. Many people will take supplements and sleep aids to boost melatonin, but it’s much healthier and more effective for your body to make its own melatonin. 
For a full overview of how red light therapy helps you sleep, check out this post.
Improving Physical Performance and Muscle Recovery with Natural Light
Muscle cells require a lot of energy, and show significant improvements with natural light treatments. In study after study, red light therapy has been found to enhance physical performance when paired with exercise.  That’s a big reason why so many pro athletes and personal trainers have incorporated red light therapy systems into their training facilities.
Red light therapy improves speed, strength, and endurance for women and men, and people at every level of fitness. [8,9] Researchers looking at red light’s effects specifically on middle-aged and older women of all fitness levels saw the same performance enhancing qualities.  And after an intense workout, red light therapy reduces post-exercise muscle fatigue and has also been found to help people recover more quickly after exertion. [11,12]
It only makes sense that when you give your body and muscles the fuel they need, they’re going to perform better, and heal and recover faster. Check out this article for a rundown of all the ways red light therapy enhances physical performance and muscle recovery.
Red Light Therapy for Joint Pain and Inflammation
Light therapy has a natural anti-inflammatory effect.  Natural light treatments increase circulation and helps clear out the swelling that keeps us feeling sluggish. This anti-inflammatory effect is what helps people recover from surgery while reducing their pain.  Reducing inflammation has a big effect on joints and pain too. Researchers have also found red light therapy to be a helpful natural treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, hand osteoarthritis, and knee osteoarthritis. [15,16,17]
Better Cognitive Function with Natural Light
The most important muscle of all—your brain—also performs better when your body is exposed to healthy, natural light. In one of the first human studies to test cognitive performance and red light therapy, researchers found the light treatments improved reactions times, increased memory, and boosted positive moods.  Light therapy has even been found to help treat Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia symptoms in some very encouraging preliminary research. [19,20]
Check out this article to learn more about red light therapy’s positive effect on brain health and cognitive functions.
More Collagen and Healthier, Younger-Looking Skin with Natural Light
Collagen is essential to your physical function. Red and near infrared light has been found to naturally increase collagen production, which is critical for skin health too.  Thanks to the collagen increasing properties of light therapy, treatments have been found to reduce fine lines and wrinkles as well as other signs of aging, leading to all-around clearer, younger-looking skin.  Researchers have found specifically that light therapy is beneficial in helping children recover from scars and helping middle-aged women look younger. [23,24]
These collagen and skin benefits are why you’re seeing more skincare professionals like estheticians and dermatologists offer red light therapy treatments in their practices. Here’s an informational article you can check out to get the full picture on the rejuvenating benefits of red light therapy.
What to Look For in a Red Light Therapy Device
There are numerous red light therapy options out there. So where do you start? What should you look for in a red light therapy device? The basics are size & coverage, power, and design quality. Let’s look at these major factors to help you pick the best device for your health needs.
Bigger Devices for More Coverage
The most important and simplest thing to remember when it comes to red light therapy devices is that bigger is better. Medical professionals and independent diagnostic testing labs agree that bigger devices that offer full-body coverage are more effective than smaller devices that only treat targeted areas.
A larger coverage area translates to more of your body that is able to take in the energy in natural light. And the more your body can take in, the more your cells can use that energy and the more positive health effects you’re going to see. Don’t fall for a cheap, small device that advertises big power and benefits.
With a larger device, you’re getting more total light energy, which takes irradiance and surface area coverage into account. Harvard Medical School photomedicine researcher Dr. Michael Hamblin, a member of Joovv’s scientific advisory board, explains why total delivered energy is needed:
“Total light energy is the most accurate and comprehensive way to measure the power of light therapy devices and treatments,” says Dr. Hamblin. “If you only account for irradiance—versus how much total energy a device delivers—you miss the larger picture of how light therapy positively benefits the person using it.”*
Power Matters, and So Does Independent Verification
Beyond size, the main spec you’ll want to look for is total energy, or how much clinical power the device can deliver to your skin and cells. One issue you might run into with power stats is how easy it is for a company to throw out a big number without much behind it. You’re going to see a lot of red light therapy companies make claims about the power of their devices. One quick way to see through their claims is to make sure they have had these power specs verified by an independent testing lab.
Joovv contracted ITL (Independent Testing Laboratory) to conduct a series of radiometry tests on our devices and the devices are other light therapy brands to verify the claims made by different companies. Those independent results showed that Joovv offered the most powerful light therapy available.
So many of the small and cheap devices you’ll find haven’t been tested independently. There’s no way to know if the numbers they throw around are valid or not. What’s worse is that a lot of these devices aren’t registered with the FDA either, nor do they follow GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices), which makes sure products are up to the industry-regulated quality standards.
Design Quality and Versatility
There are a wide variety of red light therapy devices on the market right now. Some look like space-age showerheads, some look like orbs you hold in your hands and move around your body. There are even some that you wear like a belt or a shirt.
Most companies offer a single device that is meant to be your only purchase, a one-and-done approach that amounts to “you get what you get.” Joovv’s patented modular design is unique in the light therapy world, and allows you to start with a smaller device and build it into a larger one over time by adding more lights for more power and coverage, as needed. Joovv’s devices work together and can pair up to form larger, full-body systems like the pros use.
Joovv is known for its larger, full-body devices, but we also make a portable handheld model called the Joovv Go that’s ideal for clinical-grade light therapy away from home.
Better Health and Fitness with Red Light Therapy
Our ancestors thrived on lots of natural light, and our bodies are still designed to function that way. We’ve gotten away from these principles and surrounded ourselves with unhealthy artificial light almost 24/7. With red light therapy, it’s possible to still get the natural light your body needs every day, in the comfort of your home.
Red light therapy is backed by hundreds of peer-reviewed, clinical studies and analyses that show significant improvements in sleep quality, skin health, muscle performance and recovery, joint pain relief, inflammation relief, and improved cognitive function. A common theme across these studies is that natural light treatments from a medical-grade device like a Joovv have virtually no side effects or risks.
If you’re looking for a natural health intervention that fits the paleo or keto lifestyle, consider getting more natural light every day with a quality light therapy device.
