Keeping your hips strong

Havings strong hip muscles, or abductors, can help prevent activity-related injuries. Week hips, or abductors, can also lead to issues such as IT band syndrome and patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). If you are a runner you might have heard the term IT band. PFPS can cause pain behind the kneecap when sitting for too long, or when going down the stairs. These are injuries that at the least are uncomfortable and at the most prevents us from training for a long time.

You may have read some of my other posts where pain or injury is not always caused by what we think, the obvious, but instead by having muscle imbalances, or weaknesses. As you can see from the above, here we have again a set of muscles that if weak can cause us discomfort/injury somewhere else on our body.

Abductors

strong sportswoman lifting knees during workout
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Abductors are the muscles responsible for moving your leg away from your body, to the side. Getting out of the car, stepping to the side are common activities that use the abductors. Having strong abductors also helps aid in balance and stronger athletic performance.

Are you sitting for many hours throughout the day? Dealing with a lot of inactivity? It may be time then to work on building the abductors. When we stop using muscles, the body will in a sense deactivate those muscles. Instead, the body will recruit other muscles to do the work. This can lead to pain, poor performance, and having trouble executing certain movements.

the work

Alright, let’s look at some exercises we can do to strengthen our abductors

Leg lifts on the side: Go get your mat or find a comfortable spot you can lay down on your side, legs stacked. Keep your head comfortable and have your upper hand on the floor in front of you to keep yourself on your side not leaning forward or backward. Now, with both legs straight, lift the upper leg all the way up to higher than your hip until you feel your hip flex and hold for 3 seconds. Now, lower your leg down but not all the way. Hold your leg above your other leg to where the tension just starts to lessen. Do this nice and slow. Lowering the leg should be done on a count of 3. Do this for 10 repetitions then repeat on the other side. Try to do 3 sets to start with.

Side Stepping: Do you have exercise bands? If so then this one’s for you. Grab a small band and place it around your ankles just above that bone that sticks out to the side. Keeping your feet under your hips, squat down to a seating or semi-setting position (if you can get yourself to the seating position then that’s where you need to be). Now, step to the side pushing with your heel against the band. Keep the band tight so it provides a fair amount of resistance. Feel the hip doing this work. Now, bring the other foot over so you are again positioned with your feet under your hips. Do this for 10 – 15 steps then return to your starting position by going back the other way.

Do you find this too easy? Get a resistance band that offers more resistance.

The Fire Hydrant: Don’t worry, you don’t need to use an actual fire hydrant for this exercise. You’ll see why this is called the fire hydrant. Get yourself on all fours, elbows locked out, knees under your hips, and head level looking at the ground below you. Now, using either the left or right leg, keeping the leg bent at 90 degrees, raise up the leg up to the side as high as it will go, and hold for 3 seconds. Yes, you should resemble a dog doing his business at a fire hydrant. Bring the leg back to the starting position. Do this movement slow and steady holding at the top for 3 seconds. 10 – 15 per side for 3 sets.

finally

It’s always good to isolate muscles that are not used extensively. Most of us have strong pecs, shoulder fronts, quads but suffer from weaker neglected muscles such as abductors. If you practice martial arts then you’ll enjoy the benefits of having strong hips. Everything is about the hips. Who knows, maybe if after 8 weeks of working your abductors you’ll notice better performance, or no longer having that nagging pain in your IT band.

Enjoy these exercises and I’ll probably post some advanced hip flexor exercises in the weeks to come.

Yours in health,

Darryl

You have to know yourself first

rear view of man on mountain road against sky
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Do you have goals? What are they? Why do you train? Where do you see yourself in 6 months?

I think these are important questions for those of us who train for specific reasons and are looking for positive results and growth. But not everyone falls into this bucket. It depends and knowing what bucket you fall into is very important, in my opinion, on what it is you do.

the what

For a large number of people, training means getting in their steps, burning a specific number of calories a day, doing things such as going for walks, light calisthenics to keep moving, and to maintain the ability to keep moving. For those of us who exercise to maintain a high level of athleticism, to compete, to be a better person physically today than a year ago then it’s very important how we train. And when I say train I’m really encompassing all things we do that impact training.

If you fall into the former group I mentioned above then this post might not be for you. If you fall into the latter then keep reading and hopefully you’ll pick up some tips that will help you grow athletically.

How we train directly impacts the results we get. Throughout time there have been many schools of thought on this. To run marathons you need to train distance, and lots of it is a good example. That’s how marathoners used to train years ago, nothing but long slow runs. But that changed and interval training was introduced and those who added interval training started to win events and set records. How we train with respect to the impact on our cardio health is very important. What energy system you use is very important.

