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Whey and the lack of protein myth

Let me ask you a question, and I want you to think about your answer, really think about it. I want you to think about your answer both in the current time frame and about 20 – 30 years from now. Think of your life now and your life in the future and everything that you’ll experience. Now, the question:

Why is health and fitness a priority for you?


photo woman bodybuilder using cable and pulley machine while facing mirror
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Thought about it? Good.

How many of you answered that the reason you are serious about health and fitness is for longevity? How many people answered that you are not happy about your body and want to change it? Maybe you have a passion to pursue such as running, biking, etc. All good reasons. And I’m positive if I asked you if you wanted to do these things for as long as you live without incident you would respond with a resounding yes. Knowing that let’s look at something I feel plays a very important role in achieving this.

too much of anything is bad

We have been lead to believe that we need to supplement our diets with protein. But wait, let me back up a bit, we have been lead to believe that we need more protein than we actually do. Ask someone what they had for dinner last night and they usually respond with the meat they ate: “I had BBQ chicken”, or “I had steak last night”, or “I had beef stew”. No one really answers that they had broccoli with rice and tofu, or they had a mix of chickpeas, greens, onions, and garlic. People generally always mention the ‘protein’ and nothing else (I put a single quote around protein to emphasize most people think only meat has protein).

raw almonds spilled out of small ceramic bowl on table
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We are obsessed with protein so much that people who are already eating animal products 3x a day are still supplementing with protein powder. Our protein intake has skyrocketed over the years. As a global average, per capita meat consumption has increased approximately 20 kilograms since 1961. Cheaper production methods, mass marketing, government subsidies, and marketing to our children through milk programs and promotions such as pizza day have led to the vast increase in consumption of dairy and meat. Then add supplementation on top of this

Most Americans are already consuming too much protein, roughly twice the recommended daily amount. We have been marketed to death that carbs are bad and protein is good. Why? Money basically. It’s much easier to market meat, dairy than it is to market plants. Which leads me to supplementation.

Therefore, I concluded that focusing on mostly whole plant foods (and very little processed foods) was a healthy and effective way to achieve fitness results.

Robert Cheeke – Two time natural body building champion

The more people buying protein powder = companies making more money. It also means the people promoting the supplements are also making money. It’s a huge industry. In 2019 an approx. 18 billion dollar industry. All built on this myth that we need more protein to be strong and healthy, and to grow!


But at what cost? What cost do you pay consuming additional protein you don’t need in the form of whey protein, or casein protein (both derived from dairy). Let’s look at the negative affects of whey and casein protein:

If this doesn’t shock you I don’t know what will.

Let’s go back to my initial question, why is health and fitness a priority for you? How can you keep doing the things you love if you suffer from any of the above effects? Health and fitness should always be looked at from the perspective of enhancing our lives, not negatively impacting them. So why do we do this? Why do the majority of people continue to destroy their bodies needlessly? I think this is why:

  • Peers: “My friends do it and man did they bulk up”. The same could be said in a sense for meth, or coke, “Man you have lost a lot of weight, you look great!”, but you wouldn’t start doing meth I hope.
  • Media: Bro science continues to promote these falsehoods and who does not like to hear what they are doing reinforced positively? If you are a Joe Rogan fan you are used to watching him with mainly one guest and most times what they say goes unrefuted. Look how this changed when Chris Kresser was challenged on the show in an open debate. But if you don’t have his guests fact-checked you will tend to believe what you hear because it’s on a highly popular podcast.
  • Lack of education: Unless you take it upon yourself to research nutrition from resources that are not funded by industry you’ll probably never know. To illustrate my point, ask people you know if excessive sugar causes type 2 diabetes and the majority of people will say yes, although almost a hundred years ago it was determined that saturated fat causes type 2 diabetes.
  • It’s not talked about: With doctors having on average less than 20 hours of nutrition training over 4 years, they are better at sick care than health care. They are more apt to prescribe drugs or have you operated on than tell you to deviate from the standard american diet. There is rarely a discussion focused on changing a diet to address disease but instead, the discussion is focused on medication, not prevention.
  • Culture and peer pressure: There is a lot of pressure to fit in, fit in with the family, and not rock the boat. Fit in with our friends and feel like we belong. Belong to a tribe. This may be more so with choosing a whole foods plant based diet but it is similar. We love to feel that we belong to a tight group, we belong in a tribe. Refuse your grandma’s cooking and be prepared to be treated like a traitor.

options

If you feel you need to supplement due to reasons such as not having access to a complete meal then supplement with a natural plant based protein such as hemp protein, or a mix of plant based proteins such as pea, brown rice, etc. Consuming the appropriate amount of calories for your lifestyle and goals is very important but always try to make it a priority to eat whole foods.

finally

Advocate for yourself by educating yourself and questioning the things you may believe or hear from others. If you haven’t already read it, I recommend reading Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s book, The China Study. This is the first book I read regarding the damage consuming animal products does to our body and also was the precursor to taking Cornell University’s plant based nutrition certificate course.

