Listen Up! Your Hearing May Be At Risk

guy with headphones

I wake up, put on my wireless headphones and listen to a podcast on my way to the gym. During my workout, I listen to hip-hop or rap until it comes time to stretch and cool down when I then switch back to a podcast. Before I start working on my laptop, I switch to an instrumental playlist to drown out my surroundings, keep me focused and slightly entertained. When it’s time to cook or do chores around the house, maybe I’ll listen to an audiobook. Alright, time to get back to work and flip on the instrumentals. This process goes on all day for many days of the week. Despite it being so chiseled into my routine, there has always been a voice in the back of my head saying, “are you sure that listening to headphones 8+ hours a day isn’t bad for your hearing?” This voice was always silenced because I enjoyed the benefits of what I listened to all day.headphones

However, if I am truly concerned about the longevity of myself and others, it would be a disservice to not investigate the research that has been done so that we all can make a more informed decision about our headphone habits and listening in general.

What is hearing and how is it harmed by noise?

Our ears are amazing tools that we often take for granted. When a noise is made, a sound wave is emitted through a difference in air pressure. When this wave makes it to our ears, it is amplified by our eardrums and a couple tiny bones. This amplification then hits tiny hair cells (stereocilia) which vibrate and create a nerve impulse that is translated by our brains into the sounds we hear [2]. This is an astounding process that many (at least myself) don’t think of on a day to day basis.

ear diagramThese tiny hair cells are not indestructible and that is why people get hearing loss. When we are subjected loud noises for even a short period of time, these cells can become damaged and possibly die. The result this cell death is that our ability to hear degrades. For most of us, this is a prolonged process that happens with age, but it can be sped up if we are consistently in a noisy environment without hearing protection. Even more, we can speed up the process by subjecting ourselves to unnecessary loud noises.

It is fairly intuitive that going to a concert, club, or listening to loud music can damage our hearing. Despite this, studies show that most people feel their ears are invincible to loud noises and would rather not impose a high music limit on their personal listening habits [1]. This is understandable; when you’re young, hearing loss doesn’t really seem like an issue. That is, until later in life when you have to yell “WHAT?!” every time someone speaks to you.

“Although they appeared to be generally aware of the risks of exposure to loud music, they expressed low personal vulnerability to music-induced hearing loss”

Let’s talk about decibels

Most often, the decibel (dB) scale is what is used when we talk about how “loud” something is. Since everyone’s hearing is different, the goal of the scale is to reduce the consequent subjectivity of what is considered to be loud. On the scale, 0 is the quietest noise the general person with no hearing loss can notice and every increase of 10 doubles the intensity of the sound. So, 20 dB is twice as loud as 10dB, and so forth.

earsHow do decibels affect our hearing you may ask? Well, the CDC recommends that 85dB should not be listened to for more than eight hours. Also, the limit for 95dB is 47 minutes and 105dB is just 5 minutes. This may not mean much right away, so let’s put it in perspective. Most cell phones and mp3 players allow a max headphone volume between 91-121 dB [3]. This means that depending on your device, going over 80% might be harmful to your ears if you listen for a long period of time. Luckily for me, I almost never go above 50% on my Samsung S7, so according to this, I should be safe. Although, during my workout, I may push it above 75% so I will have to watch out for that. I recommend you do the same.

Aside from my recommendation, the rest of you are likely already somewhat similar in your listening habits. A study found that on average, people listen at about 72 dB which does not cause damage. However, if you’re one of those people that have music loud enough so that everyone you walk past knows exactly what song you are listening to, maybe it’s time to reconsider.

Beyond headphones

While on the topic of hearing loss, the same voice telling me that headphones are bad for my ears also chimes in whenever I attend concerts. The data on concerts is a bit more alarming. One study found that there are significant amounts of hearing loss among college students who regularly attend concerts [3]. You know that feeling after a concert when you can’t really hear for an hour or so afterward? Ya, me too, and that means those little hair cells in the back of your ear are struggling. This is because the average club music is about 95dB and concerts are about 105dB. From the CDC information, we know that 105dB is only safe for 5 minutes! Despite this, most concerts last anywhere from 1.5-3 hours. That can be a lot of damage depending on where you are standing.

concertI think all of us can be a bit more responsible when it comes to our hearing. And we better start right away, because hearing loss can really hinder older adults socially and economically. Researchers found that severity of hearing loss was statistically correlated with reduced quality of life as we age [7].

“Severity of hearing loss was significantly associated with decreased function in both the Mental Component Summary score and the Physical Component Summary score”

If you want to get a check up on your hearing, head over to your local Otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor). If that is too much of a hassle, there are a couple really good hearing apps that can be put to use if you have a smartphone. The app “uHear” for IOS was shown to be very accurate even in a clinical setting [6]. There hasn’t been any research done on apps for Android, but “Hearing Test” by e-audiologia.pl seemed to be an easy and straightforward option when I used it.

The takeaway

The research in this area is nowhere near complete, but for now, it is safe to continue listening through headphones. Besides, there are massive benefits that many get such as increased focus during work or studying, extra intensity during a workout, or simply acquiring knowledge through books or podcasts. With that being said, be careful with your ears. They are hugely important when it comes to our quality of life, and when they go out, there is no getting them back.

Have any thoughts or something you would like to add?

Feel free to comment below!