Now, For the Giveaway…
Intrigued? Interested to learn more or give it a go? Why not enter to win a Joovv device?
I’ll be choosing two random winners to receive a Joovv Go, plus $100 in Primal Kitchen® products.
The winners will be announced and contacted via direct message on Instagram on October 22, 2019. Good luck, folks!
Sources and References:
 Klepeis NE, Nelson WC, Ott WR, et al. The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing exposure to environmental pollutants. J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 2001 May-Jun.
 Lunn RM, Blask DE, et al. Health consequences of electric lighting practices in the modern world: A report on the National Toxicology Program’s workshop on shift work at night, artificial light at night, and circadian disruption. The Science of the Total Environment. 2017 Dec 31
 Moore, R. “Suprachiasmatic nucleus in sleep-wake regulation” Sleep Med. 2007, Dec 8
 Morita T., Tokura H. “ Effects of lights of different color temperature on the nocturnal changes in core temperature and melatonin in humans” Journal of Physiological Anthropology. 1996, September
 Loeb LM, Amorim RP, et al. “Botulinum toxin A (BT-A) versus low-level laser therapy (LLLT) in chronic migraine treatment: a comparison.” Arquivos de neuro-psiquiatria. 2018 Oct
 Naeser MA, Zafonte R, et al. “Significant improvements in cognitive performance post-transcranial, red/near-infrared light-emitting diode treatments in chronic, mild traumatic brain injury: open-protocol study.” Journal of Neurotrauma. 2014 Jun
 Leal-Junior EC, Vanin AA, et al. Effect of phototherapy (low-level laser therapy and light-emitting diode therapy) on exercise performance and markers of exercise recovery: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Lasers in Medical Science. 2015 Feb
 dos Santos Maciel T, Muñoz I, et al. Phototherapy effect on the muscular activity of regular physical activity practitioners. Lasers in Medical Science. 2014 May
 Dellagrana RA, Rossato M, et al. Photobiomodulation Therapy on Physiological and Performance Parameters During Running Tests: Dose-Response Effects. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2018 Oct
 Paolillo FR, Corazza AV, et al. Phototherapy during treadmill training improves quadriceps performance in postmenopausal women. Climacteric. 2014 Jun.
 Leal Junior EC, Lopes-Martins RA, Dalan F, et al. Effect of 655-nm low-level laser therapy on exercise-induced skeletal muscle fatigue in humans. Photomed Laser Surg. 2008 Oct
 Borges LS, et al. Light-emitting diode phototherapy improves muscle recovery after a damaging exercise. Lasers in Medical Science. 2014 May
 Hamblin M. “Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation”. AIMS Biophys. 2017
 Langella L., Casalechi H., Tomazoni S., Johnson D., Albertini R., Pallotta R., Marcos R., de Carvalho P., Leal-Junior E., “Photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) on acute pain and inflammation in patients who underwent total hip arthroplasty-a randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial”. Lasers Med Sci. 2018 Jun.
 Brosseau L, Welch V, et al. Low level laser therapy for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis: a meta-analysis. The Journal of Rheumatology. Aug 2000
 Paolillo AR, Paolillo FR, et al. Synergic effects of ultrasound and laser on the pain relief in women with hand osteoarthritis. Lasers in Medical Science. Jan 2015
 de Paula Gomes CAF, et al. Incorporation of photobiomodulation therapy into a therapeutic exercise program for knee osteoarthritis: A placebo-controlled, randomized, clinical trial. 2018 Oct
 Barrett DW, et al. Transcranial infrared laser stimulation produces beneficial cognitive and emotional effects in humans. 2013 Jan.
 Berman MH, Halper JP, et al. Photobiomodulation with Near Infrared Light Helmet in a Pilot, Placebo Controlled Clinical Trial in Dementia Patients Testing Memory and Cognition. Journal of Neurology and Neuroscience. J Neurol Neurosci. 2017 feb.
 Saltmarche AE, Naeser MA, et al. Significant Improvement in Cognition in Mild to Moderately Severe Dementia Cases Treated with Transcranial Plus Intranasal Photobiomodulation: Case Series Report. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. 2017 Aug.
 Barolet D, Roberge CJ, et al. Regulation of skin collagen metabolism in vitro using a pulsed 660 nm LED light source: clinical correlation with a single-blinded study. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2009 Dec.
 Wunsch A and Matuschka K. A Controlled Trial to Determine the Efficacy of Red and Near-Infrared Light Treatment in Patient Satisfaction, Reduction of Fine Lines, Wrinkles, Skin Roughness, and Intradermal Collagen Density Increase. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. 2014 feb.
 Alsharnoubi J, Shoukry K, et al. Evaluation of scars in children after treatment with low-level laser. Lasers in Medical Science.
 Kim HK, Choi JH. Effects of radiofrequency, electroacupuncture, and low-level laser therapy on the wrinkles and moisture content of the forehead, eyes, and cheek. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2017 Feb.
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Hypertension is a problem. It raises the risk of heart disease; it’s one of the most consistent risk factors for that condition, as well as others like kidney disease. But before you start freaking out about your high blood pressure, make sure you actually have it. A single elevated reading does not a hypertension diagnosis make. Readings are snapshots in time. They can be a part of a trend, or they can be an isolated case. Don’t assume based on one bad reading.
I can remember going to the doctor about ten years ago for a routine checkup, showing 140/100, and almost getting a prescription based on that. It was absurd, so absurd that I took matters into my own hands and got a fancy blood pressure device to measure my own over the next couple weeks. The result?
There was almost no pattern. Maybe it was a lot lower after dinner, due to relaxation, but other than that there weren’t any trends. Sometimes it was high, mostly it was low-normal. It all depends on stress
Okay, say that’s not you. Say you have a legitimate problem with protracted and consistently high blood pressure. What can you do in addition to (or besides, if your doctor says it’s safe to wait) opt for the prescription?
1) Eat More Potassium
A common cause of salt-related blood pressure increases is inadequate potassium intake. Very few of us eat as much potassium as we evolved eating.
The pre-agricultural environment was potassium-rich and sodium-poor. That’s why we have a physiological taste for salt, and why salted food tastes so good: we had to seek it out. That’s why we don’t have a physiological taste for potassium: it was everywhere. Loren Cordain estimates some hunter-gatherer groups got upwards of 10-12 grams of potassium a day, whereas the average American gets about 2.5 grams.