Continue to do the things you love, and set yourself up to continue to do these things many years from today.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Featured

Time Under Tension

Use TUT to gain strength and muscle

Like most things, our body responds to pressure, or tension if you will. And increasing the time under that tension can produce results of increased strength and muscle size.


What

Just to add to your fitness vocabulary of HIIT, HILIT we have TUT, or Time Under Tension. Anyone whom I’ve trained will be familiar with this in that it’s common to hear me instruct them to slow down, to add a pause of a few seconds at the lower part of the exercise. Have you ever seen anyone at the gym ripping of barbell bicep curls like no one’s business? They’re executing them at about 10 per second? Most often you’ll also see some hip action as they move the hips backward when they lower the bar and swing forward to give it that little bit of help to execute the move, usually due to too much weight or sometimes it’s because they really don’t want to work out but want to feel like they did and are trying to get it over as quickly as possible.

woman doing leg presses
Clean, proper technique will result in gains

So what is TUT. TUT refers to how long a muscle is under strain during a set. That person you observed in the gym doing bicep curls probably completed 10 in about 10 seconds. By increasing the duration of the strain on the muscle by lengthening the time of the set you can increase the amount of muscle breakdown thus increasing your strength and muscle size. Another benefit of TUT is by slowing down the movement your technique will be cleaner and should reduce the risk of injury.


Now, knowing this let’s look at how to properly train using TUT

How

Here are the points you are going to want to remember for your TUT training:

  • Total Duration: Try to time the duration of your sets to 30 – 45 seconds. This will ensure you muscles are getting the proper amount of stress.
  • 4/2/e/1: Keep this formula in mind. 4 seconds for the lowering phase, or the eccentric phase. 2 second pause. Explode for the concentric contraction. 1 second pause at the top.
  • Keep it flexible: This is a rule regardless of the type of workout. Never lock out your joints at the top of a movement. This transfers the weight from the muscles we are trying to strengthen to the joints and can cause injury.
  • Keep it hard: Don’t spend time in the zone where the work is easier. An example of this is when doing bicep curls. Have you noticed that when the weight comes closer to the body it gets easier? It’s usually the easiest when it is right above the fulcrum, the elbow. When you feel the load drastically reduce take that 1 second pause with the load still on the muscle then reverse the direction of the movement.
  • The eccentric contraction: Spend more time doing the eccentric contraction, the motion of the move that lengthens the muscle. If doing squats, this would be the downward motion that lengthens the quads. This will cause more muscle damage and encourage muscle growth.
  • Keep the intensity and the correct weight: Following the above tips but not being fatigued at the end of the set will not help you gain strength or muscle size. Keep the weight at the amount that will allow you to get out 8 – 10 reps. This is an ideal amount of reps for muscle growth. If your goal is to add as much muscle as possible keep the reps in the range of 6 – 8.
  • Form: Always execute clean form. When you get tired, don’t compromise your form. Stick it out and do what you can. When you compromise your form you are cheating and neglecting the muscles that you are supposed to be training. If the next day you feel muscle pain in another area that you didn’t train this is why.
purple and brown colored planet
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Intensity and speed. Follow the above guidelines and keep that intensity. Do you have to do TUT every workout? Absolutely not. Changing how we work out from mixing up the exercises you choose, mixing up the duration of the workout, incorporating different strategies such as stacking, pyramiding, etc. can bring changes quicker. This is another tool to help get you there.


Finally

Give Time Under Tension a try if you have been finding the gains haven’t been happening. And if you are finding things are becoming stagnate, the growth hasn’t been happening then maybe go back and read some of my other articles on training techniques and strategies. Muscle growth is like most things, it’s science.

Follow the correct science and the growth will happen.