 

References
[1] Vogel, Ineke, et al. “MP3 Players and Hearing Loss: Adolescents’ Perceptions of Loud Music and Hearing Conservation.” The Journal of Pediatrics, vol. 152, no. 3, 2008, doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2007.07.009.
[2] “Sound and Hearing.” Apple, www.apple.com/sound/.
[3] Rawool, Vishakhaw, and Lyndaa Colligon-Wayne. “Auditory Lifestyles and Beliefs Related to Hearing Loss among College Students in the USA.” Noise and Health, vol. 10, no. 38, 2008, p. 1., doi:10.4103/1463-1741.39002.
[5] Fligor BJ. Personal listening devices and hearing loss: Seeking evidence of a long term problem through a successful short-term investigation. Noise Health 2009;11:129-31
[6] Szudek, Jacek, and Et al. “Can UHear Me Now? Validation of an IPod-Based Hearing Loss Screening Test.” Journal of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, vol. 41, no. S1, Apr. 2012, pp. S78–S84.
[7] Dalton, Dayna, et al. “The Impact of Hearing Loss on Quality of Life in Older Adults.” The Gerontologist , vol. 43, no. 5, 1 Oct. 2003, pp. 661–668., doi:https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/43.5.661.

Burn Fat? Improve Endurance? Fight Depression? Meet Rhodiola.

Rhodiola rosea, or the golden root, is a powerful adaptogen with plenty of research behind it. Adaptogens are a category of plants that help your body adapt to physical, chemical, and environmental stress. It’s safe to say Rhodiola is one of the most efficacious of these plants. The herb grows at high altitudes in arctic areas surrounding Asia and Eastern Europe. The Vikings used this herb for strength and the Sherpas used it to help climb high altitudes including Mt. Everest. If you want a boost in cognition, strength, endurance, or a decrease in stress I suggest you read on.

Rhodiola’s Stress Fighting Capabilities

rhodiola 2Similar to other adaptogens, Rhodiola provides a biological fortification against stress. In fact, a study in roundworms suggests that Rhodiola acts as a gentle stressor following ingestion, followed by a boost in the organism’s stress defenses. This is an incredible process technically defined as ‘hormesis’.

In 2009, scientists in Sweden conducted a human trial to test Rhodiola’s effect on people “suffering with stress related fatigue”. They found that repeatedly administering of Rhodiola rosea “exerts an anti-fatigue effect that increases mental performance, particularly the ability to concentrate, and decreases cortisol response to awakening stress in burnout patients with fatigue syndrome.” This once again showing the effect of hormesis, only this time, in humans.

We’ve all heard of fight or flight, right? Our systems go into fight or flight all the time just from little everyday stressors. This causes our cortisol levels to shoot through the roof, which promotes a lowering of the blood glucose response, potential weight gain, hormone imbalance, weakened immunity and decreased memory, aside from simply making us feel uncomfortable. These are perfect examples of how important it can be to keep stress and cortisol levels in check. Well, for just ten minutes of your time educating yourself and using your resources like a boss you too could keep your cortisol balanced! All you have to do is take Rhodiola. [4]

Cortisol levels can increase the rate at which we age, therefore Rhodiola can work as an anti-aging herb making you feel and look your best.

There are many benefits of taking the golden root, one of the most amazing may be that Rhodiola helps your body burn stored fat as fuel. This is due to the active compound called rosavin, which has been proved to trigger a fat burning response in your body and is found in Rhodiola.

A controlled placebo study done on 130 overweight patients at Georgian State Hospital showed that taking Rhodiola rosea extract daily led to a mean weight loss of 19 pounds (11% reduction in body fat), compared to only 8 pounds of loss by the placebo group eating the exact same low-calorie diet. [1]

Calling All Athletes

autumn-goodman-242803

If you’re any bit serious about your stamina and endurance, then you should try taking Rhodiola. Rhodiola can significantly increase your red blood cell count. Yes, you read that right! Red blood cells carry oxygen to muscles and having a higher red blood cell count can drastically delay fatigue while improving performance.

In 2004, a study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism claimed the anti-inflammatory benefits of Rhodiola caused rapid muscle recovery and improved endurance. [2]

Even if you aren’t a serious athlete, you can still experience plenty of benefit by taking Rhodiola. You could be a student, stay at home mother or father, or intense entrepreneur and still enjoy Rhodiola’s proven ability to increase workplace performance and decrease the effects of sleep deprivation. [3]

I recommend taking Rhodiola with a protein shake, if you use the powder, 30 minutes prior to your workout. You can thank me later.

Depression and Overall Brain Function

Rhodiola works to increase neuron sensitivity in the brain, in specific, two neurotransmitters: serotonin and dopamine. These are the neurotransmitters involved in our focus, memory, pleasure, and mood.

In a clinical trial of 150 individuals suffering from depression, participants were given Rhodiola rosea for exactly one month.  At the end of the trial two-thirds of the group had full remission of depression symptoms and daytime weakness had also greatly improved. [5] In addition, some physicians have been recommending Rhodiola as a treatment for ADHD because of its ability to increase focus.

grant-ritchie-530779

How to Take Rhodiola/Supplementation

Look for products similar to those studied in clinical trials; 2-3% rosavin and 0.8-1% salidroside. Start with 100 mg once a day for a week and then increase the dosage by 100 mg every week, up to 400 mg a day, if needed. I’ve been taking Rhodiola for over a year now, as a boost for my workouts. It shouldn’t be too expensive and I’d have to say it pays for itself anyways. Stay healthy stay happy!

We’d like to hear from you…

Have you tried Rhodiola? If so what are your thoughts on it?

Have you tried any other adaptogens? 