Studies show that both sodium-sensitive and potassium-deficient subjects with high blood pressure see the biggest improvements with increased potassium intake.
I love sodium, and it’s actually beneficial for endothelial health when consumed with enough potassium, but you have to eat potassium too.
2) Improve Your Insulin Sensitivity
Ever since earlier studies established that hypertensive patients tend to exhibit abnormally high insulin responses to standard glucose loads, researchers have wondered about a connection between insulin and blood pressure. It turns out there is a powerful connection.
- In non-diabetic people with normal blood pressure, insulin levels and shifts in blood pressure are related—higher insulin, higher blood pressure; lower, lower.
- In both diabetic and non-diabetic subjects, lower insulin sensitivity predicts elevated blood pressure.
- Insulin increases sodium retention in the blood, which increases blood volume and pressure. The less insulin sensitive you are, the more insulin you’ll release in response to a given stimulus, and the more sodium you’ll shuttle into the blood.
- Both insulin resistance and the compensatory hyperinsulinemia (elevated insulin levels) that results have distinct pro-hypertensive effects.
Luckily, there are dozens upon dozens of ways to improve your insulin sensitivity. Choose a few, or all of them (a better proposal, actually), to not only improve your blood pressure but also your health and life in general.
3) Earn Your Carbs With Physical Activity
The ones you earn through physical activity, that is. Let’s look at two scenarios.
First: You eat way more carbs than you actually earn through training. You haven’t trained, so you’re more insulin-resistant than the You from the alternative universe who did train. This means any carbs you eat will cause a greater spike in insulin, which has been shown to increase blood pressure.
Second: You only eat the carbs you’ve earned through training. Since you’re training, your insulin sensitivity is high, and you don’t actually secrete all that much insulin in response to the carbs. Training also upregulates non-insulin dependent glycogen repletion, meaning you can shove glycogen into muscles post-workout without even using insulin.
Once or twice, this isn’t an issue. But if you’re consistently eating more carbs than you need, the resultant elevation in insulin will raise blood pressure. At the very least, it won’t help.
Not only that, but regular training improves endothelial function and reduces the risk of high blood pressure on its own.
4) Eat Fermented Dairy
Milk fermented with the L. helveticus bacteria has been shown to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension in a number of studies.
In one, they drank the fermented milk for 21 weeks.
In another, they drank the milk for 10 weeks.
Look for products that include Lactobacillus helveticus, such as kefir, aged cheese (Swiss, emmental, pecorino romano, cheddar, parmigiano reggiano),
5) Get Your Zinc (Red Meat and Oysters)
Zinc is an essential nutrient for regulating the nitric oxide synthase system in the body. Without adequate zinc, your ability to produce nitric oxide—which increases blood vessel dilation and thus regulates blood pressure—is hampered.
6) Get Sunlight
There are consistent relationships between adequate vitamin D levels and normal blood pressure, though it’s unclear whether this is causal. Studies haven’t found a consistent blood pressure effect of actually supplementing with vitamin D. What might be going on is that vitamin D is acting as a marker for sun exposure, because we know that sunlight increases the production of nitric oxide, a compound that improves the function of your blood vessels.
Sure enough, human studies show that sun exposure causes the conversion of nitrogen oxide in the skin to nitric oxide, lowering blood pressure and improving endothelial function.
7) Address Your Stress
Stress might be the biggest trigger for hypertension, especially since most of us live lives laden with hidden, inevitable stressors—commutes, jobs we don’t like, bills, and the like. It’s everywhere, we can’t really escape it entirely, so we have to figure out how to deal with it.
I know how I do it (paddling, Ultimate, walks, quality time with family, smart supplementation). There are other ways, like adaptogens, or this, or this. You can rethink stress entirely. You can meditate, or try alternatives that achieve similar things. What are you going to do?
If your blood pressure is resistant to dietary, exercise, or lifestyle changes, make sure you manage it with your doctor.
8) Take ACE Inhibitors or AR Blockers If Warranted
The body uses a hormone called angiotensin to raise blood pressure in a couple ways. First, by directly constricting blood vessels and increasing flow pressure. Second, by promoting the release of aldosterone, a hormone that shuttles sodium to the blood to increase blood volume. ACE inhibitors inhibit angiotensin secretion and AR blockers block angiotensin receptor sites. While I know we’re usually suspicious of drugs that block or inhibit the secretion or action of hormones, ACE inhibitors and AR blockers appear to be quite safe and effective. And there’s even evidence that normotensive subjects who take them live longer than normotensive subjects who don’t.
They do tend to lower zinc status, though, so keep up with your zinc intake.
That’s it for today, folks. The good news is that high blood pressure is manageable with diet and lifestyle changes, and even if that doesn’t work, the available medications seem better than most.
How do you manage your blood pressure? What’s worked? What hasn’t?
Sebastian A, Cordain L, Frassetto L, Banerjee T, Morris RC. Postulating the major environmental condition resulting in the expression of essential hypertension and its associated cardiovascular diseases: Dietary imprudence in daily selection of foods in respect of their potassium and sodium content resulting in oxidative stress-induced dysfunction of the vascular endothelium, vascular smooth muscle, and perivascular tissues. Med Hypotheses. 2018;119:110-119.
Filippini T, Violi F, D’amico R, Vinceti M. The effect of potassium supplementation on blood pressure in hypertensive subjects: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Cardiol. 2017;230:127-135.
Takano T. Anti-hypertensive activity of fermented dairy products containing biogenic peptides. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek. 2002;82(1-4):333-40.
Seppo L, Jauhiainen T, Poussa T, Korpela R. A fermented milk high in bioactive peptides has a blood pressure-lowering effect in hypertensive subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77(2):326-30.
Jauhiainen T, Vapaatalo H, Poussa T, Kyrönpalo S, Rasmussen M, Korpela R. Lactobacillus helveticus fermented milk lowers blood pressure in hypertensive subjects in 24-h ambulatory blood pressure measurement. Am J Hypertens. 2005;18(12 Pt 1):1600-5.