But how do you know what energy system you are using, and how does this impact your results?

the how

I’m going to start off by making a recommendation. It’s one I’ve made before but I’m going to make it again. You need to get a device that at a bare minimum records your heart rate. And with that, I recommend you get one that gets you the most data. Monitoring heart rate is a good start but at the simplest level, it’s just showing you where you are at when you look at it. It doesn’t record your heart rate the whole workout only at that point of time you look at it. This is fine to know where you are at that moment but does not give you the data to understand where you were throughout the workout. A better device will allow you to break down your whole workout post-workout and understand at various points how you were performing. Some devices will let you set a maximum heart rate for that workout and warm you if you exceed it. If you are training your aerobic threshold this is a great feature as it will prevent you from having your heartrate slip into a higher zone. There are also devices that will factor in how rested you are (taking into account amount and quality of sleep, if alcohol has been consumed, etc.) and give you guidance on the type of workout you should be doing or even if you should be working out that day. How well we have recovered from our previous day should be included in the analysis we do when we decide how we are going to work out. If we are consistently overtraining because we aren’t taking this into account you are harming yourself and in actuality, you are moving backward instead of forwards with your athletic performance. Overtraining can also lead to injury, lack of progress, depression, and could also lead to loss of interest in training.

We are living in a time and age that probably has given us the most sophisticated tools we can have to better understand our fitness, health, and ability to perform. Training has evolved from getting up in the morning and doing the same tried and true to using data, feedback from our bodies to determine the workout for that day, and also tools to monitor our performance during the workout. Olympic athletes are constantly using modern tools, data, coaches, doctors to squeeze out as much as they can from their bodies. Technology to analyze and refine technique, and tools to analyze our bodies metrics and determine what is the best workout for that day.

We can’t go hard all the time, especially if you are more of an endurance athlete. It’s a mix of hard and soft, of yin and yang.

So how can you do that? Let me start with the basics, knowing what zone to train in. For this post, I’m going to cover zone 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Zone 2

Zone 2 can be called the fun zone as it’s the zone to use for the long and slow type of exercises, that gentle run where you can carry on a conversation. For this type of activity, you will want your heart rate to be at 60% at the low end to 70% of your max heart rate at the high end. This is the heart rate zone where you can carry out an activity such as running for 2 or more hours. Primarily using fat but also some glucose (sugar) for energy. Typically your muscles will tire before your cardio. This zone helps to build efficiency in our cardiovascular system, build endurance, and increase efficiency in our fat oxidation system. It’s hard to stay in but has a lot of benefits. This zone can easily comprise the majority of your training time amounting from 50% to 60%.

Zone 3

For this zone, you will want your heart rate to be at 70% on the low end and no higher than 80% of heart rate max for the top end. This zone is not a zone to spend a lot of time in (maybe %5 of total training time) as it doesn’t make you faster or stronger, and you don’t reap the benefits of the lower zones. Try to resist the temptation of being in this zone.

Zone 4

High exertion training. Training in this zone will help you get fast. Spend about 15% of your training in this zone. At this pace, I’m hitting about 90% MHR at the top end. Want to get faster and stronger? This zone will help with that. Spend about 15% of total time in this zone.

Zone 5

Raw speed and power is what zone 5 is about. This is high-intensity training. Train in this zone and you will need to ensure you have ample time, optimum nutrition to recover. Ever do a Tabata session? Yep, you are in zone 5. Because this zone is very intense, do not devote more than 10% of your total workout time in this zone.

Those are the zones. They give us different benefits, and also can lead to detriments if we stick to a zone for too long or are in that zone too often.

So let me ask you a question…

what zone were you in your last training session?

If you don’t know then you aren’t training smart, or as smart as you can be. Think how simple it is to have a device tell you if you are training well. You’re putting in the work anyway but now you are putting in smart work. Have you ever woken up tired and dragged your ass to the gym and did your best to put in the work but you couldn’t? And you felt like shit about yourself, putting yourself down, telling yourself you’re useless. We shouldn’t be stuck to a strict schedule if that schedule is wrong. “Tuesday is Tabata, Wed. is 30 min interval training”, etc. That all looks great on paper but we are not machines! We are different from one day to the next due to a number of influences.

Having a device that tells us we are well-rested and recovered and today you can go hard, or it tells us that today is a good day for an easier workout because you didn’t recover well. This is training smart, and if you start to train hard when you can, train easier when you can’t train hard, you won’t be overtraining and you’ll end up spending more time quality training. And you’ll probably see some better results.

finally

A variety of training doesn’t just mean different activities, it also means different intensities. Keep that in mind moving forward and enjoy those training sessions that are the long and slow ones. Those ones can be fun.