 

References:

  1. Zakir Ramazanov, Z. et al. (1999) “New secrets of effective natural stress and weight management, using Rhodiola rosea and Rhodendron caucasicum” ATN/Safe Goods Publishing, CT.
  2. De Bock K, Eijnde BO, Ramaekers M, Hespel P. Acute Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Jun;14(3):298-307.
  3. Abidov M, Crendal F, Grachev S, Seifulla R, Ziegenfuss T. Effect of extracts from Rhodiola rosea and Rhodiola crenulata (Crassulaceae) roots on ATP content in mitochondria of skeletal muscles. Bull Exp Biol Med. 2003 Dec;136(6):585-7.
  4. Provalova NV, Skurikhin EG, Pershina OV. Mechanisms underling the effects of adaptogens on erithropoiesis during paradoxical sleep deprivation. Bulletin Experimental Biology Medicine 2002 May; 133(5) :428-32.
  5. Lishmanov IuB, Trifonova ZhV, Tsibin AN, Maslova LV, Dement’eva LA. Plasma beta-endorphin and stress hormones in stress and adaptation. Biull Eksp Biol Med. 1987 Apr;103(4):422-4.

 

 

The Path Towards Bigger & Stronger Calves and How to Make Them Grow Effectively!

As a health connoisseur, going to the gym, lifting weights and doing intense exercise all go hand in hand. Not only is lifting one of the best ways to stay in shape, but the sense of discipline that comes from moving heavy weights can be transferred to all aspects of life. So, about a month ago and a half ago, I was walking from the kitchen to the living room when I hear my girlfriend make a slight comment. “Your calves are kind of small”. Maybe a slight little comment to her, but nonetheless a nightmarish feeling erupted inside of me. I peered down, it was completely true. I have been training incredibly hard the past four years and in spite of this, I had admittedly never really trained my calves. That was, until then! I even measured the circumference; a mere 33cm. At that very moment, I decided to go all in with my calves training and started working them almost every day. After four weeks of training them 6 times a week, I re-measured them. To my delight, they were now 37cm in diameter. That’s 4cm in a matter of 4 weeks! I was impressed and I’m going to show you how I did it.

Training Our Calves Effectively

Calf Anatomy

A lot of people believe calves are much more stubborn in terms of muscle growth. This is due to the fact that we’ve already been using our calves every time we walk around. In any case, if you work them hard they will grow and get stronger, even if it takes a bit of time.

Our calves consist primarily of two muscles; the soleus and the gastrocnemius. The soleus lies underneath and is surprisingly the bigger of the two muscles even though the gastrocnemius is the muscle that pops out. It’s important to note that the soleus is commonly comprised of between 70-96% slow twitch type 1 fiber. The gastrocnemius muscles contain almost a 50/50 split between type I and type II muscle fibers, also known as fast twitch (type II) and slow twitch (type I) muscle fibers. Type I muscle fibers, also known as slow oxidative muscle fibers, have a fairly high endurance due to the content of mitochondria and myoglobin. Type II muscle fibers, also known as fast oxidative muscle fibers, have a somewhat low endurance and therefore are possibly better for lower rep and heavier weight training movements. Out of all the muscle fiber types, the type II fibers are the fibers that tire the most quickly.

In layman’s terms, if we want to see better improvements in our calves we need to train them at both low and high reps! Let us dig in…

Part 1: The Gastrocnemius

Start your calf training by training the gastrocnemius first. We do this because as previously stated, the gastrocnemius has a higher concentration of fast twitch muscle fibers and therefore will burn out quicker. The gastrocnemius is better worked when our legs are straight. There are several exercises that are efficient in working the gastrocnemius including standing calf raises with a barbell or dumbbell, donkey calf raises, or calf press on the leg press machine. One-legged calf raises can also be very beneficial to those of you who have imbalances such as one leg being longer than the other. Remember, we want to do both low and high reps for the workout. I tend to start with a specific calf raise machine, which your gym may or may not have, or single leg dumbbell calf raises. First, do a few sets in the 6-8 rep range to target the type two muscle fibers, going to failure and making sure to rest a few minutes between sets. I usually do three sets in this range. Then move up into the 8-14 rep range for a few more sets. Finally, finish off the gastrocnemius with a couple more high rep sets upwards of 20-25 reps.

I should intervene here. There are a few techniques you can do to make your calf training much more efficient.

  1. Our calves have a very short range of motion, which limits the time under tension. Combat this by doing the full range of motion in a controlled manner, specifically going slow on the eccentric part of the raise.
  2. If you bounce your calf raises you’re not recruiting the muscle fibers properly. We can avoid this by holding and pausing for 2-3 seconds at both the bottom stretch and the top part of the exercise. I’ve made a video detailing this technique below.

Part 2: The Soleus

After we work our gastrocnemius to exhaustion, we move on to training the soleus. The soleus is recruited the most when our knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. If your gym has a seated calf raise machine that would be perfect. Otherwise, you may have to sit on a bench and place dumbbells or a barbell across your thighs. As we now know, the soleus muscle is compromised primarily of slow twitch fibers and responds much better to high rep training.

I usually aim to do 3-4 sets with the soleus after training the gastrocnemius. The first set will be within the 12-16 rep range followed by a set in the 16-20 rep range and a final burnout set with half the weight I used for the first set. When we train our soleus we want to use the same techniques highlighted above holding both the top and bottom stretch positions and making sure we never bounce our calf raises.

So there you have it! I’ve been following these methods for the last four weeks and have grown my calves a cm/week on average, and I encourage you to implement them if you’ve been struggling with your lower body. Not to mention, nice calves can be an incredible turn on. Stay healthy stay happy!

 

We’d like to hear from you!

            Have you encountered any different techniques for successfully training your calves?

            What’s your primary motivation for being fit?

 

Does HIIT Live Up to the Hype And is it Right For You?

When you enter the fitness world, you realize that trends are always changing. It’s as if every other month there’s a new ‘miracle’ exercise. Well, I assure you there’s no one exercise fits all, but when it comes to HIIT (high-intensity interval training) the benefits may be too good to ignore.

