A new year, some new thoughts

It’s a new year! A fresh slate, a time of resolve. A time to reflect on what you want from your life.

Winston Churchill once said that you create your own universe as you go along. We are all responsible for the entirety of our lives.  For our feelings.  For our actions.  For our happiness and lack thereof.

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Life is suppose to be fun.  It should be magical, it should be beautiful and it certainly should be happy.

me and my siblings loving the shit out of our fort!

loving the shit out of our fort!

Your thoughts are the most powerful tool you have in designing your life.  In fact, all that you are is a result of what you have thought.  Unfortunately, this is true of negative thoughts and of positive ones.

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What you resist will always persist and you can shift this by focusing on your DO wants rather then your DON’T wants. You get what you think about, whether it’s wanted or un-wanted.

Albert Einstein said “Imagination is everything.  It is the preview to life’s coming attractions” – Smart man.

So on this new day, the first of a new calendar I resolve to imagine my life as I wish it. In fact I intend not only to imagine it, but to feel as though I am already living my own personal bliss.

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Celebrating

  1. I will focus on the things I have to be grateful for.
  2. I will count my blessings.
  3. I’ll remember that the feelings I put out into the world are the same ones that will be returned to me.
  4. I will approach every task and every challenge this new year brings with the idea that:

Whether I think I can or can’t, either way I am right. 

Welcome  2013, welcome love, welcome laughter.

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F is for fatty acid- part 2

How the heck do fish oils work & what do EFAs do?!?

Once fish oil is consumed and enters the blood it becomes incorporated into every type of cell all over our bodies. Each of these cells have an outer membrane and this outer membrane contains phospholipid fat. Each of these phospholipid molecules contain two fatty acids. Many of these fatty acids are the lovely essential fatty acids we discussed last week. Mainly:  AA, EPA or DGLA.

The cell and its phospholipid plasma membrane

F is for fatty acid….part deux

How do Essential fatty acids work?

There are 4 key concepts which have helped these mean green health helping machines develop their cure all reputation:

1) EFAs are an important part of all cell membranes: Blood cells, immune cells, neurons and neural cells, heart cells etc etc tec. 2) EFAs provide the correct environment for : Membrane fluidity, enzymatic functioning, proteins structure and membrane receptors. 3) EFAs regulate cell signaling, gene expression, cellular function, the immune system and EVERY SINGLE REACTION IN THE BODY! 4) EFAs reduce and resolve inflammation

One of the primary roles EFAs play in the body is immune system regulation and inflammation

1) Important cell membrane component EFAs are critical components in the cellular membranes of many organs. Some of those most affected by EFA imbalance are the brain, the heart, the digestive system and the skin. Once the fatty acids from fish oil make into the tiny membranes found all over our body, they are cleaved/cut out of their membranes so that they can be modified, metabolized and utilized for chemical reactions. After they are cleaved out of the phospholipid membrane and released as free fatty acids,  EFAs are enzymatically metabolized and oxygenated and then further modified to yield hormone like molecules called eicosanoids. The first of these enzymes, Cyclooxygenase (COX) oxidizes and removes two C=C double bonds leading to the thomboxanes, prostaglandins and prostacyclins (TX, PG and PGI). These hormonal signalling molecules then modulate circulation, the thickness of your blood and the release of white blood cells and inflammatory mediators.   The second enzyme: Lipoxygenase (LOX) generates leukotrienes whose main action is to narrow your blood vessles causing vasocontriction.

Arachidonic acid being cut out of a membrane and metabolized

2) Every reaction in all the cells of your body is very dependent on the structure of its outer membrane. How flexible or “fluid” it is, what molecules are sticking out (receptors) and the tags other cells floating around can recognize (like glycation, sulphonation at the like) are what determine the activity of every cell. When a molecule floats by on the outside of a cell it must bind to the outer membrane of the cell in order to initiate changes on the inside of said cell. The proteins the molecule binds to is known as a membrane receptor, and is dependent on a lock and key model. Only a very specific size and shaped molecule (key) which fits perfectly into the receptor protein (lock) can initiate the snow-ball effects inside the cell where changes occur that initiates genetic, messenging and metabolic alterations.  EFAs very profoundly modulate the way the outside of our cellular membranes look. By doing this, EFAs significantly modify the shape of the lock and therefore what type of key will fit in and initiate cellular changes. EFAs modulate:

  1. The fluidity, flexibility and moldability of our cells
  2. The enzymatic reactions that occur inside and outside of our cells
  3. Protein structures and membrane receptors.

3) Genetic alterations Once they alter the structure and functioning of the cellular membrane omega-3s are able to alter intracellular signalling. They modify the genes involved in fat burning, glucose control, neural synpase formation, neurotransmitter release, hormone secretion and modify virtually every reaction in your body from the signal required to initiate a new muscle fiber growth to being able to remember the buy eggs at the grocery store.