Yours in health,

Darryl

A whole lotta pain

We all have times where we have to deal with larger than normal amounts of pain, sometimes the next day or occasionally for days after a hard workout. Most times the muscle pain is due to a drastic change to what we are doing to our body; super hard workout, too much time off between workouts, a drastic increase in prolonged stress or a change in how we workout specifically around process.

There are things we can do pre workout and post workout to help alleviate the pain and discomfort. Let’s get into that today.

woman lifting barbell
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what

When we exercise we put our body into a state of stress. From muscle resistance training that causes micro tears in our muscle fiber to endurance training that can cause large amounts of inflammation in our body we are stressing our body when we exercise. Let’s look at extreme physical events such as marathons, triathlons, they are extremely stressful to our body causing the release of hormones such as cortisol, increases inflammation ultimately aging our cells and damaging our body. The above examples are extreme events but exercise is a form of stress and depending on the current state of our body and health our body will react differently.

how

So what can we do to help combat the stress put onto our body? Let’s look at what can be done before we exercise.

REST: Rest is very important in that it is how our body recovers from stress. Not enough sleep and our body has already been compromised in it’s ability to recover from stress. Also, we are more prone to injury when working out and tired. Try to get an adequate amount of sleep for your age and activity level so your body can rebuild and recover.

HYDRATION: Staying hydrated allows our body to perform and recover to the best of it’s abilities. Water flushes out toxins and brings nutrients to our cells. Also, being properly hydrated helps to regulate body temperature and pH balance. Lastly, proper hydration reduces muscle soreness and tension.

DIET: Of course I’m going to talk about the importance of what we eat and how that impacts recovery. As mentioned earlier, stress from working out causes inflammation. The foods we eat also cause inflammation or they don’t! Eating animal products, processed foods that are high in sugar will cause our body to become inflamed. Let me explain quickly why eating animal products cause inflammation: Inflammation is your immune system responding to a perceived threat. After eating animal products, your bloodstream becomes loaded with bacterial toxins known as endotoxins. On the other hand, plants are the only food type to have antioxidants that combat inflammation. This is exactly why more and more athletes are moving to eating a whole foods plant based diet. They are realizing they recover quicker, and are able to train more often, some of them training every day of the week. Here’s an article from pubmed that talks about benefits in more detail. Lot’s of references and also important, it’s a non funded study.

COLD/HEAT: What we do following working out can impact how quickly we recover. I used to do this when I was running long distance. When I had a long run that was over 3 hours, I would spend about 15 minutes following the run in a cold bath. Did it suck? Oh yeah. I hated it but I knew when stressing my body greatly it needed this to prevent inflammation. The cold bath helps to flush out the lactic acid and also reduces swelling. Just like when you incur an injury you ice it to reduce swelling. If you had a super hard workout, our a super busy day full of activity and that drained feeling, try a cold bath for 15 minutes.

Now let’s talk about heat. Heat should only ever be used when there isn’t any swelling. Heat will bring blood quicker to the area the heat has been applied. As more blood flows more nutrients are brought to the area to assist in the healing process. Remember, you’ve incurred micro tears in your muscle fiber. Heat can also aid in moving more easily as a warm body moves easier than a cold body.

MOVEMENT: Move if you can. Try not to spend too much time laying around, being lethargic. When our body moves, our blood flows faster and waste is removed quicker and nutrients are brought to our cells quicker thus we heal quicker. Rest if you need to but try not to spend too much time lounging. If you can, take a light easy run, a gentle/brisk walk or other activity that keeps you moving.

ALCOHOL: Alcohol should be avoided when dealing with inflammation and recovery. Alcohol causes inflammation of the body and also inhibits the body’s ability to regulate inflammation. Alcohol is also a diuretic and causes dehydration which we don’t want. Want to perform better? Want to make gains and not lose them feeling like you fell back again? Drop the drinking. From being hung over mildly or heavily, the dehydration, the negative impact on our sleep cycle, the negative impact on working out, it’s not helping you.

finally

Try these things to see if they help you out. And don’t just try them once, give yourself a few weeks. Be conscious of where you are at physically and respect that. If you have been somewhat sedentary and then start working out, or have a huge uptick in activity, respect that and go into it prepared if you can. Eat more foods that combat inflammation, try to get more rest, drink more water, ice and heat and so on. Training hard is great, but we also want to train smart.

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

Omega-3 and Cutting Out the Middle Man, or Fish

brown and green moss on body of water
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I’m writing this blog in hopes of educating people on Omega-3 essential fatty acid, especially with the recent celebrity news.