HIIT is a sequence of brief, highly intense spurts of exercise followed by longer periods of rest or less intense cardio. Imagine sprinting or cycling for 20-30 seconds with maximum effort, then walking or slowly peddling for 1-3 minutes. Repeat this cycle a few times and you’ve done a HIIT workout.

“Based on everything we know, there’s no substitute for these exercise programs when it comes to delaying the ageing process.” Says study senior author Sreekumaran Nair, a medical doctor and diabetes researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “These things we are seeing cannot be done by any medicine.”

Whether your goal is simply upping your fitness level, preventing cardiovascular disease, strengthening muscle, optimally losing fat or keeping your blood sugar in check, HIIT may be right for you. But, like I said before there’s no one exercise fits all, likewise let’s dig into the research around high-intensity interval training and go over some of the advantages and… yes, disadvantages to see if it lives up to the hype.

If HIIT is so good then why is everybody still jogging along?

treadmill-testing-630The times have certainly changed, and tons of new research has helped clarify the body’s response to exercise. Regardless of how many people sit on an elliptical for hours reading about Selena Gomez’s new relationship, we now know that cardio is inferior to weightlifting when it comes body composition changes, but how does it compare to HIIT? As someone who wants the best return on investment (ROI) while training, I wanted to know how HIIT stacked up against weightlifting and traditional low-intensity cardio.

To explain why so many people train at such a low intensity, we need to understand how the body uses its fuel. Under different intensity levels, the body utilizes different fuel sources. Low-intensity exercise, if you’ve ever seen 60% printed on a treadmill (referring to 60% of your maximum VO2 output) is an example of low intensity and utilizes fat as the main energy source to power you through your workout. As the intensity of exercise increases, our body can’t process the conversion of fat to glucose quick enough. Therefore as our intensity level goes up we start relying on a quicker conversion to glucose; carbohydrates. At the time, the interpretation of these findings was somewhat logical: exercise at low intensities to burn fat in addition to the capability of training for longer periods of time and increase total energy expenditure. Well, that was easy when all is said and done right? WRONG!

Burning Fat & Changing Your Body Composition

Several studies from East Tennessee State University, Baylor College of Medicine, and Laval University to name a few, show that high-intensity interval training burns more fat than low-intensity sessions.

study conducted by The University of Western Ontario shows us just how much more effective HIIT cardio can be. Researchers had 10 men and 10 women train 3 times per week, with one group doing 4 to 6 30-second treadmill sprints (with 4 to 6 minutes of rest in between each), and the other group doing 30 to 60 minutes of steady-state cardio (running on the treadmill at the “magical fat loss zone” of 65% VO2 max). The results? Fat mass decreased 12.4% in the sprinting group compared to 5.8% in the steady state low-intensity group.

Quoting Mark’s Daily Apple,

“A study (PDF) from the University of New South Wales followed the fitness and body composition changes in 45 overweight women in a 15-week period.

The women were divided into two groups and assigned interval or continuous cycling routines. The interval “sprint” cycling group performed twenty minutes of exercise, which repeated eight seconds of “all out” cycling and then twelve seconds of light exercise.

The continuous group exercised for 40 minutes at a consistent rate. At the end of the study, the women in the interval group had lost three times the body fat as the women in the continuous exercise group”.

The mechanism behind HIIT’s fat burning success isn’t fully understood. In general, researchers have pointed out a few potential contributing factors, including an increased resting metabolic rate, improved insulin sensitivity within muscles, higher levels of fat oxidation, significant spikes in growth hormones and even post-exercise appetite suppression all following HIIT.

As the science points out, if you’re goal has anything to do with burning fat or changing your body composition with the most ROI, then HIIT should be your cardio of choice. But, if you’re really trying to change your body composition, how does HIIT compare to lifting weights?

Steady State Cardio Vs. HIIT Vs. Weight Training

Seeing that within the last 20 years, thousands of studies have come out comparing the effects of weight training vs. cardio, we know what the compelling evidence says. Here’s an example:

“Researchers assigned overweight subjects to three groups: diet-only, diet plus aerobics, diet plus aerobics plus weights.

The diet group lost 14.6 pounds of fat in 12 weeks. The aerobic group lost only one more pound than the diet group. Their training was three times a week starting at 30 minutes and progressing to 50 minutes over the 12 weeks. Nothing special.

But the weight-training group lost 21.1 pounds of fat. That’s 44% and 35% more than diet and aerobic-only groups respectively. The addition of aerobic training didn’t result in significant fat loss over dieting alone.

Thirty-six sessions of up to 50 minutes is a lot of work for one additional pound of fat loss. But the addition of resistance training greatly accelerated fat loss results”.

scott-webb-22697

This study not only highlights the fat loss benefits of weight training, but also the importance of diet in the fat loss process. Nutrition and dietary choices may play the biggest role in our body composition. This is only one study, but it has been replicated time and time again. For changing your body composition, the results almost always show that weight training blows lower intensity aerobic activity out of the water. In fact, there’s research that shows the more intense your resistance session the more calories you’ll burn! This is the case even if you’re only lifting half the total volume (total weight lifted during the workout, for example, say you do 8 reps of deadlifts at 200lbs for four sets. Volume = 200x8x4= 6400 lbs) in the entire workout.

The study compared a traditional weight-training program with a higher intensity resistance-training (HIRT) program. The traditional program consisted of 8 exercises each for 4 sets of 8-12 reps, the last one taken to failure.

The HIRT program consisted of 3 exercises for 3 sets of 6 reps, while an additional set was performed in a rest-pause fashion.

The traditional program took 62 minutes to complete and the total session volume was around 17,000 pounds. However, the HIRT group finished their workout in 32 minutes, lifted only 8,500 pounds, but had a post-caloric burn the next day that was 450% greater than the traditional lifting group.