Yours in health,

Darryl

It gets so heavy at times but what more can I do

white and black wooden blocks
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What can we do to increase energy, what can we do to increase performance, what can we do to be a better version of ourselves. In continuation of writing about how the foods we eat directly impact the above, here is another post on using foods to be healthier, stronger, and faster.

what

Todays post is going to discuss TMAO, or Trimethylamine N-oxide, is formed in our gut after eating foods that have lecithin and carnitine, foods such as eggs, dairy, red meet, poultry, chicken, fish, duck, lamb, liver, and other meats. If you are an omnivore, and you are eating animal products, you have now developed in your microbiome, your gut, molecules of TMA (Trimethylamine). The TMA will be rapidly oxidized by your liver, giving you TMAO (Trimethylamine N-oxide), which negatively impacts your blood vessels. If you read my last post, you know how important blood vessel health is as it is responsible for how much oxygen is brought to our cells. Also, this can lead to vascular disease.

how

So how does TMAO negatively impact our health? Here are the negative impacts from having TMAO in our gut:

  • Lowers reverse cholesterol transport
  • Raises cholesterol in arterial wall
  • Associated in most severe cardio vascular disease in 4000 patients
  • Eating fish yields highest TMAO levels

Yet again another benefit of following a whole foods plant based diet. Once again gut bacteria play a huge role in our health. And you want gut bacteria that cannot make TMAO. The alternative is to continue to eat an omnivore diet and risk cardio vascular disease and if you are unfortunate that you suffer a major cardio event, you could find yourself on medication that had terrible side effects.

Contrast this with a whole foods plant based diet that eliminates inflammation, drops cholesterol and also lowers food cost.

This is what the phrase ‘we are what we eat’ means. We tend to follow the same routines as our parents, friends, people we know. Most of use eat the same western diet and when we have health issues we go to the doctors and either we are given pills, or worse case, we have surgery. We hardly ever look at the foods we eat. People will call eating a whole foods plant base diet extreme, but doing the above is seen as perfectly normal. Not sure how eating potatoes, rice, lentils, beans, fruits and other vegetables is extreme but this is the narrative attached to it.

finally

Increase performance, reduce inflammation, maintain a healthy gut. And save money! It’s pretty much a win all around. Lastly, I’ll leave you with a teaser for my next post, balsamic vinegar. That’s all I’m saying.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Looking to improve performance, try this

bowl being poured with yellow liquid
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Most of us are looking for ways to improve performance. Better and lighter shoes if you are a runner, supplements to aid performance, technology to help us achieve our goals, and it goes on. Today, I’m going to write about endothelial cells and how this can impact your performance.

but first

First off I’m going to spend a bit of time explaining how our body creates energy. We have to main categories of energy systems: anaerobic – creating energy without oxygen and aerobic – creating energy with oxygen.

Let’s look at the first system, the anaerobic system. As mentioned, this system creates energy without oxygen. This system is used typically at the beginning when intensity is at its maximum and duration is short, under 2 minutes. The reason oxygen is not being used is that the activity is so intense that the body cannot get oxygen to the muscles in time to produce energy oxidatively to meet the demand. The anaerobic phase can also be broken into 2 sections: the first 10 seconds and the remaining 110 seconds giving 2 minutes in total. The very first 10 seconds of intense activity is also devoid of the glycolytic system (think of carbs) and when no longer being able to provide fuel, the body slows down a bit to then incorporate they glycolytic system.

So what happens after the 2 minute mark? The body slows down, or the muscles will shut down. No other option. And when the body slows down, oxygen is then introduced into the energy system allowing aerobic metabolism to produce the energy needed. Most of us fall into this area when exercising, utilizing glycogen and oxygen for fuel.

what

So how do endothelial cells come into this? Endothelial cells are directly responsible for the initiation of increased blood flow in our body. That blood flow brings the oxygen needed for performance. If you are a person who eats a typical western diet, you have been slaughtering your endothelial cells to the point that the blood flow is no longer like going over teflon but more like velcro. And maximizing blood flow is what we want to increase our performance. The better the blood flow is the more oxygen being delivered to our muscles. More oxygen means more fuel which means better performance.

This isn’t another blog post promoting veganism, it’s a blog post on performance. Just so we’re clear I am a promoter of whole foods plant based eating even though I am vegan. You will never hear me promote veganism as a diet. You can be vegan and still damage your endothelia just as much as someone who consumes animals. Why? Because it’s the fat that is doing the damage. Fat from added oils, nuts, seeds, and of course, animals and animal products.