I am a vegan which means I morally object to the inhumane treatment of animals (veganism is a moral principle whereas following a whole foods plant based diet is not necessarily) so I get excited when celebrities such as Miley Cyrus become vegan and the positive influence that can have on a lot of people. But then I become disappointed when that celebrity goes onto arguably the worlds most listened to podcast and announces she is no longer vegan due having to get Omega-3’s from fish because ‘my brain wasn’t functioning properly‘. Shortly after she also states: ‘…and I think that I was at one point pretty malnutrition [sic]’. On the podcast Miley talks about suffering severe head trauma at the age of 2 and consuming large amounts of cannabis and mushrooms at a very young age. These are 2 important things to keep in mind. We are learning more and more about the long term effects severe head trauma can have and we also know the brain does not stop developing until approx. 25 years of age. Severe head trauma and consuming drugs at a young age can have a profound impact on how the brain develops and functions throughout the rest of your life.

This isn’t a post about Miley’s time on Joe’s podcast but I wanted to highlight some key points before I get into Omega-3’s for perspective. To me, the interesting points are that Miley talks about being malnourished, suffering severe head trauma, and consuming drugs at a young age. All things that can greatly impact brain function and health. One more thing before I move on: with all the money and resources Miley has at her disposal, there wasn’t any other option available to her? Blood work, health professionals for a diagnosis of any deficiency, Omega-3 supplements, high-end vegan dieticians, other health experts and lastly, the foods we eat. Let’s get into that.

what

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids. Marine algae and phytoplankton are primary sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Common sources of plant oils are walnuts, edible seeds, flax seed, hemp hearts, and certain algae.

There are 3 main types of Omega-3 fatty acids:

  • ALA: alpha-linolenic acid. ALA is an essential fatty acid in that the body cannot make it. Your body can convert some ALA into EPA and then to DHA.
  • EPA: eicosapentaenoic acid. Associated with cardiovascular benefits
  • DHA: docosahexaenoic acid. Long chain Omega-3 fatty acid that aids in healthy brain maintenance

So if we look at DHA we can see it has a role on how our brain works. With respect to veganism, the controversy starts with the belief that you would need to eat very large amounts of plant based ALA (as mentioned above, the body can convert ALA to DHA) to get enough DHA. Let’s look at the following. A FDA serving of salmon has roughly about 450mg of DHA. A 3oz serving of Tuna has about 200mg of DHA. A tablespoon of flax oil has 8 grams of ALA and when using the conversion rate of 3.5% (here’s a Pubmed study that puts it at a 3.8% conversion rate) you get 300 mg of DHA right in there with the average serving of fish. If you don’t want to eat flax oil, 3 oz of Walnuts will provide the same amount of ALA -> DHA. Also, the requirement from the WHO is from 150 mg to 300 mg a day.

Some of the benefits of having Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet are: helps to reduce the development of plaque in the arteries, mental clarity, helps in fighting depression and anxiety, can fight inflammation, good for your skin and other benefits.

where

Just like how people eat animals for protein, people will eat fish for their Omega-3 needs. But there isn’t any need for this. And again, just like instead of going to the source for protein (plants) and eating animals, people aren’t going to the source (algae and phytoplankton) for Omega-3 and are eating fish instead, the fish that consumed the algae and phytoplankton.

Also, our waters have been heavily contaminated over the years. Just this week the EPA is easing restrictions on lead, mercury, and other toxic discharges from coal plants into waterways. Guess where these chemicals go: into the fat of the fish in those bodies of water.

Cut out the middle man if you will. If you’d rather get your Omega-3 from other sources than from the water, you have choices such as walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and hearts, and Brussels sprouts. Let’s look at the Omega-3 fatty acid content of some of these:

Want to supplement? Here’s some vegan options: Freshfields with over 240 mg of DHA from mercury-free algae and a 2 months supply for just $30 CDN. Here’s another from Whole Earth and Sea made from algae that gives you over 320 mg of DHA! Again, without the mercury or PCP’s found in fish oil, yech.

finally

Do I think Miley is doing what she thinks is best for herself and to take care of herself? Absolutely. I can’t fault her for that. It’s just unfortunate that a lot of her fans will listen to her talk about that she had to do this and she feels better for it when really there is so much more going on here than possibly being deficient in DHA (at one point on the podcast she talked about eating nothing but celery). And a lot of her fans will go back from being vegan or start adding fish to their diet contributing to the 2 trillion fish killed annually.

I hope this article helps you to understand how you can get Omega-3 fatty acid without consuming fish, and without increasing your risk of disease.

Yours in health,

Darryl