So if you’re willing to do whatever it takes to lose body fat and change your body composition, then incorporating both HIIT and weight lifting into your routine will be optimal. This doesn’t necessarily have to be cardio. The example above shed light on how you can weight train in a highly intensive manner and reap major benefits.

The Benefits of HIIT on Metabolic Health

HIIT has also been shown to significantly improve blood sugar scores and aerobic capacity. The study was done on healthy but sedentary people who performed only one total minute of HIIT three days a week for six weeks. This was done in 10-20 second spurts followed by rest for total workout duration of ten minutes.

If you aren’t aware, sleeping less than 7-8 hours a night will inhibit the body’s proper insulin response to food. Why is this important? Because having an inhibited or fluctuating glucose response wrecks havoc on our cell metabolism. According to a very recent study, if you know you’re going to be sleep deprived the following day, doing a HIIT session before could significantly minimize these effects.

Want to give your energy powerhouse a boost? Several studies show doing HIIT improve mitochondrial function, like this one that stated “6 weeks of HIIT enhanced mitochondrial OXPHOS capacity and attenuated the HE-depressed mitochondrial ETS efficiency in platelets. Therefore, the HIIT regimen effectively improved platelet bioenergetics, possibly by enhancing mitochondrial quality rather than quantity in platelets”. The keywords here are “enhancing mitochondrial quality”. The quality of our mitochondria has been linked to aging, energy levels, and much more. Yes HIIT might require a lot of energy in a short duration of time, but the payout could be well worth it in the long run.

HIIT and Your Heart

If you think you’re too old or out of shape to do HIIT, think again. Even people with heart disease have been shown to gain twice the amount of cardiorespiratory fitness while doing HIIT compared to low intensity running cycling and other aerobic activities.

jamie-street-94242Having flexibility is important, but not only in your muscles. “HIIT increases the flexibility and elasticity of arteries and veins better than continuous aerobic exercise,” says Weiss. “Because HIIT increases pressure demand on your blood vessels, they actually get a workout as well.” In fact, high-intensity interval training is not only safe but also easier to tolerate than a more moderate workout in people with coronary artery disease, according to one study.

So as you can see, there are many advantages of incorporating HIIT into your workout routine. You can even do HIRT, incorporating the fast-paced intensity with lifting weights and shredding even more fat than your conventional weight lifting routine. You’re going to be doing both your mitochondria and heart a favor. Nevertheless, there are a few downsides to be aware of when training with HIIT.

The Disadvantages Of HIIT

Compared to other forms of cardio, HIIT requires a longer recovery period. If you’re only doing short 5-minute HIIT workout sessions as a trained athlete, you may be able to do HIIT daily. But, doing 20-30 minute sessions is likely to require a few days rest before you can do another session.

When you’re doing a HIIT workout, you’ll find that it’s considerably harder to maintain correct form. The quick succession of exercise intensity can consequently result in injury if not properly performed. The most important exercises are always going to be the ones you’re willing to do, and do safely. Try to get some experience under your belt before jumping into a HIIT workout; it may not be suitable for beginners.

Which brings us to our next point. HIIT is really hard! It requires our heart to pump at around 85 percent of our maximal output. Working out shouldn’t leave you with a yucky feeling in your stomach. It should be enjoyable. Although some people love the challenge that HIIT brings, if you like to workout in a less intense manner that’s great too! If you’re into lifting super heavy weights, that’s awesome. Exercise should be something you look forward to, and everybody looks forward to different workouts.

The Bottomline

Doing HIIT can work wonders for changing your body composition. Moreover, this is especially true when coupled with weight lifting, more so than slower less intense cardio. Your mitochondria and heart will thank you. If you’re short on time and want the best return on your investment, then HIIT is the way to go. This is not discouraging you from performing lower intensity cardio; there is still wonderful benefit from doing so. Rather, experiment with your own body, that’s where the best research takes place. On a closing note, remember that your primary relationship to nature, the food you eat, can have a bigger role in your body composition than any exercise. Stay healthy, stay happy.

We’d love to hear your input:

What’s your preferred training method and why?

What popular fitness advice have you had to modify or avoid because you listened to your body?

 

No, Skipping Breakfast Doesn’t Lead to Heart Disease

When reading through a list of headlines from one of my favorite health news sites, there was an article titled “Could Skipping Breakfast Feed Heart Disease?” I had to click it. Typically, I don’t eat breakfast (stay tuned for a future post for reasons why) so scientific evidence showing that it could put me at risk for one of the biggest health demons of our time meant that a change of habits may be due. Did the science show that there was truly something inherent with skipping breakfast that could do this? It didn’t despite the seemingly straightforward title.

Another breakfastThe title of the study itself was “The Importance of Breakfast in Atherosclerosis Disease” and they concluded that skipping breakfast could serve as a marker for atherosclerosis (heart disease). It’s no secret that authors will use bold article titles to draw in viewers, but consequently, these titles can be very misleading. I recommend that everybody read the study thoroughly to learn a lesson about why headlines can be misleading. While there were many problems with the study, I will be highlighting a few that I found to be most significant.