Let’s look at oil. There is this notion that there are healthy oils, oils we need to consume to be healthy. Oils have very little nutritional value save some vitamin E, Omega 3’s, and so on. No fiber, no glucose, no vitamin C, etc. Consuming a whole foods plant based diet properly will provide any oils you need naturally. Adding oils to food really isn’t necessary and depending on the amount and frequency can be damaging your endothelial which can lead to coronary issues and also performance issues.

Now, before you make the conclusion that you can continue to eat animals and animal products because there isn’t any difference between that and a high fat consuming vegan, here is why you should seriously consider eating a whole foods plant based diet if you aren’t already: oxidative stress. Fat consumption causes oxidative stress which causes free radicals that causes endothelial disfunction thus leading to atherosclerosis which is the build up of plaque on the artery walls. Plants, one more time, Plants are the only foods that have anti-oxidants which counteracts the oxidative stress. So if your oil consumption is higher than it should be, and you are eating a lot of plants, you are then helping to counteract the oxidative stress from oils.

how

So how do endothelial cells help deliver oxygen to our muscles? Have you ever seen in movies, or shows from years ago where someone is having a cardiac episode and they would reach into a pill bottle and pull out a small pill and put it into their mouth? They would instantly be better. This pill is NO2, nitric oxide. Endothelial cells are what bring NO2 to the bloodstream and increase blood flow thus increasing the delivery of oxygen.

This is why foods high in natural nitrates that promote nitric oxide such as beets, spinach are beneficial to performance, especially endurance performance.

So to summarize, foods high in fat vastly lower the amount of NO2 in our blood thus greatly impacting the delivery of blood to our muscles, lowering the amount of O2 needed for our body to create fuel. Also, eating plants is the only way to increase the amount of anti-oxidants we consume which counter acts the oxidative stress caused by consuming fat, and also exercise. Yes, exercise stresses our body.

lastly

Ultimately we need to find a balance between what we eat, how we feel, things we do for pleasure and our overall health, physically and mentally. Knowing what your priorities are can help you find this balance. Knowing how your body works and what can impact performance and health can also help you decide what to eat and what not to eat. At the end of the day, that balance should help you become the person you want to be.

Yours in health,

Darryl

And I blend in the crowd

Diamonds are formed under pressure. Bread dough rises when you let it rest. What works for you might be crippling for someone else.

what

I’m having one of those times writing where I have all the thoughts in my mind but the process of writing them out can be almost impossible. Let me give it a shot.

I’ve given out the first message myself to people many many times. Why? If I ask myself that question my answer would be because when training people in a group the message has to be for the benefit of the group and when the group is made up of some people who aren’t working hard then the message has to be relevant to them. Most times that’s the case. I often find people will have in their mind that they are working hard, that’s their perception, but I can see they are at 70%, maybe 80% of the max they can do. My job is to squeeze out the other 20, or 30% if and when it’s needed. This happens quite a bit. For whatever reason. Ego, denial, fear, uncertainty, fear of failure, fear of success. I don’t always know why it is with individuals but I do try to understand as best as possible. That’s what I try to do. But for the individuals, for the majority of people I think it comes down to honesty. And I don’t mean being honest where you say what the other person wants to hear I’m talking about being honest with yourself.

The human body can do wonderous things. Amazing things. All you need to do is google amazing human feats and you’ll see the things we have done. People completing 5 ironman triathlons in 5 days. A 70 year old man pulling 70 rowboats while shackled and handcuffed, and it goes on.

But that’s not everyone and that’s ok. It may be you or it may not be. But do you know if it is you? If your goal is to do great things, achieve personal bests then hard work, really hard work is required.

But with hard work also comes the need for rest. And it is a need. Based on your physiology that could mean different things in the sense of duration and activity. And not just physical rest. Mental rest is also very important. If you find that you are having a hard time getting motivated to work out that can be due to overtraining and also mental fatigue. If you are more mentally fatigued than physically it could be a good time to kick in some endurance training, something that doesn’t require a lot of mental focus. Something like a long run or bike where you can zone out but still get in some physical activity. You might just feel a lot better afterward.

finally

Understand yourself. Understand when you need a break and when you can train hard. There’s the time to train hard and there’s the time to rest and let the body and mind recover and grow. Be honest with yourself. And forgive yourself for those times you haven’t been honest. It’s what you do the majority of the time, the 80%. Look at the whole year, not just the one bad week. I’ll leave you with a quote that may help you in your training:

“Karate cannot be adequately learned in a short period of time.
LIke a sluggish bull, regardless of how slowly it moves it will eventually
cover a thousand miles. So too, for one who resolves to study diligently
two or three hours every day, after three or four years of unremitting
effort one’s body will undergo a great transformation, revealing the
very essence of karate.”