Fish oil’s claim to fame! Decreased inflammation

The main benefit of fish oil is a reduction in chronic inflammation giving our cells a break from the overwhelming destructive inflammatory fire that’s been burning on and on due to toxicity, processed diets, environmental exposure and the chemical reactions required to run our beautiful magnificent human bodies.

Remember when I told you that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is about 30:1 in our society, well that inappropriate level of omega-6 fats relative to omega-3s generates what is known as chronic inflammation.  The eicosanoids/hormones produced from fish oil are anti-inflammatory, those from omega-6s are inflammatory. Unless our diet is balanced and equal in both fatty acids; inflammation will prevail and become chronic.
Chronic inflammation

When inflammation becomes chronic and is allowed to smolder un-opposed, the immune systems ceases to only fight and attack pathogens and invaders and begins to cause damage and break down to normal tissue. This chronic inflammation inappropriately activates the immune system against self cells and is at the foundation of auto-immune diseases like Rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis, and Psoriasis

Omega-3 are able to prevent and resolve inflammation in 3 ways:

  1. They compete with AA for membrane incorporation
  2. They modify the genes that initiate inflammation
  3. They actively resolve inflammation that’s already occuring

1. One of the principle ways omega-3s reduce inflammation is by directly competing with the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid for membrane incorporation.  EPA then competes for enzymatic activation by several ezymes, namely: COX and LOX enzymes which convert EFAs into prostaglandins (PG2/PG3), thromboxanes (TXA2/TXA3) and leukotrienes (LTK4/5)  EPA then competes for enzymatic activation by COX & LOX enzymes. When eicosapentaenoic acid is metabolized by COX/LOX instead of AA, it produces a very different and much less inflammatory set of molecules then does AA.

  • AA produces the proinflammatory hormone like molecules:  Prostaglandin E(2) and leukotrieneB4–>These are potent molecules that recruit inflammatory cells and contributes greatly to tissue breakdown and the heat of inflammation
  • EPA produces eicosanoids, with a different structure which are less potent and much less inflammatory Prostaglandin E3 and leukotriene B5
2. Omega-3s directly modify the genes associated with inflammation.  Omega-3s turn inflammation off, preventing destruction of your body and allowing it to heal. They reduce a messenger called nuclear factor-κB. This bad boy is activation which decreases the formation of  pro-inflammatory cytokines like IL-1, 6, 8 and TNF alpha from monocytes and macrophages.

3. Finally, Resolution of inflammation has historically been viewed as a passive process, occurring as a result of the withdrawal of pro-inflammatory signals like leukotrienes and prostaglandins.  Research over the last few years has determined that inflammation resolution is an active process. basically meaning the taking your omega-3s inhibits inflammation from starting in the first place and thennnnnnn helps turn off the inflammatory switch if its already been on & burning everything up. Stay tuned next week for part 3 of 3 which deals with which clinical diseases are prevented and treated by the anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids EPA, DHA and DGLA.

E is for exercise.

Exercise is regarded by many as the magic pill. It’s effect on health, mood, disease and well-being are incomparable to any other therapy.

Simply moving your body can improve memory, concentration, energy, circulation, pain, depression, insomnia, libido, stamina and can rock your body. Any of these benefits sound good to you?

E is for exercise.

Several studies exist in support of exercise for health to name a few; exercise has been shown to be of benefit in:

  1. Cardiovascular disease
  2. Brain health
    • Exercise promotes production of the neuro-protective BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) which is associated with a decreased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s
    • In clinical studies, exercise has been shown to improve: Memory, cognitive function, reactive time and alertness.
    • If Grandma stops her daily walk and swim, a noticeable change in her mental alertness and cognitive function will occur-you’re no different.
  3. Immune system health
  4. Cancer prevention and treatment
  5. Prevention of diabetes
  6. Depression
  7. Bone health and osteoporosis prevention
  8. Lifespan

Here is what I think is THE most awesome and simplest fitness formula:

  1. Stress – provide a physical stress to your body that is just beyond what you are capable of doing.
  2. Rest – allow your body to positively adapt.
  3. Repeat – be consistent

Simple eh? Swear on my Manolo Blahniks folks, this is it!  Everything else you’ve read regarding exercise is classified into one of these three categories (with a lot of finer details within each).

#1 – Stress

Human are extremely adaptive, this process is initiated by a stressor.  Cavemen, our bare backed, fur wearing, meat hunting friends; avoided being eaten by larger prey by developing a way to be faster (so they could run away), stronger (to climb trees) and smarter (to avoid crossing paths with these predators in the future).  The key to their adaptation and ultimately, their survival was STRESS.  Stress is required for a species to adapt. Natural selection is really just that. We select the traits that allow us to survive a stress, whether it be a new climate, a new diet or a fast angry predator.

#1 (a) Progressive stress-what was sufficient yesterday isnt enough today.