 

First, the sample size of the study was incredibly limited. The researchers were able to acquire a fairly large number of participants, but those participants were all employees of a single company located in Madrid, Spain. In order to extrapolate a study’s findings to all people, it is necessary to examine a more diverse population. With diversity aside, another issue is the lack of uniform distribution among the participants. Of the 4,052 participants, only 2.9% skipped breakfast while 69.4% ate a low-calorie breakfast and 27.7% ate a high-calorie breakfast. This means that although the sample size was fairly large, the researchers came to their conclusion based off of 118 individuals that skipped breakfast. Statistically, a sample size of 118 isn’t enough to make any definitive conclusions.

oj.jpg

Another problem with the study is how they classified the skipping breakfast group. They classified skipping breakfast as consuming less than 123 calories, which could constitute 300 mL of orange juice or coffee with 20 grams of added sugar still counted as skipping breakfast. This means that someone could immediately start the day with an unhealthy intake of refined sugar and still be counted as not eating breakfast. This is concerning because it is common knowledge that consuming too much refined sugar causes inflammation and may lead to various chronic diseases. The researcher’s definition of skipping breakfast leads to a predisposition for the condition they are testing for, which makes it even more difficult to trust their conclusion.

These grounds alone are enough to doubt the conclusions found in the study, but there is another, more disturbing flaw in their research. As stated by the researchers, the group that skipped breakfast proportionally had the highest rates of smoking, alcohol consumption, and highest amounts of processed food consumed. All of these habits are commonly linked with heart problems and further diminish the ability of the study to specifically correlate skipping breakfast to heart disease. In order to come to a conclusion, it would be necessary that all of the individuals in the study have similar habits related to health.

Science is one of the best vehicles for driving the advancement of knowledge, but it can sometimes fall victim to misinformation. The original article I clicked on and the study discussed above serve as a perfect example of this fact and shows why every study must be evaluated critically. While participants who skipped breakfast were more likely to show early signs of heart disease, the problems with how the study was conducted don’t allow for a conclusion to be made.

If you liked this article, follow us to get notifications when new posts are published! Also, if you have anything you’d like to let us know about, feel free to contact us.

Uzhova, Irina, et al. “The Importance of Breakfast in Atherosclerosis Disease.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology, vol. 70, no. 15, 2017, pp. 1833–1842., doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2017.08.027.

https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_168793.html

The New Frontier for Urban Health

When approaching a large city, you might see a monstrous, brown plume surrounding it. You could take a guess that whatever it is would consequently be considered the opposite of a healthy environment. That would be correct. This is alarming given that the United Nations approximated 82% of North Americans live in urban ecosystems[3]. Fortunately, there have been significant steps taken to reduce the amount of engine exhaust emissions, which has already drastically improved the air quality in most urban areas. Unfortunately, one aspect of air pollution which may be even more detrimental to public health has not received nearly enough attention. City pollution

On average, non-exhaust(NE) emissions from vehicles and roads may contribute up to 50-85% of total emissions that come from vehicles[1], depending on location. The category of NE emissions is broad, containing brake dust, tire breakdown material, road dust and much more [2]. Unlike engine exhaust emissions that come out of the tailpipe, NE emissions have received just a fraction of the awareness, which directly correlates to the amount of research being done on health implications and technology advances.

A notably alarming aspect of NE emissions is the potential damage that could be done to human health. The particulate matter from this source, in contrast to engine exhaust emissions, is very large and often contains heavy metals [1]. Some of these chemicals are known carcinogens and/or reactive oxygen species, which are known to cause many other diseases (heart disease, Alzheimer’s, atherosclerosis, etc.) and inflammation of the lungs [2]. One of the only changes to curb the damage done from NE emissions have been outlawing the use of asbestos [2] which is significant but doesn’t come close to solving the problem.

While it may be overlooked, even living near a freeway can contribute to serious adverse health conditions. Data from 5 randomized double-blind studies were used to show associations between developing cardiovascular disease and living near highways. In a study of 1483 people who lived within 100 meters or 328 feet of a Los Angeles highway, researchers used ultrasound to measure the thickness of the carotid artery every 6 months for 3 years. They found that those who lived within 100 meters of the freeway had accelerated thickening of the artery, double what the other participants had[4].

traffic

As time marches on, the population living in urban areas worldwide is projected to reach 66% by 2050[3]. This isn’t all bad. It means that many countries are furthering their development and thus acquiring new technologies. As a result, there will be an inundation of opportunity and better quality of life, but this is accompanied by threats that cannot go unaddressed. In developed regions, moving to a city enhances your ability to reach a substantial amount of people, unlocks many forms of new entertainment, and simply gives you more options for your life. For now, there isn’t much that can be done besides being conscious of the potential risks posed by living near busy streets or highways. We must also stay optimistic, hoping that an increase in research and technology will reduce these NE emissions so that living in an urban environment can be done sustainably and with good health.

If you liked this article, follow us to get notifications when new posts are published! Also, if you have anything you’d like to let us know about, feel free to contact us.

References

[1] Amato, Fulvio, et al. “Urban Air Quality: The Challenge of Traffic Non-Exhaust Emissions.” Journal of Hazardous Materials, vol. 275, 2014, pp. 31–36., doi:10.1016/j.jhazmat.2014.04.053.

[2] Grigoratos, Theodoros, and Giorgio Martini. “Brake Wear Particle Emissions: a Review.” Environmental Science and Pollution Research, vol. 22, no. 4, 2014, pp. 2491–2504., doi:10.1007/s11356-014-3696-8.

[3] https://esa.un.org/unpd/wup/publications/files/wup2014-highlights.Pdf

[4] 3 Mar 2010: Künzli N, Jerrett M, Garcia-Esteban R, Basagaña X, Beckermann B, et al. (2010) Correction: Ambient Air Pollution and the Progression of Atherosclerosis in Adults. PLOS ONE 5(3): 10.1371/annotation/21f6b02b-e533-46ca-9356-86a0eef8434e.https://doi.org/10.1371/annotation/21f6b02b-e533-46ca-9356-86a0eef8434e View correction

Sulforaphane: A Real, Scientifically Backed Superfood

With all the buzz circulating around “superfoods” on the internet and in health shops, the topic can get a bit confusing. What even is a superfood in the first place? How did these foods get their title? What evidence is there to support that the superfood at hand would be a good incorporation into your daily diet? I know it used to confuse the hell out of me, to the point where I gave up on trying to find “the one”.

superfood

Many articles that I read would start off with some version of how the new superfood would cure all of your diseases, make you live twice as long and give you the body you’ve always wanted. Then, somewhere near the end, there would be a convenient link to buy this new superfood or supplement. This is unfortunate because there are some real foods out there that could possibly yield incredible benefit.