Itosu Anko

Yours in health,

Darryl

It’s that time of the year again

It’s probably the biggest understatement to say this year was an unusual year and a tough year. We all know why that is. I think too we don’t always realize the impact the pandemic has taken on people’s health both physically and mentally.

Usually this time of year I write an ‘end of the year’ post reminding people to set some goals and to do their best to achieve them. With all we have been going through this year I think this is even more important to do. This too is the time we really need to think outside of the box. Gyms are closed. Health studios are closed. We are spending more time inside away from people and for some of us, that means being alone for long lengths of time. I read an instagram post lately that reminded people to give each other a break because we don’t know what they are going through. We should always do that but maybe more so now. It made me think about what we are going through. Although we are in an unprecedented time it can at times seem very normal to some. Unlike a major event such as a world war where cities are bombed relentlessly, people are sent away to fight and maybe never seen again, foods and supplies are rationed, our world doesn’t look really any different. We still have our internet to bring us movies and other entertainment. Most of us are still carrying out our daily grind of working. I often hear from people that their life hasn’t changed much at all as they generally are people who stay in most of the time so bar closures, no dine-in options, etc., aren’t really impacting them.

Sometimes we notice how things are different when it comes to wanting to do something we were able to do a year ago. Usually at this time of year my sister and I would see a move in a theatre. The family would get together at my mom’s place for Christmas. Having lunch with someone at your favorite restaurant is not an option right now.

These inconveniences can seem pale in comparison to what people had to go through in the past but we live in different times today. I think the things that have been taken away from us are things that have been ingrained into our day to day. Just look at the numbers of people working from home. Maybe their only social activity was interacting with their coworkers and now they have lost that for many months, and maybe many more. What is the impact of that on someone’s mental health?

So where am I going with this? Hmm, I’m not sure I know myself. Maybe we need to give each other more slack. Maybe we need to be more empathetic with each other.

For ourselves, we need to be inventive and dynamic when it comes to taking care of our physical health. This is the time to create your home gym. There are a lot of options for this. Bodyweight exercises, cardio workouts that don’t need much space at all. Just search Youtube for bodyweight exercises and you’ll find more than you need.

We have enough stress in our lives. Don’t stress the things you cannot change. Instead use that energy to see what you can do in light of the change. Be adaptable, be resilient, be positive as you can be. There are a lot of things we cannot change that we wish we could. All that we can change is how we react to these things. That is all that we have control over.

Try to remember that during these times and future times. YOU are the one who decides how to react to things.

And just try your best.

Yours in health,

Darryl

When looking for something sweet…

Who doesn’t enjoy something sweet once in a while? Not just sweet like strawberries or another berry but something sweet that also has a chocolate touch to it. Sounds good, doesn’t it? You can have this by using dates for the sweetness which will also provide you with some fiber and other good things, all the while giving you that sweet treat that you are looking for.

what

close up photo of raisins and dates
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So what are dates, and do they contain any nutrients that are beneficial? For this article whenever I refer to dates I’m referring to medjool dates. Dates, native to Morocco, are also referred to as the fruit of kings. They have a sweet caramel taste with a chewy texture and are high in vitamins and nutrients. Here is the vitamin and mineral profile from 3 pitted medjool dates:

Vitamins and minerals from 3 dates. Source: Cronometer.com

A good source of calcium, potassium, magnesium, and some B vitamins amongst other minerals and vitamins.

Now, keep in mind that dates are high in calories and naturally occurring sugars so enjoy them in moderation. But, here is a funny thing. Although dates contain about 80% sugar, sugar levels much higher than sugared cereals such as Fruit Loops which has 40% sugar, the sugar doesn’t adversely affect your body such as processed sugar does. And of course, we should have concerns about eating high sugar foods as they can raise our blood sugar, raise our triglycerides, oxidatively stress our bodies, and make us fat. So are dates bad for us? Does the high sugar level cancel out the high vitamin and mineral levels, and the fiber content?

Dates are great. No adverse effects on blood sugar or weight, and beneficial improvements in triglycerides and antioxidant stress levels. In a study carried out, ten healthy subjects consumed for a period of 4 weeks 100 g/day of either Medjool or Hallawi dates. So what happened? Did their blood sugar levels rise? Not at all. Their BMI, serum total cholesterol, fasting serum glucose and triacylglycerol levels were not increased after consumption of either date variety, and serum triacylglycerol levels even significantly (p < 0.05) decreased, by 8 or 15% after Medjool or Hallawi date consumption, respectively. And here’s more. Check out the title of this review on PubMed, “…possible best food?”. This study also concludes:  “In many ways, dates may be considered as an almost ideal food, providing a wide range of essential nutrients and potential health benefits.”