The post A Primal Guide to Blood Pressure: 8 Common (and Not So Common) Interventions appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering five questions taken from this Twitter thread. First, does collagen offer anything special above and beyond glycine? Second, what’s the relationship between keto and gallstones? Third, do I recommend eating raw liver, and why or why not? Fourth, why does one reader’s scalp itch when eating stevia? And finally, what’s the best way to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time?
If collagen is broken down into amino acids in the gut before being absorbed, is it just the amino acid profile (i.e. high glycine) that makes it so beneficial? Anything else?
Glycine is a major reason why we need collagen in our diets, but it’s not the only one.
When you feed people collagen derived from pork skin, chicken feet, and cartilage, many different collagenous peptides appear in the blood. You don’t get any of these from isolated glycine:
Proline-hydroxyproline, a peptide with protective effects on osteoarthritic cartilage degradation.
Glycine-proline-hydroxyproline, a peptide that makes it into the blood and turns into proline-hydroxyproline, which makes it into the skin.
Collagen peptides have beneficial effects above and beyond glycine alone—although glycine is great for balancing out methionine intake from muscle meat consumption. It’s also been used in several studies to improve multiple markers of sleep quality.
A family member has a complicated health history including cancer and wants to eat keto. But, now she finds she has gallstones. Any thoughts on a good way to attack this complicated issue?
Has your family member already gone keto? Did going keto come before the gallstone reveal?
If so, that’s actually normal.
The primary role of the gallbladder is to collect bile from the liver, concentrate it into potent super-bile (my term), and release the concentrated bile to break up incoming dietary fat into smaller molecules that lipase can attack and digest. Dietary fat is the biggest driver of gallbladder emptying.
If the gallbladder isn’t regularly emptied, gallstones can form. Usually made of hardened cholesterol, gallstones are quite common and often produce no symptoms. Problems arise when normal gallbladder emptying flushes out a stone small enough to make it into but too large to pass through the bile duct and a blockage occurs. Gallstones can also directly damage the walls of the gallbladder, leading to cholecystis, or gallbladder inflammation.
A high-fat diet can exacerbate or even uncover gallstone issues by increasing gallbladder emptying. Remember: the more fat you eat, the more often you empty your gallbladder—and everything in it.
But high-fat diets don’t generally cause gallstones to form. They only reveal pre-existing ones. The biggest risk factors for gallstone formation are:
- A high intake of high-glycemic carbohydrates.
- High estrogen levels, which concentrate cholesterol deposition in the gallbladder. This is why women, especially pregnant women and/or those taking hormonal birth control, are more likely to have gallstones.
- Obesity, which also increases cholesterol levels in the gallbladder.
- Weight loss, with a caveat: high-fat weight loss diets reduce and even prevent gallstone formation. In fact, when you compare people who lose weight on a low-fat diet to those who lose it on a high-fat diet, research shows that 45% of the low-fatters develop gallstones while none of the high-fatters develop them.
Once the gallstones are all clear, keep up with the keto eating, as eating more fat will keep your gallbladder regularly flushed and clear of stones.
Is Raw Liver safe to eat?
I’ve eaten raw liver before. I know people who eat raw liver. I can’t recommend it, however, because I don’t know what kind of liver you have access to. Who raised the animal? What did it eat? What were the processing conditions?
But because I know people are going to try this…
Freeze it first for several days.
Buy from a trusted source.
Buy only liver from well-raised, grass-fed, organic animals.
If it looks unhealthy, it probably is. I would never eat a pale, flaccid liver with ugly spots, cooked or raw.
Don’t eat raw (or even medium) pork liver. A huge percentage of pigs carry the Hepatitis E virus, which is transmittable to humans and concentrates in the liver.
Why does stevia make my scalp itch?
Stevia can be an allergen actually. It’s not very common, but as more and more people use stevia, more will be revealed to have an allergic reaction.
I’d just skip it.
Is it possible to gain muscle and lose weight with properly timed IF around workouts?
It is possible, although you may not actually lose weight, but rather body fat (which is better).
The best way I’ve seen people do it is the classic Leangains method.
Fast from 8 p.m. to 12-1 noon.
Fasted workout in the afternoon, perhaps with a little BCAA or whey isolate before the workout. Lift heavy, compound movements.
After the workout, walk for 20 minutes. Brisk pace to utilize all the free fatty acids swimming around.
Then eat. If you’re going to eat carbs, do it in this meal and keep the fat low-to-moderate. Load up on protein.
Eat as much as you like until 8 p.m.—the end of your eating window. Favor protein and, again, if you’re eating carbs keep fat lower than usual.
Maintain the fasting period every day. On rest days, eat low/no carb and higher fat. Protein always high. Go for walks on rest days.
That’s it. That usually works really well, but it presupposes you have a flexible schedule and can actually train in the afternoon whenever you want. Your mileage may vary—though it will work at any time.
Muscle gain won’t be as rapid as it would drinking a gallon of milk a day, eating pizza smoothies, and cramming ice cream made with whey protein at night, but it will minimize fat gain and perhaps even help you lose fat as you gain muscle. No guarantees, but it’s the best method I’ve seen.
That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading, take care, and be sure to leave a comment down below if you have any questions.
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The fitness world is booming these days. You can see it in the popularity of CrossFit boxes, obstacle course and endurance events, and record-breaking gym construction. It’s encouraging. Inspiring even. But there’s also a downside to the rising gym memberships and event registrations. There are still too many people dealing with recurring patterns of breakdown, burnout, illness and injury. More people are trying to do the right thing, but the flawed approaches they often gravitate to end up derailing them.
Nonetheless, there are changes afoot. It’s an evolution of thinking that’s slowly spreading its way through fitness circles. More forward-thinking coaches, trainers, and researchers are helping right the wrongs of the fitness boom with a general rejection of the “more is better” approach for one that respects the importance of balancing stress and rest, one that moves toward an intuitive approach to workout planning.