Despite the fog when it comes to superfoods, one can find their way to the truth through using real scientific evidence. There are actually foods out there that can significantly reduce your chances of getting cancer, protect your cells from harm, lower your chances of developing conditions like heart disease and diabetes, all while decreasing your rate of aging. Currently, a growing body of scientific evidence supports these claims along with a host of other benefits through the incorporation of foods containing a compound called sulforaphane(SFN) just 3-5 times per week!

Overview

This may sound a bit technical, but a simple overview of where SFN comes from and how our bodies process it will be useful to help you get the most out of this article. First, we don’t obtain much sulforaphane from food itself, but rather a compound called glucoraphanin(GRA) from food along with the enzyme myrosinase (fun fact: your gut bacteria actually make some myrosinase as well!). Once inside your body, GRA is turned into sulforaphane by myrosinase. Then, SFN is free to run around your body fixing stuff!

SFN diagram

GRA and myrosinase are found in many cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc…), but they are most abundant in broccoli and exponentially more abundant in broccoli sprouts [14].

Benefits

So now you know a little bit about SFN, but you are most likely reading this to find out how SFN can actually help you. Lucky for us, there are literally too many studies to read that have been done on SFN, but there are some common themes. Below you will find some of my most interesting findings.

Cancer Prevention

Cancer is one of the biggest public health fears of our time, and SFN is here to help! There are many recent studies relating SFN to reduced cancer incidence, so you don’t just have to trust the internet. One such study showed that eating 3-5 large portions was correlated to a decrease of 30-40% in cancer development. Even consuming as little as 1 portion was shown to help [16]. In accordance with this amazing benefit, SFN was also able to reduce cancer progression through gene regulation and by limiting the amount the unwanted cells are able to grow [17].

Furthermore, another interesting way that SFN helps prevent cancer is that it can protect against UV light from the sun or other unnatural sources. In mice, a SFN cream was applied to their skin, which was able to decrease damage and slow tumor progression by 50% [18].  It does so by directly repairing DNA that was deformed by UV light [11] and enhancing cellular defenses [2]. The next time you feel a sunburn coming on, instead of grabbing the aloe you might be better off reaching for the broccoli sprouts! On a related note, SFN was also shown to repair DNA damage caused by pesticides [11], which we inevitably encounter on a daily basis. Many forms of cancer stem from DNA damage, so repairing it is crucial.

Inflammation

When SFN was administered to mice, there was a significant decrease in proinflammatory markers [1]. SFN was actually able to change how our body’s DNA creates inflammatory responses. Keeping inflammation in the body under control is crucial to defending yourself from various unwanted conditions like heart disease, joint pain, and aging. It was also shown to reduce inflammation in the brain, which may help lower your chance of developing diseases in the brain such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s [7].  As a part of this process, SFN was also able to directly protect neurons from damage in mice [8].

Antioxidant Properties

Look at any fruity drink and you will likely see it being marketed as containing super antioxidants. There are good reasons for looking for antioxidants, but unfortunately, the juice concentrate you are about to drink will most likely have negligible effects. SFN, on the other hand, gets many of its favorable properties from being a very powerful antioxidant that can rid our bodies of reactive oxygen species and many other pollutants.

Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are detrimental to cells and DNA which can then lead to disease and faster aging. Because of this, getting rid of them is important. Luckily for us, many studies have shown that SFN is VERY good at getting rid of these ROS in the body [3].  Regarding ROS, there was also a study done on mice that shows specifically how SFN protects cells from damage [4]. This was shown to be especially important for improving liver function in humans[9].

As a powerful antioxidant, SFN can also help your body rid itself of harmful toxins, specifically airborne pollutants. If you live in a city or anywhere near one, this is important. It has been shown that an increased intake of SFN was linked to inhaled air pollutants leaving the body 20-50% more than the baseline [10]. This is essential because the harm that they are able to do is greatly limited. SFN was also correlated to a decrease in the severity of many allergenic diseases such as asthma by protection from airborne pollutants [13].

Cholesterol

Maintaining a healthy cholesterol profile is common knowledge in the process of keeping your heart in good condition and regulating hormones, among other things. SFN, once again, can help us out in this category. One study found a correlation between participants who consumed 10 grams of broccoli sprout powder and a significant reduction in LDL (the bad stuff) while raising HDL (the good stuff) [5]. In addition, the same findings have also been demonstrated in other studies in as little as a week of consuming broccoli sprouts[6].

Immune System

As we age, there is an increased risk of falling victim to pathogens and other problems that occur with a weakened immune system. SFN was also able to slow the degradation of immune cells that occurs with age from oxidants in mice through being a powerful antioxidant as discussed earlier. It also helps by increasing the hormonal messengers that activate the immune system [4].

Sexual Health

This aspect of SFN is less studied, but still important nonetheless. In mice that had testicular cancer and other reproductive damage from environmental toxins, high doses of SFN were able to significantly increase testosterone, sperm count and sperm quality [12].

smoothieConclusion

By this point, I hope that you have been convinced to include more cruciferous veggies into your diet, specifically broccoli and broccoli sprouts (my preference). Even throwing a handful into a smoothie in the morning could lower your risk of cancer and many other diseases. Don’t forget an increased immune system and slower cellular aging as well.