There you have it. A fantastic alternative to sugar, artificial sweeteners, or whatever you might be using. Now, don’t go around with a bag of dates in your pocket snacking all day on them. All good things in moderation.

how

So, back to the beginning. Want a sweet chocolatey snack that has many good things in it? Try this out and feel free to substitute the nuts or nut butter to what you have on hand or prefer:

  • 1 cup raw walnuts
  • 1 1/3 cups dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup raw almond butter
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup crushed raw pecans

Grind walnuts and dates in a food processor until finely ground. Add the almond butter and process until well mixed. Add the cocoa powder and pulse to mix well. Transfer to a pan of appropriate size and press down firmly using your finger, spoon or whatever flattening implement you have. Sprinkle the top with the crushed pecans, cover and put in the fridge for a while, about an hour. After the hour, cut into squares and enjoy.

As I said earlier you can use whatever nuts you like. I’ve done this recipe with pumpkin, sunflower seeds and also with almonds. If you want to lighten up the sweetness try using one cup instead of the additional third cup of dates. It’s up to you.

finally

And with that, you have a natural way to sweeten your dessert, or snack of choice.

Lastly, don’t forget all the plant nutrients you are getting, the phytonutrients that only occur in plants and are a natural disease fighter.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Understanding Tofu

top view photo of vegetables
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It’s been misunderstood, demonized and unnecessarily avoided. Tofu is an excellent source of protein and also fiber, the latter being greatly insufficient in most people’s diets.

what

So what is tofu? Tofu is a food prepared by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into solid white blocks of varying softness. High in iron, calcium, magnesium, and low in calories, it is a food that has been around for thousands of years. It’s a staple in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and other southeast Asia country’s cuisine. It also comes in several forms: silken, soft, medium, firm and extra firm texture. Having a very subtle flavour, tofu will take on the flavours of the foods it is cooked with. Also because of the subtle flavour it can be used in desserts such as vegan cheesecake (no cheese needed) and remain undetectable. Just 100 grams of tofu contains 8 grams of protein, 35% of daily requirements for calcium, 30% of daily iron requirements, and has only 76 calories.

Tempeh is another way to get soy into your diet. Where tofu is prepared from soy milk, tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. You’ll find tempeh more flavourful then tofu as it has a nutty profile to it.

Tofu can often get a bad wrap in cultures that associate eating meat with masculinity. Who hasn’t heard the term soy boy used to emasculate men who are on the left of political and social views. Tofu is looked at as a ‘hippie’ food while meat, especially beef, will always be used to sell beer in a commercial showing the guys getting together on the weekend. Which is ironic since a number of studies show that the higher consumption of beef can lead to the decline in testosterone levels in men while consuming tofu does not have this effect. It’s not surprising considering that when you are eating meat you are eating not just the meat you can chew but also consuming the hormones that make up the cow it came from; estrogen, and progesterone.

There is also the fear that soy consumption will increase the risk of breast cancer in women because of the levels of phytoestrogen (phyto refers to plants) but studies have shown that consuming soy reduces the risk of breast cancer and also lowers the risk of death from women whom have breast cancer. Let’s look at the following: “Researchers calculated all-cause mortality for those women diagnosed with breast cancer eating soy, or not eating soy. And those eating soy cut their risk of dying by 50%! So, not only does soy prevent breast cancer, but women with breast cancer eating soy live longer.

To get tofu into your diet it can be as easy as adding it to your stir frys, or soup (chunks of tofu in miso soup is very nice). Another option is to marinate it and put it into an air fryer. It’s very versatile. Are you vegan and miss scrambled eggs? Make yourself a tofu scramble using soft tofu while adding red pepper, onions, garlic. Key thing to remember is that tofu is comprised of a fair amount of water and you’ll want to press out that water before cooking with it.

finally

Tofu is a processed food so do not go overboard with it. It’s always a great idea to have variety with the foods we eat so treat it in that manner. And be sure to purchase only non-GMO tofu or tempeh. Embrace it, don’t be scared of it.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Sometimes your best is not always your best

young asian sportswoman having rest after workout in park
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We are not the same every day. There are many things that influence how we perform day to day: recovery time, the foods we eat, quality of sleep, alcholol consumption, etc. But yet we like to see improvements day to day when working out or performing. But that isn’t really realistic, is it? It may serve us well to be in tune to what our body is telling us and to then adapt accordingly.