An ancient tale describes one Milo of Croton who lifted and carried a newborn calf on his shoulders every day and continued to pick up and carry the same calf as it grew into maturity: Forcing his body to become stronger.  The story ends with Milo walking into the Olympic stadium carrying a full grown bull over his head, which of course kinda made him the man- as far antiquity went anyway

Milo’s fable represents the principal of progressive overload. A gradual increase in volume, frequency, intensity or time is required to produce a positive adaptation! Positive adaptations like less fat stores and increased muscle tone.  

To attain exercise therapy results you must do one of the following:

  1. Increase volume (weight/distance)
  2. Increase intensity 
  3. Increase frequency (number of reps or sprints) 
  4. Increase time (longer run or length of cardio)

The body will only spend what energy is absolutely necessary to get a job done. Say today you decide its zero to hero day and you’re gonna leave your sofa cruising, vampire diaries watching habbits behind (Good for you).  Say you do really well and end up running 5 km and it takes a very respectable 30 minutes. During that run your body likely burnt about 1000 calories. Assuming you actually run again (lets be honest lots of us make it to one work out and give up again) if you continue to run 5km but in the same 30 minutes every time, your body will start to adapt to this workout and ultimately burn less and less calories (since it is now more efficient at said 5km run).  What used to burn 1000 calories now burns 600 lets say by run number 10.

HOWEVER, if you increase the volume of your run, like running 6km, or the intensity of your run (run the same 5km but in 20 min), or the duration/time of your run (running the intensity you ran for the first 5km but for 35 minutes instead of 30);  you will continue to improve and get better.

This is THE most prevalent problem for your average gym goer.  You know that dude in the weight room who’s been doing the same weight routine with the same amount of weight for like every day and yet can’t figure out why his body isn’t changing? He doesn’t understand the concept of progressive loading, but now you DO!

Ask yourself: Did I do better this time then last? If so then YAY you’re on the right track.

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#2 REST

Sleepy kitty

If you have too much stress/yang and not enough rest/yin you will beat yourself up and tear your body down, although this seems beneficial in the short term, more calories burnt => more fat breakdown => more success, but in the long term it does the very opposite. We DO NOT make improvements to our body during our workouts but rather between them – during the rest period. You are not breaking down fat and increasing your metabolism during your kettle bell swings, but the alterations in your metabolism and the micro- repairs done to your damaged tissues while you are RESTING alters the physiology of your entire body and results in more lean body mass & less fat.

The physical stress you place on your body with a workout gets the ball rolling; but in order to get more fit, more toned and better cardiovascular health-your body has to react to the stress and positively adapt so that it is better prepared to meet the demands of this stress when it comes across it again.

Rest is key to progressive stress. Rest is why we can progressively lift heavier weights or run longer distances once we have conditioned our body to do so.  What determines whether your hard work will pay off is the relative duration of the stress you place on your body to the rest and nourishment it then receives.

You can gather then, that shorter, intense workouts are great because they provide a quick stress followed by rest (Consider 10  50m sprints, 45 kettle bell swings or 4 sets of 4 deadlifts).

Long duration workouts put the body under distress, rather then adaptive stress. This increase in cortisol (from stress) and prolonged physical trauma ironically generates an INCREASE in fat storage and even a breakdown in lean muscle tissue.

Similarly to prolonged work outs, work outs that are too frequent, prevent the body from adequately recovering as well.  If you workout on Monday for example then perform another workout on Tuesday you are interrupting your body’s natural repair process which you will instinctively perceive as a distress.  Follow your workouts up with periods of relaxation.  Food and sleep are two of the best ways to make the most out of recovery time between workouts.

My recipe for rest:

  1. Get 8 hours of sleep each night
  2. Have a post workout drink with carbs and protein to start the recovery process as soon as possible.
  3. Take an adaptogen like ginseng to help your body cope.
  4. Take on less responsibilities by saying “No” to things that aren’t important to you
  5. Meditate

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#3 – Repeat

You now know how to adpatively stress your body, and you know how crucial allowing it to rest is to weight loss, building muscle and getting success, but the third and perhaps most difficult part to THE best and simplest work-out formula is Consistency.  

Consistency can be tough.  We live in a world where we can get anything we want almost immediately –  we somehow think this should carry over to building muscle or losing weight.  Unfortunately, it is very difficult to lose the 50+lbs you have steadily gained over the course of 2-3 years in 8 weeks.

For example: Farmers take the time to nurture their crops and don’t not frantically run around planting seeds and watering them like crazy two weeks before the date they need to harvest.   However, in gyms everywhere, maybe even this very second you could go watch someone who hasnt exercised all year but who now can be seen training like a crazed animal during the two weeks that lead up to their trip down south.

Health and fitness is a lifestyle choice ladies and gentlemen.  A quick fix will not give you long-term results and quite frankly is very hard on your endocrine system, your metabolism and your health.

But, long term, consistent exercise is guaranteed to improve your well-being, your health and your entire life.