While there are a lot of studies and implications above, there are numerous studies that could have been chosen accompanied by a much deeper analysis. For this reason, if you want a more in-depth approach to the mechanisms and pathways affected by SFN, I encourage you to check out where I was first introduced to SFN: Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s blog and podcast at foundmyfitness.com.

If you liked this article, follow us to get notifications when new posts are published! Also, if you have anything you’d like to let us know about, feel free to contact us.

References

[1] Townsend, Brigitte E., and Rodney W. Johnson. “Sulforaphane Reduces Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Proinflammatory Markers in Hippocampus and Liver but Does Not Improve Sickness Behavior.” Nutritional Neuroscience, vol. 20, no. 3, July 2015, pp. 195–202., doi:10.1080/1028415x.2015.1103463.

[2] Benedict, A. L., et al. “The Indirect Antioxidant Sulforaphane Protects against Thiopurine-Mediated Photooxidative Stress.” Carcinogenesis, vol. 33, no. 12, 2012, pp. 2457–2466., doi:10.1093/carcin/bgs293.

[3] Tortorella, Stephanie M., et al. “Dietary Sulforaphane in Cancer Chemoprevention: The Role of Epigenetic Regulation and HDAC Inhibition.” Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, vol. 22, no. 16, 2015, pp. 1382–1424., doi:10.1089/ars.2014.6097.

[4] Kim, Hyon-Jeen, et al. “Nrf2 Activation by Sulforaphane Restores the Age-Related Decrease of TH1 Immunity: Role of Dendritic Cells.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, vol. 121, no. 5, 2008, doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2008.01.016.

[5] Bahadoran, Zahra, et al. “Broccoli Sprouts Powder Could Improve Serum Triglyceride and Oxidized LDL/LDL-Cholesterol Ratio in Type 2 Diabetic Patients: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.” Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, vol. 96, no. 3, 2012, pp. 348–354., doi:10.1016/j.diabres.2012.01.009.

[6] Murashima, Megumi, et al. “Phase 1 Study of Multiple Biomarkers for Metabolism and Oxidative Stress after One-Week Intake of Broccoli Sprouts.” BioFactors, vol. 22, no. 1-4, 2004, pp. 271–275., doi:10.1002/biof.5520220154.

[7] Holloway, Paul M., et al. “Sulforaphane Induces Neurovascular Protection against a Systemic Inflammatory Challenge via Both Nrf2-Dependent and Independent Pathways.” Vascular Pharmacology, vol. 85, 2016, pp. 29–38., doi:10.1016/j.vph.2016.07.004.

[8] Schachtele, Scott J., et al. “Modulation of Experimental Herpes Encephalitis-Associated Neurotoxicity through Sulforaphane Treatment.” PLoS ONE, vol. 7, no. 4, 2012, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036216.

[9] Kikuchi, Masahiro. “Sulforaphane-Rich Broccoli Sprout Extract Improves Hepatic Abnormalities in Male Subjects.” World Journal of Gastroenterology, vol. 21, no. 43, 2015, p. 12457., doi:10.3748/wjg.v21.i43.12457.

[10] Kensler, Thomas W., et al. “Modulation of the Metabolism of Airborne Pollutants by Glucoraphanin-Rich and Sulforaphane-Rich Broccoli Sprout Beverages in Qidong, China | Carcinogenesis | Oxford Academic.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Nov. 2011, academic.oup.com/carcin/article/33/1/101/2463507/Modulation-of-the-metabolism-of-airborne.            

[11] Topè, Avinash M., and Phyllis F. Rogers. “Evaluation of Protective Effects of Sulforaphane on DNA Damage Caused by Exposure to Low Levels of Pesticide Mixture Using Comet Assay.” Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part B, vol. 44, no. 7, 2009, pp. 657–662., doi:10.1080/03601230903163624.

[12] Yang, Shu-Hua, et al. “Sulforaphane Prevents Testicular Damage in Kunming Mice Exposed to Cadmium via Activation of Nrf2/ARE Signaling Pathways.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences, vol. 17, no. 10, Nov. 2016, p. 1703., doi:10.3390/ijms17101703.

[13] Heber, David, et al. “Sulforaphane-Rich Broccoli Sprout Extract Attenuates Nasal Allergic Response to Diesel Exhaust Particles.” Food Funct., vol. 5, no. 1, 2014, pp. 35–41., doi:10.1039/c3fo60277j.

[14] West, Leslie G., et al. “Glucoraphanin and 4-Hydroxyglucobrassicin Contents in Seeds of 59 Cultivars of Broccoli, Raab, Kohlrabi, Radish, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Kale, and Cabbage.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, vol. 52, no. 4, 2004, pp. 916–926., doi:10.1021/jf0307189.

[16] Jeffery, Elizabeth H., and Anna-Sigrid Keck. “Translating Knowledge Generated by Epidemiological And in-Vitro studies into Dietary Cancer Prevention.” Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, July 2008, doi:10.1002/mnfr.200700226.

[17] Singh, Shivendra V., et al. “Sulforaphane-Induced G2/M Phase Cell Cycle Arrest Involves Checkpoint Kinase 2-Mediated Phosphorylation of Cell Division Cycle 25C.” Journal of Biological Chemistry, vol. 279, no. 24, Aug. 2004, pp. 25813–25822., doi:10.1074/jbc.m313538200.

[18] Dinkova-Kostova, Albena T., et al. “Protection against UV-Light-Induced Skin Carcinogenesis in SKH-1 High-Risk Mice by Sulforaphane-Containing Broccoli Sprout Extracts.” Cancer Letters, vol. 240, no. 2, 2006, pp. 243–252., doi:10.1016/j.canlet.2005.09.012.