what

Let me relate a recent experience with you. My current running routine has one slow day a week and the remainder workouts are intervals. When doing my interval days I like to keep the speed of the fast interval at no less than the last workout. I want to see progress and I want to make sure I’m working hard so I realize the progress. But my interval workout didn’t go that way. I didn’t get enough quality sleep the night before. I knew it as I woke up feeling like I really didn’t sleep at all. I could have easily stayed in bed for another hour that morning, but that’s how bad habits start.

I arrived at the gym, jumped on the treadmill and started my warmup/run. I was able to complete my first interval without issue but it wasn’t easy. I had to push a little more than normal. It felt like I hadn’t ran in 2 weeks. Next interval the same. Then, on my 3rd interval I made the decision to dial it back a bit. I feared if I didn’t I would either injure myself as I would be extending myself and that is when form takes a hit and becomes sloppier, or I could injure myself as I could put myself into an over trained state. That can lead to injury or sickness.

3 days later after some nights of better sleep I found myself at the gym again ready for my interval training. I felt rested and good. I did my first interval running at the speed I had worked up to, and I felt great. When I hit the slow part of my interval I listened to my body to get an idea of what my perceived exertion was and it wasn’t as high as some other times. My next interval I decided to add .5 mph to the speed, the fastest I have run in quite a while. Did it and I felt great, still! Next interval my fast speed was now a 1 mph increase. I finished my run completing the fast parts of my interval at the fastest speeds yet, and I also extended my run by 5 minutes. I completed what I wanted to do, experienced growth in my performance even though a few days earlier I performed below what my average was.

Growth does not happen exponentially but more inline with a continuous S curve where we plateau and then grow. And the more we know when we are plateauing, and the more we listen to our body the shorter time we will spend at the plateau or worse, falling off of the plateau.

how

Let’s look at some tools we can use to better understand how we are progressing in our workouts.

  • Journal: I’ve written about this many times. If you don’t know what you have been doing, from the first day to the last workout, then it becomes very hard to see the growth or know if your latest workout was your best. Just like in the world we live today data in power. The more you know about your performance the better you can be for it. And you can log plenty of data: amount of sleep, workout duration, type of workout, foods consumed, current weight. All of these things can come into plan on how you perform. And if you don’t have time to keep a journal, read my next item.
  • Bio Feedback: I’m a fan and a retractor of Fitbits and other fitness bands. Why? They are great in that you can look at your stats for your workout and your day (see items above from journal) and compare to your previous workouts, you can see how well you slept and how long (these are different things) you slept, you have a readout of heart rate including resting heart rate and historical heart rates. These are all metrics that impact performance. Unfortunately  people can end up using these numbers as a way to reward themselves not fully understanding the impact of the reward. Constantly rewarding yourself by increasing your dessert intake or drink intake probably is adding that weight you are trying to lose instead of aiding in the removal of that weight. There are also newer fitness bands that are better at giving you bio feedback and will let you know what type of workout you should focus on that day: high intensity or mid to lower intensity. These type of bands take the guess work out of it. You go into your workout pretty much knowing how you will probably feel during that workout. A great tool to help you from preventing over training which can be just as bad as not training. 
  • Perceived rate of exertion: PRE, or perceived rate of exertion is a scale that allows you to assign a number to how you are feeling while you are working out. As an example, 10 is max effort and comes with the feeling of it being impossible to continue, completely out of breath, and unable to talk. 6-7 on the scale is for vigorous activity where you feel you are on the verge of becoming uncomfortable, short of breath and can speak only a sentence. On the low end, 2-3 is light activity where you feel you can go on for hours and it’s easy to carry on a conversation. Understanding where you fall in the chart when working out should help you understand your goals for that workout. Feeling really good you might be able to live in the 10 zone for 30 seconds if the workout that day is meant to be intense but take that same workout another day you may need to be in the 6-7 zone due to lack of sleep or recovery time

 

finally

The more you listen to your body, the more data presented in the right way to understand your body should result in you staying motivated, seeing the results you are working hard to achieve. Gone should be the days of a cement head attitude of ‘balls to the wall’ or ‘take no prisoners’. Now don’t conflate this with a softening attitude on my part. Do you need to work hard? Absolutely! Just what ‘hard’ is in actual measurable work can change.