More people are implementing strategies to maximize workout return on investment and minimize the risk of injury and burnout that too often result from an indiscriminate approach. The endurance world, for example, is finally rejecting the narrowly focused, overly stressful chronic cardio approach of old in favor of emphasizing aerobic development at lower heart rates, avoiding chronic patterns, and becoming fat adapted instead of sugar addicted. Endurance athletes are embracing the importance of strength training and explosive sprinting just as strength/power athletes are doing more aerobic conditioning. The CrossFit movement itself is an ode to the health and longevity benefits and increased enjoyment that comes from achieving broader fitness competency.
What’s Wrong With HIIT?
I’ve talked recently about microworkouts and recovery-based workouts. Today, I want to delve in further and share a radical transformation in the way high intensity workouts are conducted that will generate fitness breakthroughs while simultaneously minimizing the risk of exhaustion. Specifically, I’m taking aim at the extremely popular workout pattern known as HIIT—High Intensity Interval Training. Sprinting is a part of the Primal Blueprint Fitness Pyramid, but I’ve been wary of the details around traditional HIIT practices because these workouts are quite often too stressful and exhausting to deliver the intended fitness boost they promise.
Yes, you have to challenge your body regularly with hard efforts to build fitness, but most of us do it the wrong way. When you complete a killer HIIT session at morning boot camp or spin class, at home on your Peloton bike, or with the Tuesday night track group, you get a tremendous sense of accomplishment and a flood of feel-good endorphin chemicals into your bloodstream. Unfortunately, the typical HIIT workout can also be depleting, exhausting, and stimulate an assortment of unnecessary cellular damage and inflammation.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Be redesigning your high intensity workouts, you can get leaner and fitter with higher quality, more explosive, less physically stressful workouts that are easier to recover from and thus can be performed more frequently. In short, a better approach involves transitioning from HIIT to HIRT, High Intensity Repeat Training. HIRT is an acronym coined by Dr. Craig Marker, psychologist, certified strength and conditioning coach, and CrossFit instructor from Florida.
Here’s a compare and contrast that can revolutionize your approach to intense workouts….
Comparing HIIT and HIRT
The problem with a typical HIIT workout is that it’s too strenuous—too many repetitions of hard effort that (each) last too long, and with insufficient rest between hard efforts. This results in cumulative fatigue during the workout, a diminishing quality of performance over the course of the workout, increased cellular damage due to this cumulative fatigue, and extended recovery time afterward. These kinds of sufferfests are a great source of satisfaction and personal growth when you high five your fellow bootcamp classmates after an hour of power, or cross the finish line of a big event in which you’ve trained for months to prepare. But including them as a major and recurring element of your training program is a really bad idea. Unfortunately, the sufferfest mindset is incredibly common these days, perhaps suggesting that the ego has more influence that strategic planning or intuitive decision making.
A HIRT workout stops short of the exhaustive nature of HIIT. The essence of HIRT is to conduct maximum efforts, typically of shorter duration, with much longer recovery, and fewer total efforts than a HIIT session. The word “Repeat” in the acronym suggests that you maintain a consistent quality of effort on every repetition of hard work. This means not only the same performance standard, but also the same level of perceived exertion.
For example, say your workout entails running 100-meter sprints across a football field, and you hit 18 seconds for your first sprint. This is a nice controlled, explosive effort with excellent technique, and you assign a perceived exertion level of around 90 out of 100. Hence, you’ll want to do successive sprints in 18-19 seconds each, preserving explosiveness and excellent technique—delivering what you still discern to be 90 out of 100 on the effort scale. If you have to “dig deep” (the implicit objective, and badge of honor, with a HIIT session) just to arrive at 19 seconds on your fourth effort, that’s it, you’re done. If you notice a slight attrition in explosiveness or breaking form during the effort, you’re done. Typically, this might be a little twinge in the hamstrings or lower back, a tensing of the face or chest, or any other indicator that you have played your best cards of the day.
In Dr. Marker’s landmark article titled “HIIT versus HIRT” at www.BreakingMuscle.com, he explains that after HIIT sessions we bask in self-satisfaction of a job well-done, but disregard the health-destructive consequences of these sufferfests: “[Y]our subjective feeling of the effectiveness of a workout is not as important as what science tells us is important to building an impressive base of endurance and changing your body composition.” (That sound you hear is a slap to the face of highly motivated, goal oriented, Type-A fitness enthusiasts across the land. Don’t worry, I’ve been there, too….)
This admonition applies to everyone from elites to novices. Elite athletes are notorious for constantly pushing the envelope and frequently succumbing to injuries or periods of declining performances. Novices generally don’t concern themselves with training strategies, often leaving their fates in the hands of the bootcamp instructor. Without sufficient experience or reference points, they exercise themselves into exhaustion, believing that pain and suffering are part and parcel of the fitness experience.
The (too often) result? Ambitious, well-meaning enthusiasts burn themselves out and then are down for the count. The most dedicated keep going to their detriment, all the while accumulating fatigue, injuries and even pounds. Others simply stay away from the gym by invisible magnetic force. Alas, the subconscious is very good at avoiding sources of pain and suffering. Can we dump this suffering-and-attrition dynamic already?
Side note for those who love to read about sports: For inspiration, check out this article about the greatest marathon runner in the history of the planet, the amazing Kenyan Eulid Kipchoge. The article describes his training regimen as extremely devoted and incredibly impressive, yet he maintains a relaxed mindset, remains in control of his energy output, and never extends beyond his limits into exhaustion. Even the march to the unthinkable two-hour marathon (Kipchoge’s current world record stands at a mind-bending 2:01.39) comes from a sensible approach instead of an extreme one.
Marker explains that there’s an optimal duration for sprinting where you can obtain maximum benefits with minimal cellular destruction, and this is typically around 15-20 seconds. Try to maintain maximum effort for any longer than that and you’re not really sprinting anymore anyway, since it’s impossible to maintain maximum energy output.
Here’s why this works:
Look at what’s happening physiologically over the duration of a near-maximum intensity sprint of any kind (running, cycling, rowing, or kettlebell swings). During the first five seconds of your sprint, lactate starts to accumulate in the bloodstream. Lactate levels double between five to ten seconds, then double again from 10 seconds to 20 seconds—up to what Marker calls the highest acceptable level. As you increasingly feel the burn, lactate doubles again from 20 seconds to 30 seconds. It doubles again from 30 seconds to 60 seconds, causing cellular destruction, ammonia toxicity, and extended recovery time.
As Marker explains, “The amount of lactic acid produced up to 20 seconds [of sprinting] is still manageable, but the next doubling is over the top. Even a single 30-second sprint spikes ammonia levels almost five times! Why trash the body for no good reason? Rebuilding broken down cells is a costly and time-consuming process. And while it’s taking place, you feel tired and run down, with your ATP short of a full stack.”
You may be familiar with the Tabata concept of interval training, which entails a repeating pattern of work efforts lasting twice as long as rest intervals until you complete a Tabata set of a certain total duration. The original Tabata protocol, developed by Japanese physician and researcher Dr. Izumi Tabata and colleagues at the Japanese Institute of Fitness and Sport in Tokyo, calls for four minutes of a 20-second sprint, 10-second rest, 20-second sprint, 10-second rest pattern. In the original studies, Japanese Olympic speed skaters achieved massive boosts in VO2 Max in a short time with Tabata training. Unfortunately, the original Tabata concept has been widely misappropriated into workouts that honor the 2:1 work-to-rest ratio, but carry on for too long and generate cellular damage and exhaustion: multiple sets of kettlebell swings, pushups, box jumps, running sprints, cycling sprints, and so forth. Bottom line with sprint workouts: a little goes a long way, and too much can really mess you up.
How To Transition From HIIT To HIRT
To transition into a more effective, less stressful high intensity workout pattern, pick the sweet spot of 10-20 seconds for your explosive efforts. Take what Marker calls “luxurious” rest intervals to ensure that your cells have a chance to partially or fully regenerate ATP (takes around three minutes) and minimize the disassembling and deamination that occur when you ask your body to perform again and again with rapidly depleting cellular energy.
Finally, conduct between 4 and 10 sprints. You should be able to manage four shorts sprints even if you’re a novice. If you claim you can complete more than 10 and feel great, you’re better off going faster and doing fewer more explosively.
Keep in mind that a properly conducted HIRT workout is going to feel different than a HIIT sufferfest. It may require an adjustment in your mindset to feel confident and satisfied that you’re training with maximum efficiency and minimal suffering like a “real athlete.” If you’re a focused, driven, goal-oriented type, be vigilant about resisting the addictive allure of the endorphin rush that happens after a sufferfest. Remember, the blissful feeling of powerful pain-killing chemicals flooding your bloodstream is a fight or flight reaction to the extreme stress of the workout. Realize that the genetic purpose of the endorphin response is to help you continue to run for your life instead of lay down in exhaustion! If you abuse this delicate mechanism with a chronic pattern of extreme workouts, you’re going to pay a heavy price. Dr. Tommy Wood calls this overactivation of the fight or flight response, “liquidating your assets,” and I couldn’t agree more.
Several friends who have recently updated their approach to a HIRT protocol report feeling much better in the days following their most challenging sessions—more energy, less soreness and stiffness. That’s how it should be.
Combine the HIRT strategy with recovery-based workouts and walking. See how it goes for you, and let me know. Thanks for stopping in. Share your questions and thoughts below, too.
The post HIIT vs. HIRT: Reducing Workout Stress To Increase Fitness appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering another round of questions asked by Twitter followers. First up is a three-parter, including a query about extra virgin olive oil, one about supplements everyone should take, and one about autoimmune arthritis in an athlete. Second, I cover whether sauna is a hormetic stressor or a way to relax (or both). Next, I give my recommendation for staying keto or carnivore while camping (it’s a quick one). And finally, I explore a potential protocol for using exogenous ketones to curb autoimmune inflammation.
1. Is very-high-polyphenol EVOO legitly far superior to easily-avail. qual EVOO?
2. What handful of supplems (broadly defined) make sense for almost everyone?
3. Any advice for age 20 elite athlete cursed w genetic autoimmune arthritis where keto, paleo, Mediterranean all failed? Carnivore?
All else being equal, very high polyphenol EVOO should be superior to normal EVOO. Be careful in weighing messaging around this, however.
But, yes, the more polyphenols your oil has, the better it will resist oxidative damage when exposed to heat, light, and the ravages of time. By extension, the more an olive oil is sheltered from heat, light and the ravages of time, the more polyphenol content will be preserved.
And when you consume high polyphenol EVOO, your LDL actually becomes more resistant to oxidative damage. One study found that men who ate high polyphenol extra virgin olive oil had lower oxidized LDL levels than men who ate normal EVOO. They even had higher HDL levels, another indication of improved heart health.
Supplements for all:
Collagen—vast majority of people don’t get enough collagen/gelatin in their diets, whereas historically people were eating the entire animal, including skin, bones, tendons, fascia, ligaments, and cartilage (about 40-50% of animal by weight). A couple scoops of collagen gets you most of the way there.
Magnesium—vast majority of people don’t get enough magnesium. Our water is stripped of it and our soil is deficient in it. Foods that a generation or two ago were excellent sources of magnesium are now middling. Get one of the magnesium “-ates,” like citrate, glycinate, or threonate.
Vitamin K2—another nutrient most people miss that’s absolutely crucial to heart, bone, dental, and hormonal health.
Egg yolks—best source of choline and a great source of many other nutrients in a highly bioavailable package.
Liver—eat it once a week at least.
If you don’t get sunlight or eat a lot of vitamin D-rich foods (wild salmon, pastured eggs, salmon eggs), vitamin D is a good one.
If you don’t eat seafood regularly, a good fish oil is worthwhile. Omega-3s are a critical nutrient.
Autoimmune arthritis in athlete:
I saw that the athlete in question has done “everything right”: Primal, paleo, the whole nine. Right?
Assuming that’s the case and they’re not eating grains, seed oils, sugar, and other things known to be inflammatory and irritating:
Carnivore is an option. Mikhaila Peterson battled a particularly severe case of autoimmune arthritis for most of her life and reports that going carnivore was the only thing that really fixed things.
Elite athletes often overdo it. I certainly did. And although exercise is a crucial part of preventing, recovering from and defeating arthritis, too much exercise can have the opposite effect. It can be too much. It can increase stress rather than mitigate it. It can overload the tissues rather than strengthen them.
I’d also consider trying exogenous ketones to blunt autoimmune inflammation. Check out the last answer in today’s post for more insight on that one.
Is sauna best utilized as a relaxing tool for recovery like meditation or as a hormetic stressor like a challenging workout?
Physiologically, saunas are stressful. A 30-minute sauna session at 174 ºF/80 ºC raises body temperature by almost 1 degree C, spikes your flight-or-flight hormones, raises cortisol, and triggers a powerful hormetic response by the rest of your body. That’s a stressor.
But ultimately, they reduce stress by making you more resistant to it. After such a sauna session, for example, subjects report feeling “calm” and “pleasant.” This isn’t a surprise, if you’ve ever completed a tough workout. That’s how a training session makes you feel, isn’t it?
Just because sauna resembles exercise doesn’t mean you have to keep them separate. It even gets better when you stack the two. For instance, people who frequent the sauna and the gym have a drastically lower risk of heart attack death than people who do either alone. That combo also reduces 24-hour blood pressure in hypertensive patients and confers special protection against all-cause mortality above and beyond either variable alone.
That said, post-workout sauna appears to be especially good at enhancing the training effect.
In runners, post workout sauna use increased time to exhaustion by 32%, plasma cell volume by 7.1%, and red cell volume by 3.2% (both plasma cell and red cell volume are markers of increased endurance performance).
In cyclists, post workout sauna increased plasma volume. This is important because increasing plasma volume improves heat dissipation, thermoregulation, heart rate, and cardiac stroke volume during exercise.
Any thoughts on how to stay keto/ carnivore when camping or backpacking?
There’s a Facebook group devoted to Ketogenic Backpacking. Join that for some ideas.
As for car camping, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do keto or carnivore.
Bring some cast iron pans, some meat, and a cooler full of ice.
Gather a ton of wood.
Light the wood on fire. Allow it to cook down to coals.
Place cast iron over fire. Cook meat on cast iron.
Repeat as needed.
What should the timing and dosage be if you are planning to use exogenous ketone supplements as part of treatment for an autoimmune condition or flare?
Unfortunately, this stuff is so new that there aren’t any established guidelines. However, a recent case study gives a hint at a protocol someone might want to try. This isn’t medical advice, mind you—just a suggestion for further reading and consideration.
The subject had Crohn’s disease, a pretty serious autoimmune gastrointestinal condition characterized by chronic inflammation, painful and frequent bowel movements (around ten per day in this subject’s case), and elevated inflammatory markers. In other words, something that ketone bodies should be able to help.
Every morning for two weeks, he took 4 grams of sodium betahydroxybutyrate (BHB). This helped, but after two weeks he increased the dosage to 8 grams split between sodium BHB, magnesium BHB, and calcium BHB. He took half in the morning and half in the early afternoon. Did it work?
Following the intervention, the subject reported feeling “dramatically better” with significantly lower GI issues and trips to the bathroom. The subject provided weekly urinary and blood ketones following supplementation to ensure a significant rise in ketone levels. Blood glucose levels fell back into the normal range after the intervention (105 mg/dl to 94 mg/dl). White blood cell (WBC) count, neutrophils, and monocytes returned to the normal range following the intervention. The most remarkable finding was that following the intervention, C-reactive protein returned to the normal range from 62.5 mg/l to 4.4 mg/l.
I’d say 4 grams of BHB would be a safe start. If your bowels tolerate it—no small feat, as exogenous ketones can really hit that hard—and they seem to be helping, move toward 8 grams. As always, work with your physician and discuss supplement protocols or changes to them.
That’s it for today, everyone. Take care, be well, and comment down below if you have anything to add or ask.
The post Dear Mark: EVOO, Supplements, Autoimmune Arthritis, Sauna, Keto Camping, Ketones for Autoimmune appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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For my entire athletic career, I considered the gold standard of recovery to be sleeping, resting on the couch watching T.V., and generally being still and inactive. Come on, what could be more effective than couch potato mode to recover from the hormonal and inflammatory stresses of marathon training runs or long days of extreme swim-bike-run workouts? I’m kidding (mostly), but it’s not a total exaggeration. Our understanding of fitness recovery has grown exponentially since I was in the elite arena, and it’s exciting to see new and better approaches taking root that genuinely speed recovery and stave off burnout. I’m sharing two such techniques today. They’re simple, mostly free, and accessible to anyone with the most basic fitness opportunities and venues.
Note: Here’s the thing…. This is the stuff you should focus on before considering advanced techniques like exposure to cold or heat, Theragun treatments (although I happen to be a fan of this device), hyperbaric oxygen chambers, etc.
The first recovery technique is to move more instead of just sit around. That’s right, science is validating the idea that if you make a concerted effort to increase all forms of general everyday movement in the hours and days after strenuous workouts, you will help minimize the inflammation and oxidative stress caused by strenuous workouts.
Let’s call this strategy JFW—Just F—ing Walk.
Moving your body through space helps you burn fat better, which will maximize the fat reduction goals of your workouts. Walking also helps boost brain function. A 2017 UCLA study comparing MRI scans revealed that active older folks (over 60 and walking more than three kilometers per day) have faster brain processing speed, better working memory for quick decisions, and better memory consolidation than inactive folks. In his book, The Real Happy Pill: Power Up Your Brain By Moving Your Body, Swedish researcher Dr. Anders Hansen reports that just taking a daily walk can reduce your risk of dementia by 40 percent.
Walking and general movement of any kind improve lymphatic function for a huge recovery boost. The lymphatic system is a plumbing network running throughout your body that detoxifies every cell, tissue and organ through a separate operating system from the cardiovascular system. The lymphatic system operates through a pumping process instead of a beating heart. This means that you’re obligated to move your muscles and joints to turbocharge lymphatic detoxification and avoid the pooling of lymphatic fluid caused by chilling on the couch in the hours and days after heavy workouts. Even the old-time exercise apparatus of the mini-trampoline has come into vogue recently because bouncing around for even a few minutes has been shown to significantly boost lymphatic function.
To help your lymphatic system function optimally, be sure to hydrate adequately at all times. While my original Primal Blueprint presentation suggested that you simply honor your thirst to achieve good hydration, recent science suggests that successful hydration can be a little more complicated. Stacy Sims, Ph.D., a hydration expert who studied thermoregulation at Stanford and is currently a senior research fellow at University of Waikato in New Zealand, is doing some great work in this field. Check out this fantastic infographic. Her research suggests that the female menstrual cycle can influence hydration needs and strategies. Another breakthrough insight is that strenuous workouts have the potential to mute your thirst mechanism; you may become too hot and tired or distracted to notice that you’re actually getting dehydrated. For most minimally active folks, going by thirst might be just fine; the kidneys do an excellent job regulating fluid and sodium balance in the body.
If you are a novice fitness enthusiast, a high performing athlete, or routinely exercise in hot temperatures, a deliberate pre- and post-workout hydration is a strategy worth considering and implementing. Sprinkle some high quality natural mineral salt in each glass of fluid, which will help it become better absorbed in the tissues throughout your body.
Joel Jamieson, a noted trainer of world-champion MMA fighters in Washington (8WeeksOut.com—as in eight weeks out from a title bout), and developer of the Morpheus Recovery app, advocates a system called Rebound Training where specially designed workouts can actually speed recovery time in comparison with total rest. The idea that a Rebound Workout can boost recovery is validated through the tracking of Heart Rate Variability. Joel is a pioneer in Heart Rate Variability and has been tracking his fighters and other high performing athletes for decades. Yes, decades, as in dating back to the original hospital grade $30,000 units that required placement of a dozen electrodes on your skin.
The idea that a Rebound workout can beat couch time is an extraordinary revelation. Amazingly, when you drag your tired, stiff, sore body into the gym and do some foam rolling, deep breathing exercises, dynamic stretches, and even very brief explosive efforts, such as short sprints with long recovery on the bike, or “positive-only” deadlifts (lift the weight then drop it to the ground to prevent soreness caused by eccentric contractions), you can stimulate parasympathetic nervous system activity and actually accelerate recovery. The parasympathetic is known the “rest and digest” component of autonomic nervous system, and counterbalances the sympathetic “fight or flight” component.
You can learn more about Rebound Training and see a sample workout here. If you just want to dabble in the concept, know that increasing your walking and general movement in the hours and days after a challenging training session will help boost blood circulation and lymphatic function to speed recovery. I always find ways to walk more and spend more time at my stand-up desk in the 24 hours following a tough Ultimate Frisbee match or sprint workout.
Sample Restorative Workout
The next time you throw down a killer workout, trying heading to the gym the following day and creating a restorative experience.
Start by lying flat on the mat and completing 20 deep diaphragmatic breath cycles. When you’re in the prone position, you can hone good technique by placing your hand on your abdomen and making sure that the abdomen expands upon inhalation. First expand the abdomen, which enables the chest cavity to then expand outward and enable the full use of the diaphragm for a powerful breath. You notice this sequence better when laying down.
After 20 deep breaths, commence 10 minutes of foam rolling, dynamic stretches and flexibility drills.
Then, get a little sympathetic stimulation going with some bike sprints or positive only deadlifts as follows:
- Exercise bike: Warmup five minutes, then sprint for 10 seconds, followed by 60 seconds of easy pedaling. Repeat for five repetitions.
- Deadlift: With 70% of your one rep maximum weight, raise the bar three-quarters of the way to the top, then allow it to fall to the ground with minimal muscle engagement. Repeat five times.
The idea with these efforts is that you’ll trigger a brief stimulation of fight or flight sympathetic nervous system activity, but because the effort is so brief, you’ll prompt a compensatory parasympathetic reaction during the recovery period. The net effect of the session is to turbocharge parasympathetic for hours afterward to a greater extent than just chilling on the couch watching Netflix.
Thanks to the gentle nature of the session, you enjoy an increase in energy and alertness from getting the oxygen and blood flowing throughout the body—but without the cellular breakdown and glycogen depletion of a more strenuous workout. You should leave the gym feeling relaxed and a little looser than before the workout.
Implementing “Rebound”-style workouts, along with making a general effort to walk around more in the hours following your most challenging sessions aren’t just fun diversions; they’re part of putting recovery as the central element of your training program.
Speaking of HRV, Jamieson offers a breakthrough insight that has helped me further appreciate the value of tracking HRV over time, and also alleviate some confusion that arose during some data accumulation over the past several years. If you’re a fan of HRV, you know a high HRV on the familiar 1-100 scale is indicative of a strong and rested cardiovascular system. You have a greater variation in beat-to-beat intervals than a lower score, indicating a harmonious balance between fight or flight sympathetic nervous system function and rest and digest parasympathetic nervous system function. A low HRV indicates a more metronomic heartbeat, and sympathetic nervous system dominance over parasympathetic. These are reliable signs of overtraining or a general overstress condition in life, or a weak cardiovascular system in general.
By tracking HRV for several weeks, you can establish a healthy baseline, then gauge your level of stress and readiness to train based on daily HRV fluctuations. Low equals overstressed, high equals healthy. That’s all well and good, but here’s an important nuance I learned from Joel about HRV readings significantly higher than your baseline: An 86 seems better than the usual 72-75, but actually an abnormally high HRV could be an indication of parasympathetic dominance versus a sympathetic-parasympathetic balance. When your parasympathetic kicks into overdrive, it’s possibly because you trashed yourself way beyond healthy limits, and you’re struggling to return to a rested and stress-balanced state. This explained some strange outlier readings where I felt pretty cooked after coming off a jet travel binge or a series of extreme workouts in a tight time frame but delivered a rock star HRV reading.
As I’ve written about before, I’m not a fan of overdoing biofeedback devices. I’ve used them and still do occasionally when I’m attempting something new or just want to check in with some hard data, but too much tech can disconnect you with your intuition—what should always be front and center in your assessments. Dr. Kelly Starrett references scientific research indicating that the single most valuable and accurate metric for your state of recovery is “desire to train.” I wonder how this goes up against the blood lactate meters at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and any ring or watch data you can accumulate. I have confidence it would hold its own in most scenarios.
Thanks for stopping by today, everybody. How do you do recovery? What have you learned over the years in your own study and experience. Have a great end to the week.
The post Recovery Workouts: Two Simple But Powerful Ways to Speed Fitness Recovery appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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