Hard work is can vary day to day. It’s no different than if you go for a 2 hour run and 90 minutes in you start to have pain in your knees. You would be stupid and irresponsible to yourself to continue. How is that different than running at 8 mph when your form has gone to sh*t just because your last interval training was at 8 mph. Take down the intensity a bit for that workout. You may be able to increase the intensity next workout or the one after if your body conditions are right. Rested, had a great sleep, ate the right foods and enough of the right foods probably got you there. Your best is not always better than the last time.

Train hard but train smart! You’ll be training longer and you’ll feel better for it.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Engaging Your Core for a Stronger Core

stack of gray stones
Photo by Ivan Rebic on Pexels.com

It may not always seem like it but our core, the part of our body from our neck to our knees, is always working for us regardless of what it is we are doing. Typically we do notice this when we incur soreness in our back. That is when we realize how much our core is involved in day to day activity.

In today’s post I want to talk about what we can do to strengthen the core even when we are not focusing primarily on the core. Let’s get into it.

what

To perform even the simplest of movements we need our core to engage. And if you want to perform those things well, you will want a strong core. We probably don’t realize it when we are climbing stairs, running, punching, kicking but the core plays a vital role in those activities. And there is really no better way to develop strength when we do those things then to let the core engage.

Here’s an example. When I jump onto a treadmill at my gym often I’m waiting for the incline setting to reset back to zero. Sometimes I’m waiting almost 20 seconds as it seems like it’s set to its max (not sure what that is, maybe 10 degrees?). And I’m fine with that if the person who was using the treadmill with it at that setting was actually walking or running WITHOUT having their hands on the equipment while exercising.

disengaging the core

It’s not uncommon to see people using the treadmill while having their arms out front holding onto the machine due to the level of incline and the inability for their core to support them while executing this motion. Now, it could be said that maybe they are doing this to increase the resistance on their leg muscles. Ok, maybe. But the problem with this is that they have released their core from the responsibility of supporting their body while doing this. What you are actually doing is training your body to not be there for you when you have now put your body into that position of having a higher load on your legs. This increase of load can happen when climbing the stairs, walking outside and you face an incline, playing with your kids or grandkids, or many things where the core needs to power up and engage.

It may be a fair statement that we all have faced back pain sometime in our life, or we still do. It is usually very debilitating, painful and most times happens when doing something simple such as picking up a light box, standing, or reaching for something. And when that happens it most times has a big impact on our lives.

When we exercise and exercise with intensity, we want our core to also be firing away getting stronger. If we exclude our core from these activities by disengaging it, it won’t be there when we need it the most. If you have your hands on the treadmill when walking due to the incline you have it set at, ask yourself a question: Why is that? Is it because the incline is increased to add more resistance to your leg muscles and you are holding on for stability? If so, stop. Really, I mean it, stop and reset. Reset the incline to 1 (1 is pretty much the equivalent to walking outside and dealing with the grades of the roads) and start over. Then, raise it by 1 degree to the point that you are able to support yourself.

Let your core muscles do the supporting, not your hands. This is how the core will get stronger. You may not like the fact that you can’t have the incline as high as you want but you will get there, over time. And you will have a much stronger core because you are now giving your core the opportunity to engage and support your body throughout this exercise.

And you will get better over time. The incline will increase gradually without having to hold on and while this happens your core will strengthen. And here’s another bonus: While working out your legs you are also now engaging more muscles due to working the core which means the energy needs are greater! That means you are burning more calories, working more muscles which should also raise your resting metabolism rate. Don’t you love bonuses!

WHY

I’m a strong proponent of full body exercising. Strengthening the whole body through a full range of motion. The end result is a body that is strong when executing movements from the beginning to the end throughout the motion.

Remember that when you are tired. Remember that when you are tired and have a few more burpees to do and you figure you’ll squat down only half way. Then remind yourself why full body exercise will make you stronger no matter what position your body is in. You won’t do as many burpees but that’s not the point of exercising, to do as many reps as you can. The focus should be to do as many reps as you can while maintaining proper technique.

finally

If you aren’t sure on how to use equipment, if you are new to the fitness game, if you need some refreshing on certain movements or just need someone to motivate you don’t hesitate to engage a personal trainer. It doesn’t have to be a long term engagement, it could be as many sessions as you need to fix these things.

You will not regret it. You’ll have a better understanding of what you are doing and I bet you’ll end up enjoying your time exercising much more.

Yours in health,

